Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Going to the Birds in Bombay Hook

I try to get out to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) at least once a year, camera(s) in hand. Despite the fact I've got a lovely camera -- far too sophisticated and decked out for the likes of me -- I still get camera envy when I see the professionals with their ultra-powerful zoom lenses! (So, okay, sometimes size does matter.) Bombay Hook NWR  is a 15,978 acre wildlife refuge located along the eastern coast of Kent County, DE, on Delaware Bay.

It's a really amazing place!

You don't need to be a photographer to enjoy an afternoon exploring Bombay Hook. If you go at the right time of year. 

October and November is one of those right times -- you'll see flocks of wild snow geese (and not those ubiquitous and therefore somewhat boring Canada geese, although they're there as well), bald eagles, great blue herons (my favorite bird), snowy white egrets, and loads of other birds I know not the names of.

The refuge offers visitors a 12-mile wildlife drive, five walking trails (two handicapped accessible), three observation towers, wildlife photography, a variety of nature and educational programs, and interpretative displays.

Bombay Hook NWR is an important stop on the Delaware Bay for thousands of migrating shorebirds every spring, as they make their critical trip north to their breeding grounds. At low tide they can be seen feeding by the thousands on the salt marsh mudflats along the wildlife drive. The refuge’s freshwater man-made ponds also provide mudflat habitats as they are drawn down each spring.

During late summer and early fall, southbound migrating shorebirds also visit the refuge as they fly towards their wintering grounds. If you go there, you can expect to see species such as semipalmated sandpipers, dunlin, dowitchers, yellowlegs, semipalmated plovers, American avocets, and many more. I usually don't bother to bring the birding book -- that's not my thing -- and stick to my camera. Therefore, I don't know a plover from a dunlin -- I just know they're all beautiful.

And then there're the big names in birds -- the bald eagles. When I was growing up, bald eagles were incredibly rare -- in fact, all varieties of hawk and other birds had been hurt by our heedless disregard for the delicate environment. So to see these beauties soaring above is just amazing to me -- and always will be.

Migrating and wintering waterfowl flock to Bombay Hook each fall and winter. Common species include northern pintail, American black ducks, green-winged teal, Canada geese, and snow geese. They can be found feeding in the refuge’s managed freshwater ponds or loafing in the adjacent expanses of salt marsh.

Tidal salt marsh is some of the most valuable wildlife habitat in Delaware; thus large portions of the refuge have been maintained in a near pristine state. The marsh, with its intersecting tidal streams and rivers, provides excellent natural habitat for birds and mammals and serves as a nursery for marine organisms. The water levels in the refuge's impoundments, or man-made lakes, are manipulated to produce desirable emergent and underwater plants for waterfowl. When the pools are drawn down, large populations of shore and wading birds feed on the mudflats.

The refuge also contains the Allee House, a pre-revolutionary war farmhouse on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a stop on Delaware's Coastal Heritage Greenway.

Walking along the various walks can yield you some great and unexpected shots. And it's worth traveling slowly around the 12-mile loop -- and then go around it slowly again. You may see something you didn't the second time around!

All in all, the Bombay Hook NWR is one of those understated and often overlooked "hidden gems," that don't garner the attention that other portions of the Delaware Bay or Maryland's Eastern Shore do.

Tip #1: Check the website before you go -- some fall days are for hunters, not photographers and parts of the refuge may be closed.

Tip #2: Keep an eye on the refuge's FB page (the blog's FB page has "liked" it -- see the link below) to get updated news about bird migrations, openings and closings, and when the best times to visit are!

Getting there: Visitor Center, 2591 Whitehall Neck Road, Smyrna, DE 19977

Hours: The wildlife drive is open from sunrise to sunset daily. The visitor center is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. year round. During spring and fall weekends, the visitor center is open Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; admission required (cash or check only).


Updated November 2020 with a few additional photos from February 2016.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Piedmont Wine Trail: Harvest Time!

