Bel Air News & Views goes leaf-peeping in western Maryland

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Driving around Bel Air this weekend, it looks to me that it’s about peak time to take in the changing colors of the leaves. If you’re looking for some lovely vistas beyond Bel Air, my husband and I spent last weekend leaf peeping in western Maryland on our way to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania. We stayed at the Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort in Cumberland, about three hours from Bel Air. The Rocky Gap lodge hugs the shore of the 243 acre Lake Habeeb, which right now reflects the colors of the changing leaves on the mountain that rises beside it. The 218-room lodge has a rustic look with lots of stone and bare wood, but it’s quite elegant. An 18-hole golf course wraps around the lake and lodge and the weekend roster is full of pontoon boat rides and craft activities for kids. However, I read that after leaf season cools, the activities hibernate for the winter. We got one of the last rooms available on a busy fall weekend of leaf peepers and, from the number of pink Caddies in the parking lot, some kind of Mary Kay convention. They put us on the ground floor in an area reserved for guests with pets. For a $75 cleaning fee the lodge lets you bring any kind of pet you like. During our stay we saw two German shepherds and a chiuaua on our floor (oh, and one barker next door that woke us early Monday morning). These rooms have French doors that open out on to a patio. Two rustic Adirondack chairs are positioned there so you can watch your dog romp in the grass. We enjoyed the patio and chairs and watched where we stepped. We had a breakfast in the lodge’s dining room that was included in our weekend package. The dining room had mixed reviews, but the view of the lake and mountainside awash in fall colors made it worth visiting. We did have a lovely meal on our way to the resort. On the advice of a Hagerstown native, we stopped to eat after driving about two hours from Bel Air at what appears to be the fanciest restaurant in Hagerstown: Nick’s Airport Inn. From the name of the place, I was expecting to find Sheldon Leonard behind the counter pouring whiskeys. But I was rather glad I dressed myself up in a skirt and heels. The place had a clubby atmophere with dark green walls and stained wood trim. Although the restaurant is undergoing renovations at the moment, the work appeared to be almost complete and didn’t detract too much from the atmosphere. Although the restaurant was — true to its name — right next to the Hagerstown airport, no overhead plane noises disturbed our dinner. (Then, of course, I don’t imagine they get all that many flights in and out of Hagerstown on a Saturday evening.) I had stuffed flounder which was tender and flaky and perfectly cooked. My husband had chubby pink lamb chops, also tender and delicious. Everything was delivered promptly and hot as if we were our waitress’ only customers — which may have been the case. It was rather early in the evening.