This evening I decided on an especially clear goal for my run. I wanted to run into DC and make my way to the United States Naval Observatory (USNO). Specifically, I wanted to grab a photo of the master clock they have running outside the grounds (where mere mortals can see it).
On the map, the route looked easy enough. The 7.5 mile trip would more than take up the hour of running I had planned, so I didn't have much margin for getting lost. You can imagine then, how disappointed I was when I got to my first potential short cut and found this gate:
Apparently it's not just the buildings of the Naval Observatory that are off limits, but the grounds as well. Rather than doing the smart thing, and running back home, I kept charging forward following the route suggested by the bigger streets on Google Maps. In relatively short order, I found my master clock:
At one point (around the 1890's) the Naval Observatory was indeed in the business of astronomical observation. However, that job has since been delegated to a more appropriate site. Another role, that of master time keeper, on the other hand has been going strong since 1830. That clock above may be for decoration, but the notion of being the master time source isn't. Especially given my new found appreciation for ship chronometers and clock parts, I found this site even more appealing.
And what's up with the import looking anchors in front of the USNO?
They get mentioned on the web, and they've been there since at least 1961, but other than that, I can find no further detail. Unlike the clock, they apparently are just decoration. Probably picked up from Pier One or something.
OK, I had the photo of the clock, now I just had one tiny detail, I needed to run my butt back to meet Shira before She drove off. I could have backtracked the way I came, but that's no fun. Instead, I looked at the map and saw what seemed to be some sort of connector that would loop me back around the USNO. Could it be off limits like my other shortcut? Probably, but it was my best shot.
I ran to said path and sure enough, I found an important looking guard station with no "Welcome Runners!" sign. As I was about to back track further and probably get even more off course, I saw two police officers and asked them about the connector. Sure enough, there was a trail that ran *next* to the gate. They pointed me the right direction and before I knew it I had found this:
The trail ended up being relatively short. Maybe even a couple hundred yards. However, after running the length that tracks near the fence above, it turns into pitch black woods. I had to bust out my cell phone flashlight app, and between that and Google Maps, make my way through the trail. I'm going to assume for the purposes of this story that this path is also haunted. All I know is that I could only see what was directly in front of me, and I was hoping this path would take me someplace sane.
It did. I popped out right where I needed to be and was able to truck it home. Had I not found the path, I'd probably still be out running around DC.
Here's the final route:
View To the Naval Observatory in a larger map
My only disappointment: the USNO is the home of the Vice President. I was so hoping I'd be jogging along and see Biden out watering the lawn in his boxer shorts. Alas, he was nowhere to be seen.