Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Let the Autumn Colors Inspire You to Daytrip Too!

We would see amazing things if we could learn to be travelers in our own neighborhoods, Henry David Thoreau said.

Fall is a great time to explore your own neighborhood and see it with new eyes. Grab a camera and take yourself out for a fun afternoon daytrip!

One of my favorite things to do in the fall is to go on road trips to see the fall foliage -- the colorful leaves make the photos.

These wonderful photographs you will take are perfect for Instagram!

All the photos included here have been taken with my (now aging) DS90,

a Coolpix point and shoot,

a waterproof Olympia (for when I kayak and bike), which allowed me to capture this plover wading in the wetlands in Cape Henlopen State Park near Lewes, DE, and

various android phone cameras, such as this one in the chapel of the Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City, MD. Lately, I've been getting my best shots with those.

One thing I've learned is you don't need a fancy camera to get photos you'll be really thrilled with.

Over the years, I've enjoyed photographing autumn colors in lakes and

national parks and wildlife refuges, such as Dolly Sods National Wildlife Refuge.

But also anywhere, really.

Play around with perspective by using the portrait setting to focus in on one thing in particular and blur out the background.

Don't forget to check out local cemeteries. During the Victorian age, cemeteries were treated as parks, where you could go to hang out and picnic. Not creepy at all. Somewhere during the last hundred plus years, that trend faded away.

You can find lots of cool grave stones -- often created to be looked at and impress folks. And add the colorful leaves, and the cemeteries are even prettier.

Look for Halloween decorations -- sometimes these are fun to photograph!

One of my favorite times to go out to photograph things is during or

right after rain. I waited for several minutes for water droplets to collect and roll to the leaf tips for both of the above photos.

Foggy mornings are another favorite time.

Fog adds mystery, and autumn leaves pop out of the white blur, such as these trees in a parking lot at Harpers Ferry National Park, right before a bikeride.

Reflections of leaves in water -- so many opportunities to catch that cool photograph.


I love my barns.

I often make unplanned stops just to photograph a particularly lovely old barn.

Barn doors can be fun.

I frequently go on barn tours, such as the barn tour of Butler County, PA.

Speaking of Butler County, I was thrilled when I spotted a kayaker wearing the same colors as the autumn leaves!

Covered bridges are also a favorite subject, anytime of the year, but especially in the fall, such as this one in Frederick County, MD.

But don't overlook an unusual subject, such as these colorful buckets of horse manure, all lined up. The colors were too pretty to not photograph. I tried from several different angles until I got what I was looking for.

Or weeds.

Or old, falling down houses, such as this one in Davis, WV

So although this post wasn't about a particular place, I hope you'll be inspired to daytrip too, with your camera in hand and with your eyes open to the unique and wonderful place you live in or near!

Please share your photos on MidAtlantic Daytrips' facebook page -- I'd love to see them!

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Ghost Hunting in the B&O Railroad Station Museum

The Ellicott City Station is the oldest remaining passenger train station in the United States, and one of the oldest in the world. It was built in 1830 as the terminus of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad line from Baltimore to Ellicott City -- then called Ellicott's Mills -- and a facility to service steam locomotives at the end of the 13-mile run. The station, a National Historic Landmark, is now a museum.

And it's got ghosts.

Periodically, Howard County Parks and Rec, as well as local ghost hunting groups, offer public ghost hunts of the museum. We went on a chilly February evening, and were joined by just four other individuals.

Twenty-five years after the station was built, it was converted to accommodate passengers. Women waited on one side of the wall partitioning the second-floor ticket office, men on the other.

The ghost hunt started with a brief tour of the museum, including a discussion of ghost hunting equipment, which were provided by Howard County Parks & Rec.

The museum is reportedly haunted by a ghost that has been named “Charlie,” believed to be a former worker at the station. During the Civil War, train cars filled with Confederate prisoners of war rolled through the town, sometimes stopping.  During Civil War re-enactments the apparition of a union soldier has been seen.

The two-story station, built at the end of the Oliver Viaduct in 1831 as the railroad's first terminal as it expanded west to Wheeling, WV. Originally built to handle freight, passengers increasingly used the station as a transfer point to get onto stagecoaches headed for the Frederick Turnpike.

Doors are low -- originally the station was only meant for loading farm goods and other freight and Ellicott Mills was, as it name implied, a bustling mill town -- to send the 13 miles into Baltimore. The station building was designed to allow engines to be pulled in on the upper level so that they could be worked on from below -- the second story of the station is level with the rails.

