Day 61 – West Virginia’s Midland Trail Part 2

I ended up at Red Lobster last night with a pound of snow crab legs…my favorite.  I’m not much on chain restaurants, but I tell you, I’ve eaten at more chain and fast food places in the last 60 days than I have in the last several years!  Red Lobster always reminds me of childhood days.  My mom and Bart once came up with a plan for the children to try different restaurants on Monday night when my brothers Bart and Ed came over.  Each Monday, one of us got to pick a restaurant.  Celebration and Chiquita’s were a favorite and then my brother Bart picked Red Lobster.  I think Ed and I picked Red Lobster the next two weeks and after a month the restaurant plan went by the wayside!

Before leaving Charleston, West Virginia’s largest city, I walked around the Capitol that sits across the River from the University of Charleston.  After a short walk around the Capitol I visited Daniel Boone Park aside the Kanawha River where I found my first geocache for the day.

The dogs and I left Charleston backtracking on the Midland Trail which was once a bison path and later an Indian trail to Kanawha Falls where the river flows over sandstone ledges.  The falls is also a virtual cache, so I got my second of the day.

We moved on the Hawks Neck State Park located on both sides of the road.  We enjoyed a marvelous overlook of the river complete with two bridges and a train coming by.  After admiring the valley below, we walked across the highway to complete a loop trail and find another cache.

We had a long way to get to Waynesboro, so we spent the next few hours driving to arrive at Walmart around 3 pm.  I thought we would take a walk around a city park, blog, and maybe even catch a movie, but after spending over an hour troubleshooting technical problems on my phone with Applecare, I just ended up driving 77 miles to Richmond to get a replacement.  Generally, I’m not that addicted to a phone, but if I didn’t find a replacement today, it would have been about ten days before I would get another chance.  The Apple Store was PACKED!  Of course the associate at the store could not reproduce any of the problems, but due to the notes from technical support, they honored the replacement that was promised and quite frankly I paid for anyway through insurance…so props to them.


Day 60 – West Virginia’s Midland Trail

I posted day 59 yesterday and it said published but I noticed this evening it was in draft form, so I reposted.  Day 60 – still in West Virginia – is below:

Ok, so I couldn’t find Lucy’s last night, so I stopped by the local liquor store and asked where it was located.  The gentleman behind the register suggested if I wanted food that I should skip Lucy’s and go to the sports bar called Spare Time at the bowling alley.  Either I ordered the wrong item, Lucy’s made him mad, or he has a stake in the bowling alley.  I’m always leery of ordering a chicken sandwich at places I haven’t been, but the bartender said they were good, so I ordered the ranch chicken fillet sandwich.  I should have known fillet meant pressed chicken parts, not breast, GAG!  In their defense, the onion rings were good and quesadilla and wings that other patrons ordered looked tasty as well.

This morning I needed to review my proposed course and make sure I was on track as I have made a handful of adjustments along the way, so I got a bit of a late start.  I believe, however, I have worked in a free day which I suspect I’ll need for maintenance soon – oil, tires, and engine inspection.  I started out the day with a historic walking tour of Lewisburg which included a stop at the Carnegie Hall, the Old Stone Church, and the Confederate Cemetery.

The Carnegie Hall is one of only three buildings named after steel baron and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  The hall, built in 1902 with a large donation from Carnegie, was a gift to the former Lewisburg Female Institute, now the New River Community and Technical College.  It sits across the street from the Old Stone Church, which is the oldest continuously operated church west of the Alleghenies.  The church was built of limestone in 1796 and its surrounding

Cross is brown area along the top of the fence line

cemetery contains gravestones dating back to such time as well as a cache hidden in a tree on the edge of the property.  Originally remains of 95 unknown soldiers that died fighting in the Battle of Lewisburg on May 23, 1862, were laid out in the church and later placed in a trench on the south wall without ceremony.  After the war; however, the soldiers were moved to the Confederate Cemetery just up the road and buried in a cross-shaped common grave.  The vertical length of the cross is 80 feet while the arm is 40 feet.

After my tour of Lewisburg I took 60, also known as the Midland Trail to Babcock State Park where Scout, Petey and I went for our afternoon hike past a reconstructed gristmill, aside a stream, and around Boley Lake.  The path, covered in fallen leaves, was extremely slick in the hilly areas, thus the dogs got to spend a large amount of time off leash while I focused on balancing.  The lake was almost an emerald green and especially peaceful.

My final stop before heading to Charleston, West Virginia was at the Canyon Rim Visitor’s Center at New River Gorge.  The New River Gorge Bridge, some 876 feet above the river, is the world’s longest single-arch steel bridge and the 2nd highest bridge in America.  It took nearly four years to construct in the 1970s and cost $37 million to build.

I weaved down the mountain on Midland Trail like kids zig-zag through cones during a soccer drill.  Upon reaching the water’s edge, I passed by several mining plants and mining towns before reaching Charleston.  I don’t believe I’ve seen a coal mining plant previously, and I look forward to backtracking along 60 again tomorrow.

My first Walmart destination turned out to be a pharmacy at the University of Charleston, so I had to find a second location.  A few minutes after I pulled in the lot and parked in the remote area of the lot, a car pulled up next to me.  It seems as though someone inevitably parks near me every night, so I just thought to myself, who is parking this far away from the store…oh well, I’ll just move after I go for dinner or a movie tonight (I’m right by a Red Lobster and a theater – we’ll see how the night unfolds).  I went about my business typing a few things in my GPS, looked over and found out the guy wanted to know where I got VANilla!  He has been looking for years.  I didn’t catch his name, but we talked for a while.  It turns out he is a car fanatic and was once married to “MRS. West Virginia”.  I almost asked him if he wanted to join me for dinner, but he had his car running and I wasn’t ready to eat yet.  Maybe next time!

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

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.