Saturday was a glorious hiking day, the sun was shining, the birds a chirping, the cows a mooing as I walked by. I went from farm lands to river valley to sleepy residential roads. I finally got to roughly where I knew I would camp and started looking for a spot. As I'm walking a young man sees me and walks over, it was easy to explain my walk because there was an ADT trail marker adjacent his home. He had walked up to me to bum a cigarette, I told him that I don't smoke. He then asked to borrow some money so he could get some from the store. I don't condone smoking cigarettes but needing a place to camp, not wanting to upset the locals and wanting to know where this store was, I gave him the $5 that was given to me the day before. He pointed me in the direction of the store, said it was just up the road a bit and pointed out three local churches as well. Before I walked away, he warned me about coyotes, something I had never even considered. Off I went to the store. However, after a long, hot day of hiking Brown was not having it and lied right down in the road. I decided the store could wait until morning.
I headed to a church to make camp. Two of the churches had Sunday morning service and the third had Sunday evening service. Not wanting to disrupt anyone in the morning, I chose the third. Davis Baptist Church, services were every 1st and 3rd Sunday at 6pm. Perfect. I made camp on the side of the church. Side note: the night before I camped at Antioch Methodist Church. While I would ask permission if there was a pastor on duty or a phone number to call; I feel churches are fair game because I can just say I'm on a pilgrimage and came to hear you preach or something of that sort.
Anyway, when I woke up it was chilly. Always makes it harder to get going, but I had to get to the store and back to the trail and head up a mountain, so I needed to move. I headed up the road to find the store and began to think maybe this kid had lied to me. Two miles later a small grocery/convenient store, I was relieved, but also upset about the four mile round trip. The clerk looked at me and immediately asked if I was on the American Discovery Trail, I said yes and he wanted to know more. I purchased tangerine, passion fruit, black berry candy canes, a can of dog food, gatorade, water, four packs of hot hands (3/pack) and new gloves. I inquired about the weather, since I haven't had cell phone reception to check. He said that they said some snow but it has been so dry that he didn't think more than an inch or two. That's not too bad I thought.
I headed back to the trail and followed the road past farms then a residential area until finally, the trail up the mountain, Dolly Sods. Phew it seemed like I was climbing forever. At what I thought may have been halfway, we sat down for a late lunch. No sooner did we finish lunch did the flurries start. Normally I let Brown take a thirty minute nap after lunch, but today I wanted to beat the snow to the top of the mountain. We continued our climb. Flurries turned to snow and as I got higher, they joined snow on the ground that hadn't melted yet from the last time it snowed. When I got to the top or what I thought was the top, it looked like I was in the snow cloud. There were glaciers on the trail, well large mounds of frozen ice, but to me, glaciers! Probably about three or four inches on the ground when we got to Red Creek Campsite with the snow still falling like crazy. There would be no way to start a fire or pitch my tent. I found the bathroom, a 5' by 7' roomy for a campsite bathroom. I made a decision that this would be our shelter for the evening. It was rather clean, the road up the mountain had been closed since January so it probably hadn't seen much if any use since before then.
While this was shelter, it was anything but warm. The concrete floor, the vent in the wall, the cracks beneath the door, all seemed to allow frigid air inside. I wedged my things against the door to block snow from blowing in. I cracked open my hot hands and tried to warm up. I ate two dinners that night. The steam from the boiling water made it warm but I knew this would freeze by morning. Brown and I snuggled up and drifted off. I woke up a few times in the night to break out more hot hands and would toss them to the bottom of my sleeping bag. Side note: I recommend the hot feet not the hot hands, they were warmer for sure.
Sure enough there were ice crystals on everything in the am. I opened the door to see if the snow had stopped, nope still going. I crawled back into the sleeping bag and tried to plan how I would get off this mountain in a foot of snow. I decided to try calling for help but with no signal, I had no luck. I knew I didn't want to be stuck up there and the only way off the top of this mountain (4000ft) was to trek through the snow. I looked at my guidebook and decided I would deviate from the trail and take the alternate, in case of snow route down. In hindsight, I don't think it would have mattered considering both routes were covered. All packed up, we got moving. Snow midway up my shins and just below my knees in some places, the trail still had some incline to it. Every mile seemed like five. With a newly instilled fear of coyotes, I looked behind me, convinced I was being followed. Probably just in my mind. It was exhausting. I had only one liter of water and after I finished that I was so dehydrated I drank from the stream along the trail that alternated from frozen to not. I didn't treat the water and hoped because I was so high up this water would be OK to drink. My feet were soaked and cold, I knew stopping would mean frostbite, so I wiggle my toes with every step. After several miles of up and down, I reach what looked to be all down hill from here. I looked to my side pouch for a snack for some energy, I found double shot espresso gu. This was left over from the marathon I ran exactly one year ago before. This was much more challenging than that marathon. The gu and the downhill trek had me moving fast. I flew down that mountain and was so relieved when I got to where the road was paved and plowed in a small, sleepy cabin town resting just below the mountain.
Sadly this wasn't the end of my exhausting day. I then had to follow this road up and down the mountain range to my destination, but at least it was paved and I was no longer trudging through snow. With five miles left until my destination, a sweet woman saw me and asked if I wanted a ride. YES! She and her husband loved camping in their younger days she told me. She dropped me off at the entrance to Canaan Valley Lodge. There is a mile and a half walk from the entrance to the lodge. Excited though, I move.
This place is pretty cool. A recreational lodge on state park property, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, ice skating in the winter and white water rafting, tubing, etc in the summer. Only pet friendly rooms they have are cabins. So, I'm in a six person cabin, sprawled out and thawing out. However, It is one of their rustic cabins though, so no TV, phone, or Internet. Going to give the snow a day to melt some before heading back out there.
I'm so ready for this winter to be over. I want to see flowers blooming and green return to these wretched trees. I want to feel the Sun on my face and the wind at my back.
Nothing makes you feel more alive than fighting for your life. I was worried up there for awhile but, all is good. Thank you readers.
"All of these clouds will disappear
Like we were never here
But I swear there was a time I thought that it would never stop
And now I only think about you if it's raining or it's not"