From the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean, to the stately 18th-century homes of tiny towns, to the quiet beauty of the Pocomoke State Forest -- this trail has it all.
The Beach-to-Bay Indian Trail leads visitors of the lower Eastern Shore on a driving journey off beaten paths. Its creation in 1988, through the efforts of Worcester and Somerset counties' tourism officials and concerned residents, also served another mission: Newer residents of the region found themselves reluctant to explore the area because they kept getting lost on unmarked and unpaved roads, says one of the trail's founders, Sandie Marriner, director of Somerset County Tourism.
With the help of Kathy Fisher, who was Worcester County's tourism director, and others, a route was mapped. Now signs guide tourists and area residents alike through the forest, field, marsh and village, and focus travelers' attention on the region's cultural and historical richness.
nTC Be forewarned: This is a 104-mile driving tour, so you can't see and do everything in a day. But if you go, you can take your pick of scenery and 11 historical sites -- some familiar, some not so well known -- which anchor the route.
The Ocean City Lifesaving Station Museum, for example, is the first stop on the trail, at the end of the boardwalk. Built in 1891, this was home to the men of the Lifesaving Service, the forerunner to the Coast Guard. The museum's displays of boats, floats, ropes and other equipment give an idea of the difficulty rescuers faced when charging into the Atlantic Ocean to save lives. A film taken of a rescue in March 1941 shows a freighter that ran aground at 94th Street after mistaking the Fenwick Island light for the entrance to the Delaware Bay: Also exhibited are from old Ocean City, such as souvenirs and woolen bathing (( suits.
In Snow Hill, the trail leads to the Julia A. Purnell Museum. Originally dedicated to a woman and her hobby, the Purnell Museum's collection was expanded to include the history of Snow Hill. Purnell began creating needlework at the age of 85, after breaking a hip and finding her mobility limited. She entered and won many hobby shows. She lived from 1843 to 1943 and the museum concentrates on this period in Snow Hill's history. Here, visitors may handle and feel the weight of an iron, key, bell and xxx beater -- tools from the era.
At the edge of the Pocomoke State Forest is Furnace Town, where bog-ore iron was manufactured. The iron-rich water that surrounded the town created ore deposits on the bog, which were dug out by workers and turned into iron, later sold in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. The centerpiece of the town is the Nassawango Iron Furnace used during the 1800s. Climbing up the ramp to the top of the furnace gives visitors a great view of the town. From here, one can see the church, blacksmith shop and swamp.
"It's a great place to see the past," says Mike Marshall, of Cleveland, Ohio, who with his wife, Elaine, explored the site.
By marking the route leading to these and other attractions, the counties fulfilled a goal of making visitors feel more welcome.
"There are bikers who travel the trail," says Ms. Marriner. "There are hikers and nature lovers. There are birdwatchers. There are historians who travel the area [for work]. There were so many people right here in this area who'd never driven the area because they were afraid they'd get lost. It can get interesting back there in the forest."
The trail also honors the region's first residents, she says. Worcester County was carved from Somerset County in 1742, but before that date the two counties shared a common heritage. The original settlers of the southern Eastern Shore were Algonquins of several tribes. The scenic trail reminds visitors of the seasonal movement of the Indians as they traveled from beach to bay and up to the forest, where they spent their winters. At some of the stops along the trail, you'll see pottery
and arrowheads and other artifacts.
ALONG THE TRAIL
Eleven sites in Somerset and Worcester counties are marked. For directions, hours and event information, please call Worcester County Tourism at (800) 852-0335; or Somerset County Tourism at (800) 521-9189.
Ocean City Lifesaving Museum, Ocean City
Assateague Island State Park
Calvin B. Taylor House Museum, Berlin
Julia A. Purnell Museum, Snow Hill
Furnace Town, Snow Hill
Pusey Branch Trail, Route 388 (between Snow Hill and Princess Anne)
Teackle Mansion, Princess Anne
Governor J. Millard Tawes Historical Museum, Crisfield
Burgess' Early Americana Museum, Hudson's Corner
Costen House Museum, Pocomoke City
+ Pocomoke River State Forest