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Escape Needed?
Written By: O.C.fotoguy
*Click images below to view larger versions.
Escape Needed?
Escape Needed?
Escape Needed?
Escape Needed?
Escape Needed?
Escape Needed?

    Here it is midway through Ocean City Summer Season and if you’re a local you may be ready to escape for a while.  If you are visiting you may appreciate another place for a day or overnight trip. I really, really enjoy being in O.C., eating steamed crabs, fresh fish, and DelMarvelous fruits & vegetables; walking the beaches, riding my bicycle on the boardwalk, soaking up the sunshine; listening to superb local musicians; and others at our water front bars and restaurants at Happy Hour. As I enjoy what happens in the summer, I’ve realized I occasionally need a break.  There’re many places to escape to close by, where I can immerse myself in a natural oasis in a peopleless place.
    One such place is the Great Allegheny Passage (free, open to the public, but privately controlled), which is a rails to trails outdoors recreational bonanza, that stretches from Cumberland, Md., to Pittsburgh, Pa., (150 miles) and links to the C&O (Chesapeake and Ohio) Canal (www.nps.gov/choh/) that parallels the Potomac River and ends at Georgetown in Washington, D.C. The Canal is a federal park. From D.C via the trail is about 400 miles. The Canal’s Toe Path, where the mules or oxen that were hitched to the canal boats walked as they pulled that burden, is a trail, too. Google Great Allegheny Passage and check out all the videos that depict the trail and scenery. You can ride an historic train pulled by a steam locomotive that runs on the modern railroad track nearby, too. The passage used to be the route of Cumberland to Pittsburgh trains. It is now a public hiking and bicycling trail with many bridges, tunnels, and panoramic scenic views. I visited the passage near Myersdale, Pa. (http://www.atatrail.org/ and www.visitmeyersdale.com), and took two short walks; one to a bridge with massive iron work just south of Meyersdale and then north to the Salisbury Viaduct.  The Salisbury Viaduct is 1908 feet long and dominates the valley. The 101-foot-high steel trestle was a key engineering achievement for the Western Maryland Railway and its first train crossed the viaduct in 1912. It was abandoned as a train route in 1975. Now, it carries hikers, bicyclers, fisherman and bird watchers to scenic and favorite spots.
    The trail runs near the modern CSX railroad tracks in the Passage, which threads its way in the valleys between the mountains as did the country’s settlers in the 1800s. A train engine needs fairly level ground to pull those hundreds of cars loaded with freight, so the climb is very gradual up hill (less than two percent grade). That makes walking and biking on these rails to trails easy. Plus motorized vehicles are not allowed, which assures quietness, except when the CSX trains pass, which may be often, but it’s interesting to see what is being carried by the train and looking at the graffiti painted on its cars.
    The part of the Passage I walked has an amazing display contrasting old and modern technology. The trail is on the ground where last century’s trains ran, the Casselman River, which runs along it, powered grist mills that ground locally grown grain into flour, and settlers passed through here on their way west. Up on the mountains are huge windmills that power turbines, that generate “redikilowatts” of electricity, and massive power lines carry it to where it is needed; but the windmill concept is ancient!
    Where the trail passes through Meyersdale an old caboose from steam engine days is displayed. As I looked around the town I found a little quaint, immaculate, restored 1950s-like town, complete within a drive-in diner in its middle on the square. Meyersdale was a very wealthy town and flourished when the coal mines were active in the first half of the 1900s. Much of that look has been preserved although the mines have been exhausted. Now the town’s charming appearance and the Allegheny Passage is alluring to the public. Meyersdale, Pa., is located in the Casselman River Valley, where American Indians once made maple syrup and a festival honoring that era is held in the Spring.
    Cumberland and Meyersdale are easily accessible from here and from the places Ocean City draws its crowds. Just take Route 50 west across the Bay Bridge, find your way to interstate US 70 and follow it into Western Maryland and take Interstate US 40/68 to Cumberland, and Rt. 219 to Meyersdale, through Cumberland’s narrows where there’s barely space for roads between the mountains and Potomac River.  That should take 5-6 hours to drive from O.C. Both have facilities to spend the night near the Passage and the C&O Canal and have plenty of restaurants. Cumberland is also restored downtown and is prospering from the visitors.
    Paw Paw, West Virginia, is not far away where there is a long tunnel, through which the Canal passes. Hancock, which is midway between Hagerstown and Cumberland, is right on the Potomac River and the Toe Path and has restaurants and motels, too. There are camp sites along the C&O Canal and in Green Ridge State Park, which is just west of Hancock. Little Orleans on the River south of that Park has a country store and refreshments and it’s a stones throw from the Potomac River and Canal. There’s even a restaurant there that serves steamed crabs in Hancock across the street from Weaver’s Diner, that’s famous for homemade comfort food and scrumptious baked delights and Cumberland’s Restaurants have lots of seafood, too, so enjoy.
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