This.

This is what Peak Bloom looks like!

How beautiful it is!

Almost each and every year of the 12 springs we've lived in DC, I am completely floored by the wonders that are the Cherry Blossom blooms in and around the DC metro area.

I try to make time every year to venture down around the tidal basin, along the National Mall, and towards Haines Point to take in the spectacle and tradition of this wonderful gift from the Japanese some 100 plus years ago.

Last year I shared some of my favorite photos from my walk around the tidal basin, and this year I'd like to do the same, with a little twist.

The first many years of being a tourist in my own area I enjoyed what all of the tourists enjoy -- the cotton ball- and cotton candy-like blossoms that fill the area and announce the arrival of spring while framing some of our nation's best known monuments.

The lovely blossoms draw you in and are as interesting from afar...

...as they are up close.

But as I've ventured down year after year, I've been able to develop a different kind of appreciation for the blossoms and what they bring to our area. More specifically, I've been able to pick out those things that you don't notice as a first blush tourist. Items such as the annual return of my favorite warning sign.

One of my favorite aspects of the annual cherry blossom bloom period has actually become the people that are drawn to the area and the tremendous influx of tourists that arrive in the each spring, either from remote or local locations. We're talking everyone from just a few miles away to those that have travelled from as far as the other side of the globe, and they're all coming to catch a glimpse of these little pink petals and appreciate them in their own way.

More than a simple crush of tourists, one group of people these flowers draw are photographers from near and far, and all are primarily concerned with getting "the shot."

Apparently there's a rule of thumb with these blooms. If you see a beautiful sight, nicely framed shot, or postcard perfect view, turn around and you're bound to see a gaggle of photographers, many going to great lengths of laying down or standing on garbage cans, to get this same beautiful shot. This is one of the first things I saw as I reached the tidal basin across from the Jefferson Memorial.

How many photographers can you count in this photo? They all have their gear, their bags, and whatever else they need. This alone helps me realize what a wonderful thing I am seeing, if I somehow missed it on my own.

I realize I may sound hypocritical, since I was down there snapping photos along side of them, but I'm merely commenting as an observer that appreciates these dedicated tourists in search of that shot of something truly unique and inspiring. You'll find photographers of all ages, genders, and skill levels. 

Each one clamoring for "the shot" they can either sell to a horticulture magazine, use to wow their friends and family back home, or proudly refer to in the future under "the trip we took to see the Cherry Blossoms."

After all, these trees are world famous, and they have the paparazzi to prove it.

In addition to the photographers you see throughout the area, you often see artists working on their much slower to develop interpretation of the impressive scenes. They attract their fair share of photographers looking to capture them capturing their scene, primarily because it's such an impressive endeavor in this age of instant gratification.

I wonder how many facebook pages, blogs, or emails this artist will apear on over the next several days? While I was taking my photos at least a dozen other people were snapping shots. Some with zoom lenses from many yards away, while others with iPhones who happened to be in near violation of the artists' personal space.

Visitors are often very friendly and feel free to point you to the best place for a photo of a specific tree or scene, while others will walk and gawk at what they are seeing. When the weather is nice, the blooms are at their peak, and nobody really wants to get into work on time, the whole area fills up by 8:00am with photogs, joggers, cyclists, local workers, and area tourists, all out to enjoy what this wonderful collection of national parks have to offer.

I've been visiting so long and so often that I've even been able to establish my "favorite trees." I have three that I always single out. 

First, the little tree that could. This struggling little tree has been lopped off year after year and is beginning to look like the Sideshow Bob of the Cherry Blossom world, but he's still chugging along, popping out blooms from the most unlikely of places. I wasn't sure if he was going to flower after his latest round of amputations, but apparently the US Park Service's Cherry Blossom guys know what they're doing.

One of my absolute favorite trees around the basin is this gnarly old guy with his thick but splintered with age trunk. This is not nearly as much about the flowers as it is the character of the trunk itself, though the foliage is still breathtaking. Beaten and battered, perhaps, but nothing is going to stop this tree from putting on a show each year.

And my third favorite tree fits into a similar category to the previous. It's old and absolutely full of character in its hulking appearance and ability to provide a massive canopy for those beneath. I'm not sure why, but I'm particularly drawn to these older trees. The ones that could easily be great-great-grandfathers of the newer trees on the grounds, and they have all of the knots and bumps to prove it.

The final items I want to share from my trip are a few photos of a tidal basin regular. He's a basin fisherman that I see out there during my typical running months. The recent weather has been perfect for him, and he can often be spotted sitting on the southern bank of the tidal basin trying to reel in his next big catch.

