23 June, 2014

Deep Creek Lake Greatest Hits Tour

(With sincere apologies to everyone who couldn't have been there...)

My good friend and I went camping in a remote part of West Virginia this weekend. We had to cross over the tail fin of Maryland via Interstate 68 to get there. Without realizing it ahead of time, we skirted right past Deep Creek Lake (just under half an hour from the Interstate). Being the mecca of my childhood, and a treasured vacation spot I haven't visited in 12 years (!), we agreed to take a detour on our way home on Sunday. We didn't have a lot of time (or money) to spend, so I made a tour of the "greatest hits" spots I remember from my childhood (and could easily access from the main highway that cuts across the area). The nostalgia was palpable!

The Trading Post

The first and last stop on any trip to Deep Creek Lake! Of course, it's long since given up its reputation as the go-to "toys and trinkets" shop any kid would love. Nowadays - as "High Mountain Sports" - it specializes in hip clothing and lake-relevant sporting supplies.

The docks at Trader's Landing

These are the customer docks just across the street and down the hill from the (former) Trading Post. One of the most exciting aspects of lakeside shopping has, in my mind, always been the novel approach of being able to head to the store - not in a car, or by foot - but traveling by boat!

"across-the-way" mini-golf

Miniature Golf was a treasured pastime in my youth, and a way for my Grampap to impart his own love of golf to his grandchildren. This mini-golf course was just across the street from our most frequent lodgings, and therefore a course we played through often, and the one I remember the most fondly. It was a simple course, with "novelty" obstacles, but always great fun for a kid. Today, it's in a depressing state of disrepair, obviously not having been in operation for a number of years.

Alpine Village

We stayed at a number of different places over the years - including (most notably) the Will O' The Wisp and the Red Run - but Alpine Village (and especially the cottages hidden in the woods behind) were what I considered "home" at Deep Creek Lake. In spite of my family boycotting the place in solidarity when our friends got kicked out for partying too boisterously in the lodge one year, I have nothing but warm feelings for the place, and seeing it again is like watching a long forgotten dream come to life before my very eyes.

Now called "Inn at Deep Creek"

Behind the main building

Some things hardly change at all

Other things do...

The cottages behind Alpine Village have been completely redone, and are now larger and fancier than ever (which is decidedly an improvement - unless you appreciate the rustic atmosphere - though I wonder at the cost to rent them). The roads in the back are also different, with each cottage having a separate driveway coming off of the main road.

The dock and "beach" behind Alpine Village

Though it was only one week each summer, I feel like I grew up in this place.

Anyone for catching minnows?

The long and dreaded no wake zone

Silver Tree Marina

I had a lot of trouble finding the Harbor Bar. There have been a ton of new condominiums erected at Silver Tree, and I had to walk around the high-rises to even find the (possibly scaled back?) Harbor Bar, tucked almost uncomfortably between the newer buildings.

The Harbor Bar

Arrowhead Market

I'm happy to report that the Arrowhead Market has changed very little. It may be a bit spiffier, in keeping up to date with modern shopping standards, but it has the same bustling atmosphere that I remember. This was essentially our go-to grocery store while on vacation. The only thing missing is the magazine rack, from which we kids would often pick out comics for down-time reading.

Arrowhead Deli

The Boardwalk

It was 6 PM on a Sunday when we got to The Boardwalk, and they were just closing, so there wasn't much looking around we could do. It was, however, still apparent that The Boardwalk is a very happening place. I remember my Dad telling me that the Good Guys would drive down to Deep Creek to play shows, so I was much amused when I saw their name on the bar's advertising board!

View from "The Point"

However, I was very disappointed to discover that The Point View Inn was nowhere to be seen. I remember it being right next to The Boardwalk, but there was nothing there. Breakfasts at The Point were another one of the highlights of our weeks in Deep Creek. I was especially excited when we would get up early in the morning and travel across the lake by boat to get to breakfast. One year, it was so foggy, that we couldn't see ten feet in front of the boat. It was very scary, but also very thrilling, and a memory I'll never forget.

Frontier Mini-Golf

After the previous disappointment, I was relieved to discover that the miniature golf course at The Fort is still in operation, and very much as I remember it. So we decided to play through it in what was, for me, a walk down memory lane. My mini-golf skills, while nothing to scoff at, are somewhat out of practice, but I did finally manage a hole in one on the final hole. Unfortunately, the girl at the counter was not giving out wooden tokens for free games. The Fort remains a bustling activity zone, with even more amenities than I last remember it (when the laser tag and go carts were new additions). It appears to me that Deep Creek Lake itself continues to be a thriving vacation destination for families.

Pizzeria Uno

After golf, it was just starting to get dark, and we were getting hungry, so we hit up Uno's for dinner - the location that ignited my love affair for the restaurant. I'm afraid they don't serve Dumb Monkeys anymore - no different than any of their other locations. We were seated out on the balcony by request, with a lovely view of the lake, and the playground shared with the adjacent Honi-Honi Bar. To my great surprise, I saw yet another advertisement for the Good Guys in the back of the menu at Uno's!

The Honi-Honi Bar

The Honi-Honi Bear

The Pirate Ship

The Whale

 All of the equipment I remember - the elephant, the whale, and the newer pirate ship - were still present (although the elephant is not nearly as large as I remember it being, when I was much smaller), plus the bizarre addition of a pair of gigantic chairs closer to the lakefront. The popularity of the playground equipment for the kids matched - if not surpassed - the hive of activity buzzing around the popular Honi-Honi Bar. Which, in retrospect, seems perfect given that Deep Creek Lake is a family vacation hotspot, and the playground gives kids something to occupy themselves with while the adults are having a good time at the bar.

The Elephant

View from the shore

View from the edge of the dock

Remembering what it's like to have a boat...

The Lakeside Creamery

For dessert, I had a deliciously thick Peanut Butter Chocolate milkshake (because even though their Vanilla may win awards, it's just too plain for me :p) at the old Lakeside Creamery, which is still hoppin' all these years later. It's obviously a popular destination, as most ice cream parlors are, at the end of a beautiful summer day.

The dock below Lakeside Creamery

View of the thickest part of the lake,
with the Glendale Bridge in the background

As dusk began to settle in, it was high time we took to the highway and made the hour and a half journey back home. It was with a mixture of sadness at having to leave again so soon, yet also great joy at being able to see this place again after so long, and bringing so many memories back to life, that I left the lake to return home.

Thanks for joining me on this reminiscence - I wish you could have been there with me in person, to relive these great memories. It was truly a surreal and emotional experience revisiting this place that is filled with so much personal history, and so much meaning for me. It's sad that it took this long to get back there, even if just for a short time.

I will certainly be looking into the possibility of returning again soon, pending cost-effective planning strategies. If you're interested in joining me, you know how to contact me. Now's the time to begin negotiations! (Although I doubt a trip this summer would be feasible at this late stage for planning).