Piedmont Wine Trail at Harvest Time!  Fourth in the Maryland Winery series

This week Lynn, aka "Day Tripper," shares her experiences on an Anne Arundel Community College-sponsored wine tasting trip along the Piedmont Wine Trail. Here's what she thought about her experiences at three Maryland wineries. -- Daytrip Gal

I’m now convinced harvest time is the best time to visit vineyards. We got to taste the grapes, saw the grapes being separated from the vines and got to taste a rough early wine as well as a lot of delicious fully developed wines. 

An Anne Arundel Community College (yeah, shameless plug) wine tour to the Maryland Piedmont Wine trail north of Baltimore was the perfect adventure on a beautiful late September Saturday. A small bus of fun people left the college at 9:30 a.m.  and went to three vineyards along the Piedmont Wine Trail: Mount Felix Vineyard and Winery, Harford Vineyard, and Royal Rabbit Vineyards. We tasted a wide variety of wines, most on the dry side, including some new grapes I hadn’t even heard of before.

The first winery we visited was Mount Felix Vineyard and Winery, located on the estate of Mount Felix Manor, a circa 1830s Georgian house located at the confluence of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay. The wines are named after historical figures and pay tribute to the background of the owner’s family. We enjoyed a box lunch outside on the patio overlooking the vineyards with the Susquehanna River in the distance. It doesn't get much better!

Photo courtesy of Harford Vineyard.
Harford Vineyard and Winery is located in the heart of the Piedmont wine trail region of Harford County, MD. Harford Vineyard was founded in 2003 when Vidal and Traminette grapes were planted, followed by Merlot in 2005. In May 2009 it officially became a Winery and specializes in limited production of finely crafted wines. Harford Vineyard currently has 10 wines. The winery supplements its own production by purchases of a small amount of high quality grapes from other growers. But it also makes really good wines from its own vines. This is where we were allowed to taste a very young wine just beginning to ferment as well as some grapes--delicious!

If you enjoy making wines as well as tasting professional vineyards' wines, then you're in the right place. Harford Vineyard is unique in that it sells everything a home wine maker needs. Keep an eye out for the upcoming Go Local for the Holiday Annual Even at Harford Vineyardt, running all Saturdays & Sundays in December. This event combines wine tasting with a craft show, with all local artisans, restaurants providing food, and everything you need to get a head start on your holiday shopping.
Photo courtesy Royal Rabbit Vineyards

At Royal Rabbit, the tasting room is in the basement of the owner’s house. (Love the name. Royal is a
combination of the owner’s first and last names and he had pet rabbits growing up). They are trying some grapes there that aren’t being grown elsewhere in Maryland. Who knew Cabernet Sauvignon vines grew well in Maryland? He’s made a nice wine out of them.

Like most wineries, Royal Rabbit encourages guests to either bring snacks or lunch and enjoy it with their favorite Royal Rabbit Wine. The winery also has board games out to give the tasting room the feel of an inn.
Coming up on Nov 2nd, Royal Rabbit is sponsoring a Medieval Afternoon. There will be hand-to-hand combat (although presumably, that's not mandatory if you visit and taste some wine!), various demonstrations, and the following contests: Best attempt at medieval garb; best medieval favor, best favor presentation, best pub song (to be sung in the tasting room), and various children's games throughout the day. On the same day, the House Rabbit Society will be promoting the humane care of rabbits. They will have a couple rabbits for adoption. Anyone who joins the HRS at the Medieval Afternoon will receive a 10% discount on all Royal Rabbit purchases that day.

Photo courtesy of Harford Vineyards
The Piedmont Wine Trail includes the wineries of Baltimore and Harford Counties. As you follow the Piedmont Wine Trail, you can visit historic towns, hike through numerous state parks, and tour the many cultural attractions. Baltimore and Harford counties' countryside provides a vibrant landscape of rolling hills dotted with thoroughbred horse farms and nationally recognized wineries producing cellar-worthy reds and lively white wines. For more information about the Piedmont Wine Trail, visit:

Hours: Check the wineries individual websites for wine tasting room hours.

Getting there: GPS recommended if you go on your own. Check the wineries' websites for directions and addresses.

Eats: Box lunches provided via the AACC winetasting tour. However, if you visit the wineries on your own, just pack a picnic -- most wineries provide both inside and outside space to enjoy a picnic basket and a bottle of wine. 

Dogs: Dogs and alcohol don't mix. 

