Day 59 – West Virginia’s Potomac Highlands Part 2

I planned on an early start this morning and awoke to a parking lot full of fog. I opted to provision VANilla, buy the dogs a new bed, and find the best $2.12 breakfast in town – ok, so it was at Burger King – and wait as the fog dissipated.  But still, it’s hard to find anything but a bacon or sausage egg sandwich or powdered donuts while on these scenic drives.  Believe it or not, Starbucks are few and far between, and I’m not inclined to spend $5 on breakfast!  Two items on Burger King’s $1 menu are a small cup of coffee and four warm, mini-blue berry biscuits complete with liquid sugar dipping sauce also known as icing…mmm, my new breakfast of champions when I don’t feel like cooking oatmeal!

I drove to Gaudineer Scenic Area in the Monongahela National Forest as the fog lifted.  Yes, I tried my luck with the forest again.  One of the prettiest places I’ve visited in the last 59 days was a “recreation area” in a national forest, so I was hopeful this area of virgin forest would be worth the visit.  After weaving along another mountain road lined with bare trees for nearly 30 miles, I entered the forest and maneuvered another gravel road for just over two miles.  The fern and moss covered area featured 100 foot spruce trees over 250 years old as well as new growth.  Due to a surveyor error, this tract of land was never logged in the 1930’s and it survived the nearby wildfires.  Because the trees are so old, they are beginning to die from natural causes including insects, drought, and wind damage.  In fact, a sign posted nearby warned not to hike in the area during high winds as these short rooted trees may blow over.  I’m not sure the long drive was worth the interpretive trail half mile loop, but the dogs got to run free and if I had the day here, I could have enjoyed several trails, including the Allegheny close by.

Off the beaten path, we took a back road to Cass Scenic Railroad State Park.  I expected to find a railroad exhibit inside a park of trails, but instead I basically came upon an old logging town.  The failing logging company and its company housing were purchased by the State of West Virginia in the 1960s.  Over the last 50 years, the State has restored the railroad once used to transport logs and later used as scrap metal as well as the company houses.  Now tourists can rent the white houses and enjoy a 4.5 hour scenic train ride through the mountains (at least when the station is open).

After our quick stop in Cass, we climbed the mountain to Snowshoe Village, a ski town.  I thought I might try a ski town lunch.  Clearly I caught the town between seasons…no summer activities, no leaf peeping views, and only homemade snow in one area.  The only folks around were employees preparing the area for ski season which was supposed to begin on Thanksgiving.  Either snowy weather begins soon or they will somehow be making snow quickly, as there wasn’t much around.

We kept on going on what may have been the prettiest part of the drive yet.  I’ll have to come back here during fall colors.  The area must look majestic!  We stopped in a few state forest overlooks before arriving at Cranberry Glades.  The Glades are of special interest because the bogs, usually found in the far north are seemingly misplaced in the mountains at an elevation of 3,400 feet.  I’m not sure our 15 minute stop at this destination was worth the drive getting here, but again, if I had the whole day the spend on all the area hiking trails, especially during the fall season, I suspect it would have been fantastic.  Regardless, I can at least say I’ve been to a cranberry bog…another first!

Lady Bug on my steering wheel

It was about 2:30 in the afternoon and so far I’d driven close to 150 miles and stopped for no more than two hours.  The only campgrounds open on the drive were located at Watoga State Park.  The seven mile drive through the park was just gorgeous.  I probably should have camped here and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring, but I really felt like ending up in civilization for the evening…maybe a beer, a little football, and cell service, so I asked Erin, the ranger, if there was a day use fee for a shower as normally the bathhouses are reserved for campers.  She said no and let me use the facilities…thank you, thank you!

The dogs and I made a final stop at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park before pulling into Walmart in Lewisburg for the evening.  Our walks were somewhat short today, so I wanted to get one in that was a bit longer.  We walked along Old Soldier Trail past informative signs recounting the Battle of Droop Mountain.  This battle was the last conflict on West Virginia soil as the Union soldiers outflanked the Confederate troops on the mountain top and sent them south for good.  The hike took us past several trees with trunks grown together…one had five.

I’m headed to Lucy’s (a sports bar for the evening)…

Beginning of a what became a purple sky

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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