Day 58 – West Virginia’s Potomac Highlands

Wow, last night was bitter cold.  I thought it was only getting down to 39 degrees, a temperature I dealt with just fine in Maine.  This morning, it took an hour of running the heat, adding a pair of socks, and finally hiking to get the numbness to wear off in my big toe!  Now for all my friends that ask me about skiing, this is why I don’t like it!  While the night was cold, the day was glorious; sixty and sunny.

The dogs and I spent our time hiking and caching.  We took essentially the same hike at Swallow Falls State Park as we did yesterday, except this time we crossed a bridge to the other side of the river as well in order to retrieve one more cache.  We picked up three here;  an ammo can, a Tupperware container, and an earth cache of the falls.  I tried finding one more, but the black case in the rocks was deemed too elusive for me and for my willingness to search in an unstable area between a cliff and the river with the dogs in tow.

We left Maryland to reach Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia around lunch time.  Blackwater Falls was another earth cache.  The Blackwater River derived its name from the reddish brown appearance of the water, much like the color of tea.  The color is caused by the presence of organic matter containing tannins.  The river begins in the Canaan Valley, plunges 57 feet to create the Blackwater Falls, and flows into several rivers before eventually reaching the Mississippi and the finally the Gulf of Mexico.  In addition to this earth cache, we stopped at a picnic area in the park to find another ammo can.

This West Virginia drive passes through Monongahela National Forest and nearby the Allegheny Mountains that once were as high as the Alps.  Needless to say, the winding, hilly road is lined with state parks.  The next park we visited is known as Canaan Valley Resort State Park.  Within the 2.5 miles we hiked in the park, we crossed boardwalks among America’s second-largest inland wetland, under the shade of tall evergreens, and through meadows with remnants of Monday’s snow and with a view of the surrounding mountains.  I must have walked through three different echo systems in less than an hour!  It was really an interesting place.  We found a cache, saw some deer, and even got a picture of a woodpecker.


I had hoped to make one more stop at Dolly Sods before camping out at the Walmart in Elkins.  According to Reader’s Digest, logging in the 1880s and subsequent fires devastated the area which now “abounds with vegetation – upland wildflower meadows, blueberry and huckleberry thickets, cranberry bogs, and patches of dwarf red spruce.”  I thought it might be interesting to see.  As I proceeded to leave Canaan Valley Resort State Park, I plugged Dolly Sods into Gina (my gps), and it could not be located.

How many deer can you find?

Sods was not too far away, thus I kept my eyes peeled for a brown sign along the roadway.  I found a VERY small one…That should have been my first clue!  I looked at the generic map in the book and saw Dolly Sods was not too far away, thus I kept my eyes peeled for a brown sign along the roadway.  I found a VERY small one…should have been my next clue.  I drove at least five miles at twenty-five miles per hour along a road hardly wide enough for two cars with the only thing between VANilla and at least a 1,000 foot drop to the valley was a one-foot guard rail.  Once I finally arrived, I found out Dolly Sods was part of the 900,000 acre Monongahela National Forest complete with dirt roads.  I should have looked more closely at the generic map!  Low on gas, check engine light on, and less than 2 hours from darkness…my answer to exploring the woods equaled, NO THANK YOU!  I headed to Elkins, completed a driving tour of the town, and tried Kentucky Fried Chicken for the first time in over ten years. I suspect it will be another ten year before I try it again…where’s a Popeye’s when you need one?!?  I’ll do a little shopping at Walmart, prepare for another bitter cold evening, and hopefully head south for warmer weather in the morning.

Published by

Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

2 thoughts on “Day 58 – West Virginia’s Potomac Highlands

Leave a Reply