Websites: For upcoming AACC winetasting tours, go to and search on wine. Next trip will be in May 2014.

Mount Felix Winery:;
Harford Vineyard and Winery:;
Royal Rabbit Vineyards:

Visit MidAtlantic Daytrips Blog for updates on places we've visited and upcoming events on Facebook:!

Check out previous posts about Maryland wineries:
Linganore Winecellars, Serpent Ridge VIneyards, and Black Ankle:
Dejon and Boordy vineyards:
Red Heifer Winery:
Elk Run:

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! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ghostly Orbs: Evidence of Hauntings During Annapolis Ghost Walk?

Looking for something low key and romantic to do, I talked Hubby into joining me for the Annapolis Ghost Walk. Annapolis is a frequent destination for us -- just 30 minutes away from Columbia, MD. The historic capital of Maryland's harbor draws us on many a hot summer's night, as nothing is more fun or romantic than having an ice cream and strolling around downtown.

So we grabbed our beagles (yes, well-behaved dogs are welcomed on most ghost walking tours) and showed up for two hours of story telling and local history that you won't get to read about in the history books.

Originally we planned on having dinner in one of Annapolis' many pubs -- maybe the Rams Head, also said to be haunted by ghostly Amy. But friends unexpectedly invited us to join them at Indian buffet at the Royal Taj in Columbia (well recommended, btw) and we were still full from that meal, so we decided to skip dinner and just have ice cream instead.

But back to the Rams Head, as that was featured on our ghost tour: From the 1700s, 33 West Street -- where Rams Head Tavern now is -- has always been the locale of taverns. In the 1790s, according to our tour guide Melissa, it was, in addition to a tavern, a "house of entertainment." A tragic tale of a mother prostituting her own daughter out, weak floor boards, an enthusiastic client, and Amy's occupied bed coming crashing through the ceiling, instantly killing Amy, who's said to now haunt the location. Apparently you can ask the bartender to show you where Amy's bedpost is still embedded in the ceiling. I wish I'd know when we'd been there a while ago!

We also heard about the disappointed bride and her sea captain fiance -- both of whom are said to haunt the Maryland Inn. The inn also hosts the Flapper (name unknown), dressed head to toe in the style of the roaring 20s, who's said to run shrieking up and down the hallways on the 3rd floor every month.

From there we walked over to the cemetery in the St Anne's Episcopal Church churchyard, and heard about "Joe Morgue," who is said to haunt the graves he dug and was obsessed with during his life. There was a Monty Pythonesque story about Joe Morgue and his digging a grave for a man in a diabetic coma. The man woke up while being carried in his coffin, and the funeral was subsequently cancelled, to the great happiness of all but Joe. This happened several times, each time Joe dutifully and
somewhat gleefully digging a grave for him, and Joe became more and more obsessed with the man, stalking him and accusing him of cheating death. Eventually the man died for real, but on the theory he'd already dug him more graves than he's dug for any other man, Joe refused to dig him another grave.

The statehouse sports its own ghost -- that of a man who died before he could be paid for his work, and his wife and children being shipped back to England without being given his tools or payment for his work. He's said to haunt the dome of the capital building.

Finally on to the Brice House -- now a Masonic Lodge. Not one, not two, but 16 ghosts are said to haunt the Brice House -- what an unhappy and unlucky family! From Thomas Brice, who's servant is believed to have clubbed him to death, to a girl-child who starved to death in a secret room, there's a ghost of every size and flavor. It was here that four photos I snapped in rapid succession revealed three orbs. The first and last of the four photos have no orbs at all. I didn't change my position, nor did I change anything else -- so are these orbs evidence of paranormal activity? I'm not a big believer in orbs -- so I will let you decide for yourself! As for ghosts themselves -- I'm agnostic. Having never seen one, I don't believe in them. But I'm pretty sure if ever I do see one, I'll probably pee in my pants. For full disclosure: I am scared of the dark -- my imagination is far scarier than any ghost.

For more Brice House history and hauntings, check out this blog:

Getting there: The Ghost Walk leaves from the Maryland Inn, which is located at Church Circle. However, an internet search for "annapolis ghost tours" reveals a variety of options for similar tours. There are also a variety of ghost pub crawls offered as well. Plan on parking in one of the public garages.

