Fall Foliage and Festival Report: October 21-22
The Mid-Atlantic region is basking in the glow of an Indian summer, and if you’re planning to head west this weekend, you should meet with good viewing conditions in Allegany County, where the leaves are holding at about 25 percent color change. Rocky Gap State Park reports that hickories, maples and poplars are lovely, providing a patchwork of colors, just in time for the some brisk autumn hiking.
In Garrett County, although there are some spots of good color, the extended high temperatures and drought followed by rain and high winds were not conducive to a glorious autumn landscape. The peak was short-lived and the more colorful species have lost most of their leaves. Many trees (birch and maple) are already bare from the rain and wind, with only the oaks still hanging on to their leaves, with most turning brown.
The Fall Color Tour Guide, a scenic driving tour through Green Ridge State Forest, includes a change in elevation from 450 feet along the Potomac River to 1800 feet at the top of Town Hill. Spectacular vistas spread out over Maryland to both West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile in Washington County, the colors are few and far between, with many trees dropping leaves. Gathland, Greenbrier, South Mountain and Washington Monument state parks are open every day, 8 a.m. until sunset, and camping is available at Greenbrier through the end of the month. Migrating eagles and hawks can currently be seen from the summit at Washington Monument, and the reflections in the lake at Greenbrier are always a treat. The Maryland portion of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail follows the ridge line of South Mountain, beginning at Pen Mar and extending 40 miles south to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park, affording hikers many wonderful views.
In Frederick County hickory and tulip poplar are changing, adding a lot of yellow to the scheme, with more color expected this weekend.
In the central region, the maples are tinged red and there’s some color in the yellow poplars, but overall seasonal foliage changes have barely begun. Conditions are quite similar on the upper Eastern Shore. In Kent and Queen Anne’s counties many trees remain green, with leaves just starting to color, with some black gums turning red. The dry weather took an early toll on buckeyes and walnuts, which have lost most of their leaves, while white oaks have started to turn brown.
Southern Maryland and the lower Eastern Shore remain fairly green, with just a few leaves starting to turn yellow on the tulip poplars.
Rocky Gap State Park will host the Glorious Gorge Hike Saturday at 1 p.m. Meet at the Touch of Nature Parking Lot for a breathtaking hike that takes about an hour. The hike is at an intermediate level. Please be prepared to climb over rocks and steep hills.
Fort Frederick State Park in Washington County will host A Pleasant Diversion, an event that takes visitors back to the pleasant diversions from military life during the French and Indian War, as members of the recreated Joshua and Alexander Beall’s Companies garrison the fort. Highlights include musket firing presentations, colonial toys and games and other fun activities. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The Fourth Annual Color Me Autumn Festival will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Middletown Community Park, where everyone is encouraged to wear a costume; Trick or treating fun is free. More than 50 arts and crafts vendors, music, food and “Monster Croquet” will help round out your day.
Central Maryland is in full Halloween mode this weekend and a nice place to be foliage-wise. Peak is still a week-and-a-half or two away but the colors are on their way. On Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. at Gunpowder Falls State Park, Jerusalem Mill Village transforms itself for a magical fall celebration based on the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Make your own scarecrow, get your face painted, participate in games, visit the storybook Hessian camp and stay for the Haunted Trail – you may even get to see the Headless Horseman! This is a family-friendly activity.
At Patapsco Valley State Park explore nature at BioBlitz, a free fun-filled day surveying animals and plants Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Learn to identify species and conduct citizen science that benefits the park and the community.
You can also take a Haunted History Hike at Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area near Owings Mills on Friday and Saturday nights. Travel by lantern light while listening to ghostly tales of lost miners, local lore, and gruesome crime and punishment. Hikes begin at 7 p.m. with the last hike going out at 9 p.m.
In Harford County, the Steppingstone Farm Museum in Susquehanna State Park will host the Legend of Sleepy Hollow Tea from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday. Tickets must be purchased.
Afterwards, head over to the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center in Abingdon for a Halloween Hike and Campfire from 6 to 9:30 p.m. and spend a spooky evening hiking through the woods to discover the creatures of Halloween. After the hike, enjoy some music and roasted marshmallows down by the cozy campfire. Register now for half-hour time slots.
Take a tour of Clopper Lake aboard the Pontoon Boat Blue Heron Saturday afternoon at Seneca Creek State Park. Relax and view the changing colors of the park on this 45-minute trip, while learning how the environment prepares for winter. Please reserve ahead by calling 301-924-2127.
The Gaithersburg Sugarloaf Crafts Festival takes place Friday and Saturday in Montgomery County, bringing together creative minds of all ages, education levels and backgrounds in a sea of fine paintings, clothing and accessories, ceramics, metal work and everything in between. In nearby Germantown, the 36th Annual Butler’s Orchard Pumpkin Festival will be held on weekends throughout October. In addition to pumpkins a’ plenty, the fun will include hayrides, pony rides, hayloft jumping, food, crafts, animals, entertainment, the Twisted Pumpkin Corn Maze, pedal tractors and more.
Celebrate the rich and diverse cultures of Native Americans at the annual American Indian Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Patuxent River Park in Upper Marlboro. Enjoy live performances of traditional and contemporary music, dancing, drumming, singing, and storytelling as well as more than a dozen interactive exhibits and demonstrations. Free admission and parking.
In Southern Maryland, where the leaves are just starting to turn yellow on the tulip poplars, you can spend a day on a working farm in Calvert County. The 20th Annual Fall Farm Festival will take place 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday – rain or shine – on multiple farms throughout the county, with plenty of activities for children and adults.
Don’t miss the opening of Chesapeake Bay’s oyster season! Take a weekend trip to Leonardtown for the U.S. Oyster Festival in St. Mary’s County. This popular Southern Maryland event takes place 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The two-day event features fantastic food, entertainment and the National Oyster Cook-off and the U.S. National Oyster Shucking Competition. Sample oysters raw or prepared in just about every way you could imagine.
On the Eastern Shore, Martinak State Park and Caroline County will host their annual Fall Fest event Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Activities include an apple butter boil, corn shelling, Scales & Tales display, pumpkin decorating, bicycle rodeo, games, Scarecrow Wizardry, live music and food.
On Saturday, the Tilghman Island Day Festival, celebrates “the home of Maryland’s seafood industry” from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Come for oyster shucking and crab picking contests and the very popular docking contest. Enjoy arts and nautical crafts, boat building demonstrations, and – of course – Maryland seafood.
If you’re planning a get-away this weekend, keep in mind that park cabins are still available. You can reserve one online by calling 888-432-CAMP (2267).
For more information or to see a full listing of Maryland Department of Natural Resources events and programs, please check out our new interactive calendar. For more information on events around the state, please visit the Maryland Office of Tourism.
Enjoy your Maryland weekend!
― Elizabeth George Speare
Early fall is a good time to look for spider webs, especially early in the morning when they are covered with dew. Spider silk is amazing stuff. Some types of spider silk are stronger than steel, and a strand of silk long enough to go around the earth would weigh less than a pound.