A few years ago I decided that I needed to own a pair of snowshoes. Not really sure why I decided I needed them, but I did some research and found a “starter” pair of snowshoes at LLBean and decided to buy them. I was a bit anxious that buying them was going to jinx us and we wouldn’t get any snow ever again. The snowshoes arrived on a Wednesday. By Thursday they were predicting a snowstorm for the weekend and by Saturday morning there was a historic 2ft of snow on the ground! WOW! I strapped on the snowshoes and set out to enjoy our windfall. However, despite the snowshoes, I kept sinking in up to my mid-calf. I struggled with it for awhile before giving up. I attempted another snowshoe walk later in the day and it was the same thing. I was sinking in and then trying to lift my foot up while it was attached to a 2.5 foot long snowshoe that was covered with snow. It was not fun. I took off the snowshoes and that was easier. I tried one more time with the snowshoes the next morning and it still wasn’t much fun. I sunk in on the deep snow and in the street, that wasn’t plowed, but packed down, I kept knocking the snowshoes together and almost tripping myself. I put the snowshoes back in the box they came in and planned to send them back. However, I never got around to sending them back.
We really haven’t had snow since the big storms we had the winter I got the snowshoes. It’s been 3 years. So maybe I did jinx the snow! This winter however, I decided I was going to try the snowshoes again. I’ve lost almost 70lbs since I tried them last and was thinking that might have been part of the problem, that I was too heavy for them to work properly. Of course, there is no snow to be found anywhere nearby. I was going to go to West Virginia in January, but it rained the whole week before I was going to go and washed the snow away. Finally, this weekend, there was enough snow and it was a 3 day weekend! I was heading out!
All the places with snow were about 3 hours away, so I was hoping to spend the night, however the overnight low in Canaan Valley WV was forecast to be 9*. Considering that I was freezing when I was sleeping in the RV over Christmas and it was a balmy 37*, I decided that 9* was just right out. I decided that I’d rather spend my evening driving back home than trying to entertain myself and stay warm in the RV. When it’s warm the evenings are nice – you can sit outside and read or I blog, or check out the campground. But when it’s cold there’s not much to do. The RV will stay warm as long as I run the heater, but as soon as it turns off the RV gets cold quick. It was going to use a lot of propane to keep the RV warm enough when it was 9* outside. I’m going to have to concede that RVing is just not a winter activity, as much as I enjoy winter activities, I’m gonna have to make them day trips!
I was up at 5:00 and out the door by 6:30. This is my usual weekday schedule so it wasn’t a big deal. I made a quick stop in Moorefield, WV and made it to Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis, WV by 10:15! Many people weren’t even out of bed yet and I was 3 hours from home, standing in a winter wonderland, ready to seize the snow! :-)
Going in there was no snow at all until I got to the top of the mountain, but even then there wasn’t much. Then I arrived in Davis. Davis is right on the edge of Canaan Valley, where they get a ton of snow every year. All the sudden there was a lot of snow! I think Canaan Valley is the Promised Land for snow enthusiasts!
There was enough snow and snow removal chemicals to get the RV flithy:
Before I started the drive back home I took a windex wipe to the back window so I could see!
The road into the park was snow covered and inside the park the trees were covered, the ground was covered! It was amazing! I drove around the the lake area and broke out the snowshoes. I noticed immediately how much better they were working! I trekked across the field – sinking in a little but staying mostly on the surface of the snow. When I got into the woods I discovered that I could walk “off trail” as the snow covered all the logs, rocks, sticks, leaves etc and made a clear path for me! I stayed near the trail – they were well marked with blazes – but off the trail because I didn’t want to mess it up for skiiers.
2 views from the 1st set of trails I snowshoed. That field was huge and full of untouched snow!
I have no idea how deep the snow was, however, I tripped myself a few times and did a face plant into the snow and always landed in powder! Never stirred up dirt and leaves or anything buried so I’m guessing there was at least 6-8 inches, maybe more in spots. This picnic table in the campground gives an idea, but I think there was more:
I trekked around the lake area, covering all the trails as well as some off trail routes that I invented, in about an hour and half. I decided to head back to the RV and drive around to the lodge. I’d looked up a trail map on the computer and was remembering that there were a ton of trails over there, but I needed a map! (yes, I committed a cardinal sin of hiking…I headed out without a map! By the lake it was ok – I knew where the road was at all times and there were plenty of bail out options – including following my own tracks, which were distinctive and there weren’t any other tracks, back to the RV!).
After securing a map and taking a bit of break – snowshoeing was hard work – I headed out again for part 2. The trail head was supposed to be right across the road from the lodge, but I didn’t see it. I saw what looked like footprints so I decided to follow them. Turns out they were deer prints, but I trekked up into the woods following them anyway. I couldn’t find a trail anywhere, but just snowshoeing around in the woods was fun! If there wasn’t snow or if I wasn’t wearing snowshoes, I wouldn’t have been able to traverse the woods, but with the snowshoes it was easy! I continued in the general direction of the trail, figuring I’d find it eventually, even if I didn’t, I was within sight of the road so I knew I wasn’t going to get lost.
I did find the trail rather quickly, so that was good. The only catch was that the trail was narrow, with trees and rocks and stuff on both sides making it hard for me to not tear it up and make it harder for the skiiers. Where I could I took off into the woods, staying near the trail though. The terrain over here was different too – bigger trees, more rocks, more hills. I definitely did it right because the trails by the lake were easier and it was a good place to start to get my feet wet and then move on to the harder trails!