Hours: Tours occur on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 pm and 9 pm.

Dogs: Since the ghost walks all occur outside, well-behaved pooches are welcomed.

Eats: Plenty to chose from in downtown Annapolis. Eat first, then enjoy the ghostly tour!


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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, October 10, 2013

Leaf Peeping in Dolly Sods Wilderness

Sometimes the beauty of Dolly Sods Wilderness Area is subtle, sometimes breathtaking. Dolly Sods also serves as an abject lesson for us: it was the scene of one of the worst ecological disasters in the 20th century. Despite that, Dolly Sods has rebounded over the past century and now is truly one of the most special places within 4-hours drive of Washington DC and Baltimore. It is my favorite place.

Named for a German homesteading family who farmed the area in the 1700s -- the Dahles --  and a local term for an open mountaintop meadow — a "sods," Dolly Sods is a U.S. Wilderness Area in the Allegheny Mountains of eastern West Virginia, and is part of the Monongahela National Forest. It offers an exquisite, often stark beauty but it's also a living reminder of the unintended consequences of wanton and thoughtless disregard for the environment.

A rocky, high-altitude plateau with plants normally found much farther north in Canada, the landscape of "the Sods" is characterized by stunted, “flagged” trees, wind-carved boulders, heath barrens, and grassy meadows created early 20th century logging and fires, as well as sphagnum bogs that are much older. Parts of Dolly Sods is still densely forested, although not with virgin timber, especially in the canyon excavated by the North Fork of Red Creek. Bear, deer, and other small wildlife, are common. There's also a peculiar grouse-like bird who always seems to try to dart between our tires when we drive on the dirt roads up there (luckily, no animals were harmed in the research or writing of this blog). Larger birds -- hawks and golden eagles and the like -- are also frequently seen.

Once upon a time, Dolly Sods boasted the best spruce-hemlock-black cherry forest in the world, with some enormous trees up to 12 feet in diameter. Then came the loggers, clearing away the virgin forest to feed the voracious lumber mills and line the pockets of greedy lumber barons. As the land was cleared, the 12-foot thick layer of humus covering the ground dried up. Sparks from the locomotives, saw mills, and loggers' warming fires ignited this humus layer and the extensive slash — wood too small to be marketable, such as branches and tree crowns — left behind by loggers. Fires repeatedly ravaged the area in the 1910s, scorching everything right down to the underlying rocks.

What was left was a lifeless, smoldering mess. All insects, worms, salamanders, mice, and other burrowing forms of life perished and the area became a virtual desert. The destruction was extraordinary. The complete clear cut of this ecologically fragile area, followed by extensive wildfires and overgrazing, exacerbated by the ecological stresses of the elevation, have prevented quick regeneration of the forest, which 100 years later still has not fully recovered. However, as a result of this disaster, the neighboring Monongahela National Forest was created in 1915, in an attempt to prevent the same sort of wholesale destruction that had swept over the Sods. Despite this early effort to protect our natural resources, the Sods underwent further indignities-- becoming an artillery range for heavy ammunitions in WWII. Every once in a while, hikers still come across unexploded ordinance, but usually not near the more well traveled trails.

Our goal on that last day in September was leaf peeping. Because of the elevation, we figured that the leaves would be spectacular. We were mostly correct. The leaves had begun turning, but the amazing, breathtaking color of Dolly Sods -- the heather and the blueberry bushes, had already peaked and ebbed. Still beautiful. Still worth it. Still amazing. We breathed the clean mountain air, took in the views, enjoyed a picnic, did some light hiking along Bear Rocks, and headed back home. A wonderful, long, exhausting day trip! 

Just getting there was spectacular. As we traveled along MD Rt 219 we worried, needlessly, that the leaves
really hadn't begun turning. We were wrong, because as we climbed in elevation to the little town of Davis, in Tucker County, WV (elevation 3,200 ft), the forest put on its show!

