Day 59 – West Virginia’s Potomac Highlands Part 2

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Day 59 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

I planned on an early start this morning and awoke to a parking lot full of fog. While I waited for the fog to dissipate, I provisioned VANilla, bought the dogs a new bed, and found the best $2.12 breakfast in town.  Ok, it was at Burger King. But still, it’s hard to find anything but a bacon or sausage egg sandwich or powdered donuts in the early mornings on these scenic drives, especially in the Potomac Highlands. 

Believe it or not, Starbucks are few and far between, and I’m not inclined to spend $5 on coffee anyway!  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.  It’s my new breakfast of champions when I don’t feel like cooking oatmeal!

Guadineer Scenic Area

Anyway, I drove through the Potomac Highlands 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. 

the potomac highlands west virginia
on the way to Gaudineer Scenic Area

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 more miles.  The fern and moss covered woods 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 against hiking in the area during high winds, as these short rooted trees may blow over.  I’m not sure the long drive was worth the half-mile interpretive loop trail, but the dogs got to run free.  I’m certain if I had the day here, I could have enjoyed several trail options.

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Off the beaten path, we took a back road through the Potomac Highlands 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 company houses as well as the railroad once used to transport logs and later used as scrap metal.  Now tourists may rent the white houses and enjoy a 4.5 hour scenic train ride through the mountains (at least when the station is open).

Snowshoe Village

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 opportunities, and only homemade snow in one area.  The only folks around were employees preparing the mountain for ski season which was supposed to begin on Thanksgiving.  Either snowy weather will have to come soon or they will have to make snow quickly, as there wasn’t much around.

Cranberry Glades Botanical Area

We kept on going through what may have been the prettiest part of the Potomac Highlands drive yet.  I’ll have to come back here during the fall season.  It must be majestic!  We stopped in a few state forest overlooks before arriving at Cranberry Glades Botanical Area

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 to spend hiking during the fall season, I suspect it would have been fantastic.  Regardless, I can at least say I’ve been to a cranberry bog, so it’s another first I can mark off the list!

Cranberry Glades in the potomac highlands

Watoga State Park

By 2:30 in the afternoon, I’d driven close to 150 miles and all I had to show for it was only two hours of stops and a lady bug on my steering wheel.  I probably should have spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Watoga State Park, the only park on the drive through the Potomac Highlands with campgrounds still open, but I just felt like civilization this evening.  A beer, football and cell service were calling my name.

lady bug on VANilla's steering wheel
Lady Bug on my steering wheel

Consequently, I took the seven mile scenic drive through the park which was just gorgeous and took advantage of the showers.  Normally the bathhouses are reserved for campers and require a day use fee. Erin, the ranger, kindly let me use them for free. Thank you, thank you!

Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park

Before pulling into the Walmart in Lewisburg for the evening, the dogs and I made a final stop in the Potomac Highlands at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park.  Given our walks were somewhat short today, I wanted to get in a longer one.  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. The Union soldiers outflanked the Confederate troops on the mountain top and sent them south for good.  Both the history and nature were interesting.  I particularly like the many trees with trunks grown together. One had five!

five trunk tree at droop mountain battlefield state park

In Lewisburg, I found a sports bar called Lucy’s on Gina (my GPS).  That’s where I plan on spending the evening. ETB

Map of My Road Trip Across the USA

For a summary about my road trip across the USA, click HERE. For the interactive map, see the below link.

Other Articles About West Virginia You May Like


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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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