Highpointing: Hoye-Crest (Backbone Mountain,) Maryland

Hoye-Crest, the highpoint of Maryland can be found in a remote, wild part of the state, but to get to it you need to start next door in West Virginia. This parallels the relationship between the state highpoint with the actual summit of Backbone Mountain. It is just a subpeak on the ridge, while the the actual top of the mountain can be found further southwest in West Virginia. Though of the two, Hoye-Crest provides substantially better views.

Once you find the trailhead, which can also be a bit of an adventure, the hike is pretty straightforward. It is only a mile long though it is a bit aggressive on elevation gain as you grind up 700feet over that distance. A majority of that gain takes place in the middle third of the hike as you head up a ramp-like section of the trail. Once on top of the ridge it is only a short hike further to the summit. If you have time there is a small turnoff that can be taken to check out one of the historic boundary stones between Maryland and what at the time would have been Virginia.

When I first visited Hoye-Crest four years ago it was a quiet winter day with a thick layer of snow blanketing the ground. Trudging my way up the mountain I would spy the occasional blaze letting me know I was on the right path. Nowadays the trail is much better marked with easy to read signage and frequent red blazes to guide you along.

One of my bigger regrets when filming this episode was the fact I didn’t get out to this area more often when I lived closer to it. Maryland is geographically diverse, and this section has a rugged feel you won’t find in other parts of the state. I wanted to showcase that in the locations chosen for the episode. We shot at five different locations, starting at the summit of Backbone Mountain in West Virginia and slowly making a loop in the daylong shoot.

The biggest surprise for me was the Cranesville Swamp Preserve. It can be a bit of a challenge to find. We drove around the entire swamp before we got help from a local who clued us in to the nearly hidden entrance. The swamp immediately reminded me of the wetlands I had visited in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. Another highlight was Swallow Falls State Park with its waterfalls and old-growth forest. For a moment it was like stepping back in time.

Filming-wise this was a straightforward affair. Brian Smith brought a steady hand to the direction of the episode allowing us to move quickly and efficiently through the script. Other than the driving sequence to the trailhead it was mainly static shots with a few pan shots of the landscapes. Noise was the big challenge, particularly at the waterfalls. I really need to get a lav mic to counter some of that.

A special thanks to Terri at the Garrett County Transportation Museum who so kindly provided a photograph of Charles Hoye, the namesake for the highpoint. The music scoring the episode is called “Perspectives,” composed by Kevin MacLeod of incompetech.com. It adds a relaxing but at the same time upbeat feel to the whole affair. Overall this turned out as a decent episode, though if I had the time I would go back and shoot a few more scenes and stories from Backbone Mountain. If you get out to Hoye-Crest make sure you can spend a few days enjoying the wildest place in Maryland.

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3 Replies to “Highpointing: Hoye-Crest (Backbone Mountain,) Maryland”

  1. Lav mics are essential! I actually upgraded mine to “full spoffle” after trying to record on a very windy day on an exposed highpoint. Enjoying the series (and picking up some good filming tips!)

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