One of my favorite things to do, if we're staying locally in Canaan Valley, is to go up to Bear Rocks (shown above) for the sunrise. On a July summer day, that means getting up at O-darkthirty (4 a.m.) and heading down Lanesville Road and then onto Forest Service Road 19 in the dark. (Scary!!) Once there, we inevitably hear the growls and yawns of bears (also scary) as they rumble around in the (hopefully) distance -- but it is called "bear" rocks afterall! The rocks and cliffs face east, and as the sun peaks over the horizon and spreads glorious color over the valley below, it's easy to lose yourself in the beauty of nature around you.

Tip #1: If you're heading up to Dolly Sods, make sure you do so on a full tank of gas. There are three gas
stations along Rt 32 between Thomas and Davis. Take adequate clothes and it wouldn't hurt to throw in a blanket in case you find yourself having to shelter over night. It's on average 20 degrees cooler up in Canaan Valley, and probably a few more degrees colder still up in the Sods than in Washington and Baltimore. Bring some extra food and water -- just in case your vehicle breaks down. Four-wheel drives are recommended, but our minivan has made it up there multiple times -- just never in snow, and we try to avoid rainy days, since forest service roads are dirt roads. Cell phone coverage is spotty, so you can't count on calling for help. This is a wilderness, so prepare yourself before going in.

Tip #2: The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, located  on Rt 32 about 6 miles south of Davis, sells some excellent resources for the area, including hiking and terrain maps for Dolly Sods. You pass it on your way out of Davis toward Lanesville Road, so it's worth a quick stop if it's open.

Tip#3: The Leaf Peepers Festival is usually held the last weekend in September in Davis. Keep an eye on the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge facebook site ( for exact dates next year!

Hours: Dolly Sods-- or rather, the forest service roads accessing Dolly Sods -- is open April through November. If there's snow on the ground, don't even think about going up without a four-wheel drive. There's a camp ground up on top if you're the adventuring kind; no fees except for camping.

Getting there: Set your GPS for 2nd Ave in Davis, WV. Then, fill your tank with gas and head south on Rt 32/Appalachian Highway. After Canaan Valley State Park and Resort on your right, you'll head up a hill and then start down it again. On the left is Lanesville Road. Take that left, and follow Lanesville as it twists and winds through the mountainside. This is not driving for the faint of heart -- Lanesville Road is narrow and has some hairpin curves as it curves along the contour of the mountainside and the locals drive fast. As you look over the side, the flimsy guardrail is not reassuring. No worries -- if your vehicle tumbles over, chances are a couple of trees will stop it before it goes all the way down.

Lanesville Road will deposit you at the base of Dolly Sods at Forest Service Route 19. Follow FSR 19 up the mountain. About 3/4 of the way up on the right, opposite the Rohrbaugh Plains trail head, there's a picnic area and portapotties. This is the last opportunity to use the facilities with any semblance of dignity, so don't hesitate.

At the top of the mountain you have a choice: turn left onto FSR 75 or head back down the other side of the mountain. Turn left! That'll take you along a relatively flat road (some minor ups and downs) along the ridge. You'll pass some trail heads on either side. To the right fairly early on, there's a lovely overlook (short walk out to the rocks). Definitely worth seeing -- and as the sign indicates, take your camera!

Dogs: Dogs don't do well on Bear Rocks themselves (lots of tricky crevices), but bring your dog and go hiking on one of the trails that start along FSR 75. So many good smells! Don't forget to take a bowl and some water for Fido.

Eats: Pack a picnic and some extra food. In Davis there are a couple of restaurants that are okay. No fast food, except for Subway tucked into a gas station along Rt 32. There's a Shop 'N Save grocery store and at one of the gas stations (the same one with the Subway) you can also buy some groceries, very expensively. In Thomas, the town just before Davis on Rt 219, there is a rather famous little restaurant called the Purple Fiddle. Check it out!

Website: Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge

Updated May 2018

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Red Heifer Winery: Furlough Special

Third in a series on Maryland vineyards and wineries.

A friend and Federal colleague who knows of my interest in visiting local Maryland wineries shared a Facebook post from the Red Heifer Winery, a new Maryland winery that is about to celebrate it's first anniversary! The post read: "Furloughs stink and wine makes everything better so... any Government employee with a badge will receive either a free tasting or 10% off wine purchases this weekend at Red Heifer Winery!"

