“Th-th-th-th” — what is that?
It’s the sound of a juvenile bald eagle, winging overhead, and you hold your kayak paddle still for a few seconds to listen to that signature springtime sound in Garrett County, Md.
Celebrate the thaw by kayaking the Youghiogheny River, hitting the mountain bike trails, or just taking a pretty walk.
Garrett County, in Western Maryland, is about a three-hour drive from Washington, and is perhaps best known for Deep Creek Lake. But, take time to check out the many off-the-beaten path outdoor excursions, as well.
There’s a reason bicyclists, kayakers, and hikers really celebrate spring here. With six state parks, all offering picnic and fishing areas, you’ll want to take advantage of the new spring 2018 3-2-1 promotion.
Visit the Deep Creek Lake area and Garrett County, and you can stay three nights for the price of two, plus add a discounted activity. The offer is valid March 15–May 10 on non-holidays. Seven lodging companies — ranging from bed-and-breakfasts and rental home properties to cabins and a hotel — are participating in the promotion.
Consider scouting some trails you’d like to explore, then select your lodging based on those locations. For a comprehensive guide to trails — and to learn whether they’re best for biking or hiking — the nonprofit Garrett Trails offers an online alphabetical listing of 37 trails.
For mountain bikers, Wisp Resort has free-riding through the mountain on natural rocky terrain, along with a few fun tricks on wooden ramps and bridges. Reserve a tour, and if you don’t feel like packing a bike because you’re traveling straight from work, rentals are available at one of the many outdoor shops in the area.
Kayaking tours offer front-row seats to the stars of spring in Garrett County: the nesting bald eagles. Kayak the Savage River Reservoir, a 360-acre lake about 20 minutes east of Deep Creek Lake in the middle of the 54,000-acre Savage River State Forest.
Crede Calhoun, owner of All Earth Eco Tours, has been offering kayak tours in the area for more than 17 years. “April and May are when the resident pair of nesting bald eagles is very active,” he said. “As spring progresses, the juvenile bald eagles are kiting on the nest, and they start to jump off.”
Insider tip: Visit in mid-June, and you might see the young eagles exploring more. “We paddle right up to the adults and juveniles, and they’ll jump off and fly right over you. You can hear the wings: ‘th-th-th-th.’”
Best springtime views
For hiking, don’t miss the overlook on Meadow Mountain Trail. The 14-mile-long trail (one-way) runs along the crest of Meadow Mountain following the Eastern Continental Divide in some areas.
Steve Green, owner of High Mountain Sports, a retail shop that also offers kayak rentals and pontoon boat tours, loves to hike there in the springtime. “It’s one of the best views in Maryland, if not the best,” he said.
“You can see into Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland on a clear day.”
Another hidden gem: the Kendall Trail, a 3-mile round trip trail that runs along the Youghiogheny upstream from Friendsville. It follows an 1890s-era rail bed to an old logging community.
Even though Swallow Falls State Park can get crowded, it does have the highest waterfall in Maryland. One way to beat the crowds is to go with a guide, especially for your first time in Garrett County. “We take folks into the back country,” said Calhoun. “For a good 50 to 60 percent of the trip, we don’t see anyone else. You learn an awful lot about the ecology of the park.”
Finally, for a little outdoor speed rush, try Wisp’s mountain coaster. The carts can fit one adult or an adult and a child. Don’t worry — there’s a brake if you really must slow down to hear the “th-th-th-th” of an eagle’s wings.