Landscape Adjustments on Ohio Drive

Over the years that I’ve lived in the District, Ohio Drive has become one of my favorite city streets, especially around this time of year – the non-tourist season. Compared to many other routes, the car traffic is relatively light. The road follows the bends of the Potomac, offering up rare views of open space in the urban environment.

Cherry trees, willows, and elms line the green space. Initially I passed along the street and saw them all collectively, a mishmosh of tree trunks and branches. But day after day of using this road, I grew to see them each distinctly.

Afternoon summer run, 2016

The willow trees remind me of home, and a neighborhood tree whose branches my sisters and I used to occasionally abuse with our body weight. The cherry trees (of which I have learned there are more than one type) fascinate me with their staggered blossoming and their smooth slate-gray trunks.

Winter 2016

Every day I would also pass a large tree – an elm, I think – that abutted the edge of the Potomac. Larger than many of the other trees along Ohio Drive, I thought surely it would outlast us all. Or at the very least, me.

March 2016 commute ride

Occasionally I stop to check in on the trees, comforted by their presence.

Summer 2017, very visibly sick

This elm, with its imposing size relatively to many of the other trees, was one of those I liked to visit.

Over the summer I noticed that it was really suffering. I suppose it had been ailing for a while, but I had not been paying enough attention to the details.*

The tree on Ohio Drive, as described in the Casey Trees map.

Late last month, I saw the tree had been marked to be taken down. I rode by on the last day of the great elm’s existence as the crew prepared to sharpen its blades and remove it. I realized that I had still been living in the fantasy that somehow the tree could overcome its illness and recover.

That day I recounted all the times I had passed underneath or beside this great tree, and unearthed some of the photos I had of it.

May 2015

I also understood then that I have developed a pleasant relationship with these trees. It lifts me to see them each day. Their ability to withstand the winds and storms off the Potomac inspires me to endure the headwinds and adverse weather my commutes sometimes dole out. I’m going to miss this tree and I wrote this post to honor and remember it.

January 19, 2018

*Many thanks to Casey Trees for their helpful inventory of D.C. trees. What a great resource for D.C. residents and visitors.


  1. There is a tree on my former commute that I absolutely love and your post makes me think I need to detour past it and make sure it’s still there! It is (or was) quite healthy but it’s very big and very close to its house. I hate to think its owners would take it down because of that but it happens. I love trees.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This reminds me of an ancient tree on the Mount Vernon Trail just south of the Belle Haven Marina access road. It had an enormous limb that reached out to shade the trail. Just like your elm it was showing signs of stress. I went by it on the way to work as the tree crew was setting up. When I rode home it was gone. All of it. I’ll bet it was at least 200 years old.


  3. Here in the UK most elms have gone – killed by Dutch Elm disease.
    I have two favourite oaks on my cycle rides that I have sat under for shelter and peace. One of them had a branch split off last year and bees had moved in. I find it pleasant to know that things move on in unexpected directions.
    Your elm stump will make a great picnic spot.


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