It’s still early, but the temperature in the city is pushing 90. In the southeast neighborhood of Navy Yard, campers in bathing suits rush down a sloped lawn into the water. Parents lather sunscreen on their children, leave their flip flops on the edge, and step in themselves. Even before a mid-morning snack, kids in tiny sunhats and rashguards have filled the splash pool by the Anacostia River.
Mid-afternoon. The heat of the day. A family visiting Washington discovers the fountain by the Potomac River on Georgetown’s waterfront. All morning they’ve been asking themselves why they opted to visit this swampy city at the height of summer, but now the children run free in soaked t-shirts and shorts. An ice cream truck on the corner repeats its tune, and this trip to the nation’s capital seems like a good idea after all.
Early evening in downtown Washington. Businessmen and women leave the office and fill in the gaps between tourists lining the fountain in the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art. They take off their summer flats or closed-toed shoes, roll up their slacks, and dip their feet in. Through graceful arcs of water, they gaze at the grand columns of the National Archives across the street. They take a breath, put the day behind them, imagine Europe. They zone out for a bit, some longer than others, before thinking about what’s for dinner and retreating into the city’s neighborhoods with hours of sunlight still ahead.
There’s a swimming hole on the slopes of Mt. Tam in the shadow of tall, dark trees on the outskirts of Muir Woods. The hole is alarmingly deep and the water is ice cold even after a long sweaty hike higher on the mountain. It’ll take your breath away every time.
Originally published July 1, 2014.
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