Monday, August 15, 2016

R is for Rohrersville

R is for Rohrersville (click here for map).  The 1 ½ hours
spent driving to this little town could not have been more enjoyable.  The scenery was intoxicating, and was ten times more impressive than I ever imagined.  Before I even arrived in Rohrersville, I knew I was being set-up for a day of enjoyment and extreme relaxation. 

Rohrersville is a census designated place located in the southern part of Pleasant Valley, a small valley in Washington County.  According to Wikipedia: 
The first settlers to arrive in the vicinity of Rohrersville began to survey land tracts in the 1730s. "Park Hall," a tract of 1,550 acres, encompassing the present village of Rohrersville, was patented in 1732 by William Parks and resurveyed in 1766 to Alexander Grimm.  Also in 1766, Frederick Rohrer, a French immigrant, settled near the present village.  His sons Daniel and Samuel established a grist mill which led to the formation of the village in the 1810s and 20s. The name Rohrersville first appears in 1836.
The town has 175 residents and a total land area of .8 square miles.  Rohrersville is part of Crampton’s Gap or Crampton Gap, which is a wind gap on South Mountain.   South Mountain is a northern extension of the Blue Ridge Mountain range in Maryland and Pennsylvania. 
Rohrersville countryside

You may be wondering if it was unusually windy in Rohrersville because the town is part of a wind gap.  Initially, I thought it would be windy until I found out a wind gap is a valley through which a waterway once flowed, but is now dry.  The type of wind I was initially thinking of was called a gap wind, which I did not experience at all.  Those are winds that blow through a gap between mountains – remember, I was in a valley at the base of a mountain.  And that, my good readers, is your quick atmospheric science lesson for the day!   

Back to my journey.  I decided I should begin traveling earlier than originally planned because of the day’s forecast –mainly the heat (heat index of 108 degrees.)  So, before doing anything else (to include looking for the “Welcome to Rohrersville” sign) and to beat the heat, I made a beeline for Caprikorn Farms – a goat farm.  This farm houses award winning, free-range Saanen dairy goats.  Because of their natural diet, these goats produce milk of exceptional flavor, which is perfect for cheese.  Their raw goat milk Cheddar Cheese (plain and flavored) is literally hand made in small batches in the tradition of the best artisanal farmstead cheeses.  Caprikorn Farms is Maryland’s first “On Farm Home Licensed Goat Cheese Processor.” 

Although I would be more apt to talk to a representative at one of the local festivals or farmer’s markets, I was hoping to actually tour the facility.  I called a few times and left messages about a possible tour, but no one returned my calls.  I then thought I would simply venture over to the farm once I got to town and see if I could find someone there. Earlier, I mentioned I was concerned about the heat.  I was afraid as the day wore on, it would get hotter, and I would not be able to see the goats if I was unable to get a tour (the goats may be in a barn cooling off.)

Goat Divas
My rational paid off.  When I got to the small farm nobody was around and nobody answered the phone when I called from the car.  However, the goats were there!  Some were huddled around a bale of hay eating in a corralled yard not far from the road.  Others were eating from containers attached to the fence.   I gingerly walked up to them hoping they would not run into the barn.  Nope......they actually ran towards me!  They were absolutely beautiful.  A couple of them posed nicely for me, too.  I only stayed a few minutes longer and then decided to leave – what a treat it was to see these prize winning animals!

One of the many Rohrersville roads
As I started driving down the road, my focus moved from the residents of Caprikorn Farms to my general surroundings.  The scenery was stunning!!  The seemingly endless acres of rolling manicured green fields, the mountains in the background packed with trees in full bloom, and the blue sky was, without a doubt, sensory overload.  As I kept driving, I quickly discovered this type of view was not going to change too much, so instead of stopping to embrace the moment I began my search for the next thing on my “To See” list.  
Part of Caprikorn Farms
Now, I was actually on the hunt for the “Welcome to Rohrersville” sign.  Finding the sign is usually the first thing I do when I visit a town just because I do not want to forget to take its picture.  My quick roadside scan on the way to Caprikorn Farms did not produce the sign, so I needed to keep looking.  Perhaps it is located in the town proper – I will head there.  Finding the welcome sign proves to be the most challenging thing I do when I visit these small towns - sometimes they exist, sometimes they don’t.   However, in looking for them, I occasionally stumble on something that I had not even planned on seeing.  Today was one of such instance.  Now, you know I am not going to tell you what it was, don’t you?  Yes, I am going to keep you in suspense for just a little while longer.

