Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Driving the Covered Bridge Scenic Tour in Lancaster County



Lancaster County is in southern Pennsylvania, on the Susquehanna River and is known for the beauty of its rolling farmland as well as its Amish community, the oldest and largest in the United States.



Visit southeastern Lancaster County and its rolling farmland, plus the towns of Strasburg and Christiana, on this driving tour of its covered bridges.



The Amish arrived in Lancaster in the 1720s, escaping persecution in Europe and seeking a better life for themselves and their families. On this driving tour, you're guaranteed to encounter horse-drawn buggies and carriages on the roads, or see Amish farmers working the fields.



This four-bridge driving tour will carry you through the Amish countryside to explore historic covered bridges, all of which span the Octura Creek.



Along the way you'll pass by Amish one-room schoolhouses and farms, old barns, and even ruins of a mill. You'll end up discovering a place that’s quiet and relaxing, as you drive the twisting and turning scenic back roads.



Start your journey in Christiana and learn about its history and role in the Underground Railroad. At the Christiana Underground Railroad Center, take a self-guided tour through the museum and learn about the Christiana Riot. Unfortunately, due to COVID 19 closures, we focused on minimizing contact with other people, and didn't visit either Christiana (other than a quick drive through) or Strasburg.



Built in 1880 and located just south of Christiana, Mercer’s Mill Covered Bridge is one of the only two remaining bridges shared with Chester County, and is named after a nearby paper mill purchased by Rachel Mercer in 1877.



Getting there: 3771 Bailey Crossroads Road, Atglen, PA (or type Mercer's Mill Covered Bridge into your GPS)



The Pine Grove Covered Bridge is the only double-span, double-arch bridge in use in the County, at 204 feet. Originally built in 1816, it was later rebuilt in 1846 and 1884 because it was destroyed by flood water. Jointly owned by Lancaster and Chester Counties, the bridge needs for repairs, but it remains open.



Getting there: Ashville Road, Little Britain, PA (or type Pine Grove Covered Bridge into your GPS)



As the county’s second oldest bridge, White Rock Forge Covered Bridge was originally built in 1847 and rebuilt in 1884.



Getting there: 248 White Rock Road, Kirkwood, PA (or type White Rock Forge Covered Bridge into your GPS)




Jackson’s Sawmill Covered Bridge was built in 1878, but was destroyed by a flood in 1988. The county rebuilt the bridge and raised it an additional three feet to keep safe from future floods.



Getting there: 1128-1198 Mount Pleasant Road, Quarryville, PA (or type Jackson's Saw Covered Bridge into your GPS)



For other covered bridge scenic tours in Lancaster County, click here.







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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Maryland's Best Kept Secret: A Cozy Cabin Hideaway at New Germany State Park



We just discovered Maryland's "best kept secret," renting a cabin at New Germany State Park. 



Nestled between Big Savage Mountain and the Eastern Continental Divide, New Germany State Park offers 10 miles of hiking, a lake to swim or kayak on, and of course, 12 cabins. 



This was our first stay at a state park cabin. We're hooked. We're not into roughing it -- we consider no air-conditioning "glamping." So we glamped at New Germany State Park. 



The cabin was cozy and comfortable and just right as a base of operations for two day of exploring all that Garrett County, in western Maryland, has to offer. 



The two bedrooms weren't fancy -- just room enough for a night table and a queen-size bed in one, and a twin bed in the other. At night, with the windows open, we could hear the night-insect sounds -- one of my favorite sounds. On our first night, we heard an owl -- a first for me -- hoo hoo de hooing. I believe I heard him a several times that night, as I dreamt later that I'd heard it again. We did not see a bear or any other forest critters, to our disappointment, but we definitely saw evidence of bears, with scratch marks on logs and scat.



Cabins 1 -11 are historic, built in the late 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, part of Roosevelt's New Deal that put out of work young men back to work in the 1930s. In western Maryland, that meant building trails and park roads and park buildings for Maryland's new state parks.

Each cabins features a beautiful stone fireplace; a full kitchen including a full-size refrigerator, microwave, four-burner stove/oven, a coffee maker and basic pans and dishes; electric heat, and rustic charm. 



On each front porch are adirondack chairs that invite you to enjoy nature and contemplate your day. An outdoor grill and picnic table complete the cabin.

Guest comments from a previous guest show the power
of disconnecting -- and reconnecting with each other!


Cabins #3 - 7 are dog-friendly. 

