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Explore Maryland safely this spring break

College students typically enjoy a variety of activities during spring break the choice between catching up on sleep, visiting family and traveling can be difficult to make. One way to safely and responsibly bring a sense of adventure and novelty to spring break 2021 is to to take day trips (alone or with members of your household/COVID bubble).

This presents an interesting opportunity to experience lesser-known local spots, get outdoors and take a break from the monotony of online learning. What follows is a brief list of recommendations of places for day trips (with the University of Maryland, Baltimore Country’s campus as the point of reference).

Calvert Cliffs State Park, Lusby MD

Crossing state borders for a beach trip is not safe this year, but there are underrated closer options. People tend to overlook the beaches of the Chesapeake Bay — maybe this is because they are too close to home and therefore seem less exciting, or perhaps it is the fact that the Bay offers different experiences from the ocean. 

The beach at Calvert Cliffs State Park, however, will leave you feeling glad that you saved yourself the hours it takes to get to the Atlantic. The park itself is large and forested, with several scenic trails that take you to the main attractions. 

There is a medium-sized sandy beach here, big enough to set your towels down and have a complete beach day. What sets this place apart from the other Bay beaches, however, are the up to 100-foot cliffs that tower over your head at the shoreline. 

For friends of geology, Calvert Cliffs State Park is one of the region’s best areas for fossil observing and shark tooth collecting. If a day-trip beach escape is something that you want this spring break, consider this as one of your best options. Located in Lusby, Maryland, the park is about 70 miles away from UMBC, or a 90-minute drive, so plan your departure around less crowded times with that in mind.

Wye Island Natural Resource Management Area, Queenstown MD

If Calvert Cliffs State Park is too far from UMBC, or you want an excuse to cross the impressive Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Wye Island NRMA might be your best option for a beach trip. As a lesser-known Chesapeake Bay beach, Wye Island NRMA is often quite empty. Choose the right day and time, and you may be lucky enough to have the beach to yourself. 

The Maryland Park Service for resource management, recreation and agriculture manages 2,450 Of Wye Island’s 2,800 acres, making this one of the best areas in the state for wildlife observation.        

There are many gorgeous trails on Wye Island, including the Holly Tree Trail that brings you to a landmark 300-year-old Holly Tree, certainly worth seeing. Ferry Point Trail, located at the end of the island is the trail that leads to the beach and a small picnic area.

And the water here is clear and warmer than most Chesapeake Bay inlets. This is because you are actually at the more shallow Wye River, as opposed to the actual Chesapeake Bay, which is deeper and cooler.

Located just an hour away from campus, Wye Island is a great option for a day at the beach this spring break.

The Paw Paw Tunnel, Oldtown MD

If stargazing in the mountains scares you, maybe steer clear of this place. However bold you may be, the Paw Paw Tunnel near Oldtown, MD is a place you want to visit while the sun is still up. This may take some planning, as it is about 2 hours and 15 minutes away from UMBC. If you are looking for something you have never seen before, this is probably the most unique place featured on this list. 

Construction of the Paw Paw Tunnel as part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal began in 1836, but it did not go as planned. The tunnel presented an amazing engineering feat for its time, and construction should have taken less than two years but ended up taking a whopping 14 years to complete, while running 500% over budget.  

During those 14 years, violence frequently broke out in the tunnel as workers were underpaid, and ethnic conflicts were rampant. Rumor has it that this violence led to murder, causing many to believe that the victims’ ghosts haunt the Paw Paw Tunnel.

Ghosts or not, the Paw Paw Tunnel is spooky. Spanning about two-thirds of a mile through the Appalachian Mountains, going from one end of the tunnel to the other on foot takes bravery and a good flashlight. When entering the tunnel, the far side will appear as no more than a speck of light. 

All in all, the walk through the tunnel should take about ten to twelve minutes. Keep in mind that at the end of the tunnel, you will be on a walkway that hits a dead end, so the only way back to your car is to go through the ordeal one more time.

Finishing the walk brings a sense of relief. But at the Paw Paw Tunnel, the views of the beautiful Appalachian Mountains and rushing Potomac River are here to ease your nerves afterward.

Spook Hill, Gapland Rd, Burkittsville MD

Ostensibly, this is another spooky spot to check out this spring break, albeit less so than the Paw Paw Tunnel.

Usually, when driving downhill in neutral, one would expect to roll downwards. But Spook Hill does not quite work the same way as other hills. When going down this hill in neutral, your car will begin rolling backward, up the hill. To complete this illusion, use the instructions here, which will help keep you safe and prepared for this five-second adventure.

The concept is confusing, and only becomes clearer upon completion. In reality, the natural surroundings by Spook Hill make you believe that you are going downhill when you are not. That is only one school of thought, however, as others believe it is the ghosts from this Civil War hotspot that are pushing cars backward up this hill.  

Less than an hour away from UMBC, Spook Hill is a worthwhile trip for students this spring break. If you are looking for another thrilling thing to do after performing the optical illusion, consider driving by the nearby abandoned Bethel A.M.E. Church which appeared in the infamous local horror film “The Blair Witch Project”. 

If Spook Hill was spooky enough for you, though, consider visiting the War Correspondents Memorial Arch and the nearby hiking trails at Gathland State Park instead. 

Daniels, MD

This last place is the closest to UMBC, and still presents the opportunity for a unique experience. Just about 15 minutes away from UMBC is a creepy ghost town named Daniels. Originally founded in 1810 as a living place for the nearby textile mill workers, Daniels’ population shrank upon the mill’s closing in the late 1960s. After Tropical Storm Agnes tore flooded the town in 1972, Daniels’ abandonment was complete. 

Two churches, an old dam and rusted old cars from the flooding are the still visible signs of Daniels’ past as a bustling mill town. Today, it is a popular spot for urban explorers and those who are fascinated by local history. There are not many clear-cut trails here, so follow these instructions to make sure you have the best possible experience and get to see everything you may want to see while visiting. 

Maryland can often seem boring for Marylanders. It is all too easy to believe that there is nothing left to discover in one’s home state, especially one as small as Maryland. Hopefully, these excursions show that Maryland is hiding a lot more than meets the eye and responsibly create the classic spring break sense of adventure.

Written by contributing reporter Eric Widemann,