Return to Sunny Maple

I recently had a chance to return to Ole Mink Farm Resort when I discovered the Ft Ritchie duathlon I had entered was located only about 20 minutes away. Last time we stayed there it was winter time and I thought I would add/update my review.

In case you missed it, here was my review from last winter: https://mdracereviews.com/2013/11/12/sunny-maple-ole-mink-farm-resort/

The most important things remained unchanged for me. It was still peaceful, restful, quiet, tranquil up there at Ole Mink Farm. There are more people up there this time of year at the various campers/cabins and motor homes, but I still thought it was just the right level of isolation for me. They still allow for pets in some of the cabins and it is important to me that we can bring Denver (aka Big Buddy).

Enjoying the outdoor

Enjoying the outdoor

The owners, the Irons family, were amazingly friendly, just like the last time we stayed with them. They give you a package of delicious cookies on check-in and ensure you know the lay of the land. Here are two examples of how they bent over backwards to help us:

  1. Last visit we had pizza delivered late at night and because they have a security gate the pizza guy could not get on to the resort. The owner paid for our food and brought it to our cabin (where we paid him back).
  2. This visit we arrived to the office/general store right after they closed, but the owner came out and let us in to pick up a few essentials (candy) without a grumble.

None of this is news if you read my last review. Here are some new items from our most recent stay:

Some items that were closed in the winter were open. We got to try out the pool. The pool is pretty big and has some funky sloped sides (the girls used them as makeshift slides into the pool). They also had a ton of those water noodles, and a beach ball you could play with. The pool never got overly crowded and the people we met were all very friendly and outgoing.

Headed to the pool

Headed to the pool

The girls also subjected Denver to the dog washing station. I don’t know how they lured him into the elevated wash tub but he came back smelling fresh (wet dog fresh) and wagging his tail. Denver also met some new friends in the dog run. He always approves of a stay at Old Mink Farm.  It is very convenient and appreciated to be able to travel with your pet.

Sunny Maple itself had undergone some big changes. The dated kitchen was refurbished and included new cabinets, flooring, lighting and counter tops. They were some really nice touches. I was concerned that the cabin might be too hot in the summer but the AC and fans kept the place nice and cool. I am tempted to try a different cabin when we visit next, but we have such a wonderful time at Sunny Maple I can’t imagine finding a better choice.

 

S'mores by the campfire

S’mores by the campfire

In addition to the plentiful activities at the resort, there are some nearby attractions that you might want to try out including: Catoctin Zoo and Wildlife Preserve (the Wildlife Safari is worth the price of admission), Cunningham Falls State Park, and numerous other hiking trails.

Bison feeding at the zoo

Bison feeding at the zoo

The Irons family is celebrating 50 years in business in 2014. I am not surprised at their success based on their customer service and beautiful location. I wish them the best and 50 more years of prosperity.

http://oleminkfarm.com/

http://cwpzoo.com/

http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/western/cunningham.aspx

 

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Easy Does It Ranch

The Family

The Family

We went to Sandbridge, Virginia (the southern part of Virginia Beach) for vacation this year and I knew my daughter would be thrilled if we could incorporate some type of equine activity into the week.  She has recently started taking lessons and had 2 weeks of horseback riding camp this summer. A quick Google search brought us to the Easy Does it Ranch in Virginia Beach.  It offered trail rides and was only 15 minutes down the road from our vacation rental.  Perfect!

The Easy Does it Ranch Missions Statement:

“We are dedicated to giving second chances to horses of all kinds who have suffered through starvation, abandonment, abuse and neglect. Our mission is to love and heal! The horses that come into our facility have a forever home here and will never have to worry about missing a meal or being left out in the cold. They are all spoiled and given the utmost care. Our staff is educated and trained to their full ability to make sure these horses have the care they deserve. It is a family atmosphere out at the ranch, where we allow people from all around to experience these great animals and see how much love and they give to us in return. We want to show the world how horses are creatures of passion, knowledge, care, and affection, whose friendship is greater than ever imagined. We need help and donations to be able to support our new and incoming family of horses and this is where you can play your part! Support our great efforts by taking a trail ride or by contributing a tax-deductible donation to the Pungo Equine Rescue and Rehab.”

 

Kay and Maverik

Kay and Maverick

 

I didn’t see an option to make a reservation online so I called the phone number provided on the website. I got to speak with Malinda, who operates the Easy Does It Ranch. Malinda was very personable on the phone and you could tell she was very passionate about her horses. She told me about their Back Bay Trail Rides which consisted of an 1.5 hour trail ride and featured a dip for the horses and riders in the Back Bay.   We made a reservation over the phone for a Tuesday morning trail ride for my wife and daughter. I was hoping that a morning ride would be cooler and hopefully less likely to be cancelled due to rain/weather.

