The appointed bridge walking hour was a somewhat foggy October morning, temperature in the low 60s, relatively calm winds,and thus a perfectly fine day to walk the GGB. The bridge, which opened in 1937, is some 220 feet above the water, and is a rather long 1.7 miles in length, longer than any of our previous bridge treks, which have topped out at about a mile long.The Golden Gate Bridge is, of course, the icon of picturesque bridges. And that’s viewed from a distance.
The walk was on the Sunday past, and then a few days later, to try to confirm my view from the very beginning that if you can walk across a bridge, then you can certainly drive across it, I did rent a car (first checking the fine print for a fear of bridges restriction) and drove it across the bridge and back. Yes, they do make you pay a toll for the privilege (heading into SF), which still seems a bit strange to me, but I could more or less comfortably drive across it. And I recommend the spectacular views of the bridge from the relatively unknown Battery Spencer just above and to the northwest of the bridge in the Marin Headlands.
As far as the scariness rating for walking across the bridge is concerned, the Golden Gate Bridge certainly tops all that we’ve experienced. Using the height, length, and width standard, this one garners a combined 29, with a 9 for height (on a 1-10 scale, with each 25 feet getting a point), a 13 for length (blowing out the 1-10 scale that was calibrated for a mile long bridge being the highest, with diminishing amounts above a mile I guess), and a 7 for its width (relatively low, open railings). The wind was relatively calm, but I think relatively is the key word, so I suppose I could adjust up the scariness rating, but I won’t: this bridge doesn’t need it.
More bridge walks in the future? Sure, why not?
It's time to take a walk across a bridge spanning the Anacostia River in Washington D.C, the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, built in 1949 and named after the former slave who became a statesman and leader of the abolitionist movement before the Civil War--and who also lived in the DC neighborhood of Anacostia after the Civil War. Yesterday morning in DC, a Saturday, the heat (88 degrees at trek-time) and humidity (typically high) were tolerable enough for a quick walk.
architects who proposed several possible replacements pretty much summed up the walking experience: "The bridge is primarily a vehicular crossing and discourages pedestrians and bicyclists."
Washington Post shows pictures of some of the alternative bridges that were proposed.
As far as scariness ratings go, we give this one a 9 , the sum of a 3 for length, a 3 for height, and a 3 for its width (low because of the high railings, though a little bit of a scary rating because of the narrowness of the sidewalk and that open area under the rails).
But the current bridge isn't a good candidate for burning, being a concrete structure, with multiple arches; in fact when built, it was the world's longest multiple-arch concrete bridge, if you're into records for bridge subtypes. Except for its length, it seems like a small town bridge, with a 6-foot wide sidewalk that is separated from the roadway by just a little curb. With a speed limit of 40 miles per hour, that would normally not be a big problem for walkers, but let's face it, people don't really drive the speed limit, and the barrier on the water side of the bridge is just above waist level, not all that satisfying, providing the not great choice of walking very close to traffic or the edge. Fortunately the roadway itself is very wide for just 2 lanes, so the cars tend to stay toward the middle of the road and leave the walkers to admire the views off the bridge.
Walking across the bridge, we got nice views of the Susquehanna River down to the south and the Route 30 Bridge to the north. A number of joggers were using the bridge. Just a nice, pleasant walk--except for the cars and the low side rails. We started from the Columbia side to the east, parking just a couple of blocks away from the bridge at the corner of North 2nd and Chestnut Streets. And after walking partway across the bridge and returning to the car, I drove the car across the bridge, with the theory of course being that if you can walk across a bridge, you can drive across it too. Strangely, when driving, you can't even see over the edge to water, because the side railings are solid and set just high enough to obstruct the views. That doesn't seem to be allowed with newer bridges, because people seem to want their bridges to afford majestic views, even though it seems that the drivers should be concentrating on driving; but maybe that's just me.
Yesterday was a beautiful March Saturday in Washington, DC, perfect for a walk across a bridge, and we chose the Chain Bridge. This quarter-mile bridge crosses the Potomac River, connecting the far north parts of Arlington,Virginia with Washington, DC. It was the site of the very first bridge crossing the Potomac between DC and Virginia, a wooden covered bridge built around 1800. Time and floods have required several replacements over the years, including three chain suspension bridges in the first half of the 1800s from which the current one gets its name, and others built on stone piers in the mid 1800s that are still used for the current bridge, which was completed in 1939. Just north is Little Falls and, further up, Great Falls, areas with rapids popular with kayakers. The river remains rather rocky at Chain Bridge, and it is only recommended for small craft with knowledge of the narrow and shallow channel.
