GRAYSVILLE-It's hard to miss the M&D Horses, Canoes and Kayaks campground along Ohio 26 in Monroe County-just look for the authentic-looking teepee.
"We bought it in a kit from an outfit in Colorado-and it can be rented by campers," said Mike Howell, co-owner with wife, Donna, of the horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking and camping facilities about three miles south of Graysville.
The idea for M&D Horses, Canoes and Kayaks came one Easter weekend a few years ago.
Donna, left, and Mike Howell stand at a fire ring campfire with granddaughter Emily Moore outside the teepee at M&D Horses, Canoes and Kayaks campground near Graysville.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
"We started with just riding horses for our family," Mike said. "But that Easter weekend we probably had 20-some nieces, nephews, and other family members who wanted to go horseback riding. So we thought why not do this for anyone who wanted to ride?"
That was four years ago. Now, in addition to offering horseback riding, including the horses, on three trails, their family-run business has 20 canoes and 20 kayaks that can be rented for leisurely treks down the Little Muskingum River, as well as camping facilities with electrical hookups, a picnic pavilion, the teepee, and a hillside rental cabin.
Mike said the cabin has all the comforts of home, including satellite television, and fully-equipped kitchen and bath.
If you go
M&D Horses, Canoes and Kayaks, 35163 State Route 26, Graysville, Ohio.
Horseback riding (three trails); canoe and kayak rentals on Little Muskingum River; tent, trailer and RV campground with electrical hookups; and single cabin or teepee rental.
Located along Ohio 26, about three miles south of Graysville in Monroe County.
From Marietta take Ohio 7 north to New Matamoras, take a left at Ohio 260, follow to Ohio 26 and turn right. Watch for M&D signs.
Operating days and hours:
First Friday in May to Memorial Day, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend-9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Labor Day through mid-October, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Call ahead (740) 934-2575 for details or visit www.manddhorses.com
Daughters Carrie Bunner and Tracy Moore also help out with the business, including operation of a concession stand near the horseback riding facilities where M&D's 12 horses are stabled.
Ruth Dick and Danielle Guiler handle the horseback riding end of the business for the Howells.
"All 12 horses are geldings-so they have very good temperaments," Dick said as she prepared the animals for a ride later Sunday afternoon.
She noted one horse, a black-and-white paint named Spud, is the great, great, great-grandson of a horse ridden by the late actor Charlton Heston in the movie "Big Country."
You don't have to be an expert equestrian in order to go horseback riding at M&D.
"We have around 600 horseback rides here every year, and a majority of those riders have never ridden a horse before," Mike said.
But once they learn to ride, many people come back again.
"We do have a lot of repeat customers," Dick said. "We offer 45-minute, 1 hour, and 1 1/2 hour rides, and there's a special 1 1/2 hour trail ride for more experienced riders, too."
She said the trails, averaging 3 miles each, wind through fields, wooded areas, through creeks and across bridges.
"And we have plenty of beautiful scenery and wildlife," Dick added. "They're a lot of fun-we even have groups of school kids who come to ride every year."
She said a few of those children already know how to ride, but most are given a short horseback riding course in the indoor corral before leaving the stables.
"They know the basics about riding when they leave here," said Tracy Moore. "One little girl who learned to ride here and came back often went on to take first place in her class at the Monroe County Fair."
Mike said another young woman who has cerebral palsy also learned to ride at M&D.
"The first time they came she was pretty scared and had to get off the horse-I thought she wouldn't come back, but she did and Ruth worked with her," he said. "Now she comes all the time and even gets on and off the horses by herself, which her mother says helps keep her muscles limbered up."
The Howells say everyone is welcome to visit M&D Horses, Canoes and Kayaks, whether for horseback riding, paddling down the Little Muskingum in a kayak, or just enjoying the great outdoors at the campground.
"And our campground is clean, quiet and family-friendly," Mike added. "We also provide fire rings for each campsite and firewood can be purchased if needed."