Shenandoah Summer Escape

By Posted on Jun 23 2020 | By

In a time long, long ago—pre-COVID-19—getaways were predicated on finding time to escape. Today, that’s not so much an issue. Here’s a suggested getaway penned in the pre-pandemic era.    

Valley Life Beckons with Beauty, History, Pleasure

Shenandoah. The word falls softly on the ear, possessing a rich aural tone and conveying a sense of peaceful allure. It’s renown comes in identifying the Shenandoah Valley. Native Americans called the region “Daughter of the Stars.”

It’s fitting such a beautiful word bespeaks such a beautiful Valley. Travel the world, and people will knowingly nod at the sound of its name. “Ahh, the Shenandoah Valley. ‘Tis lovely.”

Indeed. And it belongs most closely to the citizens of Virginia. It’s our gift and reward for living in the Old Dominion. Yet how often do we visit this jewel that entrances so many? Not often enough. Summer is the time to deepen the embrace.

The Shenandoah Valley extends southwestward from Harpers Valley, West Virginia, encompassing nine counties in the Commonwealth for 150 miles and terminating at the James River. It is about 25 miles wide and centered by the Shenandoah River.

The main arterial highways are Interstate 81 and U.S. Route 11. The former speeds you through the Valley to destinations elsewhere, the latter gently slows your pace so you can explore more deeply the valley’s culture and history.

The Valley’s human history dates to 9,000 years ago and was later central to the expansion of our Nation from the early 1700s. Known as the breadbasket of the Confederacy during the Civil War, the fertile farmlands of the Shenandoah Valley provided abundant food to Southern soldiers and civilians.

Let’s Get Started
Choices abound on were to engage the Valley for an overnight stay. We are going to start in New Market and drive north to Woodstock, a mere 20 miles.

The cornucopia of things to see and do in this short distance reflects the Valley as a whole.

One could spend weeks exploring the length and breadth of the region.

The first decision is how to reach our starting destination of New Market. Consider avoiding Interstate 81 and rather travel from the eastern and northern parts of the state west through the towns of Warrenton and Luray.

You’ll delight in unmatched scenery and pass through the Shenandoah National Park before arriving at your destination.

From the south, travel U.S. Route 11 north, formerly known as the Valley Pike. The objective is to ease off the pedal and embrace the journey.
Our first stop of the day is the Virginia Museum of the Civil War just west of the town of New Market.

The dramatic-looking museum explores the Battle of New Market fought on May 15, 1864. Students from the Virginia Military Institute, some as young as 15-years- old, fought an intense battle here defeating Union Major General Franz Sigel. The 247 cadets were a pivotal force in the Confederate victory.

Allow at least two hours to view a movie, tour the extensive museum, and walk the grounds. A particularly touching part of the tour is the field of lost shoes. Many of the cadets lost their footwear during the battle in the freshly plowed soil that had turned to mud after heavy rains. Ten cadets were killed in the engagement.

Admission is $10, seniors $9 and youth ages 6-12 $6; wee ones are free.

Next is the Edinburgh Mill Museum, located 15 miles north of New Market as you continue on U.S. Route 11. The museum is the largest in Shenandoah County and is open year-round. It was a large grist mill built in 1848 and one of the few such structures that survived a military action known as “The Burning”.

In July 1864, General Ulysses Grant ordered his Army Chief of Staff Henry Halleck “to eat out Virginia clear and clean…so that crows flying over it for the balance of the season will have to carry their provender with them.”

For 13 days starting on September 26, 1864, General Philip Sheridan’s Union Army burned or destroyed over 2,000 barns and outbuildings and confiscated thousands of horses, cattle, and sheep. For generations, the Valley’s farmers would not forget nor forgive the destruction.

The mill was saved by a brave young woman who implored Union soldiers to spare it. Today it houses a collection of artifacts commemorating the role of Edinburg during the Civil War. Admission is $2.

By now, thoughts of history will begin to fade as your stomach becomes your docent, murmuring quietly, “Feed me.” Several eateries are awaiting five miles north in Woodstock. Two of particular interest are the Spring House Tavern and the Woodstock Brewhouse.

The tavern has been family-owned for 19 years and voted as having the best restaurant, bartender, steak, and burger in Woodstock. It has an impressive lineup of craft beers and is opened daily.

An alternative to lunch at the tavern is the Woodstock Brewhouse located one block off Main Street at 123 E. Court Street. The building is the former Casey Jones work clothes factory dating to the 1920s. It subsequently saw multiple uses over the decades.