Rohrersville Main Street
When I got to town, I traveled to both ends of Main Street and could not find the sign.  I drove up and down Main Street (a lot), drove up and down the few side streets Rohersville had (a lot), and drove back up and down Main Street again, (a lot) – where on earth was that sign?  In one of my many travels up and down Main Street, I found the Post Office and decided to take a picture of the sign on the front of the building.  This would replace the non-existent “Welcome to Rohrersville” sign, which I would normally use to introduce the town. 
Rohrersville Post Office
I also knew full well that the day was still young and a 108 degree heat index was not going to cut my hunt short.  I “may” still find it!  The residents were just going to have to cope with the out-of-towner driving up and down all of their streets (probably for the rest of the day!) 

In my quest to find the sign, I ended up on one of the side streets that houses the entrance to the Rohrersville Community Park,
which is sponsored by the Rohrersville Ruritan Club.  The definition of a Ruritan is:   

A civic organization whose objective is to bring a closer social union between the farmers and the business and professional men and women in a community in order to make it a better place in which to live.  It is patterned after the service organizations of the cities, but changed to meet the needs of rural people in rural communities.
This Club is very active in the town.  Activities include:  carnivals, festivals, caroling during the holiday season, bingo, and the like.  Unfortunately, the link provided above is via Facebook.  The Club must have decided not to post current events via their website as the links found are several years old.
Park's playground
The Community Park in Rohrersville is just one of the many things the Club can take credit for in order to improve the town.   According to the history of the Club, in 1958, the Club voted to buy an 8 1/2 acre field for $3,000, which has been developed into the Rohrersville Community Park.  The park was dedicated on September 13, 1959.  Over the years, three pavilions have been built, a Well was drilled, bathrooms were installed, a bandstand was built, playground equipment was purchased, ball fields were graded, and a soccer field was added. 
Park's soccer fields and pavilions (my view from school)
Plans are being completed for additional grading to add a second soccer field and parking areas.  These fields are used as the practice and homefields for several teams of the Boonsboro Soccer League, which have been using the park field since 1990.  The park is open to the public for reunions, concerts, family outings, and relaxation on a daily basis.
Former Rohrersville School
From atop a hill overlooking the park was what I had accidently stumbled upon – the former Rohrersville School.  It was built in 1919, and unfortunately closed in 1978.  Now, the school is being used as the main headquarters of the Ruritan Club.  Club meetings, suppers, and other activities are held there.  The building is also used by other groups for social activities and has been the Rohrersville Election Precinct.  It is wonderful the town kept the building intact and is currently using it as a multi-purpose building.  Not only is it a magnificent building, the view from the grounds is beyond spectacular.  Recess was always a favorite subject of mine growing up, but recess at this school?  It definitely would have been moved to a higher level of appreciation!

I still had not found the sign.  So, I headed back into town to check out a few more sights I had on my “To See” list - one of which was “The Rohrersville Cornet Band of Washington County.”  Unfortunately, I was not able see the band performing or even enter their music hall as there was not anyone in the building.  However, the band’s schedule was impressive, to say the least.  It appears this group of musicians are extremely active in the State of Maryland, and probably very proud to be members of the oldest continually-performing community band in the State. 
Bethel United Methodist Church
A few buildings away from the music hall was the Bethel United Methodist Church, which is the oldest house of worship standing in Rohrersville.  However, from 1871-1963 this church was formerly known as the Bethel United Brethren Church.  Founded in 1800, it was simply a log structure open to the use of several congregations, and was located on the site of the present town cemetery.  The church was rebuilt in 1842 and finally replaced in 1871.  It then became one of the three churches in Rohrersville, all dating back to the 1870s and 1880s, and all having German denominations.  I found that fact amazing – three churches for 175 people!  The cemetery mentioned earlier is the peaceful Pleasant View Cemetery, and is located directly behind the church as we know it today.

