Spending time in a Buddhist community

Between public retreats, Bhavana Society is open to visitors. By visiting, you will experience a taste of the monastic life without having to make a life-long commitment. The Buddha was very clear that it is important to visit the monasteries and speak about his teachings with learned people. Many people tell us that they learn more about Buddhism from a week of visiting our community than they have from years of reading books.

Visitors participate fully in the daily schedule of the monastery.  We wake in the morning for silent meditation at 5:00 a.m.  After meditation, we chant Buddhist verses in Pali, the language of the Buddhist scriptures. This sets the intention for our day, reminding us to make an energetic effort toward learning and putting into practice the teachings of the Buddha.

Breakfast and lunch are eaten mindfully in silence. There is no evening meal, nor snacking after noon.  We do this small amount of fasting each day to practice moderation.  It also means there is one less meal to cook!  Most people find that they get used to this very quickly. Further details can be found on Bhavana’s Mealtime Practice page.

In the evening, we meditate together around 6:00 p.m.  After meditation, we chant the same Buddhist verses we chanted in the morning but in English.

Between meditation sessions, there is plenty of free time. You are welcome to walk the grounds, meditate, or browse our extensive Buddhist library. There is always ample time to speak with monastics and lay residents. In addition, you may be assigned simple chores to help out the monastery. This is an excellent opportunity to practice mindfulness while working.

If you are considering coming just for a day visit, please arrive after 2:00 p.m. since all residents have their personal time between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Visitors, including overnight visitors, should arrive no later than 7:00 p.m., ideally before evening meditation. Please full out the form on the “Daytime Visitors” tab on this page to let us know you are coming.

PLEASE DO NOT BRING PETS TO BHAVANA SOCIETY


If you wish to come for a day visit, please fill out this form to notify us ahead of time. Note, this is not an application. If you are considering coming just for a day visit, please arrive between 2 and 5pm. 5pm being the start of meditation and chanting.

    Phone number

    Please include intended time and date of arrival and any other pertinent information

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    Visitors are full members of the Bhavana community and participate in all aspects of the monastery’s day-to-day life, including meditation, chanting, cooking, cleaning and lots of dhamma discussions. Proof of Covid-19 vaccination is required to visit.

    All monastics must have permission from our Vice-Abbot to visit.  Even for a day visit, it is requested that you have contacted our Abbot and received permission from him to visit prior to registering for a visit or applying for residency. When appropriate, fill out the form by following this link.

      Your full name

      Your email

      Address (Street, City, State, Zip)

      Phone Number

      Gender

      Age

      Driver’s License Number, Expiration Date, and State of Issuance

      When do you want to start your residency?

      When do you plan to leave?

      Please describe your past experience with meditation, including retreats you have attended, type of meditation, length of time you have been meditating.

      Have you attended retreats at the Bhavana Society? If so, please list retreats names and dates

      Why would you like to be a long-term guest or resident at Bhavana Society?

      Please list work skills you have that could be useful to the Society (for example, office skills, kitchen experience, gardening, construction, writing/editing etc.)

      Do you have any physical conditions that will limit your ability to participate fully in the activities of the society or that will require special diets or other accommodations? If yes, please describe the condition and any accommodations that would be required.

      If you have any pending legal problems or financial obligations or if you have a history of psychiatric illness, these must be discussed with the Center before you begin any proposed residency.

      Please describe in some detail how you have spent the past two or three years (work, school, travel, etc.)

      References

      Please list three references (not relatives) with their name, phone number, and relationship to you, and how long they have known you. One should be a recent employment supervisor.

      Reference 1

      Reference 2

      Reference 3

      Safety Net

      Please list the name and phone number of the person who will be your “safety net”— the person who will provide for you if you need to leave Bhavana for any reason. (If it is one of your personal references, just list the name.)

      Emergency Information

      Person to be notified in the case of emergency (Name, Phone Number, and Relationship)

      If above person is unavailable, please notify(Name, Phone Number, and Relationship):

      Please list your next of kin if that person is not listed above (Name, Phone Number, and Relationship) :

      Are you covered by health insurance?

      Name of insurance company

      Your insurance I.D. number

      Group number

      Medications you are taking

      Allergies to food or medication.

      Any underlying medical conditions that we or a doctor may need to know about? If yes, please describe. If no, type no.

      Psychological History

      Have you ever been diagnosed with a psychological condition (prolonged or serious depression, manic depressive illness, panic attacks or schizophrenia, etc.) or other emotional problems that Bhavana should know about? If yes, please describe the diagnosis, treatment and dates. If no, type no.

