Washington, DC is a fantastic city. Bustling with those charismatic politicians, high-powered lobbyists and hard-working non-profit workers, it’s a hodgepodge of passion unlike any other city. Speaking from personal experience working in that passion-filled non-profit world, passion can quickly transform into exhaustion if one isn’t very careful to keep a balance between work and play and make it a priority to unwind.
Misty Manor Riding Stables
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to escape DC’s concrete jungle. In less than an hour’s drive north, city-dwellers can find themselves in a seemingly remote location, passing along endless fields of corn and soybeans while dodging the occasional farm tractor puttering down the road. Out this way in Marriottsville, MD is a great little working farm known as Misty Manor Riding Stables. Offering refuge for horses who were mistreated, abused, and/or malnourished in past homes, it’s a horse haven. They offer one, two or three hour trail rides for groups up to 25 people through the pristine Maryland woods and streams. As an added bonus, after much research, I found their one hour trail ride was the least expensive option around greater DC at only $25/person (helmets are optional and an extra $10/person).
Misty Manor’s website explicitly says beginners are welcome, but what makes this trail ride a true joy is the fact that the the horses are not on auto-pilot as one might suspect with beginner-friendly trails. Trail options weave all throughout the Maryland woods and streams requiring riders to actually steer their horse onto paths chosen by the leader at the front of the group. At some points, we would be meandering up and down steep grassy slopes, and other times, sloshing through foot-deep streams. Because of my inexperience and poor steering abilities, I often found myself pressed nearly flat against my horse’s back in an effort to not be smacked by branches as my horse veered too far off the path and too close to over-grown shrubs and trees.
This, however, was not a drawback in my mind. It felt like the “real deal”. This city-girl was riding a horse like a real cowgirl! Well, not really. But being able to soak in the sights and sounds of a wild area while on horseback is a rarity for anyone usually surrounded by concrete. At the end, I felt rejuvenated and accomplished!
Elk Run Vineyard & Winery
Another reason a visit to Misty Manor is so feasible, is because of its proximity to two great little wineries, making this a truly relaxing and unique day excursion from DC. Only 25 minutes from Misty Manor is Elk Run Vineyard & Winery. They have two options for wine tastings, both including a souvenir glass. For $9/person, you can try a set of six preselected wines, or for $12/person you can choose six from 15 of their designated “premium” wines. With 30 minute tours of their facilities happening at 1 and 3pm daily, it’s easy to fit both a tasting and tour in in whichever order is easier.
Only 15 minutes from Elk Run is Linganore Winecellars, which offers a unique Wine and Food Pairing option that changes monthly. This May, it’s an ode to Mom with a “Cheese and Chocolates” theme. Since I visited in July, the theme was “American Delights”, which had locally made smoked, herb and cheddar cheeses, American made summer sausage and a delectable and rich cheesecake to pair with their wines. It was a lot of fun to be guided by the steward on what food to pair with which wine, and to compare how the wine tasted before and after trying the food accompaniment. After the roughly 40 minute tasting, and squeezing in a tour where I learned all about Linganore’s extensive history and in-depth wine-making process, I decided to buy a bottle and treat myself to a picnic lunch on a picturesque, sunny summer afternoon. The grounds of Linganore are breath-taking, with expansive views of their vineyards.
On days like this one, it’s difficult to get back into the car and return to the hustle and bustle of DC, but the hour drive back completes the route’s giant loop, meaning it’s on a completely different road than the one taken up to Misty Manor. The views are of even more beautiful rural Maryland that feels like an entirely different world from DC.
The only consolation I have as I return to the concrete jungle is knowing nature, horses and wine are only an hour’s drive away.