By the Byways – Crisfield

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The southernmost place on the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byways map is Crisfield, Maryland [insert Maryland state Scenic Byways website.  A visit from Easton takes you 87 miles along the Scenic Byway and there are a number of interesting stops along the way. On this day, direct to Crisfield was the plan with a few decades having passed since the last visit.

One is immediately struck by the contrasts. Fast food places with long established seafood diners along the route…no longer the train track, but highway 413 about as straight as the rail. The route ending at the decades-old pier with a skyline that now shows condominiums next to the fresh seafood delivery trucks.

 

A fascinating history has not made the struggle in the present any easier. However, a determined community offers its visitor a number of enjoyable sites, tours, meals and activities.

Located on Tangier Sound, Crisfield was originally a small fishing village, Annemessex Neck. As Europeans colonized the area, it was renamed Somers Cove. The active fishing village grew and reportedly, in 1804 there were over 100 buildings in the area, making it one of the largest places on the Delmarva Peninsula.  The growth continued as the town became known as Crisfield for the man who decided to bring the Pennsylvania Railroad to the fishing village in 1866. The fishing village grew to become known as the “Seafood Capital of the World.”

Crisfield would grow to about 25,000 people in 1904 making it the second largest city in Maryland after Baltimore. And, seafood from Crisfield was being shipped throughout the country.

Decades later, as the health of the Chesapeake Bay declined, the way of life for the watermen became more difficult. Then, in 1976 the railroad shut down.

Today, with not quite 3,000 residents, Crisfield remains a tourist location and jump off point to Smith Island and Tangier Island. There are seafood restaurants and beautiful camping areas and of course an historic marina. There is even an airstrip for the adventuresome pilots.

 

TripAdvisor provides interesting options for visitors to consider 

This southernmost point of Chesapeake Country delivers on its promise as scenic, especially when viewed through the lens of its rich history.

By the Byways: Easton to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

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If you take no other intentional tour along the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byways, find time for a visit to The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge just south of Cambridge. Less than 30 miles fr

om the center of Easton, the visit offers an experience not easily matched. In fact, the refuge has been referred to as the “Everglades of the North,” and is called one of the “Last Great Places” by the Nature Conservancy.

Before being declared a wildlife refuge, the marshland along the Blackwater River was managed as a fur farm. Then, in 1933, The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge was established as a waterfowl sanctuary for birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway.

While the area is large, visitors can experience the heart of the Refuge by going to the entrance at Wildlife Drive. Click here for the map.

Here is a scene captured one quiet morning near the entrance to Wildlife Drive….just to provide a feeling for the natural beauty of the area…

Along Wildlife Drive, you will see wildlife…sometimes when you least expect it, so go slow! The drive is a four and a half mile paved road that winds along freshwater ponds, through woods, past fields, and adjacent to marshes. You enjoy it best by pulling off and just watching the wildlife.

On one recent cold morning, a Blue Heron stood still for more than one photographer…

One of the most remarkable sites involves the American bald eagles. Blackwater is home to the largest breeding population of American bald eagles on the East Coast, north of Florida. And, they are sited frequently while just driving through the Refuge.

Of course, there are numerous areas to hike and get off the road for even better looks at the waterfowl and wildlife. If you visit once, you will most likely come back throughout the year for brand new experiences.

For more information, click here for the Blackwater brochure:

By the Byways…..Cambridge to Taylors Island

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Known for hunting, fishing and crabbing, Taylors Island claims a population of fewer than 200 people who live just 16 miles southwest of Cambridge, Maryland. Turning onto one of the side trips of the Chesapeake Country’s Scenic Byway from Highway 50, state route 16 takes travelers all the way to a bridge over Slaughter Creek and onto the island. Today’s bridge completed in 1999 replaced the wooden bridge from 1856. Prior to that, a ferry connected the island to the mainland.

On the island side of the bridge, you are greeted by an historical marker and a worthy stop to read about the history of The Battle of the Ice Mound, the last battle in the war of 1812 in the Chesapeake Bay. The event occurred on February 7, 1850 and a captured cannon is located on the site.

Reportedly, the island was originally called “Taylor’s Folly” in 1662 when the Taylors took ownership of 400 acres of land on the island. A short (but, perhaps dated) history of the island is found on the Taylors Island Facebook page.

“Taylor’s Island is about six miles long, lying parallel with Chesapeake Bay, on the western border of the county, and separated from the mainland by Slaughter Creek, and from Hooper’s Island by Punch Island Creek.

Colonists from St. Mary’s and Calvert Counties settled on this island ten years before the County of Dorchester was laid out. Thomas Taylor, after whom the island was named, Raymond Staplefort, Francis Armstrong and John Taylor, were among the early settlers, who cleared the land of timber and made fine farms there.

The cultivation of tobacco and corn was the principal employment and the chief products raised for support of the people during the first century of the colony. From the year 1700, timber and lumber trade increased for the next 150 years to the extent of a profitable industry. Soon thereafter catching oysters for sale in city markets rapidly became a paying business and is still a trade of much activity. The revenue derived from oysters has added valuable and attractive improvements to this section of the county.

On the island are three fine churches, large stores, canneries, and fine dwellings, the homes of well-to-do and cultured people.”

Traveling around the island brings beautiful panoramic views of a charming, wooded and quiet place.

There are beautiful churches on the island. Below is the Chapel of Ease Old Trinity Episcopal Church which dates to around 1707.

While there are clearly roads less traveled…

….you can round a point and come upon views of the Bay complete with snow geese!

 

Finally, either on the way to Taylors Island our on the way out, don’t miss a stop at the Woolford Country Store for a breakfast or lunch. 

Like so many of the miles of Scenic Byway, a trip to Taylors Island connects us all with a bit of the past as these small communities build their future.

