The Washington area is justly famous for its natural attractions. Drive three hours east and you're at the ocean. A couple of hours west, you're breathing the piney air of the Appalachians. Head south and in two hours you can be sipping peach tea in the southern stronghold of Richmond.

But what if you drive for only one hour? Where will you end up?

We're as strapped for time as the next guy. So for this special Maryland/Virginia issue, we gave six reporters a challenge: Find a B&B you can get to in an hour from the Beltway, in a beautiful -- nay, soul-stirring -- area. Somewhere you really feel as if you've gotten away. Then we sent them off in various directions.

They came back raving. In a good way.

We discovered that just an hour from D.C., you can be floating on the Rappahannock, winery-hopping in the foothills of the Blue Ridge or watching leeches writhe in a Colonial apothecary. On the Maryland side, small-town pleasures, crab feasts, fossil hunts and bay views await.

Our reports begin on Page P4, and a primer on finding Maryland and Virginia B&Bs appears on P8. So the next time you feel the need to escape D.C., repeat after us: One hour. In just one hour, you can be a world away.