We could park on the DC side of the bridge, where there were a small number of parking spots on the Clara Barton Parkway. The ground slopes steeply down to the river. Some intrepid people trekked down there and were either fishing or just hanging out on the rocks. The area is relatively natural; for example, we could see a number of turtles on this 65 degree day sunning on the rocks and horizontal branches below. There are also steps down to the C&O Canal towpath, which is next to the Potomac River on the DC side of the bridge.
The views from the bridge were of the natural scenic variety--no national monuments here. Lots of rocks below, lots of nature. The sidewalk on the bridge is moderately wide, with a side railing at about neck level for me, very safe for walking you'll be glad to know. The ground slopes quickly downward, so while the bridge is level, what starts out as just a few feet above the ground eventually becomes a bit of distance to the water below--I've seen it written that the bridge is 50 feet above the river.
Of course, as with most pedestrian bridges on roadways, the cars are somewhat distracting. It is an urban bridge, so speeds aren't all that high, but nonetheless the cars are but a short railing away from the sidewalk. Nonetheless, the bridge is a nice addition our series of DC bridge walks, given the natural beauty of the area below. If you like that sort of thing, you should definitely head a little further north to the Falls, on either the DC or Virginia sides, where there are parks to hike and see the big falls and kayakers navigating them.
As for the scariness of Chain Bridge, the cars seemed scarier than anything, in some cases speeding across the bridge, though the short railing provided needed protection. The steep drop-off of the bridge as it gets to the river does provide some excitement and certainly a nice view of the area. The bridge is very short, though, and the river part shorter yet. We'll give the bridge a scariness rating of 7, with a 1.5 for length, 2.5 for height, and 3 for width (the main issue being not enough distance from the cars, not our usual issue). That makes it one of the calmer walks we've undertaken. Following the previous walk over the George Washington Bridge, this was quite mellow.
It's back to the George Washington Bridge, the scene of two previous treks across the Hudson River, but this time it's a walk over the upper level of the bridge, all 212 feet up in the open air worth, rather than in the tunnel-like lower level. It was a rather breezy day after Christmas, around 40 degrees or so, thus a bit of a wind chill especially out in the open and, again, up in the air. Not an ideal day for a bridge walk, but not bad for early winter; and in the end we even took a drive over following the walk.
We--my wife and I had my son this time on the walk--started from the Fort Lee, New Jersey side, which has some parking pretty close to the bridge walkway that is on the south side of the bridge. We quickly passed by the guard who is posted at the beginning of the Jersey-side--not my ideal job location, and certainly not because it's in Jersey. We ran into the guard, or one of his compatriots, months ago on a detour after our walk out onto the lower level, when we checked out the upper level in preparation for this trek--back then he wasn't happy with our taking pictures of the bridge, telling us that no close-ups of the bridge were allowed and to focus our attention on the views off the side. So, we of course complied, and needed and received no attention from him this time. Fortunately, the security truck we saw newly parked next to his post as we came off the bridge was not for us.
So, how scary is it walking out on one of the higher and busiest bridges in the United States? I was relatively ok as long as I stayed on the car side of the walkway. The walkway was pretty wide as far as those things go, lots of room to let the bikers go by. Lots of room in case the dreaded rogue wind gust popped up in the direction of the railings. The railings were rather open, good for the views, I suppose, and were just high enough to offer some comfort. However, I still don't like my arms reaching down to touch the top of the railings. Have to work on that. Given that we've been out before on the lower level of this bridge, and were much higher up at the New River Gorge Bridge, I guess there's been some desensitizing--it just didn't feel all that high in the air. Nonetheless, the open railings, not all that high, and the undeniable height of the bridge, made this one the scariest bridge yet trekked, with an official scariness rating of 23--a 9 for height, 5 for length (about a mile long), 7 for width (the open and not all that high railings), and an add factor of 2 for the scary looking towers. That's the highest rating yet, exceeding the rating for the lower level of the GW bridge, and even the 876-foot-high New River Gorge Bridge.
So, we walked to the middle of the bridge, turned around and exited back off the Jersey side back to the car, and going to visit family on the New York side, I even drove over the bridge. The theory is that if you can walk over a bridge, then you can drive over it, too. So far, so good: no rejection of that hypothesis.