After coming down Dolly Sods, I stayed at the Canaan Valley Lodge. I took a day off the next day (Tuesday) to allow for some snow to melt. With temperatures in the mid 40s, a lot of snow did in fact melt that day. It made me happy to see the ground peering through the snow. I sweated it up in the sauna, cooled off in the pool, relaxed by the fire in the lodge and caught up on some news and social media. A nice relaxing day.
The next day (Wednesday) I woke up and filled my belly down at the lodge. Headed back to the cabin, threw on my pack, grabbed the pup and out the door we went. The trail cuts through the park and varied from snow, wet, muddy to puddles. All of which I was happy to take on, so long as the snow was no longer mid-shin deep. This was my initial mentality anyway.
After following the trail out of Canaan Valley State Park, I hopped onto Davis Trail to enter Blackwater Falls State Park. So much snow had melted, Davis Trail was looking more like Davis Creek. It wouldn't be long before my shoes/socks/feet were soaked. The sun was shining though, so there was that. I left Davis Trail at Blackwater Falls Horse Stable. This is where Brown and I had lunch, we explored a bit; sadly because of winter, there were no animals in the barn.
From here we hopped on Yellow Birch Trail which would take us past Blackwater Falls Lodge. Hopped on another trail for what seemed like forever. I was searching for Trail 110. However, there are so many unlabeled side trails up here on the side of this mountain I began to feel a little lost. I had to use my GPS to find the way-point to the entrance of the trail. This was especially helpful because the trail was unmarked and a tree was down at the entrance of the trail. It could have been missed completely had I not used my GPS and Backcountry Navigator App. I veered off into the forest. Again you can barely tell there is a trail here, there are a few trees with faded blue spray paint marking the blue blaze trail and so much of the trail is overgrown. This isn't even the worst part of this trail. I must have climbed over, under and tried to go around at least fifty fallen trees; had to back track several times because I lost the blue blazes and like Davis Trail before, much of this trail had turned into a creek as well.
I soon begged for dry feet. It seems as though warmth and dryness are a luxury my toes cannot afford. Just when I thought this section of trail could frustrate me no more: I reached a section of deep snow, sometimes buried beneath were fallen trees to slip on and then it began to rain.
You can imagine my relief when I reached shelter, my guidebook said this shelter may no longer exist, but it does! In full glory beyond a babbling brooke an old shelter with names carved into it from the 70s and 80s. Of course the rain stopped five minutes after I arrived here. I opened the shelter registry box, usually containing: candles, matches, fire starter, etc. Not here. In this box under some yarn was three mice, two scurried away and the third leaped out at me and I screamed and then laughed at myself. Since I'm terrified of spiders, I set up my tent in the shelter and drift off to sleep. I've been having some vivid dreams lately or maybe I'm now able to recall them. It's interesting the random people who pop up and the places you build in your mind.
The next morning (Thursday) the temperature had dropped and I awoke to find Brown in the bottom of my sleeping bag. Finally, I pull myself together, shoes still wet, feet still cold. The rest of this trail, from the shelter on, must see more use. No fallen trees, blue spray paint replaced by blue metal nailed into the trees, no overgrowth to push through and slightly dryer. I left this trail to hop on the next one and accidentally went the wrong way, when I noticed I was going up instead of down, I checked my GPS and turned around. There was a memorial plaque on a large rock for two men whom while on duty died in a plane crash up here back in 1976. I bowed my head for our fallen brothers and kept moving. To my left the mountain drops off into a river down below with many falls and rapids, to my right the mountain climbs. Halfway down the trail, the Sun is out and my shoes begin to feel dry. Until water encompasses the trail, I hop from rock to rock until I slip and my entire left foot goes under. My right foot is still dry, so there's that.
I finally make it to the road, continue on past the town of Hendricks, Hambleton and into Parsons. I stopped in subway to grab some lunch for Brown and I. Then I stopped in Sheets to grab some fuel (Heet) for my camp stove, while inside I get some fried pickles. Side note readers, I love fried pickles, back home I would make oven fried pickles and okra for dinner. We ate our lunch across the street in front of the beautiful Parsons Courthouse, built in 1896. A famous court case was fought here vs the board of education requiring equal pay for African American teachers. I read this on the sign out front. While charging my phone and digesting an EMT walked over to me and inquired about where I was headed. I told her and she said she remembered a man who came through on the ADT last year with his dog, shotgun. She offered me a ride to my next campsite and I said please and thank you! It was only three and a half miles up the road, I could have walked but I was feeling lazy after that big lunch.
When we got to where I had asked her to take me, she said there was a campsite a little bit further she would drop me off at. OK I thought. Then she worried that it was too close to the road and she was concerned about my safety, so she drove on. I told her about my hike the day before through the mess of trees, she told me last year, hurricane Sandy hit the area pretty hard. That explains it. She said that she would take me up the mountain to save me the climb in the morning but she couldn't find a good spot there to drop me off so she drove on to Valley Furnace. This is where I planned to camp the following night, putting me a day ahead of a schedule that I was two days behind on. Once at Valley Furnace we noticed private property signs. Someone had purchased this small campsite and trespassing wasn't allowed. She said she would drive me a little further up the road in the direction of Phillipi, the next larger town on my guidebook. We see a church in Nestorville and I said OK there. She drove me roughly twenty miles. I was grateful and I thanked her for her kindness.
I approached the Nestorville United Methodist Church to ask for permission to camp outside. The door was unlocked but no one was inside. There was tape over the lock on the inside, indicating that these doors are never locked. I signed the guest book, looked around, ate a few cookies (there are so many cookies here) and when I was sure there wasn't going to be a service that evening, I brought Brown inside. We're currently on a large black leather sofa in the front room. Happy to have shelter from the rain/snow that's coming, a soft bed, cookies, a bathroom and although the heat is off, it's warmer than outside.
Thank you readers. Thank you Sharlene? For the ride. Thank you Nestorville United Methodist Church for always keeping your doors open and hosting me this evening. Good night.
"Oh, north country winters keep a-getting me down
Lost my money playing poker so I had to leave town
But I ain't turning back to living that old life no more"