Paddling to the SweetShine Distillery with River and Trail Outfitters

For my birthday this year, I wanted to do something a bit different.  You get a certain age and you get tired of the bar/club scene ya know…although I did end up doing that too.  Old habits die hard.  But I digress.

When I met John of River and Trail Outfitters at the DC Travel & Adventure Show, I knew I’d found the perfect thing…an adventure on the open seas!  Well, the Shenandoah River isn’t exactly the open seas but hey, we’ve got to start somewhere.

With a canoe trip followed by a distillery visit, River and Trail’s ‘Paddle to the Sweetshine Distillery’ Tour was right up my alley.

Canoeing & Kayaking

About an hour outside of both Baltimore and DC, my friends and I met at River and Trail Outfitters’ offices in Knoxville, MD to sign liability paperwork and get directions for next steps.  We then headed to the river to suit up for our adventure across state lines in West Virginia.

I chose to canoe along with most of my friends, while two people chose to kayak.  The last time I canoed was during seventh grade camping trip so I was a little worried about venturing onto the river.  But our guide, Christina, eased all of our fears and off we went.

It started out well.  We enjoyed the scenery.  Talked and laughed at each other’s misfortunes, like getting stuck on rocks or paddling in the wrong direction.  But by about mile 3.5 of the 5 mile journey, my friends were looking at me wondering what I had gotten them into.

Canoeing was hard work!  It seemed harder than kayaking so I was a little jealous of my friends who were kayaking and didn’t seem like they were working as hard.  But with a little patience and teamwork, we barely finally made it to the end of the route and headed to our picnic.

River and Trail provided fried chicken, potato salad, watermelon and juice for lunch.  Much to our surprise, everything was delicious. (There are so many ways you can go wrong with fried chicken and potato salad. Thank God the food was good.  I think my friends would have taken me back to the river and thrown me overboard had it not been.)  We all but inhaled the food to replenish our systems after all our hard work.

Limoncello Tasting

Following lunch, we headed to the Bloomery Plantation Distillery, which was about a 7 minute drive away. A restored log cabin that once served as slave quarters, the distillery was quaint but was full of character. We were welcomed by the owner, Tom and “fun-tender,” Rita.

Rita gave us samples of Bloomery’s 10 limoncellos with a little anecdote for each.  My personal favorites were the Black Walnut and Cranberry Clementine flavors, but each was delicious and rivals limoncello straight from Italy.

All of Bloomery’s limoncellos are made by hand with 190-proof corn liquor, pure cane sugar and farm fresh ingredients.  They grow lemons, Hawaiian ginger, raspberries, black walnuts and pumpkins in West Virginia. They try to source other ingredients from other small American family farms to achieve a ‘garden to glass’ feel, differentiating it from other limoncellos.

Overall, it was an amazing day and I’m glad I chose to celebrate my birthday with River and Trail’s ‘Paddle to the SweetShine Distillery’ Tour. By the end of the day, my friends had forgiven me for the 5 mile trip down the river and even admitted that it was really fun.

If you’re looking for an adventure this summer, please look into River and Trail Outfitters’ packages. Thanks to John, Danielle and Christina of River and Trail Outfitters for helping me have a fun-filled day to celebrate my 31st birthday!

Photo Credit: Ashlee Tuck