Even kids love staying in the cabins!

So what's the catch? Is there one? Yes -- you're out of cell phone range and there's no internet. Congrats! You get to disconnect for a few days.



Although we suffered withdrawal, it was also a blessing. My sister and I hiked, reconnected, read books, played games, sat on the front porch doing nothing (which felt really good after a lot of hiking), and I learned to knit.



The park offers 2-person cabins to 8-person cabins, ranging from $76 to $116 per night (2 night minimum). As with most hotels, check-in is 3 p.m. and check-out is 11 a.m. The cabins were neat and clean -- no spiders lurked in the corners.



The park itself features 10 miles of hiking trails and a man-made lake that includes a beach for swimming. 



Open year round, New Germany State Park has a lot to offer in every season. During the winter months, you can rent cross-country skis or snowshoes to take out on the trails, which are professionally tracked and groomed for skiing. We want to try out snowshoeing, so we're already making plans to return during the winter.



During the summer, you can swim in the lake or rent paddle boards or kayaks.



So much to do in the area, from Deep Creek Lake just 25 minutes away, to Garrett County's six state parks: Dans Mountain State Park, Casselman Bridge State Park, Big Run State Park, Deep Creek State Park, Sang Run State Park, Swallow Falls State Park, Herrington Manor State Park, and Garret State Forest, equalling some 60 thousand acres of nature to lose yourself in.



We explored nearby Casselman Bridge State Park, Swallow Falls State Park, Sang Run State Park, as well as hiked the trails just outside our cabin. 

If you're into biking, the Great Allegheny Passage is nearby and while reading the comments previous guests had left, apparently that was the draw for a number of folks who stayed at the cabin.



In addition, you're not far away from both the Youghiogheny and Casselman rivers, American history spanning from the French & Indian War through the 20th century, and the promise of endless outdoor adventures!



Know before you go: Bring a fan, since there's no air conditioning. You'll also need to bring your own sheets and towels and blankets. Finally, there's neither cell phone service nor internet. 

Getting there: 349 Headquarters Ln, Grantsville, MD 21536

Website: https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/western/newgermany.aspx




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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Dinosaurs, Rail Cars and More at Depot at Dolittles!



What place offers food (both fine dining and "diner style"), a pizzeria, a brewery where you can sample craft beers, miniature golf, animatronic dinosaurs, and trains, both real historic train cars and a variety of models?



There's only one place in the mid-Atlantic region that I know of that has all these things: Depot at Doolittles. Did I mention you can spend the night in a real caboose or Presidential Palace car?



Go back in time with Doolittle's dinosaurs. There's a variety of interesting concrete dinosaurs on the miniature golf course, but fun as they are, those aren't the ones you really need to see. Over the past several years, Dr. Rice, the owner of Depot at Doolittles, has installed a variety of dinosaurs in an exhibit hall for kids of all ages to enjoy.



These wonderful creations are very realistic looking, and move and roar, as appropriate for their species. You can even watch them breathing.



You can even ride one of them!

Photo courtesy Depot at Doolittles


The model railroaders car is supported by the DuBois area model railroading community. With nine different layouts, you're sure to find one that will tickle your fancy. The centerpiece of the collection is a three-tiered, 66 foot HO layout.

Photo courtesy Depot at Doolittles


With five restaurants on site (Railcar Pizza, Boxcar Brew Works and Boxcar Food Works, Fine Dining in the Parlor Car, the Diner Car, and the Roadside Cafe) and each one of those restaurants in a very cool historic railroad car, caboose, or box car, eating at Doolittle's is not just a restaurant experience -- it's like stepping back in time, a time that you chose.



The rail station, The Depot, was built from the modified plans of an 1890 B&O station. Dr. Rice tried to use salvaged materials from that period, including lighting, or he had exact replicas created.



The Depot at Doolittles complex currently contains amicrobrewery, a fine dining restaurant, a 50s-era diner, a creamery, a Party Barn, and the Little Caring Caboose. 



A great place to spend the night!



Play all day, and then spend the night in an historic 1901 Pullman Presidential car, and sleep in the bed where Teddy Roosvelt slept in. Before it was loaned to Teddy Roosevelt, this luxurious car, literally a palace on the rails, was the private transport car for the president of the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway.



Or sleep in one of the refurbished cabooses. Cabooses served as living quarters and cooking facilities for train crews and were in use up to 1980.

Photo courtesy Visit Clearfield County; interior of one of the cabooses.