Since I'm a furloughed Federal employee, that seemed like a lovely idea! Coincidentally, I didn't have much going on today, the kids were happy to stay home in the afternoon after all morning running about, so my friend, husband, and I decided to head on out there.

On the way we passed several orchards, and stopped to buy some apples, a couple of pumpkins, and an acorn squash.

Once we arrived, we were warmly welcomed by the owners, a young and friendly couple. They cheerfully poured samples, and chatted about the winery. The story behind how Red Heifer Winery got its name goes back to the owner's grandfather, who first purchased the land decades ago. The then owner and his grandfather were negotiating the price for the land, and couldn't reach agreement. He looked up the hill and saw a red cow and said, "Throw in the red heifer, and you have a deal."

Of the six wines we tasted, three stood out; Red Heifer White, a Vidal Blanc; Blueberry, which would make a nice sangria for the holidays; and Sweet Heifer (because I really enjoy sweet wines after dinner). My friend chose the Vidal Blanc and the Red Heifer Red, a French oak aged Cabernet Franc.

As Red Heifer's website suggested, we decided to "make a day of it," and rather than go check out another winery, instead we went to the nearby PenMar Park, with its outstanding view, to have a picnic. We always pack a picnic basket with cheese, rustic bread, grapes, nuts, and sometimes chocolate, and today was no different! Before we left the winery, Yvonne, one of the owners, helpfully uncorked the Vidal Blanc, so we had something to enjoy with the snacks.

Notably, the Appalachian Trail goes right through the park, and we saw a tired hiker resting in the shade, with his backpack and dog napping at his feet. Afterward, we headed up to High Rocks (turn right out of the park and head up the road, you can't miss it) in hopes of catching a hang glider jumping off the rocks. No luck there, but the views were spectacular!

Thank you Red Heifer Winery for your "Furlough Freebie"!

Tip #1: There are other Furlough Freebies at other wineries -- your best bet to find them is to look on their Facebook pages.

Tip #2: If you avoid purchasing wine and pack your own picnic, this is a budget-friendly day trip!

Getting there: Definitely GPS it, but be alert to the fact that the entrance is some 200 yards before the GPS indication. Then, you drive up a long driveway alongside of an old farmhouse, and continue beyond on up the side of the hill. GPS address is 24606 Raven Rock Road, Smithsburg, MD 21783.

Hours: Wednesday, Thursday & Friday – 1:00pm-7:00pm (by appointment during Jan, Feb. & Mar.); Saturday & Sunday – 11:00am-7:00pm. Vineyard tours are given upon request.

Dogs: There's a dog on the property. Enjoy that one, and leave your pooch at home!

Eats: Bring your own picnic. Certainly, bring your own crackers or nibbles to go with the wine!


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dejon and Boordy: Contrast of New and Old Vineyards

Second in a Series of Maryland Wineries

The first time I went to a winery -- just a couple of months ago, by the way -- I felt a bit insecure. After all -- I'm by no means knowledgeable about wine and I'd mistakenly believed that I needed to be more sophisticated about wines before visiting the wineries. The very first place I'd visited last July I held back a bit and didn't ask many questions -- but I soon learned that the more questions I asked and the more I engaged the wine servers (not sommeliers, I've now realized), the more fun it is.

So for this second round of winery visits, I knew what to expect (more or less, since each winery is a bit different) and I knew to bring some noshes along to soak up some of the wine and to experiment with parings!

Some of my favorite wines come from Boordy's Vineyards. The sangria -- loaded with marinating apples and oranges -- I make every year for our holiday party I make with Boordy's Sangria. So Hubby agreed to serve as designated driver for DayTrip Pal and I as we headed to Boordy's. Oh -- and we discovered DeJon Vineyard was just around the corner, so why not try that as well? We had our plan, we had a driver, we had our snacks, so off we went!

