Outside magazine, March 1995
On the five acres behind Ground Squirrel Holler, a bed-and-breakfast in the Cumberland Valley, 13 llamas romp through oak woods, green pastures, and rolling hills. Their role is more than aesthetic; each weekend during April, May, October, and November, they escort guests on six-mile treks along the nearby historic C&O Canal towpath. Led by innkeeper/caterer Annette Thaler and her husband, Horace Stillman, the hikes begin early, after the llamas' packs have been stuffed with a picnic lunch that might consist of marinated chicken sandwiches, tabbouleh salad, minted melon balls, and homemade cookies.
The wide, flat, shady, 184-mile towpath is also great for biking; in fact, many of Ground Squirrel Holler's guests are cyclists merely stopping by for bed, bath, and morning brew. You can also bike through the 3,255 acres of Antietam National Battlefield, two miles up the road, and hike along the Appalachian Trail, which crosses Alternate Route 40 near Boonsboro, 12 miles away. For the more adventurous, there's decent rafting 25 minutes south on the Class II-III rapids of the Shenandoah River. At its confluence with the Potomac, you'll find Blue Ridge Outfitters (304-725-3444) in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and River & Trail Outfitters (301-695-5177) in Knoxville, Maryland. One-day trips cost $45 per person.
Behind the B&B's lavender trim and wraparound porch lies an eclectic mix of folk and whimsy. In the parlor of this circa-1910 house, ferns fill the bay window, a neon sculpture lights up the baby grand piano, and a stuffed figure sits on a daybed, holding an Etch-A-Sketch. Upstairs, pressed tin ceilings, antique headboards, and down comforters dress up the three guest rooms.
Ground Squirrel Holler is about an hour and a half from both Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and is open only on weekends. Rooms are $60 - $70; llama/lunch treks are an additional $40 per person for guests, $50 for nonguests (book early). For reservations, call 301-695-5177.