He's a really nice guy who was happy to show off his catch of the day for all of us gawky onlookers (did you really think there were any fewer than four photographers taking his photo at any given time) to ooh and ahh at. Hey, it was an impressive catch for the tidal basin.

After showing one of my co-workers this photo he said, "It's days like today when I really wouldn't mind switching jobs with him."

All told, this year's experience was as good as all previous experiences. I was able to stroll my familiar loop and appreciate all the blooms and the people watching the blooms have to offer. It's a rare and special thing to live somewhere that is a dream or once-in-a-lifetime destination for many, so I will do my part to ensure I'm not one of those jaded locals that fails to soak in the various sights, sounds, and experiences the area has to offer. I hope you've enjoyed my virtual tour of the basin, and that the Cherry Blossoms through my eyes have made you smile.

Have you ever gone down to see the blooms during their peak? If not, is this on your bucket list? I know it is for many. If you're in the area, it's not too late. Today is another beautiful day and the blooms are still at their peak. It's hard to tell what tomorrow's storm will do as the petals are already beginning to fall with a stiff breeze. Hopefully they'll still be in good shape this weekend.

Comments 16

Comments

Phyllis
4/11/2013 at 11:03 AM
Thanks for sharing such beauties! It is definitely on my bucket list to go see them in DC.

But before I do that, I must go see the rolling fields of our state's flower, the Bluebonnet! It's a "must do" (at least once) for anyone traveling through or residing in central Texas during this time of year. After living here for 5 1/2 yrs, my husband and I are finally making the hour long trek to go see them in peak form this weekend.

I hope I can capture their essence in photos as nicely as you have with the Cherry Blossoms.
Alex
4/11/2013
That sounds really cool. I bet if you catch it at the right time of day, perhaps at the golden hour, you'll get just the right light to let your photos look amazing.
4/11/2013 at 11:58 AM
Great photos! When I was younger we went to DC several times, but only once did our visit correspond with the cherry blossoms in bloom. It was so beautiful!

Now I am lucky enough to be near the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens to watch their cherry blossoms, but it isn't the same without the DC monuments as a backdrop.
Alex
4/11/2013
You're quite right, the monuments add a certain element of grander that is hard to reproduce.
4/11/2013 at 12:58 PM
So stunning!

We walked the basin in the dead of winter, but I would love to go back during cherry blossom time. (Although I'm sure my allergies would hate me.)
Alex
4/11/2013
The difference in the tidal basin during each season is stunning. Each is gorgeous in their own right, but Cherry Blossom time is easily my favorite time. But you're right, your allergies would probably be a bit of torture. You can almost see the pollen floating through the air.
Karin K
4/11/2013 at 1:06 PM
You always do a great job of bringing us along with you. Great pictures! Makes me miss my last house - I had three of those beautiful trees in my yard.
Alex
4/11/2013
Thanks, Karin! That's exactly what I'm going for!
4/11/2013 at 3:01 PM
Oh that was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. I've only been to DC a few times, and never when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. If only it wasn't on the other side of the country!
Alex
4/11/2013
The trip is definitely worth it, but it's hard to plan since the actual peak bloom date fluctuates so drastically and isn't certain until only a few weeks or days out. If it's a short drive it's obviously far easier than a long flight. Hopefully some day. Until then, I hope my photos did them a bit of justice.
margaret
4/11/2013 at 6:53 PM
I did not make it to the tidal basin this year but I did sneak out around lunch to the kenwood neighborhood in Bethesda. I saw the cutest elder couple in a vintage car cruising the streets to find the ice cream truck for an after lunch treat.
Alex
4/11/2013
This just something about elder couples doing things together that makes Wendy's heart melt. We have every intention on becoming one of those couples at some point in our lives.
4/11/2013 at 8:59 PM
Great shots! We went on Tuesday in the late afternoon and it was nothing short of fantastic. Just wish we had a picnic!
Alex
4/11/2013
Early in the morning when I was wandering around I loved seeing all of the people having breakfast picnics. We did it one year but it was just way too crowded.
4/11/2013 at 9:32 PM
These pictures are amazing! I loved checking them out.

They bring back a memory of sorts.

Going on 4 years ago, my then boyfriend surprised me with a trip to D.C. He was planning to propose to me under the cherry blossoms for an engagement with a nice "wow factor." Romantic, I know.

I was unassuming as we headed out from our hotel near Dupont Circle to get a look at the blossoms, only to find out they bloom near the beginning of April instead of the end. Ooops.

Everything turned out okay, though - I said yes!
Alex
4/11/2013
Thanks so much, Amanda! That's a great story. The wow factor couple have been there if only it had been a much, much, much colder winter. Never the less, it's a romantic setting even without all of the pink petals. Glad you said "yes" rather than "No blooms, no weddings!"
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