by Julie Reardon
It’s not winter yet, but the chilly nights and early sunsets remind us it’s just around the corner. Fortunately even this close to winter there are plenty of mild days, fall colors and time to enjoy yourself before the rush of the holiday season and the shortest day of the year arrive next month. So, take a mini vacation or a Sunday afternoon (who cares about the Redskins these days?) and take in any or all of these adventures.
Saddle up cowgirls and cowboys and take a scenic tour of the countryside on one of the well trained trail horses at the Rocking S Ranch near Winchester, www.therockingsranch.com 540-678-8501. Starting at $50 an hour, you can ride on trails once used by Union and Confederate cavalry during the Civil War in the northern Shenandoah Valley. With our warm fall and lack of rain, leaf peeping has been delayed and prime color should last well into November. Marriott Ranch in Hume also offers leisurely trail rides suitable for beginners on quiet, well trained trail horses with experienced trail guides on the ranch’s 4,200 acres in the Blue Ridge starting at $55 per person for guided rides. Faster-paced rides are also available for more experienced riders. For both, advance reservations are required; check the website for details. www.marriottranch.com
Deer hunting is perhaps the single most important tool for management of Virginia’s exploding white tail deer population; and venison is the quintessential organic meat: lean and tasty. Virginia’s firearms deer season in our area is Nov. 14 – Jan. 2. Locally, the Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries maintains several good wildlife management areas open to public hunting, including Merrimac Farm, 300 acres in Prince William county; C.F. Phelps, 4,540 acres on the Rappahannock in southern Fauquier County near Remington; Weston, 265 acres near Warrenton; Thompson, 3,963 hilly acres near Delaplane in northwest Fauquier County; and Rapidan, 10,327 acres in Madison County near Culpeper.
You can find your game by clicking on www.HuntFishVA.com . Hunting packages are available if you don’t have time to scout an area; the Marriott Ranch in Hume offers hunters packages including tree stands in prime areas and even overnight stays in quaint hunting cabins in November and December with all the legwork done for you—visit their website http://www.marriottranch.com for details. No more than 8 hunters are allowed at a time on the 4,200 acres so book early.
If you enjoy star gazing as much as leaf peeping, Sky Meadows State Park just outside of Upperville in Fauquier County at 11012 Edmunds La., Delaplane offers a chance to see the stars and space objects through large telescopes on November 23rd starting at 4:30 p.m. at the park’s Astronomy for Everyone event. In partnership with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club and the Albert Einstein Planetarium, the evening offers a great way to see the stars and space objects without all the urban light pollution of the D.C. metro area. There’s even a junior astronomer event for kids starting at 4:30. The event is free; parking is $5. For information, call 540/592-3556 or visit www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/sky-meadows
Although the farmers markets in our area typically shut down in November, the Archwood Green Barns will remain open Sunday afternoons until November 24th. A worthy destination itself, it’s also right off I66 just 8 miles west of Haymarket so easily accessed going to or from points west. It’s also one of the few markets that is worth a visit on a rainy day since most of the vendor stalls are located inside the historic converted horse barns. More than just produce, you can find organic and wholesome home grown Virginia goods for a eek of healthful meals and artisan gift items. You can ask all the questions you like as the people selling the items are the ones that made them, since this is a producer-only market. You’ll find fruits, vegetables, baked goods, goat cheese, meats (fresh and frozen) to make your own locavore meal. Besides the hard to find local items you’ve been looking for, you’ll find items you never expected, too including orchids, olive oil, coffee, gourds, quilted specialties and homemade rustic wood furniture. You can find a list of vendors and what they sell on their website www.archwoodgreenbarns.com; open Sundays in November from 10 am until 3 pm. Don’t miss out, after November 24th it will not reopen until May. 4557 Old Tavern Rd., The Plains (right off I66 exit 31).