Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Yummiest Daytrip Ever: Following the Ice Cream Trail in Mountain Maryland

The Golden Lady Sundae, by Frostburg Freeze

We decided to usher in the unofficial start of summer Memorial Day Weekend by following the Allegheny County Ice Cream Trail. Our goal: to sample at least five of the nine stops along the tasty trail. #caloriesdon'tcountonanicecreamtrail

I have a Know Before You Go pro-tip right of the bat: it's not necessary to go to all in one day. We covered the five in two separate daytrips; this trail is perfect if you're planning on visiting the area for a longer period -- it takes you near Dans Rock Overlook, the Green Ridge State Forest and all the hiking that's available there as well as the very fun Overlook Scenic Tour

If we had a favorite, I'd say Livvy's -- we laughed at the names of the various sundaes, which ranged from Big Bubba (vanilla ice cream with chopped peanuts, pretzel pieces, caramel, hot fudge, topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry) to PMS (chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup, chocolate chips and brownie pieces with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry -- chocolate makes everything better) to Strawberry Short Cake (vanilla ice cream on a shortcake topped with strawberries, topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry). 

But there was something to appreciate at every stop! 

Oak Barrel Cafe

We started the trail at the Oak Barrel Cafe, just off Exit 72 of Interstate 68 in Little Orleans. It was raining, so we really appreciated the space inside to enjoy the soft serve treats. 

Oak Barrel Cafe offers a standard but enticing variety of sundaes and shakes, including Peanut Butter, Cherry, Pineapple, Red Raspberry, Hot Fudge, Snickers, Cookies and Cream, and Caramel and Butterscotch. This was our first stop so I for a basic chocolate vanilla twist (with sprinkles, of course). It's been years since I've enjoyed soft serve ice cream, and so it was like tasting the best years of my childhood.

But there's a lot more there than ice cream. You can pick up sandwiches, wraps, subs, burgers, pizzas, grain bowls, or other hot snacks as well, which means if ever I need a quick meal as I'm driving through, this place is definitely on my stop list!

Getting there: 35206 National Pike NE, Little Orleans, MD

Hours: open 24 hours

Website: https://www.oakbarrelcafe.com/menu

Queen City Creamery and Cafe

We actually tried to go to Twisteez next, but they open at 4 p.m., and it was only 3 p.m., so we headed up to Cumberland and to the Queen City Creamery and Cafe. It was raining hard by then, kinda putting a damper on the whole ice cream thing, but we weren't going to let rain dissuade us from grabbing another frozen treat! You can grab a more substantial meal at the Queen City Cafe as well.

The Mint Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae

So if it's raining, grab an umbrella. We had to wait a few minutes in line before we could order -- and the line kept growing! Although there's one table alongside the restaurant, there's not a lot of room to sit and enjoy your frozen treat.

Getting there: 108 W Harrison St, Cumberland, MD

Hours: Monday - Friday 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.;  Saturday 8 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Website: https://www.queencitycreamery.com/


Twisteez is a classic roadside soft-serve ice cream stand, and that's why you should add Twisteez to your bucket list. I agree with other customers' YELP reviews that the portions are big and the service is friendly for this little place. Outdoor picnic tables offer plenty of place to enjoy your ice cream!

With specialty sundaes such as Oreo Fluffernutter (vanilla ice cream, marshmallow topping, peanut butter, hot fudge and Oreo pieces), Bahama Breeze (vanilla ice cream, pineapple, strawberries, banana and crushed pecan) and Peanut Butter Overload (vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, peanut butter and Reese's peanut butter cups), it's clear why this is a must-stop along the Ice Cream Trail. Twisteez specializes in soft serve ice cream, but also has items such as slushies, snow balls, and floats. There's also frozen coffee, a variety of floats (made with root beer, Pepsi, Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper), and snow balls (in just about any flavor or color you'd like). Or keep it simple with a chocolate vanilla twist cone with sprinkles!

We sampled the Peanut Butter Pretzel sundae (vanilla ice cream, peanut butter, caramel, hot fudge, and chocolate covered pretzel pieces). Super delicious! 

Twisteez is a family-owned business that strives to keep prices low -- so make sure you bring cash, as that's all they accept. 

Getting there: 11506 Bedford Rd NE, Cumberland, MD

Hours: Monday - Friday 4 - 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 2 - 9 p.m.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/twisteezicecream/

Frostburg Freeze

Every day is sundae at Frostburg Freeze! Like the other stops along the Ice Cream Trail, Frostburg Freeze offers snacks and food beyond ice cream and such, such as burgers, salads, nachos and chicken and shrimp dinners. But I didn't see anyone there for anything but the ice cream! Specialty sundaes include Banana Split, Hot Fudge Brownie Delight, and the enticing Funnel Cake Sundae (hot funnel cake sticks coated in powdered sugar with your choice of toppings). 