By the Byways: Chestertown to the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge

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Following a recent column on our Scenic Byways throughout Chesapeake Country, we sent a Spy or two out to take a closer look. Here is the first field report out along the Scenic Byways…

Field Report: Chestertown to the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge.

Travel to Chestertown. Enjoy the historic and attractive downtown shops as you head to Route 20 going south. The trip to the National Wildlife Refuge takes about 30 minutes as you drive through farm country out of Chestertown.

Just 7 miles past Rock Hall, the road leads the traveler onto Eastern Neck Island over an old wooden bridge.

Sitting between the Chester River and the Chesapeake Bay, the 2,285-acre island is a refuge managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and it is a major feeding and resting place for migrating and wintering waterfowl. You can also see the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel and the southern bald eagle

Entering from the north, most of the island is accessible by car. And, there are plenty of places to walk as well with nearly 6 miles of trails, roads and boardwalks.

If you want to bring a kayak, there is an entire tour around the island that starts at Bogles Wharf which is marked by road signs. The Chester River Steamboat Company built the original Bogles Wharf in 1867 and it operated until around 1910. You will want to stop at the Visitor Center and pick-up a full guide of the water tour around the island.

Upon leaving the island, two white geese seemed to bid us farewell as we passed back over the wooden bridge and worked our way north to more of the Scenic Byway.

Returning north past Rock Hall towards Chestertown one comes across The Inn at Huntington Creek. With much to do in the area, the Inn looks to be an ideal place to spend a night or two. In addition to what the Inn offers, Rock Hall is a fine place to enjoy crab and seafood. 

If you have a favorite Scenic Byway, share by clicking above for the Comments section and the Spies will do the rest!

 

 

                                    

Mid-Shore Food: Piazza Grows at Talbottown

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After nine years, Emily Chandler’s Piazza Italian Market had more customers than space. Sliding just a 100 yards around from their original location, Piazza opened their new expanded market with a brand new interior. The fine foods and friendly, helpful staff are the same. But, there is more room to look around and a nice section for dining.

While actually making sandwiches, Emily took time to visit with one of our spies about the new location….

Mid-Shore Food: Sakura on Route 50

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While technically Route 50 in Easton does not have formal sidewalks, this has not stopped the Spy from reporting that the third (that’s correct, the third) sushi restaurant has officially opened on the west side of the Ocean Gateway.

It must say a lot about the consumer demand for raw fish and rice that a town of 16,000 people, in a rural region, can still attract this kind of saturation on a small market. But in the case of Sakura, it does not hurt that a good percentage of the entire state of Maryland will pass their doors every summer.

The fact that this parade of sushi-starved beachgoers will not happen for another eight months can only be a good thing as Sakura, who, like any new restaurant, must work out some start-up hiccups in the kitchen before the masses arrive and judge.

 

What one can and does give Sakura great credit right off the bat is how one takes a deserted Sonic fast-food stand and turn it into such an attractive dining experience. A very nice job indeed.

Sakura Sushi 410-690-4773 8475 Ocean Gateway Easton, MD 21601

 

Mid-Shore Food: Spy Agent Report on Mason’s – Redux 2017

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Many new restaurants step up slowly to full menus and a packed house after opening their doors. But in Easton, Mason’s – Redux 2017 has elected to go from zero to sixty in a day. Courageous, and only possible with owners who pay attention to every detail along with a chef who brings restaurant experience and seriously capable culinary skills to the new enterprise.

Our party of three ventured out during the first week to give this long-anticipated dining location a try. While we went with expectations firmly in check given its still early days, we were delighted well beyond what a first-week experience would typically provide.

As you step off the brick sidewalk at 22 South Harrison Street, you notice the freshly painted building now gray. Entry occurs by moving through the velvet curtain – there to keep the cold outside. One immediately notices the tastefully elegant white tablecloth dining rooms as both appealing and inviting.

The young hostesses greet guests with efficient friendliness. Coats are taken without the use of those paper number things that always get lost. (They keep track of your jacket by your name.)

We were seated, offered water and beverages. The glasses of wine were selected from an attractive list of choices.

One can’t help but settle back and enjoy the environment while reviewing the menu. Our selections were made from an imaginative menu where seafood, pork, lamb, and beef are among the choices along with an attractive vegetable dish.

Our first courses consisted of roasted beets that included whipped feta, orange vinaigrette, and pistachios. Bibb lettuce salad topped with grapefruit, avocado, Bulgarian feta and poppy seed vinaigrette. Finally, the third member of our party enjoyed turnip cauliflower soup with cracked hazelnut and olive oil.

These offerings provided a delicious beginning to a dining experience we continued to enjoy.

We moved smoothly from our first course to our main course with the young wait staff removing and delivering plates to the table. The staff is friendly and comfortable in the new setting. Seasoning will come fast, and more senior members of the team are ever present ensuring that guests are fully satisfied.

Our entrees demonstrated the experience of chef Erin O’Shea. One of our party selected halibut that was perfectly prepared. Two of us enjoyed the lamb shank which remained moist and tasty as it fell off the bone.

We finished our fine meal by sharing the rice pudding topped with bourbon currants. This proved a soft-textured and sweet completion to our meal that was finished off with an excellent cup of coffee.

We fully enjoyed our evening. The owners were present and seriously reviewing their domain while warmly greeting friends and diners throughout the restaurant where every seat was taken. Our experience was relaxed and never rushed and came to a comfortable conclusion after two hours. The fare before gratuity was around $200 for our three courses and excellent wine by the glass.

As we departed, the opportunity to visit with one of the owners brought a series of thoughtful questions to make sure we enjoyed our experience. Relaxed fine dining is their stated objective, and that was certainly provided to us with a restaurant that seems positioned to do well in our community.

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