Where there’s a Wills, there’s a way
There’s a fine line between brave and stupid. When a cold snap hit Cumberland on Friday with temperatures dropping into the freeze zone, most Rocky Gap campers hunkered down into hibernation mode, or left. These campers bundled up with every piece of winter clothing in the coach for a day of mountaintops and Friday night bluegrass.
Dress for a Cold Wind
Nothing builds advocacy for getting out on your ebike than not having any other options. Truth be told, if he had a car, we’d have used it. Any sane person would have. But we did not. So, we found ourselves flying down the approach road into Cumberland with 20 degree wind whipping through our clothing at 33 mph. Technically, you need your hands to ride an e-bike – but you don’t have to feel them.
The short and familiar ride seems eternally longer when you’re cold, but the forecast wasn’t improving so it was a now or never play. Our destination was Wills Mountain State Park, AKA Cumberland Cliffs AKA Lover’s Leap AKA the incredibly creepy home of an abandoned, dilapidated, infested plastics factory.
By-pass the Abandoned Plastic Factory
Threatening ‘Warning, No Trespassing’ and ‘Keep Out’ signs are posted everywhere. Our recon from a few days ago told us the menacing signs are for the factory, not for the cliff hike. Unbikeably steep, we secured the Comos to the ‘violators will be prosecuted’ sign and scaled 1100 feet to the highest cliffs. The vantage point overlooked all of Cumberland with road, river and rail cutting through the pass.
Wills Mountain State Park
It is quite possible that the cliffs are in Wills Mountain State Park. That is how the digital photos are tagged, but there is not a soul or sign to indicate that. The epic toy train station platform view below lasts as long as you can take the frigid wind hitting the exposed rock face. Peregrine Falcon triplets soared overhead while America in miniature was on display below. We sat in wonderment until hypothermia forced us down the mountain and back to the Comos.
Falling down the steep slopes, we returned to Baltimore Street to warm up with coffee and lunch. Mark’s Cafe served up New York deli fare in a trendy and cozy venue. We supported the town’s redevelopment efforts, hoping Cumberland will continue to revitalize by spending 10 bucks on a darn good corned beef on everything bagel sandwich. With an hour or so to kill before our evening venue opened, we dashed into the lacinato kale (no way!) library with the rest of the street folks trying to stave off the cold.
The 1812 Brewery is 5 miles out of town, on winding backroads with no street lamps, serving a dozen local brews, a brisket buffet, medieval castle fire that burns trunks instead of logs and a 5 piece bluegrass band called The Platescrapers.
It’s everything you want from your off the beaten path country road experience.
BBQ & Bluegrass
About 40 of us braved the early winter weather to do the B’s – Bluegrass, BBQ, and Beer. Your town might be bigger, more prosperous, and hipper than Cumberland. Tonight, right here at 1812, western Maryland good ol boys are strummin’ banjos and a stand up bass. Food truck boys are serving up jalapeño Mac and cheese and brisket. A roaring fire is in the fireplace. Cumberland has everyone beat.
Leave the e-bikes at 1812 and Uber the 5 miles back to camp considering it was pitchblack, 20 deg and 9 pm? Unfortunately, that thought did not occur to us. In any case, where’s YES in that ending anyway? Take the winding mountain road and pick up the unmarked trail into the park. Where there are Wills, there are Ways!