There are picnic tables and chairs around for customers to enjoy their snacks. We enjoyed a Golden Lady Sundae (vanilla ice cream with caramel and chopped peanuts) and an Elvis Sundae (vanilla ice cream with, of course, banana, peanut butter topping, and chocolate fudge). 

The Elvis Sundae

What I really liked about the Frostburg Freeze: it's exactly like the places my parents would take my sister and I to after visiting our cousins in Pennsylvania. 

Getting there: 225 W Main St, Frostburg, MD

Hours: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Website: https://m.facebook.com/FrostburgFreeze/

Livvy's Soft Serve

I don't know Livvy but I wish I did, because we enjoyed the humor expressed in the names of Livvy's Soft Serve's Specialty Sundaes. There's the Jimmy Buffet (vanilla ice cream with coconut, pinapple, strawberry, topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry) and The Porker (vanilla ice cream, crispy bacon, caramel, brownie pieces, whipped cream and a maraschino cherry), in addition to a variety of others. 

We sampled Bye Bye American Pie and The Porker -- I was interested in how the bacon would taste with the vanilla ice cream and caramel topping. DELICIOUS. I'd go back for this one again (although not gonna lie, I'd go back to ANY of the stops along the trail, again!). 

Getting there: 13125 Warrior Dr, Cumberland, MD

Hours: 1 - 9 p.m.

Website: https://m.facebook.com/livvys.softserve/

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Saturday, June 26, 2021

Minnewaska State Park: Rainbow Falls Hike

I rely on AllTrails.com almost as much as I rely on AllRecipes.com. I have no idea whether the two are related. But they're both great resources! 

Lake Minnewaska, one of the parks several "sky lakes" and for which, the state park is named.

So during our visit to the Hudson Valley area, I'd planned out a couple of short hikes, to waterfalls, of course, based on the Alltrails info, within Minnewaska State Park. 

The view from a roadside overlook, looking over the valley to the Catskill Mountains.

Minnewaska State Park Preserve, located on the Shawngunk Mountain Ridge in Ulster County NY, is a gorgeous park with many hiking trails that offers beautiful scenery. There is plenty of parking, trails are well marked and maps available at the visitors center. Within the preserve, there's about 50 miles of trails, a combination of well groomed fine gravel carriageways and rough paths. The Shawangunk Mountains rise more than 2,000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by rugged, rocky terrain. Pronounce it like a local: "Shwan-gun" with the variant "Shawn-gum." 

We decided to head to the visitors center -- honestly, I can't remember what question we were going to ask -- but after chatting with one of the park employees, we changed our plans dramatically. Instead of three short hikes and a scenic drive, we now committed to one longish out-and-back hike -- about five miles, give or take a few tenths of a mile -- to a waterfall that is only dramatic after heavy rain, in addition to the two shorter hikes. 

Our original plans were to check out Awosting Falls, Compass Rocks, and Peterskill Falls. He suggested that we'd get all the views along the longer hike to Rainbow Falls PLUS we'd get to enjoy Rainbow Falls. He had us at "Rainbow Falls."

The park employee patiently explained that our third planned hike, to Peterskill Falls, was not actually on the park's hiking trails, that in this case, Alltrails was misleading and wrong, and that we'd have to do some bushwacking to get to the falls and of course, he recommended that we actually stay on the trails. So we scratched that hike, but in stead of that, he also recommended we do the short and sweet Stony Kill Falls hike, so we added that one instead of Peterskill Falls. Our entire day just got re-arranged and we loved it!

The park employee promised that the hike out to Rainbow Falls would be lovely, offering in addition to the waterfalls, some views looking over to the Catskill Mountains as we hiked along the ridge on the well-groomed carriage trails.

He directed us to the trailhead (although of course we took a wrong turn and headed DOWN the mountain side for a good quarter mile). 

Since we were the first in the visitors center, we were the first on this particular trail, and that made it kind of fun -- we appreciated that on our way out, we encountered no one. But we did encounter a plethora of song birds, including one bluejay that seemed to follow us a bit along the trail, shrieking at us all the while. 

And then we saw the porcupine. 

Those of you who live in the northeast might be more familiar with these cute rodents, but this was a first for me, and seeing one NOT in a zoo was also a bucket list item. We encountered the porcupine, which seemed completely unbothered by us, about 10 feet off the trail (we stayed on the trail). He was ambling along his way, barely seeming to notice us, and soon enough headed into the brush and disappeared. It.was.so.cool.

We high-fived each other over seeing this cool little creature. It literally made our day. We could have just turned around and we would have been well pleased with the day. 

