Thomas, Blackwater Falls, Olson Tower
Deep Creek Lake

View from Olson Tower - Click to EnlargeBlackwater Falls - Click to Enlarge


4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD! - Click here for details!

4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD!



Maria asked me how well a day trip to Blackwater Falls might work.  Our friends had taken their kids to ride some ponies down there and she wanted to bring the kids too.  Of course I would not have to be asked twice to go to that part of the world because it is such a great place to spent time when you like the outdoors.  For a day trip, it meant about four hours on the road by the time we factored in gas stops and a meal.  It was something we do fairly routinely so I suggested we go.


The night before I loaded up the GPS info and mapped some spots inside Blackwater Falls State Park so that we could hit the attractions we wanted easily.  The web site said that the pond was most likely to be closed in early July so we decided not to plan on swimming as part of the day.  Instead we focused on visiting a few things:

  • Pony Rides
  • Thomas Historic District
  • Olson Tower
  • Possible Hike to Blackwater Canyon Rim Cache

This would more than fill the day and give a balanced set of activities for everyone.

We got up as early as we ever do on Saturday and with a small cooler packed for the road part of the trip, set off for Blackwater Falls.

Blackwater Falls Detail - Click to Enlarge

Blackwater Falls, Canaan, Olson Area 3-DCanaan Loop 3-D TrackBlackwater Track


We drove Route 68 East over to Friendsville and then cut through Deep Creek Lake and Oakland, before taking Route 219 down to Thomas.

A short way past Deep Creek, I noticed the Mt. Nebo cache marker on the GPS.  This coincided with a need to have a pit stop, and to free a tailgating driver behind, so I hooked the access road and drove to the trail head.

Mt Nebo Cache Area


Here I learned the cache was a multi, and that it was not something we could cover in the time we had.  It definitely did not match our plans.  So we conducted our break activities, during which we noticed a snake sunning in the leaves near the parking area.

Mt. Nebo Multi-Cache Sentry - Click to Enlarge
Mt. Nebo Multi-Cache Sentry

In Oakland, we stopped at Candyland...  Now it must be noted that we all love candy but Tom and Maria have been nicknamed "Candy Rats".  So with some ground rules established, we went into the store and each picked out a pound of candy.  Ted had to put some back because he got a little carried away.  I pulled two pounds (shopping for the two adults) plus some coconut rainbow strips for everyone.  With that we got back on the road.

Driving down to Thomas we noted the sprawling Maryland farms and how well kept they were.  The weather was incredible - sunny and dry, not hot.

On schedule we reached Thomas.  We were about an hour early for lunch so I suggested we take a quick ride up to Olson Tower on the Canyon Rim. 

Olson Tower

The kids were psyched and so we went.  When we reached the tower, Maria opted to take a break in the Jeep while the kids and I climbed the long series of steps to the top.  The view was great.

View from Olson Tower - Click to Enlarge
View from Olson TowerView from Olson TowerView from Olson Tower

View of Jeep from Olson TowerView of Jeep from Olson Tower

View of Road to Olson Tower

I was disappointed to see that the plaque describing the tower is AWOL... Here is what it looked like for this visit and from a previous time we went here.

Missing Plaque describing Olson Tower - Click to EnlargeDedication Plaque - Click to Enlarge

At the bottom the kids discovered tadpoles in the puddle so we spent a minute trying to fish some out.  Fortunately they were hard to catch and the kids realized we had no place to transport them. 

Tomi and Tadpoles

Once we got done with that we headed back to Thomas to have some lunch and check out the Historical District.

We found the area appears to have stumbled a bit.  Some of the rapid improvements we observed when we last came appear to have stalled.  A couple of the businesses we saw then were closed.  And there appears not to be any new improvements except for an outdoor area being constructed at the old General Store.  We are hoping they do not completely lose their momentum and that they get some traction to continue the good work that was started.


