The Scenic View at Tower Road

Early this week I decided to take a detour at the top of the mountain and see the fall colors from the look-out on Tower road.  I wasn’t disappointed.  To get there, turn off route 30 at the Mountain House and head north on Augwick road toward Cowens Gap Start Park.  About a mile back you’ll see a dirt road bear off to the right, which is Tower Rd.  Take that road and travel about a mile and half to reach the lookout.  Just before you arrive, you’ll come to a fork in the road – you can go either way because it is just a loop at the end.    About halfway around the circle, park on the side of the road and walk to the edge of the cliff to catch a nice view.

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad – a Review

Diesel EngineI was looking for a interesting place to visit with my wife to celebrate her birthday when I ran across the website for Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.  I liked what I saw, but it took me a few days to decide which tickets to purchase.    The cheapest option was the standard coach class tickets, but there were several upgrades available. Premium coach presumably gives you more spacious seating, but perhaps there are other differences that I’m not aware of.  The parlor car gives you access to alcoholic beverages, and first class includes a meal aboard the train.   There are a handful of menu choices available for first class passengers, but the selection is made at the time of reservation.  I finally decide to go the frugal route and get standard coach tickets.

Steam EnginOur visit was on Sept 27, 2014.  By coincidence, this was during the during the annual Steel Wheels festival in Cumberland, which added a few more sights to our experience.  As part of this event, there was a steam engine that puffed back and forth across the bridge near the station in Cumberland, giving good opportunities for picture-taking.  Also, Amtrak had an exhibit train on-site that visitors could walk through. The exhibits inside showed the history of Amtrak and also gave glimpses of the inside of a modern Amtrak train.  Lastly, there was an old caboose that you could explore as well.

The WMSR train leaves for Frostburg at 11:30, but when I called to purchase the tickets  I was told to be there at 10:45.  My advice:  follow our example and get there at 10 AM.  By 10:45, the lines are getting long and the place is very crowded.  If you get there early, you can walk right up the counter and get your ticket, and the spend the extra time walking around or visiting shops at Canal Place.

Canal PlaceThose of us with coach class tickets were free to sit in any available seat on any of the coach cars, with the exception of one car which was reserved by a church group.  There were double bench seats on either side of the aisle. Being accustomed to coach seats on a plane, I was afraid the seating would be cramped, but it was not.  There was plenty of leg room.  We also found the cars to be clean and in good repair. The seats are reversible so you can face toward the front or rear of the train just by moving the backrest.  This is especially handy if you have a group of four and prefer to face each other.  If you want the best view, sit on the right side of the train as you’re facing the front ready to depart the Cumberland station.

Snack BarDuring the trip, we were allowed roam freely among the coach class cars.  In one of the cars there was a snack bar with a variety of items to eat and drink.  This included hot dogs, cold sandwiches, chips, and candy bars.  A small selection of gifts were also available, all of which are also available at the gift shop at the Cumberland station.

SceneryThe windows were clear enough to take decent photographs, but for better shots you could venture to a small picture-taking car at the front of the coach class section.  This car had no seats, but had grab bars and open windows to allow for clear photographs.  You could also get good photographs by standing in the area between the cars.

Upon arrive at Frostburg, we exited the train and has some time to explore a few shops or grab a bite to eat.  To get to main street, you had to climb up the ridge using a long series of steps.  Partway up was a good place to stop and watch the steam engine being turned on the turntable to prepare for the return trip to Cumberland.

All in all, we were very pleased with the trip.

7C’s Lodging in Flintstone, MD – a review

7C Lodging 9Cozy, Convenient, Comfortable, Clean, Classic, Country, Cabins.  Those are the seven words referenced by the name “7C’s Lodging“. I stumbled on the website for this property when I was searching for a place to stay near Cumberland, MD.  My wife and I were schedule to ride the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, and I found that the nearby hotels in Cumberland were either expensive, had poor reviews, or some of both.  So I expanded my search to surrounding areas, and I found 7C’s lodging.

7C Lodging 12The cabins are located in the very small town of Flintstone, MD.  It is conveniently located just a few hundred yards off of interstate 68.  It is about 15 miles from Cumberland and about 5 miles from Rocky Gap State park.

7C Lodging 7I booked our stay online, trusting that the photographs on the website were an accurate representation of the accommodations. As it turns out, the photos didn’t do justice.   We stepped into cabin #12 and were greeted by a faint “new home” smell.  This cabin couldn’t have been built very long ago.  Everything looked brand new.  There wasn’t a speck of dirt anywhere.  The handcrafted wood furniture showed no signs of use.

