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History beckons in Washington County, Maryland, home to Civil War battlefields

By Kaeli Conforti
May 2, 2022
Antietam Battlefield monument
A dramatic sunset behind an Antietam Battlefield monument - Credit: nps.gov

Western Maryland is home to some of the most beautiful places to go hiking in the eastern U.S., as well as three scenic byways — the Maryland Historic National Road Scenic Byway, The Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal Scenic Byway, and The Antietam Campaign Scenic Byway — all of which make terrific options for your next great summer road trip. In Washington County, you’ll find everything from historic homes and forts dating back to the early 18th century to battlefields and cemeteries telling the stories of those who helped change the course of the Civil War. Here’s where every history buff should visit on their next trip to this fascinating corner of the country.

Historic Civil War Battlefields

Antietam National Battlefield - nps
Antietam National Battlefield - Courtesy of nps.gov

Perhaps the most well-known historic site in Western Maryland, Antietam National Battlefield is where the bloodiest single-day battle in American history took place, with 23,000 soldiers losing their lives or wounded that fateful day on September 17, 1862. Along with Union victories at nearby Monocacy National Battlefield and South Mountain State Battlefield, the fighting helped turn the tide of the Civil War and led Lincoln to issue his Emancipation Proclamation, which happened a few days later on September 22, 1862.

While a number of events will be held over the weekend of September 17, 2022, to mark the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam (check the website) you can learn more about its significance and those who died there at the Newcomer House visitor center and pay your respects at the nearby Antietam National Cemetery. Stop by the Pry House Field Hospital Museum for a look at Civil War medicine, or for a unique take on the battle, hit the Antietam Creek Water Trail to visit a number of key sites by kayak or canoe.

Located just outside Boonsboro, South Mountain State Battlefield marks the site of Maryland’s first Civil War battle, which ended in a Union victory and essentially prevented a Confederate invasion. About 15 minutes away, pay your respects to the many journalists and artists killed while covering the Civil War at the War Correspondents Memorial Arch in Gathland State Park, built by George Alfred Townsend, himself a Civil War correspondent, in 1896.

Sites Dating Back to the Early 18th and 19th Centuries

Fort Frederick Living History 18thCenturyMarketFair_2 CREDIT Visit Hagerstown (1)
Fort Frederick Living History - Credit Visit Hagerstown

Nestled along the Potomac River and built in 1756 to protect early settlers during and after the French and Indian War, Fort Frederick was also used to hold British prisoners during the Revolutionary War. By 1860, the farmland that now makes up Fort Frederick State Park was owned by Nathan Williams, the second-richest free African American man in all of Washington County, who continued to grow and sell crops to both armies during the Civil War, all while helping slaves to escape through this part of Maryland. Learn more about the fort’s fascinating past, then stroll one of its scenic nature trails.

For a change in scenery and the chance to take on some of the area’s scenic hikes including a small section of the legendary Appalachian Trail, head to Washington Monument State Park. In 1827, Boonsboro residents constructed a massive 30-foot tall stone tower — the first-ever Washington Monument — in honor of our first president. Hike to check it out in person, then stop by the museum for more background information about its role in local history.

Learn more about Hagerstown’s German immigrant founder at the Jonathan Hager House Museum, where you can tour the home he constructed in 1739. What began as “Hager’s Fancy,” a frontier fort at the western edge of the Maryland colony that later served as a trading post, was purchased by the Washington County Historical Society in 1944 and opened as a museum in 1962. Today, you can visit the historic home and view its furnishings, preserved as they were during the property’s 18th-century heyday.

Black History Sites in Washington County

While slavery did play a significant part in the region’s history from the early 18th century until Maryland abolished it in 1864, Hagerstown is home to several Underground Railroad sites you can visit today. Read the historic markers along Jonathan Street to learn about the legacy of African Americans who helped put Hagerstown on the map, like Walter Harmon, a wealthy entrepreneur who built 37 houses, a bowling alley, a dance hall, and the Harmon Hotel, highlighted in The Green Book as one of the only accommodations open to Black travelers during segregation. It also happens to be where baseball legend and Hall of Famer Willie Mays stayed in 1950 when he played his first professional game with the Trenton Giants at Municipal Stadium.