The freight building, which now houses a diarama of Ellicott City, depicting the town when it was just a small bustling mill village called Ellicott Mills, is where Charlie is likely to make himself known. In fact, that's where we headed first after the tour of the museum. It's a creepy building when the lights are on. It's even creepier when the lights are off.

We used both the EMF (electro-magnetic field meter) and dowsing rods.

Sometimes the dowsing rods are just dead. They don't move for me, not even a quiver. This night, though, they were on fire. Combined with the EMF lighting up, we had a "conversation" with "Charlie" indicating he was not just passing through, that he had worked on the railroad or at the station.

After that we headed back into the main part of the station, but from then on, we didn't find much activity at all, to our disappointment. We should have stayed in the freight building.

All in all, though, it was fun. We learned a lot about the history of this historic railroad station and the nation's first railroad. We think we had a discussion with a ghost (but who really knows??). We enjoyed an evening out with friends doing something we enjoy doing. We got to meet new people who enjoy doing the same thing.

If you ever get the chance to go ghost hunting at the Ellicott City rail station, take it (ghost hunts are offered by a local ghost hunting meet up group as well as through the Howard County Parks & Recreation.

Know before you go #1: Dress for the weather. It can get chilly after the sun sets, and then there are the cold spots. Wear comfortable shoes, as you're on your feet for extensive periods. You probably want to wear long pants (in lieu of shorts), as it's also likely you'll be sitting on the floor in some places.

Know before you go #2: Ghosts are not performing seals, offering you a show on demand. They are fickle creatures, preferring to sneak up on you or surprise you when you least expect it. Although it is LIKELY you'll experience something, there are no guarantees what, if anything, you will see or hear.

Know before you go #3: Although some groups will share equipment, and Howard County Parks & Recreation makes a point of having equipment for those on its ghost hunts, having a recorder or EMF detector, in addition to your camera, would be helpful, as some of the ghost hunts give you extensive free time to explore on your own. 

Getting there: 3711 Maryland Ave, Ellicott City, MD

Hours: Check out the Howard County Parks & Rec website, below, for future offerings of ghost hunts at this museum.

Website: https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Baltimore-Ohio-Station-at-Ellicott-City or https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Recreation-and-Parks

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Saturday, October 10, 2020

Hiking the Serpentine Loop in Soldiers Delight NEA

 It seems the only times I think to go hiking in Soldiers Delight Natural Environmental Area, a part of the Patapsco Valley State Park, is in the winter. And winter is a great time to hike there -- it's sunny and bright and really beautiful in the colder months; just walking there will lift your winter-weary spirits. But recently, we were looking for something to do, and decided to head there at the end of summer, in mid-September, to hike the Serpentine Loop Trail. 

And it was, as expected, just as lovely as being there in the winter. 

You'll find 7 miles of hiking trails around Soldiers Delight. One of my favorite trails is the Chaote Mine Trail, which takes hikers to the ruins of several of the chrome mines that made the area quite profitable through the 1800s and early 1900s.

Soldiers Delight is unusual for Maryland -- it's not the deciduous forest, dominated by broad-leaf hardwoods such as oaks, maples, and tulip poplars. It's actually more like prairie, with a variety of grasses and stunted trees. 

Soldiers Delight's is a land that is stony, unfertile and sparsely vegetated -- due to the underlying serpentine rock that dominates the area and which is the reason that the term "serpentine barren" is used to describe areas like Soldiers Delight. Typical trees you'll see in Soldiers Delight are several varieties of oak (black, blackjack, and post), black gum, sweet birch, wild cherry, and American hornbeam. 

The hiking trails that crisscross Soldiers Delight are dog-friendly, but bikes and horses are not welcome there, due to the fragility of this rare space. Hikers are encouraged to strictly stay on the trails. 

As you hike the trail, you'll experience most of what the serpentine barrens varied landscape: open fields, pine forests, rocky gorges, streams, swamps, and rolling meadows. It is not barren of life, nor of trees. But it is barren of trees that were "timber worthy."

Know before you go: If you go hiking during hunting season (October - December), then wear bright orange, yellow or red items, so hunters can see you and NOT shoot. Likewise, clothe your pooch similarly, so s/he can also safely enjoy your hike.

Getting there: 5100 Deer Park Rd, Owings Mills, MD 21117

Hours: Dawn through dusk

Website: https://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/NaturalAreas/Central/Soldiers-Delight.aspx; for a map of trails in Soldiers Delight, click here.

Read about our previous experiences:

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