Saturday, September 28, 2019

Night of the Blue Heron: Solomons Island Bed & Breakfast Offers a Pleasant Retreat

The view from our balcony at the Blue Heron Bed and Breakfast Inn.

Solomons Island is a quaint island in southern Maryland, in Calvert County. Although once called Bourne's Island in the 1600s and then Somervell's Island in the mid-1700s, in the 1800s, island became known as Solomons Island when Baltmore businessman  Isaac Solomon established a cannery there, just after the Civil War ended. His home still stands on the island.

The inn's four rooms are all well-appointed and recently updated.

Known for its marinas, Solomons Island is a great weekend get-away -- there are a number of fun things to do in the area, such as visiting the Calvert Marine Museum, going kayaking in the local waters, exploring the Annmarie Sculpture Garden, fossil hunting at nearby Calvert Cliffs, visiting St Mary's City, or going hiking in one of the nearby parks and forests. The Blue Heron Bed & Breakfast Inn is a laid back inn, befitting its restful location overlooking the quiet waters of Back Creek.

Back Creek greeted us in hues of purple and pink during the sun rise.

Almost all of its rooms overlook Back Creek, and the inn's balconies offer a peaceful place to retreat to contemplate the day, enjoying a coffee and a snack before heading out before dinner. Or bring home your own wine to enjoy sipping while the sun sets... I have to admit, I loved the balcony, and my only regret is that our time at the inn was too short to enjoy it as long as I would have wished.

Whether you're seeking to get away for one night or several, bed and breakfast inns offer a great way to get to know an area. Most often owned and run by local residents, these are the folks who can steer you to best the area offers -- and the hospitality offered by B&Bs can't be beat.

An elegant and tasty breakfast, served on the lower balcony, helped us start our day right!

There are several restaurants on the island to chose from, within walking distance of the inn.

Smith Island cake, Maryland's state dessert, was our choice for dessert
at the Lighthouse Restaurant and Dock Bar..

Plan your weekend stay at the Blue Heron B&B by adding these to your day trip itinerary!

Calvert Marine Museum

Learn about maritime history on the Chesapeake Bay, the area's paleontology (and there's quite a bit of that!), life working on the water in the Chesapeake Bay, and local estuarine life of the Patuxent River and the Bay at the Calvert Marine Museum.

A high point of the museum are its several aquatic exhibits, including an outdoor habitat for the North American river otter, and indoor aquarium exhibits for the sting ray, skates, the non-native lionfish, and numerous other species native to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Be sure to visit the historic Drum Point Lighthouse, located on the grounds of the Calvert Marine Museum.

Hiking and Fossil Hunting at Calvert Cliffs 

One of my favorite places in Calvert County, in which Solomons is located, is Calvert Cliffs. It can be really fun to go fossil hunting - Calvert Cliffs State Park is unique among hiking opportunities in the region for its up-close views of the Calvert Cliffs from below, fossil hunting opportunities, and hiker-only access to the Chesapeake shoreline along a mile of sandy beach.

The main feature of the park is the huge Miocene cliffs that dominate the waterfront. The cliffs and the shores below contain more than 600 species of fossils from the Miocene epoch, more than ten million years ago. These cliffs rise over the Bay over 100 feet and are slowly eroding at the rate of almost 3 feet per year, ensuring a constant supply of "new" fossils to discover. They were created over 10 million years ago when the Chesapeake Bay and most of southern Maryland were still a shallow sea. As the waters receded, the sea floor became exposed and what was to become fossils gathered at this point. The cliffs are the most extensive assemblage of Miocene fossils in the eastern U.S.

Annmarie Sculpture Garden

Annmarie Sculpture Gardens is unusual because of its display of art and sculpture outside, a blend of splendid nature and art, and that is the core of its mission: to connect people to both art and nature. The sculpture garden, through its partnership with the Hirshorn Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art, borrowed 25 sculptures, which are now on display throughout its grounds.

In addition to the sculpture, the walking paths were created and the allies, or hallways, were cleared. The lovely allies allow visitors to look across Annmarie and have created areas for the installation of sculpture.

This is a great place for kids (of all ages) as there is whimsical sculpture and art on display as well. When we were there, fairy houses dotted the forest floor, another touch that's sure to appeal to the 10 and below crowd.

A Visit to St Mary's City

St Mary's City is spread across 800 acres along St. Mary's River, a brackish tributary to the Potomac River, near its mouth on the Chesapeake Bay, and about 30 minutes from Solomons Island. The site is an important archaeological site marking the former colonial town that was Maryland's first colonial settlement of the European invasion.

