Friday, February 4, 2011;
Winter is the perfect time to make a date outdoors - like a brisk hike along the Appalachian Trail to one of the best panoramic views in Maryland and then warming up with brunch at a nearby historic landmark.
Leave the car at Old South Mountain Inn, where you see signs for Appalachian Trail parking. Follow the white-blazed trail across Alternate 40, behind an old church and up South Mountain. This time of year the trail is often snowy and icy, giving you a great reason to hold on to your significant other's hand.
On a recent Sunday the two-mile ascent was peaceful with few hikers taking advantage of the clear skies. Bare trees offered expansive views you would otherwise miss in the summer.
Follow signs on the trail to Washington Monument, a 30-foot-tall stone tower with a spiral staircase inside. Climb to the top and take in the view - on a clear day, you can see to West Virginia.
Heading down the mountain you can take the Appalachian Trail back or the well-plowed, mile-long Washington Monument Road to Alternate 40. (Don't do what we did and mistakenly take the similarly named Monument Road. It will take you far afield.)
Either way, you'll want to make it back to Old South Mountain Inn by 2 p.m. for a buffet brunch of eggs, sausage, casseroles and plenty of pie. The brunch usually draws an after-church crowd, but they are accommodating for rosy-cheeked hikers in jeans and boots.
- Amy Orndorff
Sunday brunch 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Old South Mountain Inn, 6132 Old National Pike, Boonsboro, Md. 301-432-6155. www.oldsouthmountaininn.com.