Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Ramble in the Reeks

On Saturday I met up with a couple of other people to walk around Banshee Reeks, a nature preserve near Leesburg. This is a 725 acre area of woodlands, meadows and water that has plenty of trails for walking. I got lost getting there, as did my fellow hikers so made sure I dropped a pin in my GPS app to ensure I would find it again.
While waiting for Ken & Uma, I strolled around trying to keep out of the intense heat and humidity. I spotted some odd shapes by a stone wall and investigated. They appeared to be dead animals wrapped in wire and labeled. I had to get to the bottom of this and asked one of the volunteers working there who was wrapping up a cardinal as we chatted. Any critters that are found on the grounds are being treated this way so that they will decompose without larger animals taking them off, and then the skeletons that are left will be displayed in the visitor center. I hope they don't treat human casualties in the same manner!
Ken and Uma finally found their way to the preserve and we set off on our hike. The place is beautiful with so many plants, flowers and wildlife. I've never seen such well kept trails, it was like walking through a garden. The preserve is regarded as a hot spot for ornithologists and we certainly saw and heard plenty of our feathered friends. They do bird walks here which hopefully I'll be able to attend if I can ever get a free day on my calendar.
We walked along Goose Creek and Ken decided to take a dip. i didn't think it looked as clean as the Shenandoah and after being on the filthy Anacostia, I'm now a little apprehensive of river water. Uma declined also but we laughed with Ken as he frolicked in the water.
This place is a gem and I can't believe I've never come across it before, it's definitely one of Loudoun's best kept secrets, and thankfully has not yet been discovered by the huge hiker groups that swarm over NOVA, The Skyline Drive and Maryland in their droves. Here it is peaceful and calming and all the volunteers are welcoming, friendly and helpful. We were fortunate enough to have the trails to ourselves and even when we got back to the visitors' center we only came across another couple of folks.
We sat on the back porch admiring the view and quietness while we ate lunch. Ken had a drink which he insisted we try and immediately Uma and I were hooked. We wanted to buy some. Immediately! It was a cordial that needs to be diluted with water or any other drink and is made of elderberry and chokeberry Aronia). Ken had got it from a winery in Waterford, and so it was determined that we should all go to buy some. We had originally planned to carry on hiking but Uma was done with the heat and I was secretly pleased. I will definitely be back here to walk more trails when the weather cools a little.
We arrived at the winery and I recognized it from a previous visit but had not seen the Aronia tea mix before. The owner gave us a free wine tasting but had unfortunately run out of the wines I wanted. He sells them in 3 liter boxes and wouldn't have any more packaged until the following weekend. But he did have plenty of tea so we all bought 4 bottles each. After a while we all decided to head home and spend the rest of the afternoon lazily in the heat, and we chuckled as we all knew we'd be sitting and sipping on our delicious tea, which I discovered worked very well with a shot of vodka added!

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