I called the day before to confirm the time and what the girls would need for their ride. The ride was scheduled to start at 0800 and Malinda suggested older sneakers for the ride (they are gonna get wet).  Everything else you could need was provided.

They loved it…

Into Back Bay

Into Back Bay

They arrived about 15 minutes early for the 0800 appointment. Malinda was just finishing up getting the horses ready. My daughter rode Maverick and my wife rode Pungo. They walked down a combination of trails and roads until they got to the centerpiece of the ride – Back Bay. Malinda led all three out into the Bay and the horses got to play and enjoy the water.

This was the highlight for my wife and child. They said the horses were making moaning sounds because the loved being in the water so much. Pungo loved blowing bubbles under the water and Maverick spent time trying to splash everyone. Malinda talked about the horses, their histories, and different personalities while they strolled around the Bay. My wife said she is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the Ranch and her horses.

Frolicking in the bay

Frolicking in the bay

After the ride was over, they got to give the horses some treats and Malinda took the time to hug Meredith and Kay and thank them for coming. Her staff took a ton of pictures for us to enjoy and remember the special day.

Bottom Line – My daughter was looking forward to this more than anything else on her vacation and she came back thrilled. She loved her time with the horses and the opportunity to ride them into the bay. I honestly know very little about horses, but I do know a happy 10-year-old when I see one. She would love to go back next time we stay in Sandbridge and that is probably the best endorsement I can give.

End of the Road

End of the Road

http://www.easydoesitranch.net/

3581 Muddy Creek Road
Virginia Beach, VA 23456
Ranch Office: (757) 721-4646

 

 

Sunny Maple @ Ole Mink Farm Resort

I know that this site is primarily reviews of races in Maryland, but let’s be honest here:  I don’t have what anyone would consider to be a large reader following and  I also realize I can pretty much do what I want with this site.  Fire me if you don’t like it.

I have wanted to find a nice secluded cabin to stay in and get away from life in the Beltway.  I have been “camping” in the Army and that was not what I was looking for.  I wanted something away from the city lights but with some comforts (indoor plumbing was a must). I also wanted to bring my dog along since he usually gets left out and left behind.  It is easy to find a cabin, but not always easy to find one that is pet friendly.

I searched for a while and kept coming back to Ole Mink Farm Resort near Thurmont.  It is in Maryland and had pet friendly options. And it was reasonably priced. So I booked it and last weekend (Veteran’s Day weekend) we went. This is what we got:

Sunny Maple

Sunny Maple

It was just what I was hoping for.  It may not be as secluded as some people would like (there are other camp sites, RVs and cabins close by) but it was just what I was looking for.  Secluded without feeling like a horror movie set or Deliverance.

The owners were absolutely wonderful.  Very warm and inviting.  Double thumbs up for helping us get our food delivered to the cabin when the kids were too tired to head out to town for dinner.  They went WELL above and beyond what I would expect at any place I have ever stayed.

The cabin was warm and inviting just the like the owners.  It was 2 bedrooms, a kitchen/dining area and then a wonderful spot by the free-standing fireplace. If the weather was warmer we could have enjoyed the front deck and fire pit some more. If you didn’t want to lose touch with the rest of the world, they had some limited TV and descent (and free) Wi-Fi access.

We spent most of our time relaxing at the cabin.  My daughter brought her best pal so they spent their time walking the dog and going on mini hikes.  When they got tired we had tons of games to play and keep them amused. Most importantly we had S’mores by the campfire every night.  That was a big hit even though it dipped below freezing.  Personally I was content to sit by the indoor fireplace with my feet up and trusty canine by my side.

Denver doing what he does best

Denver doing what he does best

We did wander into town a little.  We found all of the local fast food places and learned if you need a Target or Wal-Mart it is 15 miles (if you forget to bring your own linens).  We meant to try some local restaurants, but the girls were too tired.

Halfway to the top

Halfway to the top

We also hiked a little in the Catoctin Mountains.  We hired a short trail near the resort called Falls Trail which took us to a nearby waterfall (go figure).  There were tons of other trails nearby but we had some pretty inexperienced hikers.  The falls and back was enough for us.

Just to tie in running with this post, I did run about 3 miles in the morning out Old Mink Farm Road and back.  There is one big hill out there which ate me for breakfast.  I did conquer the hill up to the cabin though.  The fresh clean air was confusing to my body which is used to more car emissions and general pollution when I run.

My "Artsy" Photo

My “Artsy” Photo

I was sad to leave on Sunday and missed the owners on our way out.  If we had seen them I would have told them that we had a wonderful time, I would suggest it to anyone looking to get away (especially with 4 legged friends) and I would love to go back if they would have me.—And I want one of those coffee mugs in the picture above.

The website: http://oleminkfarm.com/