Kennedy Farm House John Brown HQ CREDIT Visit Hagerstown.jpg
Kennedy Farm House John Brown HQ - Credit: Visit Hagerstown

Closer to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the Kennedy Farm was the staging area for abolitionist John Brown’s 1859 raid on the federal arsenal in Harper’s Ferry. Meant to help create a republic for fugitive slaves, the raid went on for three days but was ultimately unsuccessful. His followers, a mix of Black and white abolitionists, were captured or killed, while Brown himself was tried for treason and hanged a few months later. It did, however, instill a sense of fierce conflict between northerners and southerners regarding the practice of slavery that only intensified over the next two years until the start of the Civil War. Today, the John Brown Raid Headquarters is a National Historic Landmark, though it’s temporarily closed for restoration.

Also worth a look are two of Hagerstown’s oldest African American churches, the Asbury United Methodist Church, founded in 1818 (its current building dates to 1879, as it was rebuilt after a fire), and the Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in 1840. For more information about the region’s rich African American history and culture, head to the Doleman Black Heritage Museum, which houses a vast collection of photos, books, birth records, deeds of slave sales, paintings, sculptures, and other artifacts from the 19th and 20th centuries.

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An American Railroad Re-Awakens in Pennsylvania

An American, and certainly a Pennsylvanian, historical experience and adventure is about to awaken after years of hibernation. The East Broad Top Railroad (EBT) located in Orbisonia, PA and nestled in the rolling hills and farmlands in the central part of the state will start up train rides and historic railroad shop tours on May 6. The 150-year-old railroad is considered by the Smithsonian to be one of the best preserved examples of 19th century American narrow gauge railroads (the rails less than 4 feet apart so the trains, and everything is smaller than "standard" railroads) and industrial complexes in the country. It was already an antique when it was shut down in 1955; today is it a true treasure that far exceeds the trains and tracks. The EBT still has six narrow-gauge steam locomotives, each awaiting their turn for restoration, one of which is expected in the near future. Malkiewicz TrainStation - Courtesy The East Broad Top Railroad The East Broad Top is famous for being an authentic antique all steam engine railroad when it was shuttered in 1955, escaping the scrappers torch (the owner of the scrap company actually saved the entire railroad) and slumbering, running semi-regulary with steam engines (which are rumored to be back this year) and watched over, protected and preserved by "friends," railfans, and the community. This historical treasure was well guarded, preserved and kept safe for 70 years. In 2020 the non-for-profit EBT Foundation was formed and embarked on the ambitious plan to restore most of the entire line and inject funding and resources into the mountain-pass communities. Adjacent to the East Broad Top is the Rockhill Trolley Museum offering a significant collection of operating streetcars and trolleys from around the U.S. and the world. Malkiewicz TrolleyRide - Courtesy The East Broad Top Railroad So, if you are looking to discover a true treasure, a historical and adventure experience in a landscape less touched by the rushing, worried world, take a short train ride big on history and discovery on the East Broad Top before everyone else finds it. From May 6 through the end of the year, the renaissance of the East Broad Top can be experienced on a one-hour train ride in a vintage caboose, passenger car or even an open-air car. While the rail line is 30 plus miles long, trains in 2022 will travel on a nine-mile round-trip ride from the historic roundhouse and shops in Orbisonia to Colgate Grove and back. Prices begin at $20 for adults and $18 for children. Visit www.eastbroadtop.com for reservations and information.

