Thursday, September 26, 2013

How 'bout dem apples?! The National Apple Harvest Festival

Pennsylvania has a long history of growing apples -- and is the fourth largest producer in the U.S. Adams County, in south Pennsylvania, where the National Apple Harvest Festival takes place two weekends each year, apples are taken seriously!Apples are everywhere. In fact more than five million bushels of apples are harvested in this one county alone. Everywhere you turn somebody is harvesting, selling -- or eating apples!

What is the National Apple Harvest Festival? Think large county fair, just with many more crafts and not really any rides and not your standard fair greasy food -- the food is much better at the festival, I think. There's always plenty of food featuring, of course, apples -- in fact, my favorite is the dessert shed that featured apple pies and at least a half dozen other apple desserts. Whatever apple food you can think of -- it will be there: , sausage and apples, apple pancakes, apple desserts, candied apples, apple cider, applesauce, apple jellies, apple butter, apples in caramel, and just plain apples for eating.

If you're interested in historic cars -- then you're also in luck! I'm not a devotee of antique cars but the quantity and quality of the cars that have been there is striking and its worth walking around and chatting with the owners about their hobby.

There will be continuous free entertainment, and pony rides and craft demonstrations. There are a lot of funny, rural, obscure type exhibits which, upon closer investigation, turn out to be really interesting, such as the steam engine display.

My hubby and I have gone to the festival for the past two years, and were impressed both years by the sheer numbers of folks attending the festival, and how well organized the parking and shuttles were (you park in nearby farm fields -- all well signed -- and board school buses for the short ride to the festival itself). It's an easy on and off, and families with strollers, packages, or little children are accommodated and helped.

Since you're in the area, check out the the National Apple Museum, which is nearby (of course!). There are gallery displays, videos, guided tours and, of course, plenty of apples to eat. Among the artifacts is my favorite, a reconstructed 1880s-era kitchen, replete with a dry sink, wood stove, and table and chairs that I wonder might be similar to kitchens my forebears worked in (my father's family have been farmers in Adams County since 1811). There also is a reconstructed historic country store, as well as a quilt display. Make your apple day complete by stopping by for an hour to browse the displays and soak up some of the local history. Go to‎ for more information.

Throughout the autumn season, or anytime throughout the year, Adams County offers some of the most lovely pastoral scenes I've ever encountered, so I recommend driving along the
Scenic Valley Tour, a 36-mile driving tour that features both apple country and some of historic Gettysburg's more famous sites. A brochure detailing the tour can be obtained from the Gettysburg Travel Council at 35 Carlisle Street, Gettysburg, PA 17325, or by visiting The entire route is clearly marked with Adams County Scenic Valley Tour signs. (Approximate driving time is 2 hours.)

Getting there: The Apple Harvest Festival is located 10 miles north west of Gettysburg, PA at the South Mountain Fairgrounds in Arendtsville, PA. GPS it: Use 615 Narrows Road, Biglerville, PA 17307 as destination address.

To go to the National Apple Museum, GPS 154 W Hanover St Biglerville, PA 17325.

Hours: The National Apple Harvest Festival runs the weekends of October 5-6 and October 12-13 from 9 am until 6 pm daily; the National Apple Museum is open May through October of each year, Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm and Sundays from 1 pm to 4 pm.

Dogs: Not welcomed at the festival.

Eats: Plenty to chose from at the festival. Come hungry. Leave with a half peck of apples!


Have you daytripped anywhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mount Olivet Cemetery: More History than Ghosts

I've discovered that when I tell some people I just toured a cemetery and had a lot of fun, the expressions on their faces cause me to wonder whether they think I'm a creepy death-obsessed devil worshiper. Other people exclaim "Cool! Why didn't you bring me along?" A couple weeks ago, my friend and I went on the Candlelight Tour of Mount Olivet Cemetery, in Frederick, MD. Ghosts were mentioned, but it's not your average walking ghost tour.

