Monday, July 28, 2008

Maryland's Wisp Resort

Mountain coaster
Wall climbing

Ski resorts can not survive by offering only snow fun so many have added summertime activities but few resorts have embraced the multi-season concept so completely as Wisp Resort in Maryland.

Wisp is located in the westernmost county of Maryland on top of Marsh Mountain overlooking Deep Creek Lake, the largest inland lake in Maryland. It is just south of the town named Accident.

The place is an amazing one-stop destination with something for everyone in the family to do in every season. There are 132 acres of skiable terrain, a championship golf course, the Sewickley Spa, and the Adventure Sports Center.

John and I had a hard time deciding what to do first. We love river rafting and have done so in many places but nothing compares to rafting at the Adventure Sports Center (ASCI). All the things I found most daunting about river rafting have been eliminated. They have created a whitewater course that is accessed from the pond by an automatic ramp – no more carrying the awkward raft down a gravely path to the river. ASCI has eliminated all the typical river hazards such as downed trees and undercut rocks that are places for foot entrapment but left the thrills. They offer rafting from Class 1 to 4. The course is also used for kayaking. They have traditional kayaking and also one-person inflatable kayaks called duckies.

We had lunch at the top of the mountain and returned to the main part of the resort. The chair lift was an excellent way to get an overview of the resort. On the way down we had an excellent view of the resort and lake. It was panoramic and the 25-minute trip giving us plenty of time to enjoy the scenery.

John and I decided to give the mountain coaster a try. I was a bit nervous because I could hear the screams of the passengers while we were on the chair lift. "You are in complete control. Just use the brake. You can go as slow as you want," explained the attendant. At the top John just took off and was gone. I however inched my way along. In the curve I felt like I was going to fall out and was thankful for the seatbelt. Then I realized that going real slow meant I did not have centrifugal force working in my favor in the curves so I went faster, then faster. When it was over I was ready to go again once I learned a few little tricks to make the trip more fun. But John was eyeing the climbing wall.

Typical of all ASCI "adventures," wall climbing includes all the thrills and skills but with excellent safety measures. When John reached the top on the first try the attendant said, "You can climb down or just push off and the pulley will let you down slowly." John was surprised at how much trust it took to push off, but push off he did, and the lowering mechanism worked perfectly as it slowly lowered him to the ground.

Once again we learned that no matter where we go there are great adventures waiting to be experienced. For the more adventurous there is mountain biking, fishing, disc golf, mountain boarding, and hiking. Before we headed home we took one more ride on the chair lift for one last look at the beautiful scenery.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Prince William County, VA

Potomac National's game
Marine Corp Museum
Marine Corp Museum - Frozen Chosen

Manassas Museum
Historic downtown Manassas
Chocolate dessert at the Foundation - Yummy!

Manassas (Bull Run) Battlefield
Rippon Lodge
Occoquan River Festival

On a warm July day in 1861, two armies of a divided nation clashed for the first time on the fields overlooking Bull Run, a small stream near the little town of Manassas. So confident that the Northern army under the command of General Irvin McDowell would be victorious, the wealthy elite of nearby Washington came to picnic and watch the battle. The Battle of Bull Run, referred in the South as the Battle of Manassas, was a rude awakening for Americans. Soldiers, mostly raw recruits, were stunned by the horror of battle. When the Union army was driven back in a disorder, panicked civilians attempting to flee in their carriages blocked the roads back to Washington. After 10 hours of heavy fighting, nearly 900 young men were dead and so were any thoughts that the Civil War would be over quickly.

Today, standing on the battlefield looking over the pastoral countryside it is hard to envision the battles but the film in the Visitor’s Center, "Manassas: End of Innocence," vividly depicts the First and Second Battle of Manassas along with a museum with many artifacts on display. A ranger guided walking tour helps bring alive the events that took place on the battlefield. It was during this battle that Gen. Thomas J. Jackson rallied his troops to hold their position, causing Gen. Barnard Bee to shout, "There stands Jackson like a stone wall!" However, Bee did not survive the battle. A statue of Jackson overlooks the battlefield where the rebuilt Henry House stands. It is where the first civilian was killed during the battle. Mrs. Judith Carter Henry, in her 80s and bedridden, refused to leave her home during the battle and was killed by a bullet meant for the snipers.

Manassas was critical during the Civil War because it was at the junction of two railroads that linked Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. with the Shenandoah Valley and Richmond. The Old Town historic district has retained a charming small town feel.

The small Manassas Museum contains a wealth of information regarding the history and culture of Manassas and the Northern Virginia Region with displays of prehistoric tools, Civil War weapons, uniforms, railroad memorabilia, photographic collections, and more. One display highlights the very first peace rally in the US. It was held in Manassas in 1911, fifty years after the First Battle of Bull Run. Pres. William H. Taft commemorated the event with speeches. As part of the annual Fall Jubilee a Peace Jubilee was held bringing together Civil War Veterans, both Union and Confederate. As the guide, Margaret Binning explained, "They shook hands with one another symbolizing the end of animosity."

Exiting the museum a walkway leads to the rail station with a gallery of exhibits representing 150 years of railroad history in Manassas and continues to historic Old Town Manassas. Today the streets are lined with unique shops like the Kilted Nation offering kilts for every occasion. It is also home to the Candy Factory, now the Center for the Arts. And, not to miss is dining at one of the great restaurants like the Okras with a unique Louisiana menu.

From Manassas it is only a short train ride to DC and other great Virginia destinations. For more information check or call 800-432-1792.