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Thomas R. & Deborah A. Fletcher
Tranquility settles in on Western Maryland as gently as the falling leaves kiss the earth. Life, like activity on Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County, takes on a slower pace. The county's many trails are left to a few hikers. Swallow Falls State Park, very popular in summer, now appears to be a quiet refuge for a romantic walk.
Canyon Trail, a short one and one quarter mile walk, starts at the edge of the main parking lot. It meanders through Youghiogheny Grove, a majestic stand of virgin hemlock and white pine. Walking in the midst of these ancient giants, one feels as if one were walking through a cathedral of nature--a holy hush is required. The trail passes by Muddy Creek Falls--Maryland's highest waterfall--before dropping down into the river gorge, following alongside the Youghiogheny River for a ways. The riverside portion of the trail passes under a shroud of pine trees and around huge boulders. Shortly one comes upon the two-tiered Swallow Falls, named for the many cliff swallows that once nested in the rock crevices about the falls. The trail then loops back into the parking lot. The park has 65 tent and RV sites available for rent.
Not into roughing it? We really aren't either. We recommend a stay at the Carmel Cove Bed & Breakfast, on the banks of Deep Creek Lake. The Bed & Breakfast was originally built in 1945 as a monastery for the Discalced (barefoot) Carmelite Fathers. The location lends itself to quiet meditation--more than likely the reason the site was chosen by the Fathers in the first place. Surrounded by woodlands, the Bed & Breakfast sits merely 200 yards from the shore of Deep Creek Lake, Maryland's largest man-made body of water, covering 3,900 acres. Take the B & B's canoe out for a serene paddle on the lake, within easy walking or biking distance, visit Deep Creek Lake State Park.
Carmel Cove has 10 guest rooms available; classified as "standard," "deluxe," or "premier." The premier rooms have either a private fireplace or a private deck overlooking the surrounding woodlands. Breakfast room service is included, if desired. In addition to a shower, each has a large whirlpool bathtub for two, for those who prefer privacy over the outdoor hot tub.
Deluxe rooms are located along the back guest hall. These rooms have French doors opening to a private deck. Breakfast service on the deck is available, weather permitting. The deck features several flowering plants and Adirondack chairs. All rooms have private baths.
A large common room, that once served as the monastery chapel, has comfortable seating. A selection of CD's is available for guests' use as is a selection of videos, as well as a billiard table.
Our first morning found refreshing raindrops spattering the deck outside our French doors, so the deck breakfast service was out of the question. Knowing that coffee, tea, and juice are available at 7:00 AM; the words heard in our room were, "someone needs to get us some coffee." So, one of us made a coffee run while one of us remained propped up in bed, surrounded by plump pillows, awaiting the return of "coffee boy." Together we enjoyed our Amaretto-flavored coffee, while the rich aroma of breakfast wafting into our room fully awakened our hunger.
Breakfast in the dining room was fine with us. A little rain could not detract from our tranquil surroundings. The dining room is lovely, with floor to ceiling windows along one wall and gorgeous stonework adorning another. Ed, the innkeeper, is an excellent chef. His exquisite gourmet breakfasts will long be remembered.
Another nearby attraction is the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, located in Allegheny County. The railroad, based in Cumberland, makes a three-hour round trip run to Frostburg and covers approximately thirty-two miles of track. The route climbs a 2.8% grade from Cumberland's 629' elevation to an elevation of 1920' in Frostburg. There are spectacular views along the mountainous route, which are especially rewarding when bursting forth in fall colors.
The Western Maryland Railway Depot in Cumberland was built in 1913. Housed within the depot are the Allegheny Tourism Office, a transportation and industry museum, the Western Maryland Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, and the C & O Canal National Historical Park Visitor Center.
It is a real 485,000 pound steam engine that pulls the train, burning about three ton of coal on the round trip. The engine was built in 1916 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works and is aptly named "Mountain Thunder #734." The train pulls into the refurbished Frostburg Station, originally built in 1891. The station now contains a restaurant and gift shop.
The train has a one and half-hour layover in Frostburg, plenty of time to do some shopping or grab some lunch in the historic town. Don't miss seeing the locomotive engine being turned on the turntable for the return trip down to Cumberland. Train tickets entitle guests to visit the Thrasher Carriage Collection at no charge. The collection is located on the second floor of the Frostburg station. See the transportation vehicles of the late 1800's and early 1900's.
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