Of course, cemeteries are great places for ancestry research. The day after my friend and I toured Mount Olivet Cemetery, I found myself hunting two specific gravestones in cemeteries in rural Adams County, PA, looking for the final resting place of my first American Spertzel ancestor, Michel, and his wife, Mary Day.

The candlelight tour of Mount Olivet is more about history than ghosts -- appropriate for a cemetery inhabited by the likes of Maryland's first governor, the nation's first First Lady, the author of the national anthem, and a spitfire old woman memorialized in a poem penned by John Greenleaf Whittier. You'll also learn about some of the symbolism portrayed in tombstones, and why metal tombstones are the best and why there are not that many around. I was startled by the quantity of freemason symbols depicted on the various tombstones.

There's a peaceful beauty amongst the tomb stones in Mount Olivet Cemetery, and I understand now why some folks jog or walk the paths through the cemetery frequently. I may add some other historic cemeteries to my travel list!

In the early 1850s, well before the outbreak of the Civil War, Frederick had many cemeteries adjoining churches. As the city population grew, so did the churches and their congregations. The cemeteries were rapidly reaching their capacity for burials, and the preference was to dedicate the more central land for the living. Thus, it was decided that a new cemetery, called Mount Olivet, would be established on the outskirts of the city to serve these churches as well as the entire City of Frederick.

The most prominent grave is that of Francis Scott Key, and you can't miss his and his wife's final resting place as you pass through the cemetery gates. Although his body originally was interred in Baltimore, where he died while visiting his daughter, he was moved from there to rest in the "shadow of Catoctin Mountain," which he'd apparently requested. From there our tour guide brought us over to the lovely stone chapel, noting that it was built for just $7000 just over a hundred years ago. This quaint little chapel was frequently used for memorial services until funeral homes became established a few decades after the chapel was built, and it gradually fell into disuse and disrepair, until a few years ago, when a group of concerned citizens raised $30,000 to restore it. Now the chapel is available for both funeral services and weddings.

It is rare to have an opportunity to legally visit a cemetery at night. How dark they are! The harvest moon hadn't yet risen the night we were there -- and there was only a few nervous flashlights to light the way for the tour group as we strolled into the dark to visit the the 300 or so Confederate graves. The individuals inhabiting those graves met their end during one of the local Civil War battles -- either during the Battle of Antietam -- about 14 miles away -- or the Battle of the Monacacy, just 2 miles away.

Frederick, of course, served as a hospital town for both the Union and Confederate wounded from those battles. Many of those who died as a result of their wounds long after the respective armies had marched away found themselves interred in Mount Olivet, far from their loved ones and their homes. In addition, as many of the temporary graves were excavated in the years after the Civil War, the remains were moved to Mount Olivet Cemetery. There are no rows of Union graves, as Union soldiers were given the honor of being buried in one of the National Veterans cemeteries, but no such honor was bestowed on the rebel soldiers. Still, they lay beneath their flag, for the Confederate Flag flies at the Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier, a few feet away from the row of 300.

One of the famous graves we stopped by was that of Barbara Frietchie, a central figure in local Frederick history (children growing up in Frederick learn about her at a very young age). According to local legend, at the age of 95 she waved the Union flag in the middle of the street to block, or at least antagonize, Stonewall Jackson's troops as they passed though Frederick on their way to Sharpesburg for the pivotal Battle of Antietam.

This event is the subject of John Greenleaf Whittier's poem of 1864, Barbara Frietchie. Sadly, although she was an ardent Unionist, the events memorialized in the poem never occurred. Not only was she bedridden the day Stonewall Jackson's troops marched through Frederick, the rebels could only see Frietchie's flag, which flew throughout the day from a distance -- and they certainly never came within speaking, or even shouting, distance of her. Nevertheless, shoot they did at the flag, and it can still be seen at the Barbara Frietchie House Museum, located at 154 West Patrick Street. From all contemporary accounts, Frietchie was an opinionated, spitfire of a woman -- and certainly would have been likely to have verbally dueled with Stonewall Jackson had she been given a chance, just as Whittier imagined in his poem. I bet Mary Quatrell, who actually did wave a flag over the Confederate soldiers, was mad when she learned of the poem and Barbara's undeserved fame. As for Barbara -- she died before the poem was published, so she never knew how famous she'd become.

