Getting Lost in the Woods
A summer’s ride through the long leaf pines and sweet slumber for equestrians and their horses
By Lesley Berkshire Bradley » Photos by Brandon Williams
Many philosophers, poets and great thinkers have pondered the benefits of getting lost in the woods. The tranquility of undisturbed woodlands brings a level of peace that is hard to find in the 21st Century. Trekking through woodlands offers a chance to think or to not think at all.
And you do not need to spend weeks preparing for a trip to the mountains in order to reap the benefits of quiet time in the deep woods. Only one mile from downtown Southern Pines, there are more than 4,000 pristine wooded acres just waiting to be explored at the Walthour Moss Foundation.
Established in 1978 by Virginia Walthour Moss, the “Foundation”, as it is known locally, is an Accredited Land Trust. It is a noted Longleaf Pine forest conservation area with 300 miles of trails crisscrossing an extraordinarily diverse ecosystem. The Foundation’s mission is “to preserve open land, to protect and improve wildlife habitat, and to offer a place for equestrian purposes”. And it delivers on all fronts.
On most weekends, horse trailers are lined up along May Street in Southern Pines, with riders tacking up to meander through the Walthour Moss Foundation. Some riders are local, and others have jumped in their trucks with horse trailers in tow to enjoy a day trip from nearby Charlotte or Raleigh or even South Carolina. While others decide to make a weekend of it.
But they all come with the same goal: to enjoy a day with their horse, friends and family in a place that is being specially-preserved.
Equestrians of all kinds come to the Foundation to follow the well-marked trails (the Foundation has printable and interactive maps on it website). The sandy soil makes for perfect footing. And, once riders have entered the main Foundation access points, they rarely see another group. They ride through areas with names like Canter Cross, Pitcher Plant Hill and Old Rice Field, enjoying the rolling hills, streams, ponds and the distinctive sound of the wind blowing through the long leaf pine needles.
In addition to the sheer scope of the Foundation, the array of flora and fauna on the property sets it apart. Riders will see the more common racoons, opossum, foxes and deer to the more remarkable endangered Red-cockaded woodpeckers, over-sized fox squirrels and even bobcats. And, since it is undisturbed, the Foundation is covered in native plant life unique to the Sandhills. Again, the Foundation website provides a comprehensive list, sorted by season, of over 125 native plants that visitors can find on the Foundation including Big Root Morning Glory, Bitterweed, Hairy Meadow Beauty, Passionflower and Sandhills Thistle.
For the group that wants to stay overnight, Tanglewood Farm Bed and Breakfast is right across the street from one of the entrances to the Foundation and offers a perfect place to rest after a day of hacking through the woods.
Set on 10 acres, Tanglewood Farm’s guest house is surrounded by horse pastures and has three bed-and-breakfast apartments with appropriately equestrian names — the Fox Den Suite, Horse and Hound Suite and Tally Ho Suite. And if you bring your horses, they will bed down in the Hunt Box.
For guests who are non-horse people, they can watch the owner’s horses graze in their pastures. And everyone can get some close-up and personal time with the farm’s friendly resident free-range chickens and fluffy bunnies.
“Our guests are able to get away from the city and suburbs and unwind here,” explains owner Lindsay O’Reilly, “Our farm is sort of a magical place.”
Lindsay, a retired CPA, and her mom, Denise O’Reilly, who is also her business partner, chose Tanglewood as their own escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
“It is a beautiful piece of property, and there is something healing about it,” notes Denise.
And guests can even bring their own dogs to Tanglewood.
“Being dog-friendly is a niche for us,” adds Lindsay.
The en-suite breakfasts at Tanglewood always feature farm fresh eggs but include much more than simply scrambled eggs. Lindsay, a graduate of Sandhills Community College Culinary School Baking and Pastry Arts program, makes fresh pastries, breads, biscuits and sweets. Recent menu items include almond lime poundcake with crushed pineapple and pineapple foam, as well as lemon thyme panna cotta with a raspberry gelee. The vegetables are sourced from the on-site organic garden and the farm’s apple, fig and persimmon fruit trees.
And at night, Tanglewood guests pop up the road to downtown Southern Pines to enjoy the quaint boutiques, breweries and restaurants. The best of all worlds… a peaceful farm, a lively small town and a unique connection to unspoiled land.
The O’Reilly family takes full advantage of their proximity to the Foundation.
“We like to get lost in the woods… in a good way.”
So, the next time you want to find a beautiful place to get lost, consider a visit to the Walthour Moss Foundation, and to deepen the experience, spend the night at the Tanglewood Bed and Breakfast, the perfect stopover to those longing for horse country.
The Foundation is open Sun-up to Sundown for walkers, hikers and equestrians. For more information or to make a donation, visit walthour-moss.org
To learn more about Tanglewood Farm Bed and Breakfast, visit tanglewoodfarmbandb.com or follow them on Facebook.