Washingtonians shrugged off the dreary weather of the last few months along with their coats yesterday and rushed out into the bright sunshine in cars, on bikes, in boats and on foot.
As temperatures rose into the high 60s, the towpath along the C&O Canal was like Connecticut Avenue at rush hour as strollers five and six deep vied for space with bikers and joggers.
Residents hurrying to picnics or the National Zoo, ran headlong into massive traffic jams that caused police to temporarily close parking lots and entrance roads at the zoo and at Great Falls Park in Maryland.
During this the first weekend of warm and sunny weather -- and with spring just three days away -- people were clustered outside like daffodils, beaming into the sun.
Washington has not seen the likes of such a day -- temperatures reached a high of 69 degrees at National Airport -- since Dec. 9. *tTennis players in Carter Barron and joggers in Rock Creek Park, perhaps looking ahead to hot and muggy summer days, proclaimed the weather "perfect." Kite fliers in turn praised the breeze, whih sometimes gusted to 29 mph, saying it provided just the right amount of loft.
For their fourth year, Ron Watt and Betty and Harry Ng, loaded down with five pounds of string, gloves and binoculars, headed for Military and Glover roads NW with two new kites. After losing both to the ridge of kite-eating trees, they found another, which soon became only a speck at the end of their string.
"Once you get it up there, it's really rather boring," said Watt, who in the next moment leaped to retrieve the string that was rapidly slipping away.
Up the hill, 10-year-old Soctt Cartland sat and watched forlornly as his birthday present, a large yellow disc with flowing red tails, whipped around the top of a scraggly elm tree. His father, John, was debating whether it was worth the climb.
On nearby Beach Drive, park police had set aside a stretch of parkway from Military Road to Tilden Street for footpowered engines of all kinds. Marilyn and Jim Renick sat on a rock by the rushing sunlit water, their green bikes standing behind them, mussing about their lives.
Bike riders passed roggers, smiling, calling hello, as strangers nodded to each other in silent agreement at the beautiful day.
At Great Falls, Leslie Levine and Chris Brown, Maryland residents who had been turned away because of the overcrowding at the park, ere sitting on the back of a red Trans-Am. While Rod Stewart wailed on the tape deck behind them, they pondered what to do with the rest of the day. As more friends and young people appeared, the parking lot at MacArthur Boulevard and Falls Road turned into an impromptu party as jackets were loosened and beer appeared from hidden coolers.
"It's just too great," Levine said. "We've been cooped up so long."
On the Potomac, meanwhile, the Potomac River Sailing Association's Frostbite Regatta was turned into a celebration of spring as 35 to 40 sailors used the stiff, warm breezes to whip around at the Washington Marina.
As the day warmed, sweaters were offered and looped around necks or wasits, and sunroofs and converible tops opened up. A girl in a bright red jumper sat in homecoming queen splendor on the back of a blue convertible, waving at the crowds of people she passed on the road.
For those who washed cars, planted peas or cleaned the basement in search of the bicycle pump yesterday, weathermen are forecasting more pleasant days ahead.
Temperatures in the low to mid 60s are predicted for today with rain and warm temperatures expected on the first day of spring. The official Washington spring, however, is marked by the opening of the Cherry Blossom Festival, which begins this year on April 2 and runs through April 7.