The tour focused on the famous inhabitants of the cemetery and cemetery trivia. But near the end of the tour, our tour guide leaned back against a tree and shared several ghost stories. Both ghosts were observed by homeowners living adjacent to the cemetery. One featured the ubiquitous lady in white, skitting around the tombstones on the darkest nights. I wasn't impressed. The other, more touching, was about one homeowner observing three uniformed soldiers kneeling before Confederate gravestones early one morning. These soldiers then quietly disappeared before the homeowner's eyes. Interestingly, while at the Confederate graves earlier in the tour, both my friend and I noticed a strong aroma that suggested a pipe or incense, which disappeared as we moved away. Other tour participants similarly noticed a very strong, sweet aroma around another group of graves. Who knows whether that was evidence of a haunting!

Getting there: 515 South Market Street, Frederick, MD 21701; no fee required to visit the cemetery but there are fees for the ghost tours.

Hours: The cemetery gates are open daylight hours; Candlelight tours are offered only a few times each month but now are offered regularly. Tickets go on sale 30 minutes prior to the start of the tours at the gates of the cemetery. Please check the Maryland Ghost Tours website for more information. Park across the street.

Dogs: There is a pet cemetery within Mount Olivet Cemetery; however, living pets aren't welcome.

Website and

The poem about Barbara Frietchie:
Up from the meadows rich with corn,
Clear in the cool September morn,

The clustered spires of Frederick stand
Green-walled by the hills of Maryland.

Round about them orchards sweep,
Apple- and peach-tree fruited deep,

Fair as a garden of the Lord
To the eyes of the famished rebel horde,

On that pleasant morn of the early fall
When Lee marched over the mountain wall,—

Over the mountains winding down,
Horse and foot, into Frederick town.

Forty flags with their silver stars,
Forty flags with their crimson bars,

Flapped in the morning wind: the sun
Of noon looked down, and saw not one.

Up rose old Barbara Frietchie then,
Bowed with her fourscore years and ten;

Bravest of all in Frederick town,
She took up the flag the men hauled down;

In her attic window the staff she set,
To show that one heart was loyal yet.

Up the street came the rebel tread,
Stonewall Jackson riding ahead.

Under his slouched hat left and right
He glanced: the old flag met his sight.

“Halt!”— the dust-brown ranks stood fast.
“Fire!”— out blazed the rifle-blast.

It shivered the window, pane and sash;
It rent the banner with seam and gash.

Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf;

She leaned far out on the window-sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will.

“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country’s flag,” she said.

A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;

The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman’s deed and word:

“Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!” he said.

All day long through Frederick street
Sounded the tread of marching feet:

All day long that free flag tost
Over the heads of the rebel host.

Ever its torn folds rose and fell
On the loyal winds that loved it well;

And through the hill-gaps sunset light
Shone over it with a warm good-night.

Barbara Frietchie’s work is o’er,
And the Rebel rides on his raids no more.

Honor to her! and let a tear
Fall, for her sake, on Stonewall’s bier.

Over Barbara Frietchie’s grave
Flag of Freedom and Union, wave!

Peace and order and beauty draw
Round thy symbol of light and law;

And ever the stars above look down
On thy stars below in Frederick town!

Updated May 2018

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rediscovering a River: Kayaking on the Potomac

One of the reasons living in Maryland is so fun is the proximity to some great cities (Washington DC and Baltimore are in our backyard, Philadelphia is a couple hours away, and New York City is a mere 4 hours away); access to spectacular natural resources (Chesapeake Bay, Potomac River, Deep Creek Lake to name a few), and a state park system that runs the gamut from beaches (Assateaque State Park, Sandy Point State Park) to mountains (Herrington State Park, among many others). If you want large city, small quaint town, water experiences, historic sites, farmland, or forested mountains -- Maryland's got it, within an hour or two drive.