Of course, I've visited this place multiple times, and it's a place I plan to return to, with friends in tow. It's a great place to stay if you are in the area to hear the elk bugle or enjoy all the other fun things to do in Clearfield County. 
Getting there: 1290 Rich Hwy #200, DuBois, PA 15801

Hours: The hours for the various options varies. Call or check the website, below.

Website: http://doolittlestation.com/
For other articles on what to see and do in Clearfield County:


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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Maryland's Beauty Spots -- A Driving Tour to Green Ridge State Forest's Scenic Overlooks



Come on a journey to seven of Maryland's beauty spots, during a scenic drive that will take you through the country roads and byways of the Green Ridge State Forest, past forgotten family cemeteries and to some of the prettiest spots in western Maryland.



Plan on at least three hours for this 44-mile scenic drive through the back roads of Allegheny County, MD and the Green Ridge State Forest to six uniquely different overlooks. It took us closer to four hours, but we were savoring the view and driving carefully because we really didn't have a good vehicle for the roads. This would be an ideal daytrip to see the autumn foliage! (In fact, we're going back!)

The view from Town Hill B&B Overlook


We found this scenic drive when I started researching best scenic views in Maryland for another article. I realized I didn't have any decent photos of the scenic view from Sideling Hill -- and I wanted to include that because it's easy to find and the view is pretty amazing. Since we were in that neck of the woods, I figured we should probably check out the overlook at the headquarters of the Green Ridge State Forest, which I'd been meaning to do for years. On our way home, I was going to make another stop at Maryland's Washington Monument -- the last time we were there, fog rolled in and obliterated the view.



A little research later, and I uncovered this scenic drive through the Green Ridge State Forest, and suddenly, our plans changed (although we still stopped at Sideling Hill).

Note: I've changed my usual format slightly. Our GPS didn't work for all the overlooks, so I've included extensive directions (most of which come from the official forest driving tour directions). All directions are italicized and major turning points italicized and bolded so you can find them easily. At the end of the article, I include all the directions together, so that they can be easily copied and pasted onto a document and printed out.


1. Headquarters Overlook



Behind the headquarters and state forest visitors center, a wheelchair-accessible path leads to the first scenic overlook of your journey to some of Maryland's "beauty spots."  This overlook provides a panoramic view of the state forest -- and would be spectacular when the autumn foliage begins changing color!



The headquarters overlook is where you should start the scenic drive, and it's from this point that the driving directions begin. We followed the directions on the web site, but have a few corrections.

Getting there: 28700 Headquarters Drive NE, Flintstone MD

2. Town Hill B&B Overlook


Town Hill Bed & Breakfast still operates in the former Town Hill Motel.


The Town Hill Bed & Breakfast was once the Town Hill Hotel, one of several along the Old National Pike that catered to "pleasure travelers" once automobiles were invented. Town Hill Hotel offered a gas station, a restaurant, and of course, hotel rooms. Similar hotels were also located on the tops of Sideling Hill, Green Ridge, Polish Mountain, Martins Mountain, and Big Savage Mountains.



Once surrounded by apple orchards planted by the original owners of most of the land -- the Mertens -- tourists once referred to Town Hill Overlook as the "Beauty Spot" of Maryland. During the early 1900s, the Mertens family of Cumberland attempted to convert the forest into apple orchards and promoted it as “The Largest Apple Orchard in the Universe.”



The overlook, at an elevation of 1595 feet above sea level, gazes to the east toward Sideling Hill Mountain and the Sideling Hill Cut that carries I-68 into western Maryland.




Getting there: The easiest way to get there is to GPS Town Hill Bed and Breakfast, at 31101 National Pike NE, Little Orleans, MD. The parking lot for the overlook is across the street from the historic inn.


3. Point Lookout Overlook




Point Lookout Overlook dates back to the Civil War, when Union soldiers used the area as a lookout and signal post.



Although just 900 feet above sea level, Point Lookout was ideal for detecting Confederate movements toward the Maryland border. Looking east, is Maryland, with the Potomac River curling in the landscape below. On the far side of the river is West Virginia. The loop below was once known as "General Washington's Horseshoe Bend" Note that the C&O Canal is on the Maryland side of the river.


