Autumn Foliage Decorates Marylandís Public Lands
ANNAPOLISó Fall has arrived, and thoughts naturally turn to pumpkins on porches, wood stoves, warmed cider, and colorful foliage. In Maryland, we are lucky to have two full months to marvel at the changing leaves, starting in mid-September in Garrett County and in mid-October in southern Maryland and on the Eastern Shore.
This season, trees are healthy and happy because of the ample rainfall this summer. The key from now until leaf drop is a gentle succession of warm, sunny days followed by cool, crisp nights.
In Garrett County, the foliage spectacle will be well underway by the first week of October and will peak around the middle of the month. In the early stages, red maples and hickories show signs of exciting color. On the ridge tops, the first coral-colored leaves of the black gum and sassafras and the golden yellow of the ash enliven the rest of the still-green forest. Garrett State Forest, Swallow Falls State Park, and Herrington Manor State Park are among the best locations for viewing the early changes. Consider a trip to the regionís biggest event of the year, the annual Autumn Glory Festival, held in downtown Oakland Oct. 13 through 17.
In Allegany County near Flintstone, Rocky Gap State Park offers mountains of foliage. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 16, the Evittís Mountain Fall Fest will be held there; its attractions include an assortment of fall tours. Consider stopping at Green Ridge State Forest and taking DNRís self-guided driving tour. The "Fall Color Tour Guide" provides route descriptions through Green Ridge and gives a bit of local folklore and historical information about the area. The complete tour covers approximately 30 miles and makes an enjoyable three-hour drive. Copies of the tour guide are available at the park's headquarters.
For a fall drive in Washington and Frederick Counties, take Route 40 into Greenbrier State Park, and then enter Washington Monument State Park off Alternate Route 40. In the park, hike a half-mile to the monument honoring our country's first president, and then enjoy the spectacular vista right before you. Once back in your car, take Route 67 south through Pleasant Valley to Gathland State Park for more colorful adventures.
In central Maryland, autumn foliage peaks near the end of October. Places to go in Baltimore County include Oregon Ridge Park, located off I-83 on Shawan Road, and the Scenic Overlook off Route 31 near the Prettyboy Reservoir. Plan a family hike in Rocks State Park near Jarrettsville, or in Harford County, try biking along the shores of the majestic Susquehanna River in the Susquehanna State Park.
Consider a drive to the Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area in Cecil County. Park your car at the Appleton Road lot north of Route 273, and then spend the afternoon canvassing its 75 miles of trails. Enjoy the parkís oaks, poplars and sycamores, all decked out in the their autumn best.
Straddling Baltimore and Howard Counties, Patapsco Valley State Park offers colorful landscapes. Stop at the Valley Overlook in the Hollowfield Area off Route 40 near Ellicott City, and then take a two-mile scenic drive along Orange Grove Road in the Avalon section near Elkridge. In the McKeldin Area near Marriottsville, a ramble along Switchback Trail will reward you with vistas from the River and Valley Overlooks.
Other worthy destinations close to Baltimore and Washington are Gwynnbrook Wildlife Management Area near Owings Mills in Baltimore County, Sugar Loaf Mountain Natural Resource Area in southern Frederick County, and Seneca Creek State Park, southwest of Gaithersburg in Montgomery County. Dierssen Wildlife Management Area, situated between the C&O Canal and the Potomac River in Montgomery County, is a fine place for waterfowl watching and strolling along the canalís towpath.
In southern Maryland, the reds and yellows of the cherries, maples, and oaks will be on display in late October and early November. Point Lookout State Park in St. Maryís County is an excellent destination this time of year. On Oct. 29 and 30, the park hosts the Spirits of Point Lookout event, which includes ghostly tours of the area. For details, call the St. Maryís County Kiwanis Club at 1-888-316-5679 or visit their website at www.stmaryskiwanis.org.
When exploring southern Maryland and the lower Eastern Shore, keep in mind that these areas tend to have heavy concentrations of pines. Even when the fall leaves are at their best, much greenery remains, but it actually compliments the autumn colors.
The Eastern Shore offers a bounty of possibilities. On Oct. 22 or 23, you can couple a foliage-viewing trip with a Halloween Haunted Hayride at Tuckahoe State Park, located off Route 404 in Queen Anneís and Caroline Counties. Call the park at 410-634-2847 for details. Pocomoke River State Park in Worcester County and Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County make great day trips.
For more information about public lands, visit DNRís website at www.dnr.maryland.gov. While there, click on the events calendar for details about scheduled events.
Lastly, remember that October has yet another bright side: catching rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay. This season of cooler temperatures is well known as a great time for hooking large stripers. For the latest news, call the Rockfish Hotline at 1-800-ROCKFISH.