Alley in Thomas
Alley in ThomasAlley in ThomasAlley in ThomasAlley in Thomas


Alley in ThomasLeo's Breakfast

We decided to eat lunch at the General Store.  The food was good.  The kids played chess while they ate, with the game not favoring Ted or Tom.

Ted and Tom playing Chess during Lunch - Click to Enlarge

When lunch was finished we took a walk past the stores and did a little browsing.  I purchased an used LP and then we left for the Blackwater Falls State Park.

At the park, we determined the location of the stables and went there for the Pony Rides.  When we arrived, we learned that Ted was too big for a pony so both the boys rode horses.  For six dollars they rode for five minutes down a trail and back with handlers walking the horses.  I wouldn't say it was a memorable experience, but given that the boys do not ride, it probably was about what we had a right to expect.  Trail rides were $25 per hour.  Why we weren't going to do that didn't make sense to the kids until we explained about how that cost would be times four, and would involved the handlers walking along the whole time.  We probably need to go get riding lessons if we want a real horseback riding experience...

Tom and Ted at StablesPreparing to Ride

Tomi on Board - Click to EnlargeTed on Board - Click to Enlarge
Tomi on BoardTed Boarding


Another Horse

From the stables we drove up to the Trading Post, parked and walked down to the Falls.  It was a busy day with lots of people, but it was still very pleasant and the 216 steps to the Falls not too difficult to manage...

Salt SandsView above Blackwater RiverOur Family at Blackwater Falls

The Falls were beautiful.  Even with the large numbers of people, we were able to see the Falls from the decking that is built to corral the visitors to the viewing area.

Blackwater Falls
Blackwater FallsBlackwater FallsBlackwater FallsBlackwater FallsBlackwater Falls
Blackwater FallsBlackwater Falls

Blackwater Falls
Blackwater FallsBlackwater FallsBlackwater FallsBlackwater FallsBlackwater Falls

Trees above Blackwater FallsTrees above Blackwater FallsTed and Tom at Blackwater FallsMaria, Tom and Ted at Blackwater Falls

We spent a few minutes at each station to take pictures and let the kids explore to the limit of the railings.

Trees above Blackwater FallsTrees above Blackwater Falls
Trees above Blackwater Falls - Click to Enlarge

Tom and Ted on Rock near Blackwater FallsTom and Ted on Rock near Blackwater Falls
Tom and Ted on Rock near Blackwater Falls

Back up at the trail junction I took a couple pictures of the kids on the large rock in the center, before following the inclined trail back to the parking area.  We spent a few minutes drinking something and then browsing in the Trading Post.  Tom got a wooden flute and Ted got a smashed Souvenir Penny and a stuffed critter.

Then we hit the road again.  Now it was my turn...  We took the Canaan Loop road around Canaan Mountain.  This road is quite good at both ends but suffers a rough section that starts below the Conference Center and continues for several miles to where it emerges near Mozark Mountain.  But for the middle stretch, a regular vehicle could drive through. 

Blackwater Falls, Canaan, Olson Area 3-D

The middle section at the very least would require a skilled driver operating a high clearance vehicle.  An idiot like me with four wheel drive could do just fine.  I like the drive because it is pretty easy for our vehicle and there is some pretty country.  We saw two vehicles over the whole loop.

Once done with Canaan Loop, we aired up and reconnected, then hit the road for home.  We stopped in Deep Creek to get dinner at one of the large restaurants on the main drag.  There the kids spied the Go-Cart and Water Bumper Cars tracks so we took them to drive the road track go-carts after dinner.

We had a nice meal and all went on the Go-Carts.  Tom was just shy the height restriction so he and Maria took a two-seater while Ted and I each got our own cars.  Needless to say, we had a blast.  Tom is looking forward to next year when he will be tall enough to get his own car...


The rest of the trip was just the normal road trip home.  We were all pretty tired but it was a day to remember for the wide spectrum of activities we managed to squeeze into it.

Blackwater Falls GPS Data

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