Day 3 & 4 – New York to Washington DC
Day 3 was the first day that we would meet the entire group for the first time and we would begin our exciting two week adventure across the Eastern USA, and what an adventure it would be! The day began with an early rise as 13 (mostly) strangers met for the first time in the lobby of the Crowne Plazza Newark at 7:30am sharp to start our trip. Many people say on blogs and forums that this is one of the most nerve wracking parts of a Trek America trip, but for me it really wasn’t. As a group, nearly all of us had met on Facebook via Trek America Live, and so had been in conversation for several weeks before hand. Because of this I was more excited than anything else! I had also spent the previous two days with a few of the group in New York which was great! I really recommend using Trek America live, both the forums and tour groups, they are a great resource for meeting fellow trekkers!
Our tour leader, Mary Rae Staples (an awesome tour leader!), was waiting for us in the lobby and was clearly identified, wearing a Trek America t-shirt. The lobby was buzzing with activity as another tour group, the Southern Sun, was also leaving and would be following us to Washington. After filling out some paperwork we filled up our water bottles and made our way to van, where we packed up the trailer ready to hit the road. The groups are fully self sufficient and carry luggage, camping equipment and food supply for everyone for 2-3 days at a time. Food is bought from a food kitty. The food kitty was $10 per day and covered breakfast, lunch and dinner whilst camping. We paid it a week at a time ($70 per week).
With the van packed it was ready to roll! We hit the road for 250 mile drive to Washington DC, where we stayed at what was a really awesome campsite – the Cherry Hill Campground, where we would stay for two nights. On our way to Washington, we drove south, stopping in Philadelphia. Our first stop was at the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art, with its famous 72 step entrance, aka ‘The Rocky Steps’. One of my biggest regrets on this trip was not taking a wide angled lens, as shooting scenes like this proved quite tough when my widest angle was only 35mm.
Some of the group decided to run up the steps, mimicking Rocky’s famous climb, whilst I had a walk around and took some pictures. It was a pretty cool experience and we were all pumped up after listening to ‘Eye of The Tiger’ in the van. After our visit here, it was time for a short drive to visit the Liberty Bell. We got dropped off and had about an hour to explore the town. The Liberty Bell is an iconic symbol of American independence, formerly placed in the steeple of Independence Hall, it now resides in the Liberty Bell Centre. It is most famous due to its large crack. We decided not to see it, as there was a large queue unfortunately, so we wandered around the town for a while and saw some of the other sites.
It was then time for lunch. What better for lunch when in Philly than a Philly Cheese Steak Wiz Wit! Yep, we ordered like the locals, thanks to the advice of our tour leader. We ate at Tony Lukes, a famous sandwich chain. A Philly Cheese Steak is a a baguette filled with yummy steak and cheese. ‘Wiz’ is a type of processed cheese which comes in a spray, sounds horrible, but in this case was really tasty and is THE way to order one of these! ‘Wit’ means with or without onions, ‘Wit’ means you want onions! They are really tasty and filling. Actually, Man Vs Food had an episode filmed here, so yep, you better be hungry!
After lunch we then made our way to our campsite in Washington, which as I mentioned earlier, was Cherry Hill Campground. This was an amazing campsite and one of the best campsites on the entire trip. It was conveniently located, had a pool and hot tub, beautiful views, ice cream… what more do you need! When we arrived at camp our tour leader helpfully gave us a demonstration on how to put up the tents. This was actually pretty easy, and being paired up with a repeat trekker, I was in good hands! As this was our first night, Mary Rae had already bought dinner and kindly prepared it for us that evening! We had delicious Chilli Con Carne and salad. Throughout the trip I was really impressed with the quality of food when camping, something I hadn’t expected! It was always fresh and delicious.
That night I enjoyed a swim in the pool and dip in the hot tub, which was so relaxing after a busy couple of days around New York. We ended the evening with a campfire and were joined by the other Trek America group, where we enjoyed chatting and having our first experience of smores!
The next morning I woke early with the boiling sunshine, and experienced my first trek breakfast. The breakfasts on a trek consist of all your breakfast essentials including fruit juice, bagels, toast, cereals and fruit. A bonus for today was that as we were staying for a second night, we didn’t have to take down camp! We left early to make our way into the Capital. In the morning our tour leader handed out maps of the city to us all and recommended some attractions. As this was one of our free days we were dropped off in the morning and the tour leader would meet us later in the evening for our illuminated monuments tour.
We had all decided that we wanted to go up the Washington Monument, so as a group the first thing we did was head to the ticket office to book our tickets to go to the top – and we were lucky! We got the last 13 tickets for a 7:30pm trip to to the top. After the tickets were sorted we split up into smaller groups and did our own thing for the day.
Myself and a couple of others went our own way. Our first stop in the iconic city had to be one of the city’s most iconic landmark and the home of the nations president, the White House. It was really cool to see the White House up close with my own eyes, and get my photo taken in front of the famous house!
We spent the rest of the day walking around the city and its many monuments and memorials. A particular favourite of mine was the Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pool, both so iconic and beautiful. I really loved the reflecting pool, the reflection of the Washington Monument was superb. Later in the day we decided to visit the Pentagon, home of the United States Department of Defense, and one of the sites of the 9/11 attacks.
The Pentagon isn’t actually in Washington, and requires a short tube ride on the Metro, to Arlington, Virginia. The station itself is easy to identify – its called ‘Pentagon’! We were slightly confused when we got of the tube! We expected to see a clearly Octagonal shaped building, but what we saw was just a regular straight wall! We ended up asking a security officer where it was and felt a bit silly when he pointed right next to us! We were right next to it, it’s just so huge that the shape isn’t instantly recognisable. There is a memorial at the Pentagon where you can see where the plane hit and pay respects.
The next stop on our jam packed day was our trip to the top of the Washington Monument! This was the highlight of the day, and I would say is one of the must do free attractions in DC! The views are stunning with great 360 degree views around the entire city. It does get busy though so you have to be patient, and the glass means that you might not always get the picture you want, thanks to reflections and smudges, but don’t let this ruin your visit!
We then met back up with our tour leader for a lovely picnic lunch complete with delicious cup cakes! By this point I must admit my feet were ruined with blisters, thanks to 2 full days walking in the wrong socks/ shoes! I soldiered on however and we all went for a great guided illuminated monuments tour. It was nice to see the city in lights and the monuments are equally stunning at night. The illuminated Lincoln Memorial reminded me of ‘Night at the museum’! The day came to an end at midnight after a brilliant, but really long day on our feet. I recommend not wearing cotton socks and wearing decent shoes if you do this! It was straight to bed as soon as we arrived back at camp. Washington DC was a really nice city, and although we did alot, we didn’t do all of the museums I would have liked to see, so all in all, if I ever hit that area again, there’s definitely more to see!