First Blog – Herrington Manor State Park, Maryland
Flash back a year, mid- July 2017. My first post has to be about the only trip we took as a family of five people and one lovable puppy dog. This was not the only place that we went with Malcolm, but the only place that we went by ourselves. Where we didn’t meet up with family or friends. And so I will always think of it as ours.
Each year our family participates in Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ (MDNR) Park Quest. A fun and frugal way to tour Maryland State Parks and perfect for an outdoorsy family. In this trip, Park Quest led us to Western Maryland, with popular Deep Creek Lake and several other great parks. I mean, great, too. That isn’t a throw away, ‘great’. Each of these parks has something to offer in serenity, adventure, or plain old breathtaking beauty.
We enjoy camping, but with a baby who was just sitting and popping everything he could into his mouth, we opted for a fairly rustic cabin rental at Herrington Manor State Park about 12 miles from Deep Creek Lake. Indoor plumbing, a stove and a fridge, yes please. The rental was 100/nt, which is very reasonable for the area in high season, but with recent renovations that may go up.
On our drive west we stopped at Fort Frederick and Rocky Gap State Park to complete Park Quests and got to Herrington Manor in time to wash up, change into our jammies and attend the s’mores smorgasbord at the community fire ring. This event forever changed how I look at s’mores. They are not just Hershey’s*, graham, and ‘shmallo any more! Graham alternatives were all types of cookies, fudge stripes appealed the most. Then for chocolates, use any chocolate…Reeses cups, peppermint patties…name your favorite! They even had Marshmello options of various shapes and flavors. My daughter was in sweets heaven. My older son, as usual, just snacked on some of the candy. Malcolm sat on his Daddy’s knee by the fire, still unfamiliar with any flavors beyond breast milk and baby cereals.
* will consider altering statement for lifetime supply of Hersheys.
The next morning we woke up to rain. A hard, driving, ruin-any-outdoor-plans sort of rain. We had 3 Park Quests planned for the area, but they weren’t happening today. The husband and I high-fived what felt like brilliant forethought in renting a cabin instead of being confined to our pop-up trailer with 3 small children and a dog. With two floors inside and an adorable covered porch with swing outside, we had plenty of space for the day. I confess, I had even downloaded a few episodes of Wild Kratts for my 6 and 4 year old for just such an occasion (The cabins do not have TV or WiFi or much beyond the basics). We scouted out wildlife and critters near our cabin, made some meals, and had fun/minimal squabbling.
By mid-afternoon, however, we were all getting restless. It was still raining, but it was a warm summer rain, so we decided to explore Herrington Manor State Park, a bit. We knew there was a lake with a beach and a large, airy rec center that had games and food. We drove to the rec center (hiking is an option, on a nice day) and ordered many fried things and played some games inside while the rain continued outside.
At last the rain lightened. It was no longer a soak-to-the-skin rain, and we had brought swimsuits. We explored the dam a bit then hung out at the beach, which was completely deserted thanks to the now intermittent rain. However, this beach rarely has more than a few families, as there are only 20 cabins to the whole park, and people who aren’t staying there flock to the more popular beaches at Deep Creek Lake. We stayed and splashed for a few hours, just the blowing off steam that we needed before winding down for the day. It was this day that I took some of my all-time favorite photos of Malcolm. We were so thoroughly happy.
The following day the rain continued, but it was our last full day in the area and we wouldn’t be deterred. Fortunately, we ended up dodging most of the showers this day. First stop was our Park Quest mission and general trail hike/waterfall swim at Swallow Falls State Park. we had camped at Swallow Falls the year before and it is one of my favorite places to explore the outdoors. The trails were deserted when we got there, but visitors were flowing in by the time we left. After that we headed to another Park Quest at Friend’s Delight Farm and Store.
We closed the day with pizza, arcade games, and a traditional mini-golf. For our first date, my husband and I went mini-golfing (it was right down the street from the Toys R Us where we worked), and so every year on our dating anniversary we mini-golf. It has been happy to share this tradition with our kids.
The day we left we hit up one more Park Quest, this one at Deep Creek State Park. The nature center there is fantastic (I have visited a LOT of nature centers) and the beach a short walk away is very good, too. Again, we favor less crowds, but we had checked out of the cabin and did a quick stint at this beach since we were there for our Park Quest anyway. This was complicated because we had the dog with us, but we just set up shop back towards the grassy area.
Next we packed up and went home. We were tired and we had had fun. Now, this is a trip I will always treasure with all my heart as our one true family trip. Just over 3 months later, Malcolm would be taken from us. I love and miss Malcolm so much, and will carry him with me always.