The coronavirus pandemic has made it tough to get away. Vacations were cut short or modified, with many people reluctant to fly or travel long distances — a situation that persists.
But author Melanie Choukas-Bradley of Chevy Chase, Maryland, suggests there’s a perfect escape that doesn’t require much travel: D.C.’s Theodore Roosevelt Island.
Choukas-Bradley’s new book “Finding Solace at Theodore Roosevelt Island,” is all about the 88-acre piece of land that most people simply drive past going in and out of the District.
She said the island can offer the perfect escape for those who might need one after being cooped up in an apartment.
“It’s an island that’s right in our midst. It’s in the middle of the Potomac River,” said Choukas-Bradley.
“And it’s just a delightful refuge and especially now when so many people are finding that spending time in nature, either alone or with their families or socially distanced with friends, is a real comfort and inspiration.”
Her book takes the reader through the trails that run through the woods along and away from the river, and even through a swamp she described as “beautiful” and filled with silver maples.
In the middle of the island is also a monument to Teddy Roosevelt, who Choukas-Bradley called the nation’s first “foremost naturalist” president.
“I always turn to nature and natural beauty if I’m feeling low,” she said. “I can just walk across that foot bridge, start down a trail on the island, and my cares just magically slip away.”
The book also explores the history of Theodore Roosevelt Island.
Over the years it served as the home of the Nacotchtank Indians, also known as the Anacostans, which were part of the Algonquians.
For a while the island was known as Anacostine. Later it was owned by the family of George Mason.
In the War of 1812, when the British burned down the White House, President James Madison fled to the island as he escaped to Virginia.
During the Civil War, a Black regiment of troops were stationed there.
“There’s lots of history associated with the island,” said Choukas-Bradley. “And of course it’s a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt.”
She is a Casey Trees’ Canopy Award winner for the first book she wrote, “City of Trees.”
“Just walk outside your door and connect with the beauty around you, whether it’s just the trees on your street or Rock Creek Park or the Potomac River, it’s incredibly comforting and rejuvenating.”
A map of Theodore Roosevelt Island is below.