Getting there: (GPSable by name) From the parking lot of the Hill Top B&B, turn left onto the National Road/U.S. Rt 40. Near the bottom of the hill, turn left onto Mountain Road, which soon turns into a gravel road. Once on Mountain Road, you'll drive past another dirt road -- Tower Road -- that connects from the left and will continue on Mountain Road, crossing over the I-68 overpass. Immediately after the overpass, bear sharp left to continue on Mountain Road. 
Continue on Mountain Road for 1.8 miles, passing over Mud Lick (creek) where you'll come to a fork -- bear left to continue on Mountain Road. Nine-tenths of a mile later, and you'll again come to a fork, where you'll bear right to remain on Mountain Road. A half mile later at the bottom of the mountain, you'll come to a stop sign and a paved road -- Orleans Road. Turn right onto Orleans Road.  

Follow Orleans Road for 2.4 miles until you cross over a low water bridge over Fifteen Mile Creek. Immediately turn right onto Oldtown Orleans Road, which you'll follow for 2.8 miles. Turn left onto Carroll Road. Two-tenths of a mile down Carroll Road is the lookout; there's ample parking on the right.



4. Brinkman-Rine Cemetery is along the way between Point Lookout Overlook and Banner's Overlook, but it's worth a stop. It's a peaceful, quiet and beautiful spot on the mountainside.



In addition to Brinkmans and Rines, you'll find McCabes, Robys, Twiggs and other family names; some of the graves date back to the 1860s. The most recent is Michael McCabe Senior, who outlived his entire family and died in 1974.



Brinkman-Rine Cemetery is one of the 30 or so documented family cemeteries that remain in Green Ridge State Forest, and descendents still visit the grave site. It is possible that the Rine Methodist Episcopal Church had been located nearby. The cemetery is an indication that a community once thrived in what is now the state forest.



Getting there: Head back the way you came on Carroll Road, then turn left onto Oldtown Orleans Road. Follow Oldtown Orleans Road 3 miles. It's easy to miss the cemetery sign in the brush on the right. Also, the road UP to the cemetery is too rough for a car or a cross-over SUV, but it's less than a five-minute walk.

5. Banner's Overlook




Congratulations. You are now almost at the exact geographic center of the Green Ridge State Forest. Sitting at 1650 feet above sea level on Town Hill, this is one of the highest elevations you'll reach on this driving tour. As with Point Lookout Overlook, you look east toward the Potomac River lazily flowing below. Note that you're looking at the West Virginia side of Sideling Mountain. Banner's Overlook is named after Banner Shipley, a forest warden who tragically died from a tree limb falling on him.



At Banner's Overlook, you're also looking over the Point Lookout Overlook, which is situated along one of the ridges below you.

Getting there: (GPS couldn't find this overlook) A third of a mile past the Brinkman-Rine Cemetery, turn right onto Mertens Avenue. Follow Mertens Avenue (also a dirt road, despite its name) one and two-tenths miles, when you'll see the parking lot on the left for Banner's Overlook.

6. Log Roll Overlook




Although not my favorite of the day's overlooks, this one offers a picnic table, where you can spread your picnic feast and enjoy a sup with an incredible view west from Green Ridge Mountain. Or bring a blanket, spreading it out on the slope and just relax while the birds chirp all around you. So about the name. Log Roll Overlook took its name from a practice from an earlier era of major forest clearning, when wood was transported to this site to be dumped over the edge down to Town Creek, below. The stream then transported the logs nine miles to a sawmill located near the C&O Canal.



You can see three states from Log Roll Overlook: Maryland, of course. But look to the near left, and there's West Virginia. Pennsylvania can be seen on the far right.

Getting there: (GPSable by name) From the Banner's Overlook parking area, turn left back onto Mertens Avenue and continue for just shy of 2 miles, when you'll turn left onto Green Ridge Road. Follow Green Ridge Road two and a third miles to Log Roll Overlook, on the right.


7. Zumbrun Overlook




From the Zumbrun Overlook, named for forest manager Francis "Champ" Zumbrun, you get a spectacular view from Polish Mountain, looking west over the Town Creek Basin to Warrior Mountain and Flintstone. This is one of my favorite overlooks.



Getting there: (GPSable by name) Turn back around onto Green Ridge Road, retracing your journey along the high ridge for 1.6 miles until you turn left onto Jacob's Road. Follow Jacob's Road for a while. At just over 3 miles, you'll cross a small, single-track bridge carrying you over Maple Run. Continue another 4 miles, until you turn left onto Mertens Avenue. Six-tenths of a mile later, turn right onto Troutman Road. Follow Troutman Road 1.5 miles, until the turn-off for the parking area for Zumbrun Overlook on your left.

