Like most trail riders, I spend long, cold winter nights poring over issues of The Trail Rider to plan my rides for when the weather breaks. One article in particular, taped to my "to visit sometime" refrigerator list, was on Shalimar Farm in West Virginia.
What really caught my attention was the 850 acres of private land and limited clientele. I booked a reservation by phone with the owners, George and Mickey Deike. I caught Mickey's enthusiasm as she described the farm and felt like I'd known her forever.
The First Trip
In June, my husband and I loaded up our horses and headed for the Appalachian Mountains. At Shalimar Farm, we checked into Trackside, one of the place's three cabins. It offered panoramic views, comfortable space for two, a kitchenette, and a view of the horse pastures.
The next morning, we explored the nearby trails over gentle terrain. Our horses found the old dirt-bike track, with all the bumps and bends, quite exciting. From time to time, we saw the steam locomotives of the Cass Scenic Railroad crossing the mountainside and heard their distinctive whistles.
In the afternoon, we explored some of the longer, more challenging trails with steep climbs and narrow wooded paths. These mountain trails would be perfect for endurance riders! We appreciated the map, and the signposts made it easy to navigate the 20 miles of trails. Nearby, Monongahela National Forest offers miles of unmaintained logging roads for the adventuresome.
In October, we returned to Shalimar Farm with a friend to see the fall foliage. This time, we stayed at Abbey, which has two bedrooms, a full kitchen, a laundry room, and a stone fireplace. Again, our horses were pastured right outside the front door.
This visit, we rode though old farmsteads; the houses were gone, but apple, pear, and grape trees remained, bowed under the weight of their fruit. Oaks and hickories blazed with color and added their nuts to the winter forage for the wildlife.
On our final ride, we reached the highest point on the farm. In all directions, the Appalachians marched into the distance, covered in the glorious oranges, reds, and yellows of fall, crowned by a sharp blue sky. We were stunned into silent appreciation as we took it all in. It was so private, we felt we had the whole place to ourselves.
Shalimar Farm is open all year, but book early, because they only accept eight guests at a time.