      Are you currently taking any medication(s)for physical or psychological conditions? If so, please list the medication(s) and the condition(s) being treated. If none, type none.

      Are you currently seeing a therapist or counselor?

      Are there conditions in your life that might be placing you under stress or that might make living at Bhavana difficult? (e.g. divorce, substance abuse or withdrawal, loss of a loved one, etc.) If yes, please give details. If not, type no.

      Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime? If yes, please describe. If not, type no.

      Are you vaccinated against covid-19?

      Please upload a picture of your vaccination card

      Do you have any additional information that you would like to convey?

      Please upload a recent picture of yourself

      Are you a monastic? If so, please write yes or no and fill out the monastic application by following the link provided in the second paragraph on this page

      Subscribe to newsletter?

      By clicking submit, I acknowledge that I have read and understand the Basic Requirements for Residency and the Terms of Residency. I agree to abide by these terms and conditions, should I be accepted for residency. I understand that failure to do so may result in the termination of my residency. I acknowledge that all the information included in this application is true and complete. I authorize Bhavana Society to contact any of the individuals listed above to support this application and give permission for Bhavana to do a criminal background check, using all information included in this application, with agencies from this state or any state or federal agency, to the extent permitted by state and federal law.

       

      • No pets are allowed at Bhavana Society. We know you love them, but we need to provide a place that’s comfortable for everyone, including those allergic to pet dander. Please, do not bring any pets.
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      • Due to severe weather conditions (flooded roads, ice storms, or heavy snow), Bhavana may be forced to cancel or close retreats or events. If inclement weather seems possible on the date of your trip to Bhavana, please check the website for updates. Every effort will be made to contact all who have registered.
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      • Food is not eaten after 12 noon each day. Only tea, juice or soft drinks are consumed after noon. (An evening meal for medical reasons must be approved at the time of registration.) The meals prepared here are vegetarian; please note, dairy and egg products may be used. Vegan options are usually provided.Please note that fasting is not permitted at Bhavana Society. Please do not come here with that intention.  If you decide not to eat while staying at Bhavana Society, unfortunately, you will be asked to leave.
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      • All overnight guests/retreatants/residents must be 18 or older or accompanied by their parent or guardian (except for the Youth Retreat).  First time visitors between the age of 18 and 19 may be asked to have a parent or guardian visiting with them.  This request from Bhavana will be made on an individual basis.
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      • Abstain from killing, stealing, committing any sexual activity, lying, gossiping, slandering, and using harsh language.
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      • Smoking, vaping, tobacco products, illegal drugs and alcohol are not permitted.
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      • Please let us know your estimated arrival time.  The best time to arrive is between 2:00-4:00 p.m. since you will need to meet with a resident or Retreat Coordinator upon your arrival.
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      • Completing your on-site retreat registration/check-in here begins at 3:00 p.m. in the dining hall the first day of the retreat. Each retreat ends after lunch on the last day.
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      • All retreatants are assigned a daily chore.  This helps us maintain our center while large groups are in residence.  Chores are usually basic cooking and cleaning talks such as meal prep, dishes,  vacuuming, etc. There is a sign-up sheet for chores at registration.  Please ask our Retreat Coordinator for details.
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      • If you have medical needs relating to your sleeping accommodations which require indoor plumbing or electricity, please let us know.
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      • You may not use a telephone during retreats. When not in retreat, we ask that you limit your phone time.
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      • E-mail and Internet access is not available during retreats.
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      • The Bhavana Society to be used only as a place for serious meditation and Dhamma study, not as a hotel, recreation center or place to just hang out.
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      • Please avoid all physical contact except in emergencies.
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      • If you are coming for a retreat, you may apply to stay for a few days before and/or after.  For stays longer than seven days,  please submit an application for lay residency.   When requesting to arrive before a retreat begins or stay after it ends, if your stay is longer than seven days (including retreat days), you are requested to apply for lay residency. You can do so by filling out the application under the “Residency Applications” tab of this page.  Please note, applying for residency may take up to three to six weeks before we will let you know if your request is accepted or not so please plan according.  Please also note, we are limited to how many visitors we can accept at one time so accepting your request will depend on how many are already scheduled to visit.
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      • If you cannot fully participate in the entire retreat, you will need permission from the coordinator of the retreat before you can reserve a space to participate.  The guideline to request permission to leave a retreat early or arrive late is:  You will need to contact the Bhavana Society and ask permission to arrive late or leave early before registering (contact our office for details).  If you receive permission to register from the monastic leading the retreat, your name would be put on a waitlist.  If a space is available the week before the retreat starts, our office will contact you.
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      • Laundry facilities are only available for those who stay at our center ten days or longer.
      • Men should not enter women’s dwellings and women should not enter men’s dwellings, even for loading and unloading vehicles.
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      • As a matter of respect and etiquette, it is considered inappropriate to point the soles of one’s feet toward a monastic or Buddha image. Accordingly, please be aware of your posture in the meditation hall: do not stretch legs out toward the altar and do not lounge or sprawl on the floor.
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      • For those requesting to visit when we are not in retreat, at this time, the Bhavana Society only offers what we term a casual personal retreat.  A casual personal retreat means you are asked to follow our daily schedule (sample can be found on our website) which includes no eating after noon, fully participating in all scheduled daily activities, working 2-4 hours each day (or longer if the work load is especially in need during your visit) though most work is completed in the morning but on occasion, it can continue in to the mid-afternoon hours.
      • Please note, all monastics must have permission from our Abbot to visit.  Even for a day visit, it is requested that you have contacted our Abbot and received permission from him to visit prior to registering for a visit or apply for residency.
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      Meditation Hall Guidelines

