Maryland, USA - page 2

Baltimore and the area nearby

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As we continued on west, though, the most striking change was in the weather. Temperatures in the high 70s a day or so before (and not many miles away) were replaced suddenly by near freezing conditions and strong winds. As we checked into a hotel at Frostburg late that afternoon a few flurries of snow swept around us in the bitingly cold wind - not difficult to see how the town came by its name!

Next morning saw us shopping for hats and gloves before walking through the centre of town. We followed signs to an Historic Graveyard (aren't most graveyards historic?) just off the main street. It seemed to house immigrants from Germany and Scotland and, as we went through the graves, we were surprised by the sudden and unexpected playing of 'God Save the Queen' from the bells of one of several churches close by. We tried to get into the church to learn more but it was locked - presumably the pealing of the bells was routine rather than for our benefit.
Although chosen by chance, Frostburg proved to be a good place to stop for a couple of days. From there we travelled to nearby Cumberland, once a major transport centre bringing together road, railroad, and canal. These days the canal is unused but an old steam train, originally part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, makes regular trips through the trees and mountains between Cumberland and Frostburg for tourists.

Driving north into Pennsylvania the countryside is pleasant without being spectacular. This is an historical part of the country that had an active time during the Civil war: occasionally we crossed signs marking the Mason Dixon Line, then the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania and also the line of demarcation between the free and slave states.

We came by chance upon Hewitt, a small and rather remote community that has a beautiful, covered bridge. Built originally in 1879 and renovated (the sign alongside says 'Rehabilitated') in 2000, it is a good example of a type of bridge that once was common in this area. Why were they covered? No doubt there were several reasons but one, at least, was that the covering provided greater protection for the wooden structure against the climate.

The weather continued cold, snowy but bright and we decided to move on westwards away from Frostburg, travelling along an Historic Highway known as the National Pike. This, supposedly the first national highway, was built in the early 19th Century to carry stagecoaches and mail coaches. Along the route aspects of its former glory have been preserved and one of these, a bridge long since by-passed and now sitting on a short loop of road, caught our attention.

Castelman's River Bridge was built in 1813 as a part of the National Pike, at a site where there had long been a more rudimentary crossing. With its 80 feet span it was then the largest stone arch in the US - amazing to think how much even bridge building skills have changed over such a relatively short period. Castelman's Bridge (said to be one of the most photographed bridges in the US) continued in use until 1933. For us, looking at it surrounded by a light dusting of snow, it was difficult to think of it ever having carried motor cars; much easier to imagine it with horses slithering over the brow of the arch, heavy stagecoaches behind them.

Shortly afterwards we reached the area of Deep Creek Lake, a popular place for visitors during the summer months but now relatively quiet and an ideal place to spend the remainder of our trip. With a number of lakes nestling amongst hills rising to around 3000 feet there was some similarity with the English Lake District, and lots of scope for hiking and camping in the area.
The lake at Deep Creek was created in the early 1920s by the damming of a river to generate hydroelectric power. After so many years there is little sign that the lake is manmade, and all around the forest and lakeshore is managed both to protect it and to provide facilities for boating.

Close by are several other lakes or forest parks - we particularly liked Swallow Falls State Park, and strolled alongside the Youghiogheny River and a series of waterfalls surrounded by breathtaking scenery.
Not far from Swallow Falls is the town of Oakland where we toured the Garrett County Museum. The region is rich in coal, and this would have been at least part of the reason why the railroad was once so important here. Oakland Station is an imposing building set close to the centre of town. We tried to take a ride on a train, only to be told that we were around thirty years too late: the last passenger service ran in the 1970s and, these days, the line is kept open solely for goods traffic.

In its heyday Oakland was a bustling town. The railroad made it a relatively easy destination for people from the east, and a few miles away the Deer Park Hotel (no longer in existence) became a major tourist attraction with facilities sounding a little like a 19th Century holiday camp. Easily accessible from Washington and the East Coast because of the travel links, several US Presidents stayed at the hotel.

We enjoyed our brief stay in Maryland and are pleased that, whatever the circumstances, we were able to see a part of the country that would otherwise have gone unknown to us.
Old locomotive at Cumberland station
Castelman's River Bridge
The beautiful colours of Deep Creek Lake
Swallow Falls
After 9/11
Covered bridge at Hewitt
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