The first time I visited Woodend Sanctuary, it was raining. Scratch that. It was pouring--the kind of rain where it makes no difference if you have an umbrella or not.
In the brief time that I ran from the car to Woodend mansion, I took a peak around me. The first thing I noticed were the smells. It smelled like rain and a slightly ripening smell of spring. The second thing I noticed, after driving through Washington, DC, was the quiet. I felt that escapist sense of calm you feel after traveling hours to get out of the city, though I had actually arrived there in about 10 minutes.
Woodend Sanctuary is owned by the Audubon Naturalist Society. Located in Montgomery County, Maryland, this 40-acre estate is a stone’s throw from Washington, D.C. and home to plenty of walking trails, an abundance of plants and wildlife, and a beautiful historic mansion. The mansion itself was designed in the late 1920’s by John Russell Pope. While his name might not sound familiar to some, his projects might; ever heard of the Jefferson Memorial?
Audubon Naturalist Society, headquartered at Woodend, is a local conservation powerhouse. Founded in the late 19th century, they are the oldest independent environmental organization in the Washington, DC region. They offer a wide selection of programs for children and adults alike—from basic birding seminars, to nature camps, to school and nature preschool programs. Woodend is one of three Audubon Naturalist sanctuaries, and it’s arguably the most well-known. Anyone can drop in and take a walk through their nature trails explore the historic mansion, or browse their bird-themed gift shop.
On that rainy day in late winter, not even the pouring rain could hide its beauty. Rolling wildflower meadows, towering hemlocks and sugar maples, and an abundance of birds make Woodend stand out as one of the best natural spots in the Washington, DC area. Drive through the entrance gates, and you are slowly enveloped by a place that’s nostalgic, serene, and equally beautiful.
Fast forward six months later, and Woodend was the destination we chose to get married. No rain that day. In fact, it was one of the sunniest, most beautiful days we’d had in a while. One of my fondest memories? A cameo appearance by an uninvited, but welcome, guest: The curious deer pictured above.
Woodend Sanctuary is a gorgeous, peaceful location, and is a featured destination in Audubon and Toyota’s Exit the Highway campaign. Drivers across the country are being encouraged to drive the scenic route and spend extra time in nature. Those who take the pledge at ExittheHighway.com will be entered to win a Toyota Prius v. Woodend is a quick drive off the Capital Beltway, but about as far from DC politics as you can get.