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The Ultimate Guide to Western Maryland’s 3 Scenic and Historic Byways

There’s something for everyone in Washington County, Maryland, whether it’s your first trip or you keep returning to your favorite scenic nature trails over and over again. With summer just around the corner, now is the time to start planning your next great road trip. Located about three hours from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, or 90 minutes from Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, this particular part of the state is full of historic Civil War battlefields and scenic byways showcasing the area’s natural beauty. If you’re up for a memorable drive full of history, hiking trails, charming small towns, historic inns, wineries, breweries, and plenty of Americana, add these three scenic byways to your next Western Maryland road trip itinerary. The Maryland Historic National Road Scenic Byway Historic National Road - Credit: Scott Cantner While the entire Historic National Road reaches across six states from Baltimore, Maryland, to East St. Louis, Illinois, a large portion of Maryland’s stretch of it passes through Washington County, following Maryland Route 144 and US Route 40 Scenic (also called US Route 40 Alternate), which runs parallel to US Route 40 from Frederick to Hagerstown. As you drive on the scenic byway, built between 1811 and 1834 and dotted with historic sites, charming small towns, and stunning natural scenery, it’s not hard to imagine early American settlers and traders traveling along the same route in their horse-drawn carriages. Popular stops within Washington County include Washington Monument State Park, where you can hike a small section of the legendary Appalachian Trail and view the first stone monument ever created in honor of George Washington, and South Mountain State Park, which is located nearby and part of a popular migratory trail. Visit the National Road Museum in Boonsboro to learn more about US Route 40, the first federally funded highway in the U.S., and snap photos of the town’s charming 19th-century buildings. Nora Roberts fans can also make a pilgrimage to her beloved Turn the Page Bookstore and Café, where she still does the occasional book signing, or stay at the Inn BoonsBoro, a literary-themed bed and breakfast opened by the esteemed bestselling author and her husband in 2009. Head to Big Cork Vineyards for a glass of locally made wine or enjoy a meal at Old South Mountain Inn, known for its dining since 1732. Antietam Brewey - Credit: Scott Cantner Spend some time in Hagerstown, often referred to as the “Hub City” due to its location at the crossroads of several major trading routes — by land and water — and eventually, because of its many modern-day railway and highway connections. If you’re craving a little culture on your road trip, visit the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts or catch a show at The Maryland Theatre, where the Maryland Symphony Orchestra is based. Stroll along the Hagerstown Cultural Trail, which connects the theatre district with the fine arts museum in City Park. Just a 10-minute drive from downtown Hagerstown, Antietam Brewery is worth a stop for its creative craft brews, tasting room, behind-the-scenes tours, and outdoor patio, while Blue Mountain Wine Crafters in nearby Funktown offers a dog-friendly stop for lovers of all things vino. Next, head west to Ford Frederick State Park in Big Pool, home to a unique stone fort that dates back to 1756 and once protected Maryland during the French and Indian War — it’s also home to several hiking trails where you can spot white-tailed deer, birds, turtles, and other wetland wildlife. Nearby, seafood lovers can tuck into crab cakes, crab legs, oyster po’boys, and other surf and turf delights like prime rib and smoked beef brisket sandwiches at Jimmy Joy’s Log Cabin Inn — just make sure you save room for homemade coconut cake or Queen City Creamery frozen custard for dessert. Other places worth checking out along the scenic byway include the Town Hill Overlook in Little Orleans and, just beyond Washington County’s boundaries, Rocky Gap State Park in Flintstone, the Great Allegheny Passage (which starts in Cumberland, Maryland and ends in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and charming small towns like Cumberland, Frostburg, and