Madison County must be one of the prettiest counties in the Commonwealth. So, I decided to let our dog, Zeus, work on this edition of Travels with Russell. For you see, Zeus travels with me most everywhere in Madison, going on hikes, visiting Yoders, resting at wineries, etc. But not at some of the other establishments, such as restaurants. But, I decided to give him a shot at blogging. Hope you like it.
So, the first thing I can say is that I have my owners totally trained. When I want to go out, all I have to do is nudge them. When I’m ready to eat, I just stand by my bowl. When I want to go watch some sports on TV with Russell, I just stand by the steps to go downstairs. And, I can say they are pretty reliable and fun. For example, when I want to play, all I have to do is pick up a ball and Russell or Brenda will throw it for me. Our walks through the woods at our place are great. Lots of wildflowers, a stream and creek to play in, and lots of sticks that I can chew. So, I would say I have a pretty sweet life all in all. But Russell is paying me to write this so I guess I better get started.
First of all, Madison is a beautiful county. There are so many places to hike or ride a bike it is incredible. One of the favorite hikes in the county has to be White Oak Canyon in the Shenandoah National Park. From the lower section you can park and hike all the way to Skyland Lodge on the Skyline Drive. Along the way there are no less than 7 waterfalls and plenty of swimming holes. But, one of my owners favorite hikes is the Cedar Run Trail from the same place. It too goes all the way up to the drive and has some incredible waterfalls, cascades, and pools. Here I am at one of the cooling off places.
One of the great hikes you can do in Madison is going to Hoover Camp. President Hoover had the camp built to get away from Washington and take advantage of the “best trout fishing in the East”. Unfortunately for Hoover, the country was not in the mood for a President that was enjoying fishing while they were out of work. Oh well. Here is President Hoover and Lou Henry relaxing on the camp porch.
So, you can very clearly see what my owners like to do – hike. But that is not all. Madison has one of the best farmer’s markets around. There are so many farms in the county that it was bound to be a hit. You can go to the farmer’s market on Saturdays from April through November and get your provisions for your entire meal that day. Obviously fresh vegetables but also pork, beef, bread, eggs, etc. In short a whole meal. Here is Russell with Max Lacy when the Tanner/James home had too many herbs. Idea didn’t last but it was fun for a day.
Perhaps one the most famous place in Madison has to be Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria. Graves has been going strong for over 135 years serving their famous buffet breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. I dare you to finish. You can’t. Each meal comes with their famous apple butter which you can purchase at the Lodge or down the road at the apple store. And speaking of apples, in the fall you can stuff yourself on all the apples you can load into your car, and later your mouth. Have to say, I’m still not fond of the things myself, being a carnivore, but I see my owner Brenda loves anything apple – apple pie, cake, butter, sauce, strudel, with peanut butter, etc. You name it and if it has the word apple in it, she’ll eat it.
The Graves Clan
Graves Mountain Lodge
OK, that is all I can do for now. I’ll let my master take over since he is now going to talk about something I’m not allowed to taste, wine. But I can assure you, he has imbibed quite a bit in his time. Thanks, Zeus.
Playing in the creek with B, Charity, Liliana, and Juji
OK, I’ll take over for Zeus now as he is underage for drinking wine. Madison is blessed with three outstanding wineries, Early Mountain, Prince Michel, and DuCard.
Early Mountain winery, owned by Steve and Jean Case, has a unique focus for wineries in Virginia. To quote from their website: “Our goal is not to make money but instead to make a difference, with a particular focus on enabling Virginia to compete with the leading wine regions around the world.” In keeping with this focus, EM offers wines from wineries throughout Virginia so in one place you get to sample some of the best Virginia has to offer. One of the more popular weekly ways for you to enjoy EM, would be to join the locals on Friday evenings form Sippin’ in the Sunset or Fireplace depending upon the season.
Van and Tamara at Early Mountain
DuCard is a boutique winery producing a limited number of wines per year. DuCard has a strong focus on sustainability in the operation of the vineyard. They were the first winery in the state to install solar panels, they compost, use sustainable materials where possible, and limit spraying on crops. But that is the business, the Eliff’s also provide great wine and entertainment throughout the year. Here are a couple of pictures from a recent evening of Shakespeare and wine.
Prince Michele winery is the oldest of the three Madison wineries, having celebrated their 30th year a couple of years ago. At PM you can enjoy Thirsty Thursdays, Sunday Brunch’s or monthly events of non-profits which Prince Michel, and owner Kristin Holzman supports. PM has an extensive selection of wines to choose from but my favorite has to be Symbius, a blend of Bordeaux varietal grapes resulting in a full bodied red wine with a lingering finish.
While you visit us, we might take you to one of the loveliest restaurants near us, actually only a mile. So, we could walk if we chose. It is the Inn at Meander Plantation. The Meander Inn, as locals call it, is a true gourmet destination. Their four course pre-fix dinner features all the best from the local area. And, they only serve the best of Virginia wines. When you visit us, we’ll be glad to join you for dinner. Here is a view from the patio where you can enjoy a glass of wine or drink before dinner.
So, once again, that’s it for now. But stay tuned as I venture far and wide to bring you my thoughts on travel and eating. And, if you want some suggestions on places to eat, just give me a call. No charge.