Sometimes we take those resources for granted. I don't know how many times I've ridden over the Potomac River, on I-495, U.S. 15, or U.S. 340, sometimes barely glancing at the water below.

The Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay, running 405 miles from the Fairfax Stone in West Virginia to Point Lookout, MD. "Potomac" is a European spelling of an Algonquian name for a tribe that inhabited what is now Stafford County, VA, in the vicinity of Fredericksburg. The spelling of the name has changed over the years from "Patawomeke" (as on Captain John Smith's map) to "Patowmack" in the 1700s, and now "Potomac."

It's a river rich in history. Flowing through an area filled with American heritage has led to the river being nicknamed "the Nation's River." George Washington was born in, surveyed, and spent most of his life within the Potomac basin. All of Washington, DC, also lies within the watershed. The 1859 siege of Harper's Ferry at the river's confluence with the Shenandoah was a precursor to numerous epic battles of the Civil War in and around the Potomac and its tributaries, such as the 1861 Battle of Ball's Bluff and the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown. General Robert E. Lee crossed the river twice, invading the North in campaigns climaxing in the battles of Antietam (Sept 17, 1862) and Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863). Confederate General Jubal Early crossed the river in July 1864 on an attempted raid on the nation's capital. The river not only divided the Union from the Confederacy, but also gave name to the Union's largest army, the Army of the Potomac.

There's nothing like seeing a river from the level of the water itself. Numerous businesses that can bring you closer to the river are spread out along its length. River & Trail Outfitters is just one, offering kayaking, river tubing, canoeing and white water rafting excursions throughout the year. I've been kayaking a few times before and have always enjoyed it. Sort of want a kayak of my own, although ultimately, I think that's impractical unless I'm ready to dedicate myself to going every weekend (and that would make for a boring blog), or if I lived near water and could slide the kayak in from my home. We got started on kayaking when we took the boys kayaking last fall on an introductory lesson on Lake Centennial, in Columbia, MD. Learned basic paddling techniques and how not to tip over. They had a blast, and as a family, we were hooked on kayaking!

Although kayaking isn't difficult and you don't have to be absolutely in
the best shape to be able to enjoy it, I recommend taking beginner lessons if you've never kayaked before. These lessons give you basic paddling techniques -- how not to paddle with your arms, and some paddle strokes that can get you safely going again if you accidentally beach onto a submerged rock. Although I'll never remember the correct names for some of the strokes, the strokes themselves are easy to remember and bear practicing each time you're out kayaking.

If you rent kayaks, it's also good to spend 5 minutes at the beginning of the session just getting used to the kayak and how it handles. The ones we had this time didn't seem as tippy as ones we've rented for an afternoon from the Howard County Parks and Rec -- each kayak model handles just a bit differently, and it's good to know that before you're in the middle of a river or lake.

The Discover Kayak lessons through River & Trail Outfitters began out of Brunswick, MD and took us on a guided excursion 6 miles down river to the landing point at just past the U.S. 15 bridge across the river at Point of Rocks.

The guide for our trip, Travis, was knowledgeable, patient, and understanding when my youngest asked for a "breather," during which we didn't paddle but simply floated down the river, letting the current do all the work. Along the way we saw many heron, a few ospreys as well as cormorants by the dozens.

I'm posting this several weeks after we went on this daytrip adventure, and I realize I'm sad that we're at the end of the kayak season (wet suits don't become me). I can't wait for next spring! 

Tips: Even if it's cloudy or even raining, put on sun screen. You never know when the sun will come out and you don't want to be stuck on the river without sun protection. Have sun glasses and a hat as well. (In this case, do as I suggest, not as I did. It was raining as we entered the water. Within 10 minutes, the sun came beautifully out but sunblock was left in my car, useless to us. My lower legs and arms and face are still hurting from one of the worst sunburns I've gotten in the past decade.)