Sideling Hill Cut Overlook

Not far away from Green Ridge State Forest and actually viewable from several of the overlooks on the driving tour, you'll find this impressive scenic view at a highway rest stop (elevation 1,280 feet above sea level) along I-68, situated on the eastern side of the Sideling Hill Road Cut and offering sweeping panoramic views eastward in Washington County, MD.



A little warning: Most of the roads on the driving tour are dirt/gravel. Although we did this drive just fine with our beat up old Toyota Prius -- a couple of the roads had spots that were a little hairy for a sedate Prius, although we fared better than an sizzling, overheated pick-up truck we passed (and provided our extra water to). When we go to West Virginia, we always take our slightly more rugged but equally beat up Toyota Rav4, which has a slightly higher clearance and all-wheel drive if we needed it in a pinch for the inevitable forest service roads I end up taking us on). We kinda wished we had taken the Rav4.



Know before you go:  Bring extra water -- and you'll probably also want to pack a picnic lunch and maybe a blanket to spread on the grass or to cover a picnic table with. You won't need your hiking boots, but you will want your camera, binoculars, a fully charged phone/gps unit, and snacks and drinks to enjoy along the way.

Directions for the entire scenic drive, so you can copy - paste into a document for easy reference:

  1. Start at forest headquarters and its overlook: 28700 Headquarters Drive NE, Flintstone MD
  2. Town Hill Overlook: the easiest way to get there is to GPS Town Hill Bed and Breakfast, at 31101 National Pike NE, Little Orleans, MD. The parking lot for the overlook is right across the street from the historic inn.
  3. Point Lookout Overlook (also GPSable by name): From the parking lot of the Hill Top B&B, turn left onto the National Road/U.S. Rt 40. Near the bottom of the hill, turn left onto Mountain Road, which soon turns into a gravel road. Once on Mountain Road, you'll drive past another dirt road -- Tower Road -- that connects from the left and will continue on Mountain Road, crossing over the I-68 overpass. Immediately after the overpass, bear sharp left to continue on Mountain Road. 
    Continue on Mountain Road for 1.8 miles, passing over Mud Lick (creek) where you'll come to a fork -- bear left to continue on Mountain Road. Nine-tenths of a mile later, and you'll again come to a fork, where you'll bear right to remain on Mountain Road. A half mile later at the bottom of the mountain, you'll come to a stop sign and a paved road -- Orleans Road. Turn right onto Orleans Road. 

    Follow Orleans Road for 2.4 miles until you cross over a low water bridge over Fifteen Mile Creek. Immediately turn right onto Oldtown Orleans Road, which you'll follow for 2.8 miles. Turn left onto Carroll Road. Two-tenths of a mile down Carroll Road is the lookout; there's ample parking on the right.
  4. Brinkman-Rine Cemetery: Head back the way you came on Carroll Road, then turn left onto Oldtown Orleans Road. Follow Oldtown Orleans Road 3 miles. There will be a small sign on the right.
  5. Banner's Overlook (did not come up in WAZE): A third of a mile past the Brinkman-Rine Cemetery, turn right onto Mertens Avenue. Follow Mertens Avenue (also a dirt road, despite its name) one and two-tenths miles, when you'll see the parking lot on the left for Banner's Overlook.
  6. Log Roll Overlook (GPSable by name): From the Banner's Overlook parking area, turn left back onto Mertens Avenue and continue for just shy of 2 miles, when you'll turn left onto Green Ridge Road. Follow Green Ridge Road two and a third miles to Log Roll Overlook, on the right.
  7. Zumbrun Overlook (GPSable by name): turn back around onto Green Ridge Road, retracing your journey along the high ridge for 1.6 miles until you turn left onto Jacob's Road. Follow Jacob's Road for a while. At just over 3 miles, you'll cross a small, single-track bridge carrying you over Maple Run. Continue another 4 miles, until you turn left onto Mertens Avenue. Six-tenths of a mile later, turn right onto Troutman Road. Follow Troutman Road 1.5 miles, until the turn-off for the parking area for Zumbrun Overlook on your left.


Websites: Green Ridge State Forest -- https://dnr.maryland.gov/forests/Pages/publiclands/western_greenridgeforest.aspx
The official driving tour -- https://dnr.maryland.gov/forests/Documents/GRSF-Driving-Tour.pdf







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