• Story by Laura Wormuth | Photos by Caroline J.

Treat Yourself, Mid-Shore Style


Linden Spa at the Inn at Perry Cabin / Photo Courtesy of Belmond

Traditional Valentine’s Day celebrations are sweet and wonderful — flowers and candies, romantic candlelight, and fancy drinks — but if you’re looking to treat yourself to a unique experience, look no further than your own backyard.

The Mid-Shore offers ample opportunities to treat yourself to something a little more adventurous than dinner and dancing. This year, get creative and do something different — get out and about with these exclusive activities around the area.

Treat Yourself to a Challenge

Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely is a smorgasbord of original experiences. Push your boundaries and head out to the Tuckahoe Challenge Course and zipline.

The challenge course has several obstacles designed to push your physical and mental limits.

“It’s challenge by choice, so we encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and push their limits a bit, but we don’t make you do anything,” says Erin Morton, a ranger with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “You can stop at any point — you don’t have to make it to the top, you don’t have to climb back down.”

The course, which was built in the 1990s with a grant from the Caroline County Health Department, a community grant and tobacco restitution funds, originally was part of the “Take the drug free trail” statewide initiative, said Jessica Conley, park assistant manager at Tuckahoe. When groups come to use the challenge course, “we talk about that feeling you get, that adrenaline rush, that natural high when you do this,” Conley said.

Several obstacles make up the course, including a giant swing, a low ropes course, a pamper pole, rock wall, tube cargo net, and a zipline. All the obstacles are manned by trained staff, who must be on site during use of the course — groups of eight or more can reserve the course for three- or four-hour time blocks, Morton said, and can be used by anyone from Scouts, school students, and corporate entities, to birthday parties, family reunions, or just a gathering for you and your friends.

The experience is better if you have a team, although many of the obstacles can be done individually. If you don’t have a team, you can participate in the challenge course on public Family Fun Days, scheduled throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

The giant swing and low ropes course are designed as team activities, Morton said. “They promote team building and camaraderie,” she said.

To take a ride on the giant swing, a participant is hoisted up by their friends to the full 60 feet, or to wherever they feel comfortable swinging from.

“If you only want to go to 20 feet off the ground, you won’t swing as high as someone who goes up to the full 60 feet, but you still get to participate,” Morton said.

While the swing is reminiscent of childhood memories, the pamper pole is more implicative of a circus aerial act. After climbing up a 25-foot pole, much like a telephone pole, to a slightly wobbly, spinning platform, participants are asked to jump out (just a few feet) to a hanging trapeze. But don’t worry if you miss, trained personnel are there to hold you aloft with cables attached to a waist and chest harness, and then gently guide you to the ground.

“You don’t have to worry about any of the obstacles,” Conley said. “You won’t fall and hurt yourself.”

Overcoming that fear is the mental challenge of the course.

The same is true for the rock wall. Forty feet in height, the wall looks quite high and a little intimidating from the ground, but standing at the top gives you a whole new perspective. It can accommodate two climbers at a time, and climbers do not need to be experienced to try it, Morton said. You can climb at your own pace, to whatever height you’re comfortable with. If you can’t make it to the top (or don’t want to), like the pamper pole, the staff safely lowers you to the ground with cables attached to your harness.

“Everybody has different goals, and that’s one of the things we talk about is goal-setting” Conley said. “One person’s goal might just be to do the lower section of the wall, while another person’s might be to get all the way to the top and over, and both goals are okay — it’s just that you tried.”

On the back side of the rock wall, a tube cargo net hangs from the upper platform. Older generations probably remember climbing swaying cargo nets in elementary school gym classes, and while this is the same idea, it is a tube, so there is net on all sides of you.

While both the rock wall and the cargo net are quite an upper body workout, it’s worth some burning shoulder muscles to get to the top, because that’s where you hook up to the zipline. Forty feet high and 150 feet long, the zipline is a fast, fun ride back to the ground.

If you’re not so physically inclined to push your boundaries, Tuckahoe also offers 15 miles of multiuse trails, 1,000 acres for hunting, a disc-golf course and an on-site aviary for native birds deemed unreleasable back into nature.

For more information on the challenge course, Family Fun Day dates, scheduling an event, or participating in a public activity day, visit http://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/eastern/tuckahoe.aspx or call 410-820-1668.

Treat Yourself to an Adventure

If you’re looking for excitement without the physical challenge, take a trip to the Massey Aerodrome in Kent County to experience high-flying adventure, up in the air above the Maryland countryside (and even find some pretty cool stuff on the ground).

Pilots at the aerodrome give glider and biplane rides, weather dependent, of course, by appointment only, said Bob Dierker, local glider pilot and part owner of the aerodrome. Ideal weather conditions for cruising the sky include a “clear day with 10 miles per hour or less winds, and a good positive attitude,” Dieker said.

A glider, or sailplane, is aerodynamically designed for gliding on air currents through a slow descent to the ground. There is no engine or even a communications device. Those wishing to request a glider ride are urged to call at least a month in advance for logistical reasons.

“The biggest issue is that I have to schedule a tow pilot,” Dierker said. “Not just anyone can tow, and even if they could, we’re kind of particular. We’re very dependent on each other because we’re connected by a 200-foot rope and we have to understand exactly what the other one is going to be doing.”

