2015 October 14

Show only the Charts, Google Maps, Maps, Photos or Videos.

Allegheny National Forest
Chittenango Falls State Park
Dolly Sods Wilderness
Gandy, West Virginia
Keyser Ridge
Seneca Rocks
Shenandoah National Park

October 2015
« Sep   Nov »

Questions? Need an updated map? Email me andy@andyarthur.org.

It’s kind of interesting how local people I have talked into in Maryland and Virginia – especially women – have Southern accents. In West Virginia, at least in the northern part, don’t have much of an accent or if they do its mostly a rural Midwestern accent as is common in much of Rural Upstate NY, especially the western part of the state.

Monday, Columbus Day was my first full day in West Virginia. It was a beautiful day with deep blue skies throughout the day and pretty good colors, at least at the middle elevations. The valleys were still somewhat green and by the time I got up to Dolly Sods, it was well past peak – but still amazingly beautiful. Still no cellphone service, so all of the blog posts from my trip will be posted late. Made a good breakfast of scrambled eggs with Shantung (?) mushrooms that I bought on Saturday afternoon at the farm stand in Coudersport, PA. They were delicious. Sat back and enjoyed the beautiful morning up on the big open campsite at had on Forest Road 13.

I liked the campsite so much, I seriously thought about camping back up there again – although it was a bit far north from my tentatively planned route. I woke up early but didn’t really rush around. I probably should have stayed later in the bed, but I’ve gotten into the habit lately of getting up early. Which is not a good thing because at the same time I’ve been getting up early, I’ve been staying up late. So by evening I’ve been tired. But not having to travel a lot of miles today, I figured to take it easy.

West Virginia Roads are crazy. They are all so narrow, so steep, and so twisty. When people say roads in West Virginia wind and wind, it’s true. But it’s the with of the roads, the lack of guard rails, the speed of other local drivers, that make driving around here kind of hair raising. Most of the secondary roads are little more then a lane wide, and when two vehicles have to pass, they have to virtually come to a stop.

This one road I was on, Virginia Route 32/2 in Lanesville, was a crazy 13-15 feet wide road (about the size of a typical interstate lane), except with two lane traffic sharing that one lane. Virigina 32/4 road was so narrow – that while it had a guard rail – the guard rail was hanging off the edge of the cliff. Lot of traffic too. Both cars had to basically stop to pass each time. I don’t think I have ever driven so many miles with my truck locked into first gear, or smelled my brakes burning a couple of times. After getting down one mountain pass, I felt like a could cook a turkey by placing it next to my wheel well. I tried not to ride the brakes, but I had to control my speed on these steep, twisty, narrow decent. Roads labeled Main_Route/SubRoute are scariest to drive in West Virigina by far. If you want white knuckle driving in West Virginia look for a route labeled like West Virigina 32/4.

Driving up to Dolly Sods is another crazy climb. Again, your 15 feet wide typical West Virginia Road, with no guard rail and steep descent off the side. At least the Dolly Sods road is relatively straight, with some long mile long climbs, where you go up 1,000 feet every mile or so. Dolly Sods is about 3,000 or so feet above the valley, so three miles of craziness. Fortunately, not a lot of people coming in the opposite direction. Still, I was happy enough to drive off the mountain later in the afternoon, again in low gear, then eventually down-shifting into 4×4 low, because I didn’t want to overheat the brakes. Maybe my fear of destroying the brakes on these hills is not rational – the brakes just passed inspection and aren’t making any unusual noises or have any problems that I know of – but brakes are something that scare me a lot on cars.

Brakes are designed to turn forward motion into heat to slow the vehicle. They are designed to have a lot of stopping power in their lifetimes, and modern brakes don’t fade severely until they get very, very hot. I’ve had too many brake problems on old junky cars and trucks, so using the brakes extensively puts a lot of fear in me. And I’ve watched too many Wiley Coyote and Road-Runner shows as a kid, and movies where cars drive off the shoulder, and roll dozens of times, not to be found deep in the hollow for month later. Or as usually happens in movies in California, a big truck rear-ends you, pushing you off the side of the hill, leaving you for death. I think that happened in the movie the China syndrome. Fortunately, I did not any roadrunners along the way, nor any coyotes. I did have a deer run out in front of me on one of those insane decent, but I applied the brakes firmly and aimed the wheels away from the edge of the cliff of death. Plus crazy locals racing past in opposite directions, because the traveled lane in West Virigina primarily exists for one vehicle going in one direction, and the other vehicle takes half of the shoulder where it exists. Even in the valleys, on major arterials, most roads are like 10 feet wide with a gravel shoulder that often ends for narrow culverts or other inconveniences that the DOT couldn’t be bothered to re-engineer for safety. Probably the widest, most modern arterials I’ve been on West Virginia – like parts of US 219 and WV 32 have no more then two 11 feet lanes and a foot shoulder. Certainly not the modern NYSDOT standard of 13-14 foot lanes and 8 foot shoulder.

Freaking insane driving down here.

Despite the awful drive, Dolly Sods is stunningly beautiful. That’s the only way you can describe it. In the autumn the vast, lush fields of blueberries mixed with occasional deciduous trees and surrounding mountains is nothing short of stunning. I hope the pictures I took today came out, because it was a stunning place, from the narrow dirt road to the beauty in all directions.

