When it comes to what inspires or motivates me to take a morning walk, I can’t remember the last time it was done so through a conversation.
But thanks to Bob Kirk, I found a new place to explore. Kirk works for the city and tipped me off to Lake Accotink. He grew up in Springfield and told me about the lake, the trails, and historical markers for the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.
I was most excited about the railroad. The O&A looms large in the history of Alexandria. Established around 1851, it was the first railroad in the vicinity of the city. In ways George Washington and other investors in the Alexandria Canal could have only dreamed of, the railroad’s iron horses linked the city with places like Manassas and Gordonsville. The line helped make the seaport a regional powerhouse and was used heavily by both sides during the Civil War.
My walk started at the Visitors Center. It’s a mini-museum that tells the story of the area. Historic photos include Ravensworth, the Fitzhugh’s plantation home that was located about a mile northward.
A dirt path leads southward from the Visitors Center and then hooks up with an asphalt and biking trail. Accotink Creek, which flows into the Potomac River above Fort Belvoir, runs parallel.
Getting to the park is a bit tricky, with only one way in. This, however, ensures a quiet space interrupted only by the passing of the train and its horn blasts.
All in all a delightful walk, thanks to Bob and his old school tip.