Spring Thaw in the Maryland Mountains

As Garrett County, MD sheds its winter coating of ice, its woods are alive with the sounds of the thaw. As mountains of snow compress and recede, streams turn rivers to waterfalls of water, released from the confines of cold. In this rush of solid turning to liquid, a quieter metamorphosis emerges. Maple trees release their sweet sap into sun warmed days. Pungent ramps and skunk cabbage send up broad fat leaves. The spring wildflowers know as ephemerals like trillium and trout lilies embrace the season of emergence.

It’s a signal to trade skis and snowboards for hiking boots and fishing rods in search of quieter thrills like sightings of migrating wood ducks, fox kits, and spotted mole salamanders.

For aquatic ecologist turn fishing instructor Don Hershfield, spring’s changeable weather offers a plethora of opportunities. “April is a pretty good time of year because the lake may still have ice on it and you could conceivably still ice fish; DNR stocks heavily in the Casselman River which is an easy stream to wade and fish; and the special regulation area of the Savage River is in scenic Amish farm country and is filled with wildflowers,” he says. “There’s nothing like the solitude of a sunny day in April, fishing the Savage River watershed above the reservoir, catching the native brook trout,” he says. “Those brook trout are so beautiful, they’re like God’s coloring book. They have tiny blue dots punctuated with flaming reddish-orange that is just spectacular, they make me want to cry they’re so pretty.”

Hershfield teaches fishing to “people who authentically wish to learn” through his lodging and guiding enterprise Streams and Dreams (http://streams-and-dreams.net/).

For those who simply want to hoof it, walking trails abound throughout the county. Visit the Garrett Trails website (garretttrails.org) to check out 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, horseback, or mountain bikes, depending on which trail you choose.

To take in the full power of snowmelt, visit Swallow Falls State Park where the roar of Maryland’s tallest waterfall resounds throughout the majestic virgin hemlock and rhododendron forests. In addition to the freefall of Muddy Creek Falls, the park also hosts the double spillway of Swallow Falls and the more intimate Tolliver Falls, all easily seen walking the park’s well-marked loop.

For an otherworldly wonder, visit the 1,600-acre sub-Arctic Cranesville Swamp, with plant and animal life more indicative of northern Canada than Maryland. The towering untouched red spruce, larch, and hemlock forests, 15,000 years in the making, create a frost pocket that nurtures bog-loving species. A 1,500-foot boardwalk skims the surface of the swamp to keep feet dry and away from the ecologically-sensitive areas and spongy sphagnum. Birders working on their life lists may find species like the Alder Flycatcher, the Northern Saw-Whet Owl, the Northern Waterthrush, and the Magnolia Warbler. Signs of mink, fisher, and otters are often evident.

If you’re looking to stand atop Maryland’s highest point, head for a more challenging hike to Hoye-Crest on Backbone Mountain. At an elevation of 3,360 feet, it marks the line of the Eastern Continental Divide.

At Wisp, Maryland’s only ski resort, spring fun is dictated by the weather. In seasons of lingering snow, opportunities remain to play as long as the white holds on, culminating in the annual Memorial Day Rail Jam for skiers and boarders to celebrate the final bits of snowpack at the tubing park. Elsewhere on the mountain, the mountain coaster and canopy tours provide their own thrills, and scenic chairlift rides and segway tours provide their own unique vistas.

Spring’s culinary pleasures in Garrett County include the local Firefly Farms cheeses, newly boiled down maple syrup from a number of family farms, and the pungent taste of just harvested ramps.

This season brings bi-polar weather, so pack in layers and be flexible with your schedule. An inclement forecast may be just the signal to head indoors to witness the hot glass blowing artistry of Simon Pearce. Factory tours and demonstrations are open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

As an extra incentive to explore the spring season, several Deep Creek Lake hotels and businesses are offering a 3-2-1 promotion through May 14 with three nights lodging for the price of two and special activity deals, according to Sarah Duck of the county’s chamber of commerce. Visit the chamber’s website for more details, http://www.visitdeepcreek.com/pages/SpringPromotion

Leave a Reply