Although many structures have been recreated, and several are in progress,
many "ghost structures" mark the spots where the originals stood.

Now, St. Mary's City is a large, state-run historic area, reconstruction of the original colonial settlement, living history museum complex, and most summer weekends you will encounter re-enactors. You need walking shoes to visit, because you'll want to go exploring -- and you can easily spend a few hours there! There's an approximately mile-long trail from the visitors center through the historic St. Mary's City site.

Getting there: The Blue Heron Bed and Breakfast is located at 14614 Solomons Island Rd
Solomons, MD 20688


Follow the MidAtlantic DayTrips on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and LinkedIn.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Otherworldly East End Lighthouse Investigation

Light houses are, by nature, mysterious. Lonely sentinels, lonely witnesses to shipwrecks when the ships fail to heed the light's warnings. And many lighthouses are famous for being haunted.

East End Lighthouse, guarding the entrance to Delaware Bay at Lewes, DE, is no different, and just as haunted, or so the stories claim. We jumped at the chance to join Intuitive Investigations as it led a public ghost hunt in the lighthouse.

I love ghost hunting -- the possibility of encountering a spirit or having a paranormal experience both thrills and scares me. I've been on a handful of ghost hunts and the experiences are always different.

Intuitive Investigations emphasizes the "scientific method" with its paranormal investigations (please note, Intuitive Investigations does not like these referred to as ghost hunts). Dr. Carol A. Pollio, Director, Intuitive Investigations, also emphasizes a number of rules:
  • Do NOT tell the spirits they are dead. That is rude. And could be shocking, if the spirit thinks it's still alive.
  • Do NOT call the spirit a ghost. That is rude. Spirit is preferred.
  • No photos except with the team's cameras.
  • No equipment except for what the team provides.

Pollio also emphasizes that her background in environmental science provides her the expertise and authority regarding scientific principles and equipment, learning how to identify the most compelling evidence of paranormal activity, versus logically explainable phenomena (differentiating normal versus paranormal results).

Of the numerous ghost hunts paranormal investigations we've been on, this one was the most restrictive. We couldn't use our own equipment; we couldn't use our own cameras. The questions were asked by Pollio. However, playing devils advocate to my own discontent with these restrictions, I understand that the rules allow Intuitive Investigations to ensure clarity of the "evidence," avoid participants from muddying the evidence with faked or misunderstood evidence, kept the background noise to a minimum, and so forth.

During the investigation, recorders, cameras, dowsing rods, pendulums, thermal cameras, and REM Pods were all used. Note: none of these have been scientifically proven to be useful tools to reveal the existence of ghosts, which are themselves not scientifically proven to exist.

None of this has been proved. Not one. We don't know if spirit box voices or EMFs or EVPs are generated by spirits. This is all speculation, although commonly accepted in the paranormal investigative community. (I accept that these are cool tools that may indicate paranormal activity.)

Still, during the ghost hunt paranormal investigation, a number of interesting EVPs were recorded. Participants asked, “Will you go upstairs with us?” A disembodied female voice responds, “Come back down.” REM Pod responses during this EVP session are very clear and numerous.

  • In an ongoing conversation with a possible ghost who had indicated he was a Keeper, when asked if he was from Virginia, responded, “Early on.”
  • One investigator in the living quarters asked if the spirit/ghost was a lighthouse keeper (no response) or were they an assistant? (answered “Yessss”). 
  • An investigator was discussing previous responses that indicated five spirits were present. Suddenly, the spirit box blurted out: “Five at least” and then immediately: “I think he’s right.”

I have to admit, now that I've been on more than a handful of organized ghost hunts paranormal investigations, that although the site was intriguing (a ghost hunt paranormal investigation in a haunted light house!!), that the restrictions made the investigation a bit boring: ghost hunts paranormal investigations are a bit boring anyway, until the one thrilling moment something happens, and then it becomes quickly boring again. Taking photographs during the ghost hunt paranormal investigation in the hopes of catching something -- anything -- helps alleviate that boredom, and makes a better article for you to read, too, to be honest. All of these photos were taken during a previous story-telling tour of the lighthouse.

During the ghost hunt paranormal investigation, one of the Intuitive Investigations staff said, authoritatively, that everyone has two guardian spirits. Huh. I wasn't aware that that's been scientifically confirmed. (And if so, mine really need to step up their game.)