Getting there: River & Trail Outfitters is located at 604 Valley Rd, Knoxville, MD 21758. Call or visit the website for info on availability, etc. Also, some of the kayak launches are not from the main building of River & Trail Outfitters -- but they'll give you directions!

Hours: Visit website

Dogs: Some folks have trained their dogs to ride in kayaks, but unless you're a dog whisperer, leave Fido at home!

Eats: If you're going on a longer trip, bring snacks in water proof bags. Definitely bring water bottles to carry with you in the kayak.


Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Yoga in the Vines at Black Ankle Vineyards

Yoga in the Vines at Black Ankle Vineyard was a much different wine and yoga experience than Yoga in the Vineyard at Elk Run. The Elk Run experience was cozy and homey, while Black Ankle was more spacious (upscale?) and bucolic. Black Ankle also has been offering wine and yoga longer. One of the yoga instructors - Emily Lodge, or maybe Chris Leicht - used to work at Black Ankle.

My friend (not Day Trip Gal) and I arrived a little before 6 pm. If you haven't been there before, Black Ankle is at the end of long, narrow, and unlit road that snakes its way through some nice woods - watch out for deer. If the road wasn't called Black Ankle Rd, you'd probably think you were lost. The event was supposed to start at 6 pm, with a tour of the vineyard, followed by yoga from 6:30 - 8 pm, and tasting from 8 - 9 pm.

It seems as if most of the guests were late, so the tour didn't start until around 6:25 pm. No problem though, because those of us who arrived earlier bought a glass of wine to relax with before and during the tour. I've done a few winery tours, but this was my first vineyard tour and it won't be my last. Because of the yoga session following it, this was an abbreviated tour - 30 minutes instead of an hour - but it was all good. We walked down the road to the winery (the winery is about a half-mile from the tasting rooms), stopping along the way to talk about the vines and the farm.

Apparently the owner always wanted to be a farmer, so there are cows and pigs on the property as well. In fact, the guide fed the pigs along the way - cute little things. I found the background about the vines and grapes fascinating and I'll be sure to return for the full tour. All kinds of good info on why the Maryland climate is problematic for some varietals and what happens at harvest time, etc.

Back to the tasting room area for yoga. It's a beautiful space.....vines to the right and left, farmland (and cows) straight ahead, and the beautifully landscaped tasting room behind. The instructors brought their own musician, so we had live, peaceful music to go with an hour's worth of vinyasa flow. It was good to have two instructors - one would give directions while the other walked around making gentle corrections.

This session was definitely a little more advanced and fast-paced than I'm used to, but there was no pressure to keep up. In fact, they said if we felt the need for a break, we could get up and go back for a glass of wine...I don't think anyone did that though!

It was truly beautiful and relaxing doing yoga in such a lovely pastoral setting, with a gentle breeze and the sun slowly setting.

After the session ended, we had the tasting in the patio area. If you're familiar with Black Ankle, you know they only do four tastings where others might do five or more. Their wine is also pricey, but they're generally acknowledged as the best winery in Maryland, so I believe you're getting what you're paying for.

Since I knew I had to drive home on that wind-y road in total darkness (no streetlights, remember), I only took one sip of each tasting portion and dumped the rest. What I really liked was the freshly baked french bead and variety of cheeses for sampling with the tasting. What a fabulous way to end the evening sitting on the patio with wine, water, bread, cheese, and grapes. If only I had had a designated driver to take me home, it would have been truly awesome. They also had the most delicious truffles. $1.75 each so I only had one, but it was a great nightcap.

Overall a great evening and I'd do it again. The next Yoga in the Vines event is September 28.

Getting there: 14463 Black Ankle Rd, Mount Airy, MD 21771; fees required for tastings and for special yoga in the vines events.


To read about a previous Daytrip Gal and Daytrip Pal visit to Black Ankle Winery, check out

To read about Daytrip Pal's experiences last month at Elk Run's Yoga and Wine in the Vineyard, check out

Updated May 2018

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