       
      • Please remove your shoes before entering the main building, meditation hall or dormitories.
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      • Upon entering and leaving the meditation hall, meditators may face the altar and offer a gesture of respect to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, either with a single bow or Triple Prostration. This is optional.
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      • Please enter the meditation hall quietly and take your seat as quietly as possible.
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      • Please don’t point the soles of one’s feet toward a monk or Buddha image.
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      • Please don’t lie down in the meditation hall.
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      • Hard plastic or metal bottles of clear water may be taken into the hall.
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      • Do not bring chiming and beeping watches or timers into the meditation hall. Turn off cell phones. Do not use iPods or MP3 players in the meditation hall.
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      • Make your sit a comfortable one. Feel free to sit it in the position that is comfortable for you. We have lots of meditation cushions, and you may bring your own if you wish.  If you’re not able to sit on a cushion, folding chairs may be used at the back of the hall.
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      • During sitting and walking meditation, please be mindful of noble silence. Please keep loud breathing to a minimum and try to walk silently.
      • Meditation sessions usually begin and end with a chime.
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      • Please treat sacred images and texts respectfully and do not store Dhamma books on the floor.
      • Don’t remove mats, cushions, or devotional books from the meditation hall.
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      Personal Retreats

      (At this time, we are not offering intensive personal retreats at our center.  When we are able to do so, we will update our website, please check back periodically for any changes to this notification.  We are accepting request for those who can follow our ‘casual retreat/visiting non-retreat times’ guidelines).

      Experienced Bhavana meditators can come to the Bhavana Society for an intensive personal meditation retreat. These specific guidelines must be followed.  The intensive self-retreat format is limited to those individuals who have previously completed a ten-day retreat at our center.  If you have not completed a ten-day retreat at Bhavana, we can offer you a Casual Personal Visit and you will follow our daily non-retreat schedule.  Please let us know which of these two types of retreat you are considering. 

      • For an Intensive Personal Retreat, you must have completed at least one ten-day retreat at the Bhavana Society.
      • Retreatants are expected to observe strict silence except in an emergency, in case of sickness, or in order to talk with a teacher.
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      • Retreatants will be given 2-4 hours of work each day. Instructions for the work will be given before your retreat period begins.
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      • In addition to your own meditation, you are required to attend two hours of group meditation a day (in morning and evening).
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      • Interviews with a teacher must be requested and scheduled prior to the beginning of the retreat period.
      • Because you will likely be the only one here on silent retreat, be aware that others will be talking. If you want to avoid hearing people speak, we recommend that you stay away from the main building.
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      • Do not leave the center until your retreat period ends. Once you leave the Bhavana Society premises, we will consider your intensive practice terminated.
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      To register for a casual retreat, use the Residency Applications tab of this page and indicate the type of personal retreat you intend to have.

