Fall for the Mountains

November in Garrett County, Md. reveals a quiet side to this active resort destination. The multi-hued leaves have fallen, creating a cushioned carpet path through the expansive woods. Boats are stored for the winter, docks pulled onto the shores, offering Deep Creek Lake in all of its placid beauty through mystical fog-shrouded mornings and sun-sparkled days.

In the mountains, this month is full of possibilities, if you remain open to whatever the weather brings.

Surprisingly warm days require only t-shirts on woodland hikes or sojourns around the lake’s shoreline. The grassroots-initiative Garrett Trails organization offers a number of mapped trails with varying degrees of difficulty to help you explore the wealth of the county’s beauty. Developed by local enthusiasts, the trail systems can be explored on foot, on horseback, on mountain bikes, on cross-country skis, and even on snowmobile, depending on which trail you choose. One of the easier, more unique trails is the Cranesville Swamp. Straddling the border of West Virginia and western Maryland, the 1,600-acre sub-Arctic swamp is an Ice Age relic, a frost pocket left behind when icy conditions retreated North. Consequently, the landscape, 15,000 years in the making, looks more like northern Canada than something south of the Mason-Dixon line. Embraced by surrounding Allegheny Mountains, which conspire to hold in the cold air,, it appears as an untouched relic of the past – with few traces of human footprints evident.

In late autumn, it’s likely you can have the place to yourself, to wander through various wooded trails among a cathedral of conifer trees, all ending up at the 1,500-foot boardwalk which skims the surface of the swamp to keep feet dry and away from the ecologically-sensitive areas and spongy sphagnum. The rich, diverse, multicolored flora, begs for up-close inspections to better appreciate the display of cranberries (and sometimes the carnivorous sundews).

Perhaps enjoying Maryland’s tallest waterfall is more your style. Take an easy hike through the majestic virgin hemlock and rhododendron forests of Swallow Falls State Park, to enjoy the roar of Muddy Creek Falls as well as the subtle flow of Tolliver Falls, in addition to the rolling waterfalls of the park’s namesake.

If you’re more of a peakbagger, you can hike to Maryland’s highest point, Hoye-Crest on Backbone Mountain at an elevation of 3,360 feet and mark the line of the Eastern Continental Divide.

November’s chilly nights offer cozy fireside revelries, either outside with s’mores or indoors with a glass of wine. Plenty of the area’s restaurants are enhanced with fireplaces, as are a number of inns and hotels. At the centrally located Inn at Deep Creek, rooms with fireplaces make mornings extra snuggly. To prepare for a day of activities, the Inn offers complimentary yoga mats so guests can do their sun salutations to the rising sun on the lakeshore, as well as complimentary iPad 3s pre-programed to act as a concierge for planning the day’s activities and dining options.

Of course, in Garrett County in November, there’s always the possibility of snow, which sets this county in motion as the Wisp Resort determines opening day for a plethora of skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and ice skating activities.

This is truly the season for layers, when a round at a golf course could at a moment turn into a cross-country skiing opportunity, or a scheduled horse-drawn carriage ride through the county’s Amish farmland could turn into a sleigh ride across the fields.

In November, it pays to check the forecast before you pack.

 

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