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Category Archives: Day Trips

Brighton Dam Azaleas 2015 — Behind Schedule

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Yes, the azalea gardens out at Brighton Dam are far behind schedule this spring. Not to say they aren’t lovely but they won’t have peaked even at Mother’s Day, the traditional visit weekend.

They look like this.

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And not like this from a few years back.

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This picture from 2012 was in April. A much warmer winter and early spring.

Those white azaleas. Looked like this yesterday.

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They need a few more warm days to open.

Still, not a bad place to have a picnic lunch. The south side of the property has a picnic area, with a playground and tables and grills.

You can’t picnic in the azalea gardens, but you can enjoy these bright spring days just west of the center of Howard County. Right over the county line.

My suggestion. If you can, hit the gardens early next week. Avoid the crowds and take a picnic lunch.

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To The River

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The annual trek. A favorite hike. Done almost every year at the Mt. Pleasant site of the Howard County Conservancy. This year’s hike is Saturday April 11th. At 10 am, the volunteers will lead groups eastward from the Conservancy parking lot, head up to the fields and then down to the river.

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This picture is from one of the fall hikes. We now do the hikes only in springtime to avoid picking up wavyleaf basket grass seeds on clothing and spreading this annoying invasive plant.

We now take the hike before the trails become covered and impossible to easily navigate. Once we crest the hill behind the buildings and start through the fields, we generally stop to admire the view out towards Woodstock.

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We’ll also stop to check out the second largest yellow poplar in Howard County.

Poplar, Yellow
Liriodendron tulipifera
20 feet 3 inches-circumference
98 feet-height
87 feet-spread, 362.8 points
Howard County Conservancy
Woodstock

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Crossing a few more fields, we then move into the woods and follow the stream down to the Patapsco River. Carefully investigating around some old foundations, and looking at the signs of spring along the river. Maybe a train will pass when we are down there. The railroad that follows the Howard County side of the river here continues down through Ellicott City.

This hike is free. There will be many volunteers to keep groups of similar pace together. If you want to enjoy the change in weather and enjoy being outdoors, come join us.

Details here, on the Conservancy web site.

Totally HoCo

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Continuing my discovery of places to take friends and relatives in Howard County, I want to highlight a fairly new asset to those of us connected to the internet as a source of things to do, places to visit, and people to see.

TOTALLY HOCO.

An online calendar chock full of activities for fun, learning, arts, and so much more. For example, this week. Did you know you could meet the (in)famous COLONEL GATEWAY at a Meet and Greet this Wednesday. One of the whimsical aspects of living here. Finding those characters that bring the personality of an area to life.

You can find lots of inspiration in this calendar.

But, that’s not all you can use to find ongoing events most weekends. If you do have guests, and even if you don’t, you can count on having some unique experiences in the area.

How about a Yappy Hour? Or, maybe an outdoor movie in Old Town Ellicott City? Both are standard spring, summer and fall events at the Wine Bin.

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Yappy Hour starts this weekend. Movie schedule should be coming soon. We discovered the Wine Bin at one of the Saturday morning markets last spring. Some of the nicest people there. Also, a great selection of wines and beer.

The markets on Saturday morning are also one really great way to start the day. They open the first weekend in May. Breakfast pizza anyone? Music. Barbecue. Strolling Old Town and taking in the atmosphere.

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Other options for things to do that don’t cost an arm and a leg? Second Saturdays at Mt. Pleasant site of Howard County Conservancy and third Saturdays at the Belmont site. Free events.

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Visitors in May. If they are here the first weekend in May, you must take them to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. There is no easy way to explain how popular this festival has become. It is now huge. The largest and longest running festival of its kind in the United States.

Just keep Totally Hoco in your bookmarks to see so many options for getting out of the house without leaving Howard County.

Spring Visitors

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Just a while back, the local online papers, Columbia, Ellicott City and Elkridge Patch asked readers to recommend places to take out of town visitors to Howard County.

Want a locavore take on this? I thought of so many great places not included on their list. After all, how could you not recommend Clark’s farm? Or Larriland? Or Brighton Dam? Or Oella? Or, the other dozen I will cover in some future posts.

Let’s start with Clark’s Farm. Adjacent to Centennial Park. The walk through the Enchanted Forest Tree Maze is worth the price of admission. As well as the petting zoo, the wagon rides, the “Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe” and much more. Nora and Martha have made this place special for children, and adults who carry that sense of whimsy found in those old fairy tales.

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I did a post the day I visited the farm in April 2013. The farm is open April through October.

My second favorite springtime place to take friends is Brighton Dam. On the county line. The azalea gardens are legendary. Part of the Triadelphia Reservoir land, the 5 acre gardens are the place to go in late April and early May. The water authority, WSSC will publish a news release on their home page that documents status of the azaleas. You can picnic below the parking lot on the downstream side of the dam. The gardens have trails that work well for strollers, but a little tricky for wheelchairs. Still, this place is full of couples, families, individuals, bird watchers, photographers, and those just wanting to take a stroll on the beautiful spring days.

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It doesn’t get much better than this.

Moving on to May, strawberry picking at Larriland. A trip to this family owned farm is a real treat. Weekends there will be wagon rides, food, things for the families to do. We go out to Larriland at least six times a year. We do strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, tomatoes and apples. Sometimes more. Like flowers. Or beets. After picking fruit, we head up to the Town Grill to sit outside and eat their wonderful messy barbecued pork.

Berry picking. We love to do. Bring them home. Clean them. Freeze whole berries to add to a glass of white wine, and it feels like spring no matter when you have them.

