Washington DC, April, 2008

Jenny is awarded the Daniel Giraud Elliot medal

by the National Academy of Sciences, USA

for her work on the fish-tetrapod transition.

Home Up: Holidays
Potomac River

Click the thumbnails to expand them to the full size pictures

We were met at IAD (Dulles International Airport, Washington DC) by Chris, a guy we've known for getting on 20 years, and who lives just outside DC. He was a very useful person to do this, as Jenny had spilt a glass of red wine into her lap early on in the flight and was nasty and sticky and badly in need of a shower and change of clothes. Chris took us to his house where she was able to ablute herself satisfactorily, while I had a beer.

I should also point out here that some of the photos I'm publishing here are actually his! Thanks, Chris!

Potomac Canal

Clean and refreshed, we were then ferried to a super restaurant called The Old Anglers Inn close by the Potomac River, where we sat outside and had a really nice meal. (I've seen a rather damning review, but we had a really good time!) Afterwards, we walked by the Potomac Canal and down to the river itself while dusk fell. Very pleasant indeed, particularly as it was so much warmer than in the UK. 26°C when we landed. Yum!

View from Stony Man, Shenandoah NP View from Stony Man, Shenandoah NP

On Saturday Chris drove us 100 miles west to Shenandoah National Park. We noticed as we gained altitude, from sea level to close to 4000 feet, the season dropped back by a good 2 to 3 weeks. The dogwoods, so spectacular as we drove out of the city, were still firmly closed in the hills, while the cherries, which were long gone in DC, were in full flush. At the entrance, while waiting to go in, we saw swallows nesting under the drive-thru ticket kiosk, and a humming bird, flashing in irridiscent green, brilliant in the bright sunshine. Oh boy!

Jenny and me at Stony Man

After stopping several times to gawp at the views, we eventually found ourselves at the car park where a trail up to Stony Man peak starts. It's a pretty easy walk and we ambled gently up, to find some really rather good views at the top. Saw and heard some interesting birds and also several chipmunks, which are sweet, but too small and fast to photograph without special equipment. I must stop wearing my specs on the end of my nose like that. It looks ridiculous!

Something we'd not expected was to find that the Appalachian Trail crosses the trail up to Stony Man, so I diverted 50 metres along it and can now truthfully say I've walked (some of) the Appalachian Trail!

For lunch we stopped at Big Meadow, where there's a nice restaurant where we had very good food and a delightful Virginian white wine. It was slighly off-dry and rich and full, which was super. I'd not heard of Virginian wine before, as you never see it in the UK.

Dark Oak Falls, Shenandoah NP

While we were eating, the black clouds which had been threatening for a while arrived and pretty soon there was thunder and lightning and some very heavy rain with hail. Exciting stuff, and we were very glad we were inside! The temperature must have dropped by a good 10°C and it stayed cold for the rest of our visit.

After lunch we drove to Dark Hollow Falls (I think), where we walked down a trail to see the falls themselves. It started to rain just as we reached the falls, so we had to rush back up the 400 foot climb, which was hard work! The tree in flower at the top of the falls is a cherry.

Weather in Shenandoah NP

Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia!

Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia!

Old Rag

Having survived the climb and the wet, we stopped several times on the way home to gawk not only at the views, but also at the weather, of which there was quite a bit! Gazing out over the Shenandoah Valley, looking at the layers of blue mountains in the distance, with clouds, rain, sunbeams and all, it was inspiring, though I resisted the temptation to launch myself into a poetic extravaganza! Anyway, we just revelled in it! It's amazing how many almost identical photographs you can take, and just how long it takes to edit them when you get back home!

White dogwood

Winners at the NAS awards

Jenny at the NAS awards

Jenny with David Wake at the NAS awards

Next day was the awards ceremony. We were collected by coach from the hotel and whisked a few blocks to the National Academy of Sciences. At one point I managed to take a photo of a representative dogwood. Up in the hills the previous day they'd not been out yet, but everywhere I could see them, we were driving, so I made a point of finding one to get a nominal pic. First off we had a reception (with wine) outside where it was rather chilly. The winners were lined up in front of a big statue of Einstein for photos, then we rapidly moved indoors for an excellent lunch. The group pic is one of several I took before the official photographer did her bit. Oh yeah, I made the silver brooch she's wearing. Made it especially for the ceremony. (Breathes on back of hand, brushes knuckles on lapel!)

Then it was time for the awards. Jenny was first up. The chairman of her selection committee (David Wake) spoke his allotted 50 words, she spoke here allotted 175 word acknowledgement, they posed for a photograph and sat down, making way for the next winner. I got them to pose for this photo immediately afterwards, but sadly, failed to point out to them that neither looked exacly overjoyed! Anyhow, I can tell you David is really pleasant, even if he and J both look a bit stressed out in the snap!

After that was the garden party in a vast marquee, attended by 1000 people, I'd say at a wild guess. Chris was in his element, spotting folks he hadn't spoken to for years, that he really needed to touch base with, etc, etc. He kept disappearing, only to surface 10 minutes later. I was looking at jewellery and trying to surreptitiously photograph it, but it was too gloomy in the tent for it to work.

In the evening we went to an Italian restaurant and had very good food, but by then things were becoming something of a blur, as we'd been drinking since about midday.

We were also very pleased to meet up with a recent Masters student of Jenny's, Viviane Callier, who's parents live nearby and who is currently at Duke. Although Jenny had invited here, in such a huge crowd it took us a while to meet up! It was good to see her again.

Jenny's Daniel Giraud Elliot medal Jenny's Daniel Giraud Elliot medal Garden party

You didn't think you were going to get away without having to admire the medal itself, did you? For your information, it's a about 5cm diameter, 0.5cm thick and, being bronze, is far too heavy for her to wear, even if it had a hole to put a string through. I did toy with the idea of making a silver mount to hold it, but she rejected that idea as it was already too heavy. I was a bit disappointed in the careless engraving. Her name is set too low on the panel, then the engraver had to scrunch the 2008 up to get it on.

Museum of the American Indian

Museum of the American Indian

On Monday Chris took us to the new Museum of the American Indian. The building is fantastic, but I felt there was a distinct lack of artifacts. Lots of text and descriptions of massacres, cheating, verbal memories of lifestyles and all that kind of stuff, but not really that much to look at of the stuff I like to look at. Well I'm into carving, so I hoped for much more of that. If I'd been truly interested in the Am.Ind. I'm sure I'd have found it fascinating, but the truth is I was a bit disappointed.

But not by the lunch. The restaurant in the museum has several serveries where you can buy what I take to be authentic ethnic Indian food, and what we had was really good.

There had been a project to build some art using traditional Indian house- building techniques of mixed mud and straw, and the movie of how they did it was fascinating. Sadly, the traditional techniques as exemplified here were suffering from the effects of the weather and were washing away in the rain.

Rob's ephemeral art I did my own ephemeral art using elm seeds (I think), a dogwood 'petal' and a couple of blades of grass to make a rather short polychaete worm on the top of a bollard. I was a bit hung-over and tired and felt an imagined pressure to finish and move on, so left it about half as long as I'd have liked.

Last updated 8th May, 2008 by Rob Clack