Arguably, there is no prettier time of the year in Carroll County than autumn — when the trees show off a brilliant kaleidoscope of red, orange, yellow, and purple colors.
The arrival of fall is a much anticipated and storied time of the year in American folklore, and tradition. That said, Tom Robbins, the author of "Still Life with Woodpecker," wrote one of the more curious observations, "It was autumn, the springtime of death…"
In the back of our minds we all know that fall is followed by winter. Winters in Maryland lurk in the shadows waiting to take us by surprise when we least expect it. Winters in Maryland are hateful. It's an endurance contest, mentally and physically. Snow is a four-letter word. Ice is the wrath of the Gods. So enjoy the fall weather and colorful foliage while you can.
Every autumn we read of the exciting escapes available where we can see beautiful fall foliage. The trips invite you to go to New England, western Pennsylvania, the Pocono Mountains, down the Shenandoah Valley, or travel to upstate New York. The brochures and articles invite you to enjoy this or that hotel with its wonderful accommodations and scrumptious places to eat.
All those places are probably great, but many of us know that the best kept secret on the eastern seaboard — the best place for looking at fall foliage — is right here in Carroll County. I love to travel, but let's face it, nothing beats waking up in your own bed, and raiding the refrigerator in your own kitchen. Besides we have the best restaurants around. Folks from other parts of the state travel great distances to eat in restaurants right here in our own back yard.
One of my favorite places to see fall foliage is the Carroll County Farm Museum. Looking at the stunning colors of the changing leaves is great, but you can't eat 'em. Afterwards, go to Bullock's, Baugher's, Birdie's, Johanssons Dining House, O'Lordan's Irish Pub, Raphael's — or any of the other great restaurants in Westminster, for dinner or lunch — or just go to Hoffman's for ice cream.
The yellows and reds are just beginning their fall fashion show if you take Littlestown Pike to Buds at Silver Run, 4115 Littlestown Pike. Some like New Windsor Road, Route 31, from Westminster to New Windsor to Uncle Matty's Eatery, 142 Church St, in New Windsor. Travel a little farther and you can grab a bite to eat at The Buttersburg Inn, 9 N. Main St. in Union Bridge.
A favorite trip for many is along Parr's Ridge, on Md. 27, from the Dug Hill area in Manchester through Westminster to Mount Airy. Travel north and go to the Dutch Corner Restaurant, 3154 Main Street in Manchester.
Most folks in Carroll County know Md. 27 for its scenic views. The road takes you along an old Native-American trail that follows along the top of Parr's Ridge. As you get near Mount Airy, stop by Brick Ridge restaurant, located in the old Cabbage Springs schoolhouse that dates back to the 1800s, when it was a one-room schoolhouse.
Not to be overlooked is Taneytown Pike, Md. 140, above Westminster. If watching the leaves makes you hungry, you can stop by Flick's Pub at Lorien, 100 Antrim Blvd. in Taneytown or you can dine at Antrim 1844.
Fall is for runners. However, whether you walk, bike, or run, the Wakefield Valley Community Trail in Westminster, Piney Run Park, 30 Martz Road, Sykesville, or Hashawha and Bear Branch Nature Center, 300 John Owings Road, north of Westminster are arguably some of the best places to enjoy fall foliage in Carroll County.
Predicting the peak of the autumn colors can be a bit tricky. Fortunately the scientists at Maryland Department of Natural Resources, dnr.maryland.gov, have a website that features a fall foliage and festival report. On Sept. 27, the site reported, "The early season has been unusually warm and dry to date" and that has slowed the foliage color changes. That just gives us more time to enjoy the fall weather.
While it is widely believed that the cooler weather causes all those colors, temperature is only one small ingredient. Frost plays a role in the intensity of the colors, but the main factor is length of day. Trees and the food manufacturing process of leaves are very sensitive to the amount of light they receive and as the days get shorter a whole cascade of chemical – hormonal – events begin.
This year, the leaves ought to be at their best in Carroll County soon — maybe soon after Oct. 15. Enjoy it while you can.