      Visiting at Non-Retreat Times

       
      1. You may register for a visit no more than 30 days in advance of the date you plan to visit.
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      3. All guests are expected to fully participate in the daily meditation schedule as well as the devotional service and any other activities while here at our center.  During Vassa (July through October) and the winter months (November and December), the daily meditation schedule may be different.
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      5. We do not accept guests when we are in a retreat; please make sure you check our Restricted Dates listing prior to registering for a visit.
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      7. All guests will be expected to participate in up to two to four hours of work each day.
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      9. If you would like to come just for a day visit, we would still ask that you register so that we are aware of your intention to visit along with your arrival and departure time.
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      11. Non-retreat visits are limited up to a seven-day visit.  To stay longer, please submit a residency application.
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      13. You may make arrangements to come early or stay after a formal retreat if there is space available.  Please note, Bhavana Society closes at noon on January 1st so that all residents can begin their private two-month retreat, please do not register to visit during the months of January and February.
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      15. Any monastic considering visiting Bhavana Society or participating in a retreat MUST receive permission from our Vice-Abbot first.  Even for a day visit but especially for an overnight visit; this must be prearranged prior to your arrival.  You may send your request to our address to Bhante Gunaratana.  You may also send an email but it may take days, weeks or months to receive a reply (due to an overwhelming amount of emails he receives daily).  We recommend that you send a regular letter to him and include your email address so that he can reply to you directly. 

      To give you a more personal idea of what people experience by living at the Bhavana Society, past lay residents offer these reflections:

      From Nipuni (2021, Pictured above)

      Before coming to Bhavana, I was meditating at home with the goal of deepening my understanding of my internal world. My interest was strong, but I felt as though I was swimming against the current in an overstimulating world in which I had very little mental discipline.…It occurred to me that I would benefit from having a teacher (or teachers) and a community of like-minded individuals. Upon learning about Bhavana’s existence from a Reddit thread, I decided to take a month and invest time in my meditation practice. I had little understanding of the Dhamma but arrived with an open mind. I am now on my 3rd month at Bhavana, and I don’t have to remind myself to be grateful for this experience. I feel honored to be able to interact with the monastics here, and equally as honored to serve Bhavana with the laity. Not only has my meditation/discovery practice started to deepen its roots, but I have also developed a strong faith in the teachings of Dhamma due to example and growth of the community around.

      From David M. (2019):

      I stayed at Bhavana Society for one month during the residents’ winter retreat, and had the opportunity to live in the community of monastics and laypeople there at the time and assist with some daily needs. It has been almost 10 years since that happened, and my reflections on what it has meant to me have changed and matured with time. What is most remarkable about it to me, as I reflect on it now, is the way that it helped me in beginning to understand how unimportant my wants for things in the world really are to my well-being. I have had many ideas during this life about what would bring me some happiness, and have had many ideas about what I think I want and need, but staying in this community gave me an opportunity to see that the various worldly things I have and had occupied myself with (media and entertainment, career, money, sex, certain kinds of socializing, idle talking) have not overall brought happiness closer, but have actually in many ways distanced me from it enormously, compared to living in a peaceful Buddhist renunciate community. It was one thing to believe intellectually that happiness does not require all kinds of material objects and achievements and entertainment and goings-on, but quite another for me to see experientially that a life without those things, but with companions in spiritual life, was the more pleasant one for me.

      From Nick B. (Resident, Summer 2001, 2005, 2006):

      I first came to Bhavana in 2001 after I graduated from college.  Including that time, I have been a short term resident at Bhavana three times, for a total of about 5 months. The first time I came to Bhavana, I didn’t know all that much about Buddhism, but had some meditation experience and had been on a retreat with Bhante G before.  I came mostly with a sense of curiosity to see what Bhavana was all about.

      While at Bhavana I learned a lot about the Buddha’s teachings. But, looking back, I think the most important thing is that I gained confidence in the teachings of the Buddha as the way to end suffering. I think I learned this from being in the presence of monks and nuns who were practicing intensely and seeing how they relate to the world.  This was not something I could have absorbed from a book.  My time at Bhavana has continued to impact my life. Sometimes when I’m feeling confused or regretful, I think of the work I’ve done at Bhavana and I feel better knowing that I have contribute to a place that helps people be free from suffering.

      The simple life of the monastery also helped me look at my life more profoundly. My experiences have given me a profound respect for what is possible when anyone practices the way of the Buddha.

      From Jackie M.: Shortly after finally being introduced to Theravada Buddhism and formal meditation, I moved to Bhavana hoping to deepen my meditation practice more quickly and make up for lost time. At that point, I didn’t really know what I needed to learn about Dhamma or about myself, but living in a Buddhist community seemed like a good place to start. I was also excited about living in a kuti, closer to the woods and the weather. During my year-and-a-half at Bhavana, I moved from almost total ignorance of the Buddha’s teachings (I didn’t know what a sutta was!) to a good basic grounding in the Dhamma and familiarity with the Pali language. More importantly, I experienced the priceless gift and protection of living in a place where moral and mindful conduct is supported, in the company of sincere practitioners.

