Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Hiking in Historic Pemberton Park

Pemberton Park is an historic park, just outside of Salisbury MD; the site of the former Pemberton Plantation, the historic house, built in 1741, still stands and is open for tours most weekends.

But what really drew us to the park was the opportunity to explore its trail system, which takes you through a variety of ecosystems unique to Maryland's Eastern Shore and the Delmarva Peninsula. 

The park's 262 acres offers 4.5 miles of Maryland nature trails. We spent a few hours there exploring the trail system, which all interconnect (we traveled several portions twice). 

Although we encountered several trail runners doing the trail loops, overall the trails weren't too crowded. Almost entirely level, this isn't strenuous hiking -- just a walk in the woods, although it wasn't always wooded. One of the boardwalks takes you out in the sun along the boundary between the forest swamp and the marsh.

The trails, if you explore them all -- easy to do in a morning of hiking -- provide you the opportunity to explore unique ecosystems that bring together tidal and fresh water wetlands, fresh water ponds, upland pines, hardwood forests and meadows.

As you walk the trails of this beautiful little park, you're literally walking on history. One of the trails follow the path of an historic road to Salisbury, now all but forgotten. 

One of the trails brings you through land which once served as a pasture for the Handy’s cattle in the 18th century. Now a marsh, thanks to rising sea levels, instead of cows you'll likely see red-wing black birds and other wetland birds. 

Occasionally, you'll see overlooks, where you can relax a moment and enjoy seeing the river or the marsh. It was at one of these overlooks that we noticed a pileated woodpecker doing its thing. We watched it for a full ten minutes before it flew away.

Some of the trails take you along board walks over the boggy ground, although the day we were there -- a day after the remnants of Hurricane Dorian had dumped many inches of rain on Wicomico County -- the water levels were high, and we sometimes walked through water and mud.

Know before you go: For more information about the trails at Pemberton Park, click here. You're walking in or along marsh and standing water, so you'll want to apply bug spray amply.

Getting there: 5561 Plantation Ln, Salisbury, MD 21801

Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset.

Website: https://www.pembertonpark.org/pemberton-park/index.htm

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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Shenandoah Valley 24-in-24 Challenge

There is so much to see and do in the Shenandoah Valley! The valley is bounded to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians (excluding Massanutten Mountain), to the north by the Potomac River and to the south by the James River. Within its hills and hollows, American history was made, from pre-colonial times to the present.

During the Civil War, armies on both sides romped up and down its rich farmland. But today, quaint towns dot the countryside and rural farms line the Shenandoah and James rivers' rich shores.

Travel down historic Rt 11 -- formerly a well-traveled road for the Native Americans (before the European invasion) -- and see all that the Shenandoah Valley offers.

Take the "24 in 24 Challenge," below. 24 hours... can you do them all?*

  1. Discover why Rt 11 is considered the Valley's Main Street in Lexington!
  2. Enjoy a tasty lunch at Natty B's Cafe
  3. Kayak on Lake Laura
  4. Take a chair lift up the mountain at Bryce Resort
  5. Take an instagramable selfie at the Woodstock's LOVE sign
  6. Get the recipe for Virginia Restaurant's amazing ketchup at the Strasburg History Museum
  7. Discover Tipsy Squirrel at the Woodstock Brewhouse
  8. Discover more Civil War history at the Cedar Creek National Battlefield
  9. Learn who lost their shoes on the Field of Lost Shoes
  10. Don't let the water buffalo get stuck in your car at the Virginia Safari Park
  11. Walk in the cadets' footsteps on the Bushong Farm
  12. Follow the trail to the Shenandoah River overlook
  13. Uncover Victorians' secrets at the Edenburg History Museum
  14. Find your treasure at the Antiques Emporium
  15. Take a scenic drive along Rt 11 and enjoy views of the valley
  16. Go down under in Grand Caverns!
  17. Locate all of Strasburg's beautiful murals!
  18. Grab a coffee or lunch to go at Jackson Corner Cafe
  19. Enjoy lunch with a million dollar view at the end of the Storybook Trail
  20. Hold up the bridge at Natural Bridge!
  21. Take a tour at the Route 11 Potato Chip factory and enjoy the freshest potato chips ever
  22. Get a room with what a view at Iris Inn!
  23. Discover why the upper James River is so scenic! 
  24. Find the things you need at the Jon Henri General Store

* It took several days -- and there's so much more to do in the valley!

A beautiful sunset over Waynesboro

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Wintery Regatta Lights Up Frederick's Carrol Creek All Winter!

Every year, a wintery flotilla sails through the solstice on Frederick's Carroll Creek. This year, 18 boats, ranging from a viking boat to other brightly lit ketches, yawls, and even a three mast schooner adorn Carroll Creek between Market Street and Carroll Street.

The boats were "launched" on November 23. Over the years, the regatta has grown from one boat to 16 boats on the water, and 2 landlocked boats.

the Snallygaster and Twins, sponsored by Vicki and Ed Poole and Teresa and Thom Beckley.

The fleet includes gaff-rigged ketches, yawls, three-masted schooners and pirate ships, moored with their sail outlines, rigging and decks lit up from dusk till dawn. Sailing through the Solstice will remain in place through the first weekend in February.