Looking down off Dolly Sands, you could see the various Blue Ridges, with some color still on them. Their is a campground on top of Dolly Sands and some roadside campsites about a 1 mile below Dolly Sods, but I didn’t want to spend the night up there, with potentially bad weather coming with a front coming through. Those roads are insane enough without them being muddy. Ankle hurt a little bit after stepping funny up there. I have my ankle brace I may put on tomorrow before hiking.

After I made it down from Dolly Sods, the drive on WV 55/4 wasn’t that bad. It was blacktop and had two lanes of at least 10 feet wide. Some crazy curbs and decents, and no place to pull off, but at least I wasn’t sharing a lane. WV 55/4 even had guard rails when it climbed down a mountain. And WV 55 running through the valley actually had nice big lanes and you could go in the straightaways 55 miles per hour. Of course, there was heavy truck traffic on it, and people weren’t happy that I was going cautiously around the curbs and only speeding up to 55 on the straightaways.

Eventually I found a place I could pull off and let traffic go by. Drove down to Seneca Rocks Visitor Center, hoping to find a payphone to call my folks to let them I doing okay, despite the white knuckle driving and no cell service up here, anywheres that I’ve been in West Virigina or Western Maryland. The Seneca Rocks Visitor Center is only open Wednesday through Saturday after September, so it was all closed up. Seneca Rocks was stunning. No payphone to be found here, but then I found a payphone at a general store that looked like a store out of Deliverance or maybe the Easy Rider.

I should have gone in and bought some milk that couldn’t have been that old but I was cheesed off about a call being $1, so I decided to hold off on calling my parents. I would have been fascinated to hear the accents – would they be strong, would they be Mid-western or Southern Applachian sounding? They’ll be startled enough to get a call from me, rather then just seeing a Facebook update. Seneca Rocks is a stunning view, especially right now with color peaking around it. I almost want to hike up Seneca Rocks and look down from it, but I don’t know if I will be back up that way or if my ankle will tolerate it.

I decided in the evening to head over to Gandy River dispersed campsites as shown on the map. I decided to take Forest Route 7 over from WV Route 55. Forest Route 7 was a nice drive, actually fairly wide, following an old creek, until the valley got narrower and the road got steeper and started to drop down to 15 feet or less, with a steep embankment. But I made it up there.

Then to get to Gandy, I had to take WV 33/2,
which much like it’s name suggested it was about 13-15 foot wide for both directions with a steep drop off and no guard rail. I think it only dropped 1,500 feet in a mile or so heading into Gandy. I didn’t realize I was in Gandy or the road to the campsites and ended up going north for 5 miles until I found a place to safely pull off of WV 33 and study the map.

When I realized from the map that the road to campsites was relatively flat, I figured I would turn around and drive 5 miles back south and eventually to the campsites. I don’t mind driving in the valleys – the roads tend to be somewhat wider and less scary there, even if they still have crazy curves that you have to watch out. The campsite I got on Gandy River looked pretty nice but once I started to set up the trees didn’t really work for a tarp, so I decided against setting up a tarp.

Rain is expected later tonight, but not until late, so I don’t really need the tarp. I’ll just make sure anything that could be damaged by getting wet is put away. And make sure to retire to bed before it the rain comes. Right now, it’s just starry out so the front must be a ways away. It’s supposed to be a quick clipper with a burst of rain over night with clearing out by afternoon.

Tomorrow morning ain’t supposed to be nice,
but a good chance to catch up on sleep. The campsite is not totally out of ear shot of another campsite a ¼ mile down the road, so I’ve had to keep the music down. I like West Virginia just not the driving. The scenery is outstanding. But I’ve had an enough with the white knuckle driving. I need supplies and food, so I need to get to a city with a grocery store, if at all possible.

I’m seriously thinking of heading east tomorrow and if it’s decent getting out on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is no expressway but it’s at least two lanes wide and probably not nearly as steep or narrow as so many of the roads in West Virginia. The state of Virigina is much wealthier then West Virginia, so I suspect their roads are much wider and less scary to drive, even if some of them climb right up mountains. I was planning on spending one more day in West Virigina, but if the weather is decent, I could really get into checking out the Parkway – possibly heading farther south then expected.

Thursday and Friday, heading north to Shenandoah National Park to do Skyline Drive. That said, I’m still kind of disappointed that West Virginia isn’t as wild or backwards as I expected. Honestly, at least the part of West Virginia I’ve been in is no different then most of rural Upstate NY. If anything, the houses are somewhat nicer down here. Probably money goes farther down here, and people can afford nicer cars and yards.

There are some shacks, but nothing like what you see in Western NY and other chronically depressed parts of New York. Maybe I’m just not in the right part of West Virginia, despite this portion of the state not having much in the way of gas stations, stores, or businesses. I think a lot of the houses in this part of West Virginia are second homes, and it’s more tourists from Virginia then real Appalachia.

Maybe I need to go farther south in the National Forest to see real Appalachia. I think I’ve seen far more rural poverty in parts of Pennsylvania then down here.