There were a ton of trails in the lodge/cabin/sledding hill area! None were all that long, but that’s ok, because snowshoeing/skiing is slower than walking and takes more energy so you don’t go as far. When I was at Blackwater Falls before I was looking at the trails from a hiking point of view and didn’t think they were all that exciting. I wasn’t going to get too excited about a mile long trail. But when you are snowshoeing things change and now I think Blackwater Falls is the perfect place for snowshoeing!
I did a “lollipop” loop from the trail I was on that was about a mile around. At the beginning I saw a few other people, mostly skiiers, but some sledders. There weren’t that many people which surprised me, it was a holiday weekend and there was snow, it was also very cold, maybe that scared people off? On the way back I decided to take a different trail back to the lodge. This trail said that it wasn’t suitable for skiing. I thought it would be ok for me because I wasn’t skiing and I’d already traversed terrain that wasn’t suitable for skiing.
It was a nice trail, but I see why they didn’t want you skiing on it. It was narrow, windy, lots of rocks, a few blowdowns you had to climb over or go under (more challenging when your feet are 2.5 ft longer than normal!).
And then I came to this:
I almost took the snowshoes off, but decided I could do it with them on. And I did. It wasn’t easy, but I did it!
I was rewarded with a view of a cool waterfall:
Then it was back to the RV. It was 3:00 and I was ready for a break from snowshoeing. I would have liked to have taken a break and then go out again before it got dark, but I was worried about navigating the mountains after dark. Not so much because of the driving, but because of the cold and the fact that coming in the roads were wet and I was worried about black ice after dark. I had two mountains to contend with, the one that I climbed to get to the valley (Canaan Valley is the highest valley east of the Mississippi) and the one that I came down to get into WV. It was the downhill one I was most worried about and that one was 1st!
I took a few minutes to change – one of the many perks of traveling in a RV – and get a snack before I departed. When I got back to the RV I was hot and sweaty from snowshoeing, but soon I started to get cold. At that point I knew I was making the right choice in going home, I knew that once I stopped snowshoeing just sitting in the RV trying to keep warm to read or watch TV was going to be miserable. Better to leave on a high note!
The roads inside the park were in bad shape – snow covered, not salted or cindered or anything. The road leading out out of the lodge had a small incline and as I pulled up I had to stop to look for oncoming traffic and when I tried to go, the van was stuck. When I gave it some fuel, it didn’t move and a warning light on the dash flashed on. It was a triangle with and exclamation mark in it. At the time I thought Roxy was showing me her sarcastic side…”warning: you are stuck”, because I wasn’t going to be able to figure that out on my own. I wasn’t sure how to problem solve this one. I started by backing up and trying to get some more momentum going before I hit the slippery spot, but I got stuck again. I tried just giving it a lot of fuel, but it wouldn’t budge. I then decided to try the other exit, maybe it was on less of a hill or had less ice. This involved backing up all the way to where I could turn back into the parking lot. This was great back up practice since I really didn’t want to land in a snowdrift! I pulled around to the other exit and it was better – it wasn’t a hard turn and it was downhill so at least I had gravity on my side. I probably would have had it no problem if I hadn’t had to stop for another car. When I tried to go again I got stuck for a second and then the warning light flashed on but the van kept moving. It got stuck a little again before I made it to my side of the road, again I saw the warning light, but controlled forward motion continued. I was on my way, despite the death grip on the steering wheel. I was very glad when I exited the park and hit the cleared and dry main roads!
Later when I got home I pulled out the owner’s manual to see what the light meant and I’m glad I did. It wasn’t the OS light that I thought it was, Roxy was not being sarcastic with me. Turns out the van has a traction system that engages when one tire gets stuck and transfers power to help you get unstuck. The light comes on to let you know that conditions are such that you need to change your driving. Smart. I should have expected something like this from a German vehicle – they get some serious snow out there in the Alps! I’m sure that’s what was happening the 2nd attempt to get out of the parking lot – the light was on but I kept moving. I guess the 1st spot was just too much even for the traction assist – either that or I wasn’t using it right! Now I just need some snow here so I can go out to an icy parking lot and test it so I know how the system works.
I made it to Moorefield by 4:30 and stopped in a rest area for about a 1/2 hour to run the generator and heat my soup for dinner. Then headed out up the final mountain and back into VA. I made it to 81 before it got dark and was home a little before 8. I’m so excited that I was able to go so far away and still have a full day and get home early! If I hadn’t been worried about deteriorating conditions on the mountains (which I didn’t need to worry about, I bet it would have been fine) I could have gotten in another hour or two of snowshoeing.
I also kinda solved another issue I was having. The radio in the RV is about the only thing in the whole coach that isn’t top of the line. In fact it’s bottom of the barrel cheap. The speakers are great, but the CD player skips more than it plays correctly. I’d brought the computer with me, thinking I could play music right from iTunes like I do at home. I set the computer up on the floor of the passenger side and it worked great! I could hear the music over the engine noise (I can’t hear the speaker on the phone over the engine) and it wasn’t tinny like the iPod speaker I tried when I first got the RV. One glitch is that I can’t control it while I’m driving. I have to commit to a playlist and stick to it until I stop. This was perfect for navigating mountains in WV, I didn’t want to be distracted by fiddling with the radio! This system might buy me some time in getting the radio replaced!
The RV is a great day trip vehicle, but it’s not good for winter camping! I leave you with a picture of the inside after I got done…everything was wet and needed space to dry and there was no place to walk!