Grantsville, gateway to Casselman River Bridge State Park. If you’re short on time, consider breaking up your Maryland Historic National Road Scenic Byway road trip by interest or section, as its Eastern and Western portions extend well beyond Washington County and cover all sorts of historic sites, quaint country towns, and other intriguing attractions. The Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal Scenic Byway Lockhouse on C&O Canal near Cushwa Basin - Credit: Betsy DeVore Travel along the C&O Canal Scenic Byway from Cumberland to Hagerstown and points beyond via several Maryland routes (65, 63, 68, 56, 51, and 144, as well as I-70 and US 40), following the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal National Historic Park, an extensive 184.5-mile waterway connecting Washington, D.C. with Cumberland, Maryland. The C&O Canal Towpath runs alongside it, acting as a major destination for runners, cyclists, and anyone in need of a long walk by the Potomac River. If you prefer a paved path, the adjacent Western Maryland Rail Trail, which runs 28 miles between Big Pool and Little Orleans, makes a great option for those longing to stretch their legs. While Williamsport is a major center of activity along the C&O Canal Scenic Byway, with opportunities to check out the inner workings of the lock during a 1900s-era boat ride or by spending the night in a traditional lockhouse, there are a few other spots worth visiting along the canal as well. In Hancock, grab a bite or pick up some locally made souvenirs at The Blue Goose Market, home to a popular bakery, then stop by the visitor center to learn more about the town’s history beside the busy canal system. Get some fresh air by taking a hike in the Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area, home to some of the area’s oldest geology, as well as songbirds, white-tailed deer, black bears, grouse, and wild turkeys. If time allows, hike up to Paw Paw Tunnel, which takes you up from the campground through a pitch-black tunnel (don’t forget to bring a flashlight!) so you can view waterfalls on the other side. If you’ve managed to work up an appetite after all that, head to Buddy Lou’s Antiques and Eats for delicious Southern-style treats like fried green tomatoes, mac and cheese, and crabcake sandwiches. Another popular canal town, Sharpsburg, is known for its proximity to Antietam National Battlefield and for being part of its own scenic byway. The Antietam Campaign Scenic Byway Antietam Old Simon Civil War Soldier - Credit Scott Cantner Think of the Antietam Campaign Scenic Byway as the ultimate open-air Civil War museum, taking visitors from White’s Ferry along several Maryland Routes — 107 and 109 to Hyattstown, 355 to Frederick, US Route 40 Alternate to Middletown, 17 to Gathland State Park, 67 to Knoxville, 340 to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and US Route 40 Alternate — through Middletown and Boonsboro to Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg. Popular stops include historic White’s Ferry, C&O Canal National Historical Park (which we just talked about), and Little Bennett Regional Park in Hyattstown. Next, you’ll hit Monocacy National Battlefield in Frederick, where the fighting raged on and essentially saved Washington, D.C. from a Confederate invasion, Gathland State Park, home to a large stone monument created to honor Civil War correspondents, and South Mountain State Battlefield, which helped turn the tide of the war in favor of the Union. Antietam Battlefield - Credit: National Park Service The scenic byway ends at its most well-known stop, Antietam National Battlefield, where on September 17, 1862, roughly 23,000 soldiers were killed in what is now known as the bloodiest single-day battle in American history — check the website, as there will be special events held over the weekend of September 17, 2022, to mark the 160th anniversary. All year long, you can learn about the battle and those who fought and died there at the visitor center, hear about Civil War medicine at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum, and reflect on the lives that were lost at Antietam National Cemetery. Raise a glass to history and those who came before at Antietam Creek Vineyards, also located in Sharpsburg, offering several locally made vintage white, red, and rosé wines and views of the nearby battlefield. CARD WIDGET HERE