But this is a trail that just kept on giving. What made this hike so spectacular in early May (and after two days of rain) was the sheer number of trail-side, unnamed waterfalls. Throughout almost the entire hike, we walked to the burble of streams and waterfalls. 

After about 2 miles from the visitors center, we encountered a clearing on the side of the carriage way, a water fall cascading over the cliffs down to the forest below. We took numerous photos, not realizing that this was only our first view of Rainbow Falls. 

Not long afterward was the side trail leading to the base of Rainbow Falls. We turned right onto the trail, immediately heading down the side of the mountain. There were a few water crossings, but mostly we were able to jump from rock to rock for these stream crossings. 

If you google rainbow falls, you'll discover that about 25 out of the 50 U.S. states have waterfalls named "Rainbow." Also, please note that the route we took was quite a bit different than the one featured on AllTrails.com. We followed the Upper Awosting Carriageway from the visitors center to the intersection with the Rainbow Falls footpath. If you continued along the Upper Awosting Carriageway, you'll come to Lake Awosting and can add the loop around the lake to your hike, before returning to the visitors center parking.

Getting there: 5281 Route 44-55, Kerhonkson, NY 12446

Hours: 9 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Websites: https://www.nynjtc.org/park/minnewaska-state-park and https://parks.ny.gov/parks/minnewaska/details.aspx

These mysterious ruins were along the carriageway.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Taking the Healing Waters at Capon Springs and Farms Resort

The Capon Springs and Farms Resort is a family friendly, traditional resort nestled in the mountains along the Capon River, adjacent the George Washington National Forest. With a history dating back to pre-Civil War days, almost all the buildings on the property are historic, so it's a bit like stepping back in time!

Because the buildings are historic, the resort is pretty and charming and embraces that old-timey feel. There's a band stand and a camp fire ring. 

Hammocks dot the grounds, offering inviting places to curl up with a book or just relax and watch the clouds.

Meals are taken family style in the main dining room -- you're assigned your table at your first meal. It's likely that throughout your stay, you'll have the same waiter or waitress serve your meals; as they get to know your preferences, you'll find these anticipated. We enjoyed fried chicken, roast turkey with all the fixings, pancakes, freshly baked rolls, hamburgers and more. It's all you can eat, of course.

There's a fabulous (cold) swimming pool -- really a "bathing beach" because water from the springs are pumped through it (a swimming pool is filled with filtered and treated, often heated water). 

It's a cool 65 degrees though, because the water comes straight from the famous Capon Springs. If you're there on the right day, you might be able to snag a tour through the spring house, to see the springs which produce more than a 100 gallons a minute and learn why the spring water is so danged good! 

Glider chairs and rocking chairs on all the porches, as well as a variety of sweet places to sit, invite you to kick back and bide a while. 

If you're tired from the 17 miles of hiking along 6 trails, all attached to the resort. One morning before breakfast, I ventured up the White Cliff trail, a charming walk through the woods until a short but fairly steep climb up to the cliffs.

I tried out the Roman baths at the spa -- one of my first stops after arriving at the resort. I pondered signing up for another the following day, but there were no appointments available. No wonder! It was 30 minutes of steaming hot luxury, in chamomile-scented spring waters (you can choose your scented bath salts, or have no bath salts at all).

One of eight known "warm springs" in West Virginia, the constant 65-degree water streaming forth from Capon Springs have a long history of healing qualities being attributed to them, and who's to say that there isn't something about these waters that just make you feel better? 

Scientifically, the alkaline waters from Capon Springs has a high concentration of dissolved oxygen, healthful doses of magnesium and calcium, and trace amounts of lithium. It's a good tasting water, and you find yourself wanting to drink more of it. 

When you aren't taking the waters (in one form or another) or reading in a hammock, there are board games, golf, tennis, disc golf, fishing, badminton, shuffle board, volley ball or ping pong, among other activities. There are movie nights, campfires and ping pong tournaments. This is seriously retro and equally wonderful.

Capon Springs would be a great place for a girls weekend, a couples retreat, or a family vacation.

The couple in the room next to ours was celebrating their 15th anniversary -- her parents had met at the resort decades ago, when her dad's family switched their usual weeks, and arrived on the same week as her mom's family. The rest, as they say, is history. She grew up with happy memories of summer weeks spent at the Capon Springs, and now she was bringing her young family. "Mom, Capon traditions are really important," her daughter told her over the weekend; she said it made her day.

I mean, with testimonials like that -- unsolicited, mind you -- how can you NOT fall in love with this all-inclusive resort?

Getting there: 3818 Capon Springs Rd, High View, WV

Website: https://www.caponsprings.net/

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