Yesterday brought the first cold, windy gust of fall to DC. I was, as usual, a complete wimp about it. Warsaw will be “challenging!” On the other hand, today was one of those sunny, crisp mid-Atlantic days that you have to take full advantage of while they last. So, we did.
We drove out to Mason Neck State Park and hiked around it and the federal nature reserve just next door. Located just a few miles down 1-95 near the former Reformatory at Lorton (definitely another day trip there), these parks seem a world away from DC. There’s barely even any cell network coverage just as soon as you leave the highway.
After a picnic in the woods, we drove to nearby Gunston Hall, the home of local Constitutional hero George Mason. A quiet man by nature, he nevertheless stuck to his guns when insisting on a bill of rights reserved to individuals to accompany the Constitution. This really annoyed George Washington, but was a major influence on Thomas Jefferson—as witnessed by the existence of our Bill of Rights.
Gunston Hall is not the biggest or fanciest colonial mansion, but the setting is beautiful, and I was impressed by how just plain livable the solidly-built, compact house was for the time. There are lots of clever little touches such as window shutters that keep the house either cool or warm depending on the season but fold away into pockets in the walls when not in use. 12-inch thick walls also help with climate control. And there are many built-in closets and cabinets that would be considered expensive “upgrades” in a modern home.
The house was so comfortable that it was occupied continuously with relatively few changes from its construction in 1759 until it was bequeathed to the Commonwealth of Virginia by its final occupant in 1949. I can see why. It’s a lovely place that I would take over a European castle in a heartbeat!