As we opened our eyes to the breaking sun that was dimmed by the foggy, cloudy and misty morning, Jerry already had coffee brewing and pancakes on the griddle, as everyone gathered to get the day started. All night it had rained off and on so I was not too excited to get up and pack up camp in the wet chilly landscape. With everything wet, we made due (in the dew) and got organized to take off on our adventure for the day. We had a lot of ground to cover so we must press on despite the rain. The Experience Learning Camp is 400′ below the highest point in WV, Spruce Knob, and up in the clouds as the sun breaks through we line up in our rigs and head down the road.
As the fog and clouds moved through, we drove down to the overlook for an awesome group shot. After the shot some of us headed up into the clouds for a much needed bathroom break since we camped without any facilities. The clouds were too thick to see much, but from what we could see, the pines, spruce and brush looked much more alpine than the lower elevations. We then left the overlook to a winding road down the mountain along the Dry Fork River. We soon came to a traffic stop and saw some wild apples, just rip for the picking, and had a perfect morning snack.
We followed along the river to a small village, with a whopping 200 residents. We had reached Harman, WV, where our next stop was the Still Hollow Spirits. The owner of this new Distillery told us about the spring on the property they use for water, local ingredients used like maple syrup and ginseng, and then invited us in for a tasting. Our favorite was the maple whiskey that was made from the maple made in the area. The distillery was set in an old barn that had been refurbished to make the operational store front and tasting room, along with the stills they make the spirits in. We spend some time tasting all they have to offer, as well as shirts, posters, and shot glasses.
Back on the pavement for a few miles, as we head toward our next stop at the Monongahela National Forest and Seneca Rocks! But first a fuel and lunch stop at Harper’s Old Country Store, the oldest, continuously operating business in West Virginia which opened in 1902. The only gas pump was one of the old style gas pumps that you don’t see anymore around the country. This place gave you a feeling of the way life used to be..a simple life. As we sat on the wrap around porch and had our lunch while looking over and up at the top of Seneca rocks, we made a plan to hike to the top. Jerry assured us it wasn’t that far…yeah right! Some of us were up for the challenge as others went to rest by the river bed. Seneca Rocks is one of the best known landmarks in WV. These rocks have long been noted as a scenic attraction and are popular for rock climbers. The rock formation is 900 ft above the North Fork River, with incredible views from the top, and we were hiking it for ourselves to see. The hike is pretty significant and if you aren’t in shape it will test you. But I have to say once at the top it was worth it. After a few pictures we headed back down with smiles…the descent was easier, as we made our way back to the rest of the group to get loaded back in our rigs for the next awaiting locale.
Back on the dirt, as we head to Dolly Sods Wilderness area, reminded me of some of the Rubicon trail with the rocks and marshes. The Dolly Sods are known for the breathtaking views and truly alpine ecosystem similar to Northern US and Canadian high altitude alpine meadows. We heard this area is very popular on the weekends. We arrived on a Friday and it was somewhat crowded but not bad. A long straight dirt road brought us to another twisty mountain side trail cut right into the mountain. The trail then turned to pavement as we headed west towards Canaan Valley State Park, where we will be camping for the evening.
The State Park was also hosting a Botanist conference. Jerry was able to arrange a dinner time lecture from a Botanist and State Park Officials to tell us more about the unique ecosystem found in the high altitude Canaan Valley. This valley is where northern and southern species of flora and fauna meet in migration. There are also some completely unique plants in the area. They expressed the need to preserve the integrity of the valley, and we explained how little impact overlanding/adventure travel really has. Our campsite for the evening was in a new dispersed camping area, setup just for us, as a trial run with the park. We sat down for dinner, which was another epic WV meal, as we overlooked the valley and watched the moon rise. A few of us wanted to take a shower since it had been a few days of dirt in our hair, and made our way to the camp ground that had hot showers waiting for us. As we sat around the campfire to reflect on the day, I was so tired that it was time for me to sleep. The day would come soon and we had to be up early. Stay tuned for the final epic day of our journey.