Barkman's Mill cooper's building
Bear's Nursery
Looking at the time, I decided to head over to Big Cork Vineyards for lunch. However, I wanted to take another drive along the winding road leading out of town.  The houses and remaining structures from the past were just so interesting.  One of the structures left standing along the side of the road had a faded sign painted on its wall which read, “Bear’s Nursery.”  This was a nursery operated out of the cooper’s building on the property of the Barkman Mill, which is no longer standing.  The nursery was in operation from 1959 to 1979. 
Sitting on wall = ouch!
Another interesting feature about the town of Rohrersville, was the stone retaining walls positioned around several residences along with the Rohrersville School.  The walls are characteristic of the Village of Rohrersville, but they were unusual in that they have vertical quartz-like, pointy rocks lining the very top of the wall.  These vertical rocks are not close together or rounded as in a typical dry stone wall.  This unusual feature bothered me to no end.  I cannot begin to tell you how many hours I spent searching the Internet trying to find out why these walls looked so different.  I finally arrived at the conclusion that the pointy rocks were there to prevent others from sitting on the wall - so simple and probably very effective.  I really need to stop over thinking these things!!!     
Just minutes from one of these “no longer confusing walls” was Big Cork Vineyards.  As I entered the driveway, I was immediately awestruck just looking at the size of the vineyard.  Rows and rows of grape vines as far as the eye could see!!!  The winding road took me to a large, white building on a hill overlooking the entire vineyard with the mountain range in the background.  This was the tasting room.  Impressive!  This ultra-contemporary room looked like something you would find in Manhattan.  
Big Cork Tasting Room
The following is a description of this room from their website:

Walking into our state-of-the-art, 10,000-square-foot tasting room is like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure experience. Up the winding drive, and through the glass entryway, you’ll be transported to another world.  With cloud-like ceilings, sleek interior design, 
View from Big Cork patio
and an ample 25-foot tasting bar (accessible on all sides), you will enjoy all the winery has to offer in BIG style!

Weather too nice to be inside? No problem. You can drink our wine (and eat our food) anywhere… inside, outside on our patios or even from the comfort of your own picnic blanket on our lawn. Our wraparound patios are heated for year-round use, and we have a 70” flat-screen TV outside on our west patio—so you don’t have to miss out on those Sunday football games. Our entire west patio is also cigar friendly.

I was greeted by Jeff who was the facility’s extremely personable bartender.  He asked me if I was there for the wine tasting.  But, of course!  I asked him if lunch was being served and he told me they did not have a lunch menu, as such.  There was a Market located in the next room with various cheeses, spreads, crackers, nuts, and some fruits for sale.  Not exactly what I expected, but I was alright with that.

Barrels/vats of wine
I was Jeff’s only customer.  As he poured each of the six different wines for me – SMALL GLASSES! - he provided some history about the vineyard in addition to some interesting facts about each wine I was drinking.  The conversation could not have been more enjoyable.  I thanked him for all of the information he provided and walked around the corner to the Market where I purchased my lunch – crackers and a red pepper feta spread.  Even though it was sweltering outside, I sat on the patio under an awning and took in the gorgeous scenery.  I had the entire place to myself! 
My Lunch
I had one more place to visit – The Treehouse Camp.  This is DEFINITELY on my list of things to revisit in the near future.  Located on the South Mountain, this 20 acre wooded campground, which backs up to the Appalachian Trail, is the perfect retreat for those looking for hiking, camping, fishing, tubing, or simply a place to “get away from it all.”  The current owner’s mother is the individual who literally dreamt up this successful business.  If you have the time, please read this interview with the new owner of the campground. 
The camp opened in 1971 with just three tree houses.  The term “Tree House” is a bit of a misnomer as the house is not actually sitting up in a sits on stilts in the woods.  Two of the original tree houses remain (the Blackbird and the Eagle) and each has an actual tree running through the center of the structure!  

Tree House - "The Blackbird"

As of today, there are not only tree houses, but cottages and tent sites.  RVs and campers/trailers are not accommodated.  The main difference between a tree house and a cottage is the windows.  Both structures are elevated, but the tree houses only have screens for windows, whereas, the cottages are enclosed, insulated, and have working windows.  Only the cottages are open year around.  The older cottages have been recently remodeled and have double or single beds with mattresses.  Some of the newer cottages have queen or king sized mattresses.  All of the cottages offer an indoor table and chairs / benches and a wood stove for heating and cooking in the winter.  None of the cottages have any electricity or running water, which means you are pretty much “roughing” it.  Each site has an outdoor fire circle, grill and picnic table.  

After stopping at the campground’s office, briefly talking with the owner, and looking at the campground rules, I took a drive through the campground. 
Tree House
I found each tree house/cottage far enough apart from its neighbor so the occupants would have plenty of privacy, peace, and quiet.  It was definitely a heavily wooded area, which I also found appealing.  The main road was not littered with trash, and there were many portable restrooms set-up throughout the area.  Undeniably, this is one of Rohrersville’s hidden gems!                                        
Sadly, I needed to get back on the road.  As I drove out of town, I reflected on the day and realized the only thing that could have made it more perfect was if I had found that sign!  I would have to say, if you are looking for a peaceful destination to escape the summertime hustle, definitely take a trip to Rohrersville.  This town is in the category of “a must visit.”