We stopped at DeJon first, and were their first customers of the day -- but we drove up at just after opening hours at noon and were soon joined by another couple. A sign on the door requested we give Dave a call and he'd come open up immediately. Which he did. We waited only a few minutes on the porch, which was decorated with new and vintage furniture and decorations: it felt homey and comfortable. Although  the wine tasting room was not air conditioned (to our disappointment on a day predicted to hit 90 degrees), Dave opened up several wall-sized doors to allow for a delightful cross breeze and a view up the hill to the huge sunflowers shining over the vineyard.

DeJon is a new winery and currently purchases the grapes it needs for its wines, which are all created onsite. Grapes come from Chile, Harford and Carroll counties in Maryland, and the Finger Lakes Region of New York. DeJon has planted vines, but these take time to mature and produce grapes that are worth making into wines -- which should be in the next year or two.

Of the wines we tasted, two stood out for me: the Chardonnay and Festivus, the latter a very sweet, sangria-like red. (Full disclosure: I'm by no means a wine connoisseur. I know what I like, I don't yet know why. Being relatively inexperienced wine drinker, I tend to go for sweeter. I expect as time goes by that'll evolve. We'll see. But that's one of the reasons why I'm enjoying visiting the wineries!) Dave was very knowledgeable about the wines he was serving, and ably shared the history of the vineyard and was a very pleasant server.

I found DeJon's wine tasting room homey and comfortable. It was definitely decorated in a way that was meant to be comfortable and evoke that homey feeling. By the way, every Wednesday and Saturday they bring in bands and offer a pleasant space to enjoy live music and wines -- check their website for which bands come when. My husband and I are planning on returning some Saturday evening to enjoy one of the bands.

 It was a fun visit and we'll certainly be heading back. I thoroughly recommend visiting DeJons -- they're understated and a small, relatively recent addition to the Maryland Winery scene, but well worth the detour!

Boordy and DeJon are not even a mile apart and make a natural pairing. I found that the two vineyards compliment each other -- the oldest vineyard in Maryland and one of the youngest. Boordy's opened in 1945 and basically pioneered Maryland's wine production. I know this because I looked it up on the internet and found a recent Baltimore Sun article.

Unlike at DeJon, the wine server, whose name I never learned, was a little distracted and busy -- so no chatting, much to my disappointment. For the basic price of wine tasting, you can choose 6 out of a lengthy list -- and the wine server asked me a few questions and then made some excellent recommendations. But there were several other pairs of people also tasting the wines while we were there -- on Labor Day Monday -- and she had little time to spare. We didn't get any of the history of the place or have an opportunity to chat about what food a particular wine might compliment, which I realized was one of the aspects of the wine tasting experience I enjoy most. It's a good thing the lobby in Boordy's sells wine wheels that matches wines to food.

I left having enjoyed some wines and enjoyed the experience overall, but not feeling as welcomed as I'd felt in other wineries, including an equally big one such as Linganore Wine Cellars. Still, don't let this dissuade you from visiting Boordy's. The wines are worth it, the wine tasting room(s) are visually pleasing and very pleasant -- in the cellar of an old barn that was tastefully and artfully repurposed. Although we didn't have time that day, we would have learned some of the history had we gone on the winery tour.

After our first visit to wineries, we'd learned to bring bread, cheese,
grapes, and chocolate to picnic on at the wineries. Both DeJon and Boordy's offered comfortable places to spread out the contents of our mini-cooler and have a picnic. Boordy's felt like we'd stepped into a 100-year old kitchen in Paris -- yet still comfortable and thankfully, cool in the 90-degree heat.

Tip #1: Even on holiday Mondays, many vineyards are closed. So make sure you check their websites or call to verify availability.

Tip #2: If you avoid purchasing wine and pack your own picnic, this is a budget-friendly day trip!

Getting there: GPS it! DeJon Vineyards is located at 5300 Hydes Road, Hydes, MD 21082; Boordy Vineyards is located at 12820 Long Green Pike, Hydes, MD 21082.

Hours: Check the websites.

Dogs: Dogs and wine -- not really a good mix.

Eats: Pack a picnic -- that's the best plan. Put in some favorite cheeses, maybe a smoked gouda or a nice garlic cheddar? Rustic bread goes well, and maybe even some summer sausage. Don't forget a bit of chocolate to try with wines that pair well with it.

Websites: and

Check out the post about our first visit to three Maryland wineries:

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!