7C KitchenThe room was an L-shape, with the bathroom taking up one corner.   The main room included a comfortable king-sized bed and a kitchen area that included a table, sink, microwave, and a small refrigerator.

A TV was mounted high on the wall where it can be comfortably viewed from the bed.  Wi-Fi Internet was also available, although the signal was a little weak. 7C Lodging 3 This was somewhat understandable because cabin #12 was the one farthest away from the office, and I was attempting to use the internet sitting on the bed which was against the far wall. It was fast enough to browse websites, but not enough to stream videos.  The signal improved by moving to the kitchen area, which was the side closer to the rest of the cabins.

There were several other cabins on the property as well, and also several locations with sewer hookups that presumably are sites for future cabins.  Cabin #12 was actually one-half of a duplex cabin, the only one of those on the property.  All the rest were single cabins.

7C Lodging 5Other than the weak Wi-Fi, a very minor issue, the only other complaint I’d have is that noise did carry through the wall from the other side of the cabin.  Not enough that you could eavesdrop on conversations, but enough that you could hear people coughing or a loud TV.   My suggestion to the owners would be to keep that in mind if/when they build more duplex cabins.    Some kind of sound barrier would be useful.

All-in-all, 7C’s lodging lives up to its name.  We were very pleased with our decision.  It is very nice place to stay at a reasonable price.

Landry hauls in a big catfish

Last Friday Elijah, Landry and I decided to take the boat out on the Juniata to see if we could catch a stringer full of panfish.  Of course, while we were out there, we’d stay a while after dark and see if there were any catfish around.  As it turned out, the bluegill and rock bass were not cooperative.  The bite was slow and the fist were mostly too small to be worth taking home.

Once it got dark, our bad luck continued with a number of dinky bullhead catfish.  Then Landry’s rod bent over.  By the time he got it up to the boat several minutes later, we knew it was a good fish.  It turned out to be a 25.5 inch channel catfish, probably 7 or 8 pounds. After years of fishing the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River, my personal best catfish there is still just 24 inches, so Landry did pretty well for his second time out for catfish on that river.

Camden’s First Catfish @ Dam 5 on the Upper Potomac

Last Friday morning I took Landry and Camden down to Dam 5 on the upper Potomac River.  The goal was to give Camden the opportunity to catch his first channel catfish.  As usual, I had my camera on the tripod with the goal of making a video to remember it all by.   On the first goal, we were successful.  After pulling in a couple of very small catfish of 6 and 8 inches, he landed one about 18 inches long.  Not huge, but decent for this section of river and by far the largest fish he had every pulled in.

However, all the video I captured had a major problem.  I had the  audio levels adjusted improperly on my new wireless mic, and all of the sound had severe clipping and distortion.  Thankfully, I didn’t discover that problem until last night, so at least the disappointment didn’t diminish my ability to enjoy our camp-out on Friday evening.

Nevertheless, I’m still seething about the whole thing.  I’m hoping I can throw together some clips, put some background music and narration to it, and have something to post here in the coming days. It won’t be as good as it should have been, but hopefully it will be something to remember it by.  The most important thing is that the boys had a blast. Landry caught a couple of nice catfish as well.

EDIT:  Here’s the result of my efforts to make a video without including the recorded audio.

Camping Along the Juniata River

We had a great time this weekend tent camping along the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River near the town of Hopewell.   Landry, Camden, and I had camped at the same location for a night last year, but this time the whole family went.  We were also joined by Seth & Jennifer Elliot and their family.  My only complaint was that it wasn’t long enough.

We got there in time for some hot dogs over the fire on Friday afternoon, and then some of us took a canoe upstream to my favorite fishing spot.  Landry and I did the majority of the fishing.  Between the two of us we pulled in about 25 bluegill in an hour or two.  That made for a great bedtime snack after we got back to the campsite.

We headed for home after breakfast the next morning.

Fishing for catfish on the Susquehanna River below the York Haven dam

Last night and this morning I took the boat out at the Falmouth boat launch below the York Haven dam. Elijah and Ben were along as well. We ended up with six fish total: I got four, Elijah two, and Ben got skunked.The two flatheads caught by Elijah were the largest at 6.5 pounds each. Pretty much all the action came on cut bluegill – not much on chicken liver or live bait. The water leave was about 4.2 on the Harrisburg gauge.

Fishing on Grand Lake St. Marys

We recently spent a weekend at our annual family camp-out at Grand Lake St Marys in Ohio.  As usual, we found some time to do a little fishing as well. This year the bullheads were out in force and usually finding our bait before the channel catfish had a chance.  We did manage to catch two small channel catfish in addition to bullheads.  One of those was caught on chicken liver and the other on one-half of a creek chub.