I’ve had a recurring conversation with several people: so many of us are eager to explore the world, yet we know very little of all that’s to be found in our own backyards. Local tourism makes a great travel option when time is short or money is tight.
No matter where I’ve taken residence for prolonged periods of time, there came a point where I stopped exploring. I became comfortable with all that I had already discovered. Some discoveries became favorites, warranting repeat visits and worthy of being shown off when family and friends came to town. Others were one-time go-sees, forgotten and tucked away in the abyss of my mind.
On a recent visit to Howard County, MD for a press trip, I was reminded that I had not finished exploring the crevices of my new home – Maryland. Howard County, or HoCo as residents affectionately refer to it, is only 20 minutes away from my house. It’s the third wealthiest county in the nation and harbors more history than I thought.
I lived in Howard County when I first came to Maryland for grad school. However, I had no interest in learning about its attractions or history in between policy papers and a dissertation.
As I drove up to the first stop on the press trip, Savage Mill (an old mill turned shopping center), I thought back to those graduate school days where the route from Rt. 32 or Rt.1 was my daily drive, either coming from class or going to my internship. I lived right across the street from the Mill but never bothered to walk inside. I have two distinct memories of the place. I remember driving up to it one day, intent on seeing what was inside but feeling intimidated to explore it by myself. I can’t remember why I felt such apprehension but I do recall that experience. (Maybe it was the spirits of the ghosts that are said to inhabit the place that kept me away). I also remember the decorations and lights on the Mill during Christmas time. Passing by the old building on December nights brought on feelings of nostalgia, making me miss being home in New York for the holidays.
Today the Mill is much the same as it was 12 years ago, save for a few new additions like Terrapin Adventures, the outdoor adventure outfit we paid a visit to. The thick wooded area behind Savage Mill and the streaming Patuxent River, serve as the backdrop and playground for Terrapin Adventures. As much as the adventure company can, it re-creates that Costa Rican zipline experience that inspired owner Matt Baker to bring the adventure to the Baltimore area.
Amongst twenty-eight other elements, Terrapin Adventures offers zip-lining, rope climbing, and a 40 ft-high mechanical swing. As I flew backwards along the 330 ft zip-line, I honestly forgot where I was. It could have easily been the woods of Jamaica where I last enjoyed the activity – the environment makes you forget that you’re just down the road from suburbia. And the giant swing that I so foolishly decided to experience twice, does an excellent job of delivering that 2 Gs of force advertised in Terrapin Adventures’ sales literature. If you’re easily nauseated, I wouldn’t recommend going on this swing more than once. I had to do quite a bit of deep breathing and self-talk to keep my lunch down.
Terrapin Adventures has been around since 2009 and caters its services to a variety of audiences: children, companies, church groups, bridesmaids, military, and ordinary folks. Baker says he creates themed packages and works with other local businesses to “package the same product 20 different ways.” One of his goals is to help Marylanders spend less of their time getting to the adventure and more time doing it.