The Cherry Blossoms are Here! (but where are the cherries?)

So, WHERE WERE YOU in March of 1912?

Actually, March of 1912 seemed to be a pretty interesting month in U.S. history.  If you were:

-in Savannah, Georgia, you may have seen the founding of the Girl Guides of America (future Girl Scouts).

-a baseball fan lucky enough to be around the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York, you were probably watching the ground breaking for Ebbets Field, the future home of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

-in St Louis, Missouri on the 1st of the month, you were probably watching Captain Albert Berry (U.S. Army) making the first parachute jump from an airplane. . .

However, you were REALLY FORTUNATE if you were in Washington DC on March 27th. According to Wikipedia, you may have witnessed a ceremony where First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two of 3,020 cherry trees given to the U.S. as a gift of friendship from Japan.  Apparently, these trees had just completed a “planes, trains and automobiles” trip from Japan. . .having just ended the final leg by rail from Seattle on March 26th.

How does this story relate to our journey? Seeing the annual blooming of the cherry trees was the number one item on Louise’s “bucket list” for our trip. Read on .  .  .  .

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Trip Planning.  The target for our arrival to DC of April 1st was primarily based on the date the cherry trees would be in “peak bloom “(defined as 70% of Yoshino tree blossoms being open).  We even had a back-up plan on our initial leg to DC in case they started to bloom while we were on the road. . .

Our original plan took us on the southerly I-10 route through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and then due east to Jacksonville, Florida. We were then to take a northerly turn and proceed up the east coast to DC (actually, to our 3 month rental in Alexandria, VA). After Austin, Texas, we planned on monitoring  the “Bloom Watch”, a website that updates the progression of the blooms (of which there are SEVERAL stages!).

If the trees were blooming, the back-up plan consisted of diverting and heading straight to DC, from either Houston, New Orleans or Pensacola to see the blossoms (as there is only a small window of time to see the peak bloom). Where would we sleep if we were to divert north up to 5 days early?

WHO KNOWS!    WHO CARES!    We aren’t missing these  *&^!#$  Cherry trees!!

As it turns out, WE DID modify that leg and zoomed 1,200 miles straight to DC from New Orleans. However, this modification was not because of cherry trees, but due to me having a fractured molar tooth! Thanks to the Navy, we were able to get a room at the NAS PAX River Navy Lodge in Maryland, about one hour from DC.

(Ed note: we made it to the dentist by Friday afternoon and had the tooth extracted on Monday!)

The Big Day arrives!    On Thursday, April 10th, based on: the Bloom Watch, hourly local Channel 4 updates, and the immediate prompting of our dear friend Barb, we decided Friday the 11th was the day! Our apartment is EXTREMELY convenient to the local metro station just one block away. So we built my backpack up to include all of the Smith rudiments – multiple cell phones to call 911, lots of sunscreen for my fair skin, plenty of water for Louise and low carbo snacks for me.

We jumped on the yellow line, grabbed our seats. . . and the miles and metro stations started to click off. . . Eisenhower, Old Town, Braddock, Reagan National, Pentagon, and L’ Enfant. A quick switch to the blue line. . . and then off at Smithsonian. . .we’re there!

The trees were just a short walk to the Tidal Basin. On the way to the Tidal Basin we passed the cherry trees around the Washington Monument which I believe were accepted by Lady Bird Johnson from Japan in 1965. What a beautiful sight! As you can see in the picture below, there were thousands of people as this was not only a big day for the bloom, but it was a beautiful 82 degree day, one of the few above 70 degree days in 2014!IMG_0705

The 1st 80 degree day of the year!

After the Washington Monument, it was on to the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial. As you can see in the picture below, the Jefferson Memorial is the perfect back drop for the cherry trees!

When we were at the Jefferson Memorial we observed a “spontaneous eruption” of sorts. There was a young Asian couple who had just gotten married in a park near the memorial. They were posing at the top of the steps for wedding pictures when a school Glee Club of at least 30+ students on tour happened to be at the steps also. The Glee Club sang a few very romantic songs for the couple. At the end, hundreds of visitors on the steps all cheered and clapped, including us. It was fantastic, but of course our own MR. KODAK didn’t even think of taking a picture. . . OBTW: If you want to see pictures that are a lot better than the ones in this blog, just go to Google images and type in Washington DC cherry blossoms.


The perfect end to a perfect day!


Some highlights:

-In 1910 the City of Tokyo gave the U.S. 2,000 trees, but they were infected and subsequently burned.

-The two trees planted by First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda are still available for viewing and you can see the commemorative plaque next to the trees.

-On December 11, 1941 just 4 days after Pearl Harbor, four trees were cut down. Although never verified, it was assumed that this was in reprisal for the Pearl Harbor attack by Japan. In fact, In hopes of dissuading people from further attacks on the trees during the war, they were called “Oriental” flowering cherry trees until wars end. In fact, the annual Cherry Tree Festival was suspended until a few years after the war.

If you go:

  1.  You can rent a 2 or 4 person boat ($14 / $22). They get pretty good 4 star reviews on Yelp and during the cherry blossom season you can reserve them online. I’ve supplied a link to the Tidal Basin paddle boats below. Note: When the wind picked up they didn’t seem to move very fast or very far!

  2. There are plenty of places to buy snacks and water during the time of the annual festival.

  3. Enjoy your excursion!


Below are links for the: Cherry Blossom Cam, Annual Cherry Blossom Festival, National Park Site and Tidal Basin paddle boats.

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2 Responses to The Cherry Blossoms are Here! (but where are the cherries?)

  1. Mike Kirkpatrick says:

    I cracked up –
    “WHO KNOWS! WHO CARES! We aren’t missing these *&^!#$ Cherry trees!!”

  2. Smitty says:

    Mike, the doghouse is small and isn’t air conditioned either! ~Smitty