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Finally, in this post, head over to Oella. Walk the Trolley Trail. Visit the Banneker Museum. Have lunch at BricknFire Pizza, at the Breadery.

Pick up Angus beef steaks at JW Treuth, a traditional butcher shop just down the road from the Breadery. Wander the tiny roads that lead down to the Patapsco. Just across the river from Old Town Eliicott City. Which will be the subject of my next post later this week.

Oh, and if you want cherry blossoms? Howard County has those too. Check out Blossoms of Hope events. And, we haven’t even made it to summer yet. You have lots of exploring to do.

Daytripping in Maryland

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Saturday morning at 10 am the free “Wonder Walk” at the Howard County Conservancy isn’t a walk at all. In the colder months the free monthly programs often are held inside, you know, just in case that foot of snow doesn’t melt out on the trails.

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The trails are still a bit messy. But, never fear, in the Nature Center Sherry Conklin and Linda Decker, two Maryland master gardeners will share with us more than 50 of their favorites – formal display gardens, arboretums, wild native places to walk and hike, and historic landscapes.

With the weather starting to change for the better, who among us doesn’t want to stop hibernating and start enjoying spring in Maryland.

You can see all the upcoming events here. You can pre-register for future events on this page. This weekend’s talk still has room and pre-registration closes Friday afternoon. Using the pre-registration email option for future free events guarantees a spot as some of our more popular ones can reach the capacity of the building. Just click on the email link to let the staff know how many people plan to attend.

Today the volunteers finally began our elementary school training to lead hikes on field trips. We were out in the snow and ice looking for signs of the various habitats, in order to lead third graders on their hikes. We found lots of things out there.

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Signs of use in one of the snags on the trail. Before the vegetation grows up in the warmth of the sun, you can get up close and personal.

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And see where the raccoons have been looking for food.

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You can even be serenaded by a very young chickadee, while you are wandering along the local trails.

Come join us Saturday and see what new places Linda and Sherry may show you. Places to put on the list for spring days ahead.

Making the Rounds Mt. Airy

Today we ventured out to Mt. Airy. For a few errands and a chance to try a new place for lunch. I love Main Street Mt. Airy. All the old buildings. Like the Country Store, and Concettas, where we had lunch.

concettas

Concettas Main Street Bistro is just on the south side of Main Street, down the hill from the big parking lot. If you want cannoli shells or filling, tiramisu ladyfingers, pizzelles, Sun of Italy products or Italian made pastas, they have them. Lots of other good things too. This is a neighborhood place. People are super friendly. We went in and ordered an Italian spicy cold cut sub for him, a Concettas club made with turkey for me, a couple of San Pellegrino blood orange sodas, and sat there enjoying the day.

Followed by a trip up the street to Wagners to get some good lamb chops for Valentines Day.

Which are now happily being marinated in red wine, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

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While there we also saw a special on wild Texas Shrimp so there will be surf and turf Saturday night.

Heading back across the road, we stopped at Tractor Supply to see when they will be getting the spring vegetables in, particularly those onion sets that did so well for me last year in the garden. It is Dollar Days there, and we stocked up on suet to keep the birds happy.

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Suets are 6 for $5. You can’t find a better price for suet around here.

They also have baby ducks in the pens. The chicks don’t arrive until the end of the month. But “M R Ducks” (showing my Baltimore upbringing here). No pics allowed of the ducks or chicks.

All in all a pleasant couple of hours in one of the special old main streets in the area. Full of mom and pop stores, quaint restaurants and an outstanding butcher.

Home for the Holidays

Yesterday we took a trip back to my husband’s home town. Mainly because we hadn’t been there in 18 months, and we wanted to check in on some things (and buy some of his favorite kielbasy). Most of the family is gone. Moved, passed away. A few friends still in the area, but not many.

It’s a deeply depressed coal mining town. We found my husband’s old house on the market again. Like hundreds in the area. We were lucky to sell it quickly 12 years ago when my MIL moved to a retirement community in Pottsville.

The cemetery. Covered in fog and snow. Too wet, windy and cold to try to take pictures. We were there to check on the gravesites, before paying our yearly maintenance fee to the man who the church uses to maintain graves for those who are no longer local. The cemetery is on a huge hill outside of town. At 1800 feet elevation according to our GPS.

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This picture, taken last year shows the wind turbines installed on the ridge. Yesterday we couldn’t see them, the fog was so thick.

As for getting that kielbo, we forgot that Kowalonek’s gets really crazy at the holidays. Lines out the door, through the parking lot and around the corner. Not our idea of what to do in the rain and wind. We decided to head south to Manheim and look for fresh kielbasa at the Roots Country Market and Auction.

We found some at Hummer’s meats. A three pound ring of fresh, not smoked kielbasa. It almost is as good as his hometown version but not quite. We also picked up some of Hodecker’s celery, a real delicacy harvested in the fall and early winter. The web site is from the Bed and Breakfast at the farm where the celery is grown.

Some of that celery went into stock tonight. The leaves were frozen for later use.

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We took the back roads up and back. On the way up, we stopped at the Peters Orchards to get some gifts like this one.

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Cranberry salsa. Made in PA. Peters carries a nice selection of hot pepper jellies, all sorts of jams, honey, syrup and much more. They are open year round and are on the way to Carlisle on Rte 94. My husband couldn’t resist the molasses cookies either.

All in all, on a rainy blustery day, we had a good time, even though traffic was awful on the way home. I have to admit, I don’t miss that commute in really bad weather up I-81.

Now, off to bake cookies and other goodies using things I picked up at the market.

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