Teddy’s Hidden Sanctuary

Shane McCarthy History

© cwinslow

The mystique and legacy of Theodore Roosevelt looms large over modern Washington, D.C. TR is perhaps one of the most iconic and recognizable Commanders-in-Chief in our history, but if you expect to find his memorial among the massive throngs of tourists and never-ending construction of downtown DC, then you lack a true appreciation for his character.

In 1903, President Roosevelt ventured to California to meet up with the naturalist John Muir, whom he had asked to lead a four-day tour through Yosemite. Upon his arrival, Teddy’s aides attempted to outfit him with dozens of blankets and other gear – to no avail. Equipped with only the essentials, Roosevelt and Muir ventured off into the wilderness alone. In his letters to Muir, he had expressed his desire to escape from politics (if only for a few days) and dive into the natural beauty of America with the guide who understood it best. After travelling through the sequoia and pine forests to Glacier Point, Roosevelt and Muir spent the night on a bed of tree boughs and awoke covered in fresh layer of snow. Of course, this delighted Teddy to no end.

This was not TR’s first exposure to the stunning natural landscapes of America. After the untimely deaths of his wife and mother on the same day in 1884, he escaped from the noise of New York politics and found solace in the badlands of the Dakota Territories as a rancher and amateur sheriff. But with the newfound powers of his presidential office, the Yosemite trip would have a much greater impact on the way that Roosevelt viewed the responsibility of the federal government to preserve and protect the natural wonders and resources of the United States. Upon his return to Washington, TR took action to establish the first national parks and ultimately preserved over 200 million acres of land for public use.

TR Island © Tours for Humanity

What can a Washington, D.C. urbanite do to get even a small taste of the escape to nature that Roosevelt sought out in Yosemite? Taking a detour off of the GW Parkway will bring you to a narrow footbridge that leads to Roosevelt Island, an isolated slice of nature where the trees muffle the sounds of the city. Trails crisscross the island, and in the center of it all rests the memorial to the man who enjoyed being President more than anyone else.

Interested in learning more about Theodore Roosevelt?

Join our Drinking History walking tour in Washington, D.C. for a historic happy hour where we’ll answer some of your most pressing questions. Find out if Teddy sued an owner of a newspaper for libel over his drinking habits!