The Penn Alps compound was formed around the only existing log hospitality house built on Route 40, the National Pike. The shop itself offers an enormous selection of goods, from locally produced jams and jellies to quilts, rag rugs and sturdy toys and furniture.

The local Amish and Mennonite influence pervades the shop. There are cloth dolls with little black bonnets, and "Old Order Amish Country Candles" shaped like loaves of bread. There are framed silhouettes, delicate creations snipped by hand, as well as black cherry wooden bowls -- a sleek alternative to the shop's emphasis on "cute" crafts.

Prices fluctuate as well. A crocheted napkin ring fetches $3.60 while a braided rug can cost $630.

Wreathes, ornaments and other Christmas decorations are also in ample supply.

The Penn Alps shop also offers a large selection of local history publications, including the Journal of the Alleghenies, The Casselman Chronicle, family histories and idiosyncratic titles such as Memories of the Wife of an Itinerant Methodist Preacher. Fishing guides, cookbooks -- need a recipe for filled pig stomach? -- and spiritual writings also fill the shelves.

On our visit, the Sunday buffet at the Penn Alps restaurant was well attended by the after-church crowd. A woman wielding an electric carving knife sliced lamb, beef and ham. The rest of the buffet reflected regional food with bowls of pickled eggs, beets, a cheesy spaghetti casserole and a bewildering display of cookies, pies, tarts, puddings and breads.

After lunch, we lumbered through the Spruce Forest Artisan Village, which in season hums with the energies of a variety of craftspeople. This time of year, only the weaver and the soapmaker stay open.

The artisans will return this Friday and Saturday for Christmas in the Village when visitors may see them at work in their log cabins, attend concerts and behold a live nativity scene.

On the far side of the village, we crossed a historic stone arch bridge built over the Casselman River in 1813. Then, we turned further west.

Penn Alps Restaurant and Craft Shop, and Spruce Forest Artisan Village, 125 Casselman Road, Grantsville

301-895-5985

www.pennalps.com

  • From I-68, take Exit 19, turn left, then right in Grantsville on Route 40. Continue east one mile.

  • Craft Shop hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

    Glass blowing

    By the time we reached Deep Creek Lake, en route to the Simon Pearce glassblowing factory and store in Oakland, fat flakes of snow were falling -- and sticking to the fields and hills.

    We skirted the lake and soon turned into an industrial park where the former Bausch & Lomb facility now houses Simon Pearce. Inside a decidedly uninspirational building, we found a luxurious sampling of glassware, pottery, table linens and "wooden-ware" serving implements.

    Simon Pearce items are pricey (a glass goblet costs $58) but ideal for those with simple, elegant tastes. A "seconds" display offers discounted prices for imperceptibly flawed pieces.

    Perhaps the most interesting part of the Simon Pearce experience is being able to watch the glass blowers at work. For 20 minutes we were mesmerized as two workers executed a masterful pas de deux as together they created a candle holder from a molten glob of glass at the end of a blowing pipe.

    It was a long, long day, to be sure. But it flew by much more quickly than three hours at the mall.

    Simon Pearce: 265 Glass Drive, Mountain Lake Park

    301-334-5277

    www.simonpearce.com

  • Take I-68 to Exit 14. Stay on Route 219 to Route 135 to Glass Drive on the left.

  • Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

    Other diversions: Explore Deep Creek Lake State Park (301-387-4111) and visit the Farmer's Market on Route 219 in Oakland for "Amish wedding food" and old-fashioned treats (301-334-9146).

    Places to stay: Travelers to Western Maryland may choose to stay overnight. For information on accommodations, call the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce: 301-387-4386. Or visit www.garrettchamber.com.