Dowsing rods and pendulums, both embraced by Intuitive Investigations (and many, many other paranormal groups), and both really fun tools on ghost hunts paranormal investigations, are so easily influenced by the person holding them, even if they're trying REALLY REALLY hard not to. These are not scientific instruments, not by a long shot.

I know this. And yet I still find these ghost hunts paranormal investigations incredible fun. I love going on them, and even as I write this, I'm laughing at myself, because my friend and I are in the process of arranging our next ghost hunt.

I'm only commenting on this because of the emphasis on the scientific method and the science-based investigations with Intuitive Investigations. It may all be hooey, or it may be real, but in the end, Intuitive Investigations provides a decently fun experience: you learn how to use all the equipment -- again, all commonly accepted as legitimate ghost-hunting equipment in the paranormal field -- and get opportunities to try them. I believe they are sincere, that nothing is faked (unlike another ghost hunt I attended, in which we're pretty sure "results" were manufactured to create the impression that an entity was present -- I have decided NOT to write about that one in MidAtlanticDayTrips).

So, if you get the chance to go on the East End Lighthouse Paranormal Investigation, I say, go go go! You'll get to investigate in a haunted lighthouse. And really, how many opportunities do you get to do that?

Hours: Please check the website for upcoming paranormal investigation events.


Saturday, September 21, 2019

Spooky Lighthouse Tour in Lewes

Lewes, DE is a town rich with historic happenings, legends, and tall-tales, many of them involving a touch of the paranormal. Its history of shipwrecks, souls and forgotten cemeteries make this old town a spooky (but always fun) place to visit.

The spookiness extends to lighthouses just off the shore from Lewes as well, including the infamous East End Lighthouse, which was placed permanently on the east end of the breakwater at Cape Henlopen in April 1885.

We were lucky to join Cape Water Tours and the Lewes Historical Society last year for an evening of ghost stories, enacted and told by actors garbed in period dress for a tour through history at the haunted and very spooky lighthouse. Lighthouses were built to preserve life, but often they instead stood as witnesses to death.

We met Cape Water Tours at the Lewes Ferry Terminal (itself haunted, apparently) and enjoyed a 15-minute ride out to the lighthouse, during which we both enjoyed the sunset over the harbor, the ferries in the distance, and scene-setting ghost stories told by members of the Lewes Historical Society. 

Witness over the decades to multiple disasters and deaths, the East End Lighthouse holds many otherworldly tales. After disembarking, we entered the lighthouse, separating into two groups (one per floor). 

Mysterious figures in the shadows awaited us, but as we settled down, they began sharing their tales of woe and doom, bringing the often tragic passings of former lighthouse residents and visitors through the eras to life. 

Not only did we learn about the ghosts of several of the lightkeepers; we also heard about William Landry, captain of the doomed Mary Rogers; and passengers of other local shipwrecks during the two hour event.

After the stories were shared, we gathered on the dock to begin boarding the boat back to the ferry terminal. Suddenly, a white-clad figure emerged from the lighthouse and began drifting down the steps: it was the Girl of the Dunes, waiting on her lost love who had drowned at sea, sharing her sorrowful story.

Getting there: Meet at the finger dock behind the Lewes Ferry Terminal or as indicated in confirmation emails.

When: Check the Cape Water Tours website for upcoming tours.


Follow the MidAtlantic Day Trips Blog on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and LinkedIn.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Poe Museum in Richmond

Although Edgar Allen Poe was born in Boston in 1809, Richmond was where he grew up, married and first became renown in the literary world. Richmond was his home. He even called himself "a Virginian." As America's first writer to attempt to make his living as a fiction writer, the Poe Museum in Richmond is a must-see stop if you're a Poe fan or simply want to understand this enigmatic man better.

Located in the Shockoe Bottom neighborhood of Richmond, the Poe Museum is housed in a compound of four different buildings, including one of the oldest left in Richmond, the old stone house. Although he never actually lived there, it offers a tenuous connection to the writer, and still serves to commemorate his time living in Richmond.

Poe's childhood was not an ideal one. His father abandoned his family not long after his younger sister was born. After his mother's death from tuberculosis, when he was not even 3 years old, the Allen family took him in; another family took in his sister Rosalie. He remained in Richmond until he was a young man, and a quarrel with his adoptive father, John Allen, drove him from the University of Virginia and from Richmond to the city of his birth, Boston. There he published his first book of poems, but by 1833, he was living in Baltimore with his aunt Marie Clemm, his older brother Henry and his young cousin, Virginia. In 1836, when Virginia was just 13 (you do the math -- she was but a child when he met her) he married her, his child bride. While living in Baltimore, Poe published a number of short stories and won a literary contest, which resulted in the young couple moving back to Richmond.

