Jody Arneson

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MidAtlantic Day Trips: Exploring Two Castles of Whimsy and Treasure

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Courtesy of MidAtlantic Day Trips – There once lived a man who, in the early part of the 20th century, built two castles. He was a visionary, for he recognized the importance of preserving items of a fading way of life for future generations. He was a artist, creating tiles that were renown for their beauty. And he was a bit of an odd duck, because he created medieval castles out of a modern building material, and then let his imagination and whimsy loose on the interiors.

Last weekend, we traveled to Doylestown, PA — about 45 minutes north of Philadelphia, and a good 2 1/4 hour drive for us, since we live near Baltimore — to visit the two castles Henry C. Mercer built in the early 1900s. Mercer, who was born in 1856, was a noted tile-maker, archaeologist, antiquarian, artist, and writer.

MidAtlantic Day Trips: The American Visionary Art Museum

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One of the burdens of motherhood is wanting to expose your sons or daughters to experiences that will enrich and expand their outlook, and having that desire go not just unappreciated, but aggressively scorned and despised by the intended beneficiaries of your maternal wisdom. But I continue to fight the good fight. That’s why, when I learned* about the American Museum of Visionary Art, I knew I had to bring my sons there.

So when two Saturdays ago my 11-year old son said, “Wow Mom, I’m really glad you forced me to come here!” I knew I’d done the right thing. My work as a mom is complete — I’ll never be able to replicate that moment, I’m not sure there’s any point in trying. And my blog was made!

But I digress.

Through writing this blog, I’ve discovered several places in/near to Baltimore I’d never, ever heard of before (check out http://www.midatlanticdaytrips.blogspot.com/2014/01/hampton-national-historic-site.html for another hidden jewel), despite having lived most of my adult life within 20 minutes of Charm City.

MidAtlantic Day Trips: Winter Walks

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Patuxent Branch Trail
Patuxent Branch Trail

A warmer than usual day beckoned the beagles and me outside this past weekend. There are those who preach the outdoor winter gospel, but I am an admitted fair-weather wimp. I’ve been reading up on the benefits of winter walking, however, and I learned that outdoor walking in cold air benefits bones, mood and waistline.

I need no more information than that. With this year’s resolutions in mind, I decided to get out and walk this winter!

Nothing compares to the crisp, clean air of winter and the magnificent view of a snowy landscape — sometimes offering quite a nice surprise from the scenes you are more used to.

Whether the weather is warm or slightly frosted, most hiking trails remain open. And like this past weekend’s two walks in two different local trails, the squirrels and birds still frolic. We saw evidence of fox (paw prints in the snow) and other furry woodland creatures. We also saw a flock of red-breasted robins, which I thought unusual (not that I know much about birds).

MidAtlantic Day Trips: Tombstone Tourists at Loudon Park Cemetery

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So much of our lives is dictated by chance. By chance, my mother suggested I take the ghost tour through Mount Olivet Cemetery, in Frederick, last summer. By chance, my husband couldn’t come, so I invited my friend Barb, a.k.a., Day Trip Pal, instead. Now the two of us have taken up “cemetery photography” — not in the ghost hunting way, but in the “oh my, that’s a pretty statue” way. We’ve become tombstone tourists. (Although if I ever do see a ghost in a photograph, you can be sure I’ll blog about it!)

By chance, I happened to hear something about Loudon Park Cemetery, in Baltimore. So one Sunday morning — a brilliant autumn day in early November — when I happened to have nothing better to do, I called Day Trip Pal and suggested we grab our cameras and check out this historic cemetery.

Once we got there and started exploring, we realized we would be going back, several times, and we have, including on a foggy morning that was eerie and quiet and last weekend, in the snow, to photograph the sunrise. It’s huge — 350 acres — and evidently is where many of Baltimore’s rich and famous are buried. There was too much to absorb in one visit — so many intriguing grave markers and statues to photograph. And that was before we even drove into the older, and really interesting section.

Visiting historic cemeteries isn’t for everyone*, but it’s not as morbid as one might immediately assume. Cemeteries are surprisingly alive and busy — at any given time, you’ll encounter several joggers or cyclists taking advantage of the well-maintained and peaceful drives. In the newer section, you may encounter funerals (please be respectful). Birds and small wildlife abound in cemeteries. And the historic ones are really quite scenic — in keeping with the Victorian era’s attitude that cemeteries were meant to be — and were used as — beautiful parks in which it was quite normal to stroll about and picnic in.

(*Dr Who fans will be weirded out by all the angels!)

MidAtlantic Day Trip: Bicycles, Wine and Dogs, On My!

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Courtesy MidAtlantic Day Trip – Last weekend we braved the frigid temperatures and headed out for some bike shopping and to visit two wineries — return visits for the blog to two favorite Maryland wineries.

Our first primary destination (we stopped at a bike shop first) was Elk Run Vineyards, nestled in the rolling hills of Frederick County. Although I didn’t go to one of its Yoga in the Vines events (see the link below for more about that), Day Trip Pal did. She liked it so much she suggested we return so I could experience the winery for myself.

Elk Run Vineyard was established in 1979, and named for a stream that runs through the property. The site itself was selected for soil composition, orientation of the land for sun exposure, altitude, and its proximity to both Baltimore and D.C. A bonus was the fact that it sat on a historic property.

The history of the property is pretty cool. The winery site and the original vineyard is the old Liberty Tavern (the property sits on Liberty Road, near Libertytown, which was named for the Sons of Liberty who met there prior to the Revolutionary War, which is in itself so very neat, because I’d never thought of Maryland as a hotbed of revolutionary fervor).In 1995, Elk Run expanded to land across the road, but that merely reunited the original farm. The original deed to the land on both sides of Liberty Road is registered as “The Resurvey of Cold Friday,” a land grant from the King of England to Lord Baltimore in the early 1700s. The new vineyard is called Cold Friday to honor the legacy.

Mid-Atlantic Day Trip: C&O Canal at Great Falls

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Beginning today,  we’ll share a weekly post from MidAtlanticDayTrips, a blog about travels to local points of interest like the Hampton Historic Site, Boordy Vineyards, Tilghman Island and more. On the to-do list for 2014: a  visit to Winterthur, kayaking around Assateague Island, a tour of Fort McHenry and other local adventures. We live in a region filled with natural beauty and historic sites. Read along and get inspired to take a day trip, too. – The Eds.

Certainly when the canal was first envisioned, the planners, engineers and builders never imagined that 180 years after its creation, it would serve as a popular recreational attraction. In the 19th and early 20th century the C&O Canal provided jobs and opportunities for people throughout the Potomac River Valley, from the tidal basin in Washington D.C. to the mountains of Western Maryland.

The canal operated from 1831 until 1924 parallel to the Potomac River in Maryland from Cumberland, Maryland, to Washington, D.C. The total length of the canal is about 184.5 miles and has 74 locks.

One of the most popular sections is at Great Falls Park, accessed on the Maryland side at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. The Billy Goat Trail on Bear Island, accessible from the Maryland side, offers scenic views of the Great Falls, as do vantage points on Olmsted Island. It’s worth noting that dogs are prohibited from Olmsted Island, so plan on foregoing the views if you’ve got the pooch along, or get someone in your group to hold the leashes while you see the views. It’s quite spectacular when the river is running high, as it was during our visit.

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