A few years ago, it was updated to capture its storied past while serving as an upscale brewery. Painstaking efforts were made to bring the structure back to its original glory, keeping it as authentic to the original structure as possible.

The owners were devoted homebrewers before deciding to go commercial. Using favorite recipes developed over the years, their creative list of beers is among the best in the Valley.

If you are a Hop Head, consider ordering a pint of the Crow’s Provender IPA. Remember the story? It’s a delicious brew named in memory of the harsh Civil War legacy.

Excellent pub food serves as an accompaniment to the beer. Platters like Burgers—both meat and meatless—bratwurst, fish tacos, jerk chicken, the sexi-mexi pizza, and more grace its menu.

It is opened seven days a week with afternoon hours Monday through Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday through Sunday service from 11:30 a.m. until 11 p.m.

After lunch, enjoy a short but beautiful drive to the banks of the Shenandoah River to sit either inside or out at Muse Vineyards. The winery is located on a former 200-year-old Mennonite farm with an additional 30 acres of vineyards added to the property.

The boutique winery is owned by two overachievers, Robert Muse and Sally Cowal. Muse is an international lawyer and Cowal, a former United States ambassador. The husband and wife team reinforce the point that the Valley attracts successful people from all walks of life who settle in and work side-by-side local residents.

The talent brought to bear at Muse is reflected in its numerous award-winning wines, including a gold medal scored at the 2020 Virginia Governor’s Cup wine competition for its cabernet franc bottling called Thalia.

At the End of the Day
Linger at the winery as long as you want because your next destination is just two miles down the road. The Inn at Narrow Passage is situated on five private acres along the Shenandoah River. For 30 years it provided hospitality and a history that dates to the earliest pioneers of the Valley.

Part of the property includes an original log cabin built in 1740 that offered shelter from Indian attacks for travelers on the Great Wagon Road at a dangerous section known as “narrow passage”. During the Civil War, Confederate General Stonewall Jackson made the cabin his headquarters in the Valley Campaign of 1862.

The Inn offers 12 guestrooms, including the log cottage, which accommodates six guests and has a swimming pool. A full breakfast is served daily between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m.

With the dinner hour looming, the proprietors of the Inn suggest heading back to the Edinburg Mill. The museum that you may have visited earlier in the day also has a restaurant serving American cuisine using seasonally available local ingredients.

The dining room speaks to the mill’s history, with low, wooden beams and old mill machinery decorating the walls and ceiling.

A shorter drive offers the opportunity to dine at one of the previously suggested lunch spots in Woodstock that you might have missed earlier in the day.

Heading home
After being fortified with a full breakfast the next morning, one could consider a leisurely drive home. But there is so much to see that additional recommendations spring to mind.

If you head north out of Woodstock, you may want to drop by the Filibuster Distillery in Maurertown. It opens at noon Thursday through Sunday, so a tight schedule may preclude a visit.

But if you slept in, consider stopping by the women and minority-owned business to sample their bourbon and rye whiskeys and gin. The company was started near Capitol Hill, thus its whimsical name.

If time permits, perhaps the perfect way to end your getaway is to head north for 32 miles to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester.
The museum is dedicated to preserving and enriching the cultural life and heritage of the Valley.

It includes a house dating to the eighteenth century, six acres of impressive gardens, and a 50,000-square-foot museum featuring numerous exhibitions.

A permanent display of miniature houses and an expansive gallery exploring the history and decorative arts of the Shenandoah Valley is also included in the visit. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and children. You will not be disappointed.

As you finally head home, bear in mind your brief excursion to the Shenandoah Valley just lightly brushed the seemingly limitless things to see and do here.

Start planning your return today.

Touring from Home
If family or work commitments preclude an overnight stay in the Shenandoah Valley, here are some ideas for enjoying the Valley hearthside:

Shenandoah National Park. A beautifully filmed video sharing the history and activities within the park. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BFuJcxexSM Free.

Touring the Shenandoah Valley Backroads. A compilation of 13 driving tours in the Valley with the focus on historic homes. Armchair visitors will encounter numerous small towns and villages that bring the Valley’s past to life with detailed, fascinating auto tours showcasing the richness of the region’s history. Amazon.com $19.35.

Shenandoah Valley-style Barbeque Chicken. The Valley is legendary for its productive farms. Here’s a recipe that will let you “taste” the best the Valley has to offer. https://www.washingtonpost.com/recipes/shenandoah-valley-style-barbecue-chicken/15482/

Categories : HAGARTY TALES