From left to right: Artic Racer, sponsored by the Ausherman Family Foundation
and the Snallygaster, sponsored by Vicki and Ed Poole and Teresa and Thom Beckley.

Once you see the boats, you can visit the website and vote for your favorite! Proceeds from the voting go to the named charity.

Mystere, sponsored by the Tourism Council of Frederick County.

Nearby Carroll Creek are numerous restaurants, making this a great evening out!

The Spirit of Apprenticeship, sponsored by Dynamic Auto.

For more photographs and to read about a previous visit to Sailing through the Solstice, click here.

Know before you go: Although there's metered parking on the streets of downtown Frederick, there are several parking garages within easy walking distance: Carroll Creek Garage at 44 E Patrick Street and Court Street Garage at 2 S Court Street.

Starry Night, sponsored by Frederick Primary Care Associates.

Getting there: Carroll Creek Linear Park between Market Street and Carroll Street, downtown Frederick, MD

Centennial, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Frederick.

Hours: Dusk through dawn, 23 November 2019 - 2 February 2020

Website: http://www.coloronthecreek.com/

Stargazer II, sponsored by The Wine Kitchen.

The Spirit of Maryland, sponsored by Property Management People.

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From left to right: Hope Floats, sponsored by Colonial Jewelers; Key to Freedom,
sponsored by Matan Companies; and Lighthouse, sponsored by BB&T.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Longwood Gardens Bedazzles Itself in Holiday Lights

At Christmas, Longwood Gardens gleefully bedazzles itself with colored lights and whimsy. Adults can become kids again and kids may simply just be, living in the moment and delighting in the wonder of it all.

Whether you're in the Conservatory or walking outside in one of the many gardens, colorful arrangements of lights and trees provide a festive backdrop, inviting you to enjoy the spectacle or take a selfie.

Our timed ticket allowed us entry between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. -- we arrived closer to 2:30. Getting there early isn't a bad idea -- explore the Conservatory in the daylight, when you can appreciate the true colors of the multitude of poinsettia and other plants.

We headed first to the Conservatory, where unique permanent collections provide beautiful texture and a backdrop for the dramatic holiday displays.

A meandering central water feature made up of waterfalls, pools, and fountains adds sound and motion to this dynamic garden.

Starting from the Exhibition Hall tree and tumbling down along the Fern Floor, the ribbons seemed to playfully interact with the trees and oversized ornaments.

I particularly enjoyed the room of Christmas trees decorated by local students.

Everywhere we looked, there were thoughtfully arranged displays, and plenty to enjoy. Because we went on a weekday -- deliberately so to avoid the worst crowds -- it honestly wasn't terribly crowded.

There were a variety of Christmas trees in various venues around the Conservatory -- often eliciting squeals of surprise from children coming upon them. The adults of course smiled and considered how to adapt some of the decorating ideas for their own trees at home...

Bromeliads sit regally atop mirrored triangular containers in the Cascade Garden, where oversized glass balls dangled from the ceiling.

I loved the different colors of the poinsettias. No dull red ones from Home Depot were there!

Oh, and the orchids -- lovely in any season, and so worth a stop to appreciate their wild colors and shapes.

After wandering around the Conservatory, we wrapped ourselves up in our coats, scarves and gloves, and headed outside.

We decided to go catch a late afternoon offering of the fountain show, set to holiday music favorites. I thought it would be fun to photograph it in both daylight and lit up in lights.

Make sure you take time to catch at least one of the fountain shows -- different Christmas music is played at each show and the fountains dance to the music. Since its 1914 Garden Party debut, this Italian-style outdoor theater has expanded from its simple original fountains to the 750 jets that create a lovely curtains of water.

After enjoying the fountains, we headed up to the Cafe for a snack and a coffee before the lights came on around 4 p.m. There's also pub fare -- a variety of pizzas, and burgers and sandwiches -- in the Beer Garden, and hot chocolate, cookies and donuts near the Train Garden.

As we headed out of the Cafe, dusk was falling. We lingered at the Train Garden a bit -- I couldn't resist enjoying a hot chocolate -- before heading down to the Meadows, where we started our exploration of the lights displays.

After walking around the various gardens, we headed back to the Conservatory to both warm up and enjoy it with the lights. The lighting had changed, obviously, from the late afternoon. Almost the only lighting was the holiday lights, so deep shadows lurked, but it made the gardens seem even more magical.

In front of the Conservatory was a great location to enjoy the light show in the sunken garden below, and we stood with everyone else as the lights danced to the music.

Check out previous visits to Longwood Gardens and A Longwood Christmas!

Know before you go #1: Wear warm clothing that is easy to take on and off. You'll be both inside and out during your exploration of a Longwood Gardens Christmas, so dress accordingly.

Know before you go #2: For more tips for visiting Longwood Gardens Christmas, check out http://longwoodgardens.org/visit/christmas-visiting-tips

Getting there: Longwood Gardens is located at 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, PA 19348. If your GPS does not recognize the 1001 Longwood Road address, try 399 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, PA 19348.

Hours: Open everyday (apparently even Christmas Day) 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.; a Longwood Christmas runs through January 5 2020; check website for hours as these may change. Entry is via timed tickets, so be sure to check availability before heading there.

Website: http://longwoodgardens.org/

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