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Love Golf? Here are the 10 Best Cities for Golf

There are many ways to enjoy the game of golf. Sprawling country club courses. Popular urban courses. Curses at vacation resorts with various themes. Courses on the shore and courses in the desert, old courses and new. You can play yourself or watch the tour professionals take their swings. Golf is a game for young and old, for the wealthy golf tourist and the local course hackers. And courses are found in every corner of the nation and in nearly every city, seasonal and year-round. But of all of these, which are the best cities for golf in the nation? For every city that offers golfers a first tee and a 19th hole, apartmentguide.com counted every public course and cross-referenced each with Golf Digest's list of the top 100 public courses in the U.S. (2017-2018 ). These 10 spots are the best for golf. 10. Bend, OR What goes better together than golf and beer? Not much. The central Oregon town of Bend has plenty of both. The city of nearly 100,000 features just 13 public courses, fewer than many other cities on this list. But three of those are ranked among Golf Digest's 70 best public courses.9. Pinehurst, NC Pinehurst is a small village in North Carolina between Charlotte and Fayetteville. The population is just 13,000. But this unassuming town in a relatively mundane forested inland region is home to one of the nation's most renowned golf resort complexes.8. Hilton Head Island, SCGolf Green with Lake-Hilton Head, SC - Credit: IStock - William Reagan Just north of Savannah, GA, is the swampy South Carolina island of Hilton Head. The Low Country destination features a dozen miles of Atlantic beach and an abundance of natural wetlands, preserves and inlets filled with wildlife. The island is home to many species of alligators, sea turtles, dolphins and manatees.7. Monterey, CA Tucked into the gentle cove at the south end of Monterey Bay, at the tip of the Monterey Peninsula, is beautiful Monterey, CA. Protected from the ocean by Point Pinos, ocean breezes and lagoon tides create pristine beaches, agreeable surf and placid weather.6. Palm Desert, CA The city of Palm Desert, CA, is rather accurately named. It's a gateway between the San Jacintos' sunny green forest and the Joshua Tree desert. Its position at the heart of Coachella Valley along I-10 makes its weather perfect for outdoor recreation. Particularly golf.5. Myrtle Beach, SCMyrtle Beach golf course in South Carolina - Credit: IStock - andykazie Beautiful Myrtle Beach, SC, is a sandy, oceanside resort city attractive to beachgoers, outdoor enthusiasts, spring breakers, club hoppers and retirees alike. The jewel of the Grand Strand attracts 20 million visitors yearly to its nearly 2,000 restaurants, 425 hotels, dozen theaters and top-ranked boardwalk. Little wonder it is continuously one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the country.4. Kohler, WI When you think of golf paradises, Sheboygan, WI, isn't usually the spot that comes to mind. Even less likely, take a short four-mile jog to the west and you wind up in the village of Kohler. Kohler is a small company town — home to the well-known plumbing corporation — with a population of just 2,100. And this company town has just two public golf complexes, with two courses each.3. Scottsdale, AZ The most public golf courses of any city in the west belong to the desert city of Scottsdale, AZ. The fifth-largest city in the state features 133 public golf courses. Some are traditional green fairway courses lined with sod or non-native grass, and some feature acres of tricky dirt and sand as rough. Many feature unique designs built into the Sonoran Desert and McDowell Mountains landscape.2. Naples, FL If it's a variety you're looking for, look no further than Naples, FL. The name of the game in this gulf coast city is volume. For a population of just 20,000, the city offers 155 courses, the most for any city overall. It's no wonder that Naples bills itself as the “Golf Capital of the World."1. Bandon, ORBandon Dunes Golf Resort - Credit: IStock - Matt De Sautel Looking for the No. 1 golf destination in the country? The hole-in-one city for golf is the Oregon coastal town of Bandon. The isolated town lies about a half-hour south of Coos Bay and 90 miles north of the California border along the 101. To read the full results click here.

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Discover USA: Bloomington, Indiana