The tow plane pulls the glider up into the air to the predetermined altitude, typically about 3,000 feet, and then the glider detaches and turns opposite of the plane.

A typical ride can last about 20 to 25 minutes, Dierker said. “It’s just me and mother nature, so it depends on how nice she’s going to be to me that particular day.”

Dierker can ride air currents created by thermals (uprising air created by differential heating of the land).

“I look for the eagles and buzzards, and wherever they’re congregating and circling — that’s the air pocket I want to be in,” he said. “There’s nothing better than being in a thermal … and you look around and there’s a bald eagle going right around with you.”

When giving a glider ride, Dierker sits in the back and the other person sits in the front in a nice big bubble canopy.

“They can look around and see everything,” he said. “In the summer, it’s really nice because you’re in this nice big bubble and it’s like a little greenhouse.”

Dierker, who has been a flight instructor for 46 years, also allows flyers to take the controls while in the air. “I let them understand how responsive it is, what they can do, why it does what it does,” he said. And once the descent to the landing strip begins, Dierker takes the controls back to land the glider safely.

Biplane rides are a little different because they have engines. Participants still are encouraged to take the controls while in the air, but because they are open cockpits, the weather must be warm and clear to fly.

One of the nice things about the glider rides, as opposed to the biplane rides, is there is no engine to make noise, and you can talk in the cockpit without yelling.

“It is very peaceful,” Dierker said. “Once I get rid of the tow plane and veer off to the right, I slow down and it’s nice and quiet.”

It’s possible to find other glider pilots on the Eastern Shore and beyond, but packages tend to be pricey, Dierker said. He tries to keep his prices lower so everyone can afford to come to Massey.

“I want people to be able to experience this,” he said. “I get to expose people to it, and I have a great time flying.”

On the ground, patrons also can experience the high-flying lifestyle, with a tour around the Massey Air Museum, a nonprofit promoting grassroots aviation. Staff offer tours of the museum and hangers, as well as walks on the DC-9 — a twin engine jet airliner on the 92-acre airfield.

Spring also brings many public events, like the Chili Fly-in in May. Come get a feel for the aerodrome before requesting a ride.

For more information on the Massey Aerodrome, the museum, or any of the aerodrom's services, visit http://masseyaero.org/.

Treat Yourself to Luxury

Linden Spa at the Inn at Perry Cabin / Photo Courtesy of Belmond

If finding adventure isn’t really your thing, the Mid-Shore offers plenty of opportunities for local extravagance.

Spend a day at the Linden Spa at the Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels and experience luxury with an Eastern Shore feel.

“We want to appeal to all of the senses,” said Kay Arroufi, spa director. “We’re not pretentious or fussy, we keep it quaint.”

Indeed, walking into the spa, there is an immediate feeling of down-home comfort, mixed with a relaxing opulence, from the essence of fresh botanicals and essential oils, to the quiet Native music lilting drums and pan flutes into the atmosphere.

“Everything is designed to be therapeutic,” Arroufi said, including the spa's line of organic products intended as a way to continue your therapy once you’ve left the spa.

The spa hosts a wide array of services, including an exercise room, a steam room, and an apothecary where staff hand mix their own blends of oils and botanicals based on each client’s needs and wishes. There also is a couple’s therapy room and a relaxation room, which is furnished with comfortable high-back recliners overlooking the spa garden.

“We try to provide synergistically complimentary services,” Arroufi said, “all focused on wellness and well-being.”

Linden Spa underwent a refacing — changing and expanding services and products, as well as an early consultation to customize the experience to each individual. For example, the spa replaced hot stone therapy with salt stone therapy. Not only do the Himalayan salt stones help draw out toxins and impurities while adding iodine to your system, they also relate more to the Eastern Shore ambiance.

“We want this to be an escape from and an escape to,” Arroufi said. When patrons come to the spa, they are typically on vacation or looking to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of our hectic lives, she said. “It’s sacred time — very limited time. How do you create an environment to give people that ahhh feeling within that limited time?” Arroufi asked.

Even if you’re not on vacation, you should take advantage of the peace of mind and meditative feeling Linden Spa can provide. Indeed, the spa offers a loyalty program for locals who want to experience the Zen-like aura of Linden Spa.

To learn more about services or to schedule a consultation, visit PerryCabin.com.

Treat Yourself to Decadence

If you’re more of a stay-in kind of person and your idea of the holiday of love remains traditional, you still can get a little adventurous — try tempting your tastebuds with local wine and chocolates — a perfect way to spend any Valentine’s Day.

Tucked away in southern Dorchester County, Layton’s Chance Winery offers a tasting room, set on 14 acres of scenic vineyards, as well as vineyard and winery tours. According to its website, the tasting room is open daily, and the winery also offers a large outdoor picnic area, and a nature trail.

With about two dozen varieties of wines, Layton’s Chance has something to tantalize even the most discerning palate.

Or, you can stop by Chesapeake Chocolates in Stevensville to find one of the finest selections of gourmet chocolates to pair with your local wine. Their decadent treats have an Eastern Shore flair, including milk chocolate-, white chocolate-, and dark chocolate-shaped crabs and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers.

With adorable gift baskets, Chesapeake Chocolate has a sweet treat for vacationers and locals alike.

Learn more about Layton’s Chance wines at www.laytonschance.com, and find all of your local chocolate goodies at www.chesapeakechocolates.com.

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