The old stone house, which forms part of the Poe Museum, is one of the oldest buildings in Richmond. Built in the early 1700s, the home was built by the Ege family, which supplied General Layfayette's troops during the Revolutionary War. In 1824, Poe as a young man stood outside the house as part of an honor guard for Layfayette's celebratory tour. An older Poe would often walk past the house on his way to and fro along Main Street.

The Shrine and Enchanted Garden is meant to represent Poe's poem, "To One in Paradise." The Shrine was built of bricks and building materials from the office of the Southern Literary Messenger where Poe was employed and which was located just a few blocks from the museum. Inside the Shrine sits a “pallid bust” of Poe greeting visitors from all over the world.

The Poe Museum is also home to two black cats, Edgar and Pluto, who roam the garden.

One of the permanent exhibits examines the controversies surrounding Poe's death, and his posthumous reputation. You can fit yourself into a coffin (and take a selfie) to gain a better understanding of Poe's fascination with death and dying. The museum buildings house a collection of artifacts: his socks, a vest, and other personal items, among others. 

It is worth noting that two other major East Coast cities, in addition to Boston and Richmond, also lay claim to Poe and his legacy: Baltimore, New York City, and Philadelphia.

Getting there: 1914 E Main St, Richmond, VA 23223

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday - Saturday


Follow the MidAtlantic DayTrips on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and LinkedIn.

Poe and His Works, 2016, painting by Chris King.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Largest Collection of Matisse Paintings at the Baltimore Museum of Art

Interior with Dog, Henri Matisse, 1934, oil on canvas

There's a hidden gem in Baltimore that we either take for granted or tend to overlook: the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). With more than 95,000 works of art, the BMA has a massive collection.

Madonna Adoring the Child with Five Angels, Sandro Botticelli and Studio,
1485 - 1490, tempura and oil on wood panel.

But if for no other reason, go see its collection of works by Henri Matisse -- the largest such public collection of his works. BMA's galleries also include a selection of American and European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; works by contemporary artists; significant works from China; Antioch mosaics; and a collection of art from Africa.

Sea Thiasos, 2nd Century, stone and limb mortar

Another reason to go? It's free. Yup. And you can thank the City of Baltimore and Baltimore County, as well as several foundations, for making it that way. Since October 2006, both the Baltmore Art Museum and the Walters Art Museum have offered free general admission year-round as a result of grants given by Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and other sources.

A Pair of Boots, Vincent Van Gogh, 1887, oil on canvas

What a great place to introduce kids to the wonder of art!

Portrait No. 1, Joan Miro, 1938

And bonus: BMA offers an urban garden oasis in the form of its shady, landscaped 2.7 acre sculpture garden. (Looking for other sculpture gardens? Be sure to check out Art Omi, in upstate New York; Annmarie Sculpture Garden in Solomons, MD; and Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ!)

What can you expect inside the museum? While browsing the galleries, you'll see examples from one of the museum's collections of prints, drawings, paintings, and photographs and textiles from around the world, housed in a "Roman Temple"-style building, originally built in 1929.

Woman in Profile, Thomas Couture, 1860s

The highlight -- and heart -- of the museum is the Cone Collection, brought together by Baltimore sisters Dr. Claribel and Etta Cone, who were born as the Civil War was ending and lived well into the 20th century. These accomplished collectors amassed an impressive collection of works by artists such as Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne, Manet, Degas, Giambattista, Pittoni, Gauguin, van Gogh, and Renoir. Nearly the entirety of the Cone Collection was donated to the museum and form the core of its exhibition.

The Reader, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1895, oil on canvas.

Parking: The BMA East and West Lots are available for BMA patrons, and include wheelchair accessible spaces.

Getting there: 10 Art Museum Dr, Baltimore, MD 21218

Hours: Wednesdays - Sundays 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; closed Mondays and Tuesdays.


"We Shall Pass through the Combahee," 2019, Stephen Towns, natural and synthetic fabric, nylon tulle,
polyester and cotton threat, metallic thread, crystal glass beads, and resin and metal buttons. In this
 story quilt, Towns reimagines Emanuel Leutze's famous 1851 painting
Washington Crossing the Delaware,
but with Harriet Tubman leading enslaved people to freedom.

Follow the MidAtlantic DayTrips on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and LinkedIn.

The Yellow Dress, Henri Matisse, 1929 - 1931