Join Budget Travel as we continue our new series Discover USA. Discover USA explores states, counties, cities, and everything in between. Each week we will explore a new US destination to help you find things to do, itinerary ideas, and plan where to go next. This week, we invite you to Discover what Bloomington, Indiana has to offer. Bloomington a well-known college town, home to the prestigious Indiana University, and a mecca for great restaurants. However, this charming Midwestern city has a whole lot more to offer. Culinary Bloomington is a mecca for global cuisine. Turkish, Tibetan, Venezuelan, Burmese, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Chinese, French, Japanese—if you can find it on a globe, you can find it in Bloomington. Bloomington boasts 350+ restaurants where diners can find everything from gourmet hotdogs in an underground dive bar filled with pinball machines and traditional mo-mo’s at the Midwest’s best Tibetan restaurant to ethically sourced coffee shops and all-vegan bakeries. Family-owned & operated by a Tibetan refugee and former monk, Anyetsang’s Little Tibet is one of 4th Street’s most popular restaurants — the Dalai Lama himself once dined there during a visit to Bloomington. Prayer flags adorn the restaurant’s patio and interior, along with many photos, artwork, and other mementos celebrating Tibetan culture. Irish Lion - Courtesy visitbloomington.com Originally designed as an inn and pub in 1882, The Irish Lion is one of the oldest buildings in Bloomington — several architectural features, including the double doors and surrounding woodwork at the entrance, are original to the building. Its 1800s-style mahogany bar, ornate copper ceiling, and welcoming tavern ambiance offer what feels like an authentic Irish pub experience right here in B-Town. Upland Brewing Company is an accumulation of all the best things about Bloomington: progressive ideas, community, imagination, innovation, and bold flavors, all of which are evident in their beer, food, and brewery atmosphere. One of B-Town’s O.G. brewpubs, Upland is now a nationally-revered beer brand and beloved food destination at its many locations across the state. Here are some more of Bloomington's most iconic restaurants. Arts and Culture Musical Arts Center - Courtesy visitbloomington Bloomington's culture is comprised of a wonderfully eclectic mix of Midwestern values, international influences, intellectual pursuits, and spiritual exploration. Those elements are represented across the city and campus at places like the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, Lilly Library, Monroe County History Center, 4th Street, and more. Perhaps because of the unique, blended culture, or in conjunction with it, Bloomington has also developed into an artistic haven. There's a high concentration of artists and an even higher concentration of people who appreciate & support the arts. That’s why you’ll find live music nearly every night of the year, public art painting the streets in vibrant colors, world-class theater & dance performances at some of the nation's leading venues, and galleries filled with work by local & national artists. Explore the country's only Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center with self-guided walking tours, meditation classes, stay in an on-sight Yurt (no TVs, electronics). Then enjoy the only restaurant in the U.S. dedicated to Tibetan food in the U.S. (Founded by Dalai Lama's brother in 1970s, Dali Lama has private apartment there). Courtesy visitbloomington.com Little 500, a big event. Indiana University's Little 500 is the largest collegiate bike race in the United States, widely known as "The World's Greatest College Weekend" — more than 25,000 people travel to Bloomington each year to watch the race and participate in the week's festivities. In the past, Lance Armstrong, former Bachelor & IU alum Ben Higgins, and former President Barack Obama have attended the race. The Little 500 has even gotten recognition on the silver screen: Breaking Away (1979) is an Academy Award-winning film about the race. It's a truly iconic event. This year’s event takes place April 22 & 23. Cream & Crimson – spend a day at the famous Indiana University, one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country full of experiences that are open (and many free) to guests such as the Lilly Library which holds millions of cultural & literary artifacts that document some of humanity's highest achievements including a New Testament of the Gutenberg Bible, the First Folio of Shakespeare's works, over 30,000 comics donated by Batman producer, Michael Uslan, the first printed edition of The Canterbury Tales, George Washington's letter accepting the presidency of the United States, typescripts from many of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, four of John Ford's Oscars, Thomas Jefferson's personal copy of the Bill of Rights, 94 of Sylvia Plath's poems, and so much more. Reach more about Bloomington’s Arts & Culture scene here. Explore the Outdoors Nature preserves, lakes, trails, caves, and more. While there's an abundance of adventure to be had in the city, Bloomington's nature offerings provide a different sort of wanderlust fulfillment that's just as worthy of your attention. Courtesy visitbloomington.com Become a water bug for the day at Monroe Lake — Indiana’s largest land-bound body of water and offers camping, swimming, fishing, hiking, boating and beaching. Rent a pontoon and laze under the sun, paddle around the perimeter of the lake in a kayak, or dip your toes in at the beach. Cast your fishing line from the shores of Griffy Lake, or see what you can catch as you float along in a canoe. Lace up your hiking boots and venture the rolling hills & abundance of trails at Morgan-Monroe State Forest and Yellowwood State Forest. If mountain biking is more your speed, head out to Wapehani Mountain Bike Park to tear up some dirt on two wheels. For a more challenging & thrilling ride, try some of the rugged trails at the Hoosier National Forest. Take the family to any of our fantastic outdoor parks for a day full of fun. Bryan Park is a favorite during the summer months due to its outdoor pool & waterslides, and the fully-accessible playground at Lower Cascades Park is a must for every child. Regardless of the outdoor adventure you choose, Bloomington's natural beauty is sure to impress and leave you coming back for more. Just 30 minutes from downtown Bloomington and the Indiana University campus resides Indiana's only national forest. Comprised of over 200,000 acres, tens-of-thousands of which are found in Monroe County, and Indiana’s only wilderness area, the Charles C. Deam Wilderness, the Hoosier National Forest offers a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of life, as well as a slew of nature activities to enjoy during any season. CARD WIDGET HERE

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