      Since leaving Bhavana and living in other communities, I can see how much more equanimity and self-understanding I have in my relationships with other people than I did when I first arrived at Bhavana. My meditation practice continues to unfold and while there are always challenges, I understand better how to meet them. What took me by surprise was learning how strongly I’m drawn to the good life of simplicity and renunciation, as well as the deepening of my faith in BuddhaDhammaSangha and learning how far that faith can carry me. I was also surprised and grateful to hear from family and friends elsewhere that my experience of residency at Bhavana touched them in positive ways.

      Reception at Bhavana Society and the surrounding area is sparce. Please download the map and copy the directions you need before coming. Site map is all the way at the bottom of this page.

      FROM EAST: Traffic out of Washington D.C. is extremely heavy in the afternoon. Please plan accordingly.

      1. I-66 West, 76 miles to I- 81 North toward Winchester, VA, then RIGHT
      2. I-81 North, 10 miles to Highway Rt. 37 toward Romney/Berkeley Springs, WV, then LEFT
      3. Rt. 37, then 5 miles to Rt. 50, then LEFT, West
      4. Rt. 50 West, 11 miles toward Romney
      5. Soon after the Gore Post Office, turn LEFT at the Gore sign. It takes you to the town of Gore. (There is a former convenience store that serves as a landmark.)
      6. Turn LEFT again at the Back Creek Road sign to go directly to the Bhavana Society.

      NOTE: Even with directions, drivers sometimes miss a turn, so these supplemental directions should help get you to Bhavana.

      If you miss the Back Creek Rd. turn off from Rt. 50, then:

      • Watch for a left turn exit to Route 259 (to Wardensville), a small exit lane just past Gore, near a gift shop. (If you miss the exit, the highway will change from 4 lanes to 2 lanes. If it does, turn back immediately and travel for a quarter mile.
      • Head south on Rt. 259 toward High View, WV, for 7 miles. Look for “High View Grocery” on right side of the road, shortly beyond that look for Back Creek Road, which is a very small street sign off the LEFT Side of Hwy. 259.
      • Turn LEFT at the sign and follow the road for one hundred yards, watching for a cemetery on the left. Do not turn before the cemetery.
      • As you pass the cemetery, turn LEFT and stay on Back Creek Road for a mile-and-a-half to a “T” junction (take special care as this is a winding and narrow country road with a few sharp turns!).
      • Turn RIGHT at the junction and continue on Back Creek Road for 3 miles. Look for the Bhavana Society sign on the left.

      If you miss the Back Creek Road turn off from Rt. 259, then:

      • Keep on Rt. 259 for about three miles until you see a bridge on the left.
      • Turn LEFT and cross the bridge, drive about four miles there will be an Octagon (shaped) house at the intersection.
      • Turn LEFT again onto Back Creek Road and follow it for two-and-a-half miles to our driveway, on your right.
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      FROM NORTH AND NORTHEAST:

      1. Take Hwy. 340 South until you reach Hwy. 7 or Hwy. 50 in Virginia to Winchester, Virginia.
      2. Take Hwy. 7 or Hwy. 50 West through Winchester and then continue west on Hwy. 50.
      3. From there, follow directions as from the east.

       

      FROM DUE NORTH:

      1. I-95 S or I-81 S (depending on your starting point) If taking I-95 S, follow directions to I-70 North (or I-270 N from 495 Beltway) to Frederick, MD
      2. I-70 will be found around Baltimore, MD heading towards Frederick. I-70 will take you to I-81 South.
      3. On I-81 S, take the first exit for Winchester, VA, Route 37 South.
      4. On Route 37 S, take the second exit, Route 50 West to Gore, VA/Romney, WV
      5. From there, follow directions as from the east.
      6.  

      FROM SOUTH AND SOUTHEAST:

      1. If you are traveling from the coastal freeways, in Virginia get on Interstate 81 North.
      2. To reach Hwy. 259 North, Capers Pike, drive about 10 miles north of Harrisonburg, Virginia, or at Strasburg, Virginia, take Hwy. 55 West.
      3. Then at Wardensville, take 259 North. Later, take a right Hwy. 16, Capon Springs Rd. (crossing the bridge) towards Capon Springs.
      4. After about three miles there will be an Octagon (shaped) House. Then take a left up the hill on Back Creek Road.
      5. After about two miles you will pass under large power lines; continue about two blocks. Our large granite sign and our driveway will be on the right.