Saturday, August 3, 2013

Douthat State Park

It got chilly overnight! YAY! I woke up around 3am and put on my long pants, long sleeve shirt and fuzzy socks!  What a happy treat for my last night out! I slept in until almost 8 too!  Latest I’ve slept in in months! 

So much for getting an early start on a hike though!  After I lingered over one more morning sitting at my picnic table drinking my coffee reading my book, I studied the trail map and picked a hike. 

The map wasn’t very clear on how long the trails were so I decided I’d just head back to the park office and hike up the Beard’s Gap Trail and turn around at the top and walk down, it was only going to be about 2.5 miles but I figured I could do it quick and be on my way. 


The hike up was through a Gap and followed a creek!  It was very pretty with the morning sun and very different from anything in Colorado, yet totally Virginia!


P1140654The creek had a rocky bed.  It wasn’t just a bunch of little rocks, the creek was flowing over great big rocks!  Makes me wonder if the Appalachian Mountains were once rocky on top like the Rocky  Mountains?  The Appalachians are older than the Rockies, that’s why they are lower and more rounded.  If they were rocky at one time, where’d the dirt come from that has allowed the trees to grow? 

At the top of hill there was a trail junction with excellent signage.  There were no views however.  The sign said that there was another trail junction in 3 tenths of a mile, I figured I’d hike to that trail junction and turn around view or no view. 

I got the the trail junction, there’d been no views along the way.  Just a tunnel of trees.  I decided to hike down the other trail.  I wasn’t exactly sure where this trail would  come out, but I figured it would cross the road and worst case I could hike the road  back to the park office where I’d parked. 

About a 1/3 of the way down there was a spur trail labeled “overlook”.  I had to take it!  It was a lot longer than I thought it would be but I at the end I got a view of the lake!

P1140660This trail would be much better in the winter when there are no leaves on the trees!

Soon I was at another well signed trail junction.  There was a trail that lead 8 tenths of a mile back to the park office.  A little further than I though it would be! It was almost 11 and I’d wanted to leave by 11:30…I had to book it to get back to the van! Luckily this was a flat trail and it was very easy to move fast!  I did stop to check out some bright orange mushrooms!

P1140663Surprisingly I arrived at the van just before 11!  I either mis-read the time or walked a lot faster than I thought I could!

I was thinking I’d stop and get lunch when I got fuel so I got a quick snack and started down the road!

The last 200 miles went fast!  Before I knew it I was at Fuel City near Steeles Tavern, almost to where I-64 splits off to Richmond and 81 goes north to Front Royal.  I got fuel but wasn’t hungry for lunch so I kept going and soon I was in Front Royal!  It was a little before 2 and I knew I was going to get to Manassas with time to spare for my CSA pickup.  I ate a late lunch and wandered the Wal-Mart then headed toward Manassas.  In Manassas I checked out a bike shop (they didn’t have anything of interest to me! boo.) and wandered Harris Teeter.  I didn’t have enough time to make home & come back, besides once I got home I wanted to have time to unload and get settled.  Finally it was time to get the farm stuff and head for home!  

It was strange being home.  My kitchen is bigger than my whole RV! It took me a little while to get comfortable in my own house!  I kinda wanted to go back to the RV! It took about an hour to unload the RV and move everything into the house!  Now the house is trashed!  This morning (Saturday) I cleaned the RV and took it back to the storage place.  sniff. sniff.  All put away. 

We live in such an amazing country! It’s huge and diverse! I think you can really only appreciate the size and variety by driving.  It’s only when you’ve driven across the never ending corn fields of Illinois that you can truly appreciate the mountains of West Virginia.  The barrenness of Nebraska makes the Rockies that much more impressive.  When you drive you can also see the contrasts better.  The way the Rockies rise so sharply from the plains, the way the Appalachians gradually show up.  You start to have an interest in geology and wonder why Kansas has corn fields and Colorado has mountains and Utah has high desert? You can really see just how much farm land we have and exactly how much corn is being grown! When you fly across the country to visit a place you zoom over all these things and then explore that place and return.  You miss the finer details of the landscape!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

West Virginia

At the Horse Park I was about 550 miles from home.  I could have made it, although it would it have been a long day.  I’m not in any real hurry to get home, I just need to be back by 4:30 tomorrow afternoon to get my CSA share, but before that there’s no real compelling reason to go home. I decided to slow down and take my time a bit more – 330 miles today to Douthat State Park in Clifton Forge and then 200 miles tomorrow home.  This will give me a chance to maybe take a short hike tomorrow AM or just have a lazy morning for my last morning out! 

Today’s miles were fun because it was a mix of uncharted territory and places I’ve been many times!  I still had about 2 hours of Kentucky before crossing into West Virginia.  After I got outside of Lexington KY turned to farmland, although this time there were horse farms and tobacco farms thrown in with the corn farms!  Way to shake things up Kentucky! 

As we got closer to the West Virginia line the hills started getting bigger and there were more trees! I was struck by the differences in approaching the mountains here vs. in Colorado.  In Colorado you are going along and it’s seemingly flat emptiness (it’s not really flat, you are gaining elevation, it’s just not rolling!).  In Eastern Colorado it’s barren and sandy and dusty.  There’s lots of sagebrush and low growing bushes, probably some tumbleweed! Then you start the climb sharply, usually through a canyon with sheer rock walls, lots and lots of rock.  You keep climbing steadily through rocks and evergreen trees and suddenly you are above treeline!  The approach into West Virginia and Virginia was more gradual, not nearly as dramatic!  The hills just started getting bigger and bigger and suddenly there were hills all around you.  The mountains are much smaller out here – the one elevation sign I saw was 2,700 - and they are covered with trees!  Not just evergreens either – green, leafy deciduous trees!  This makes them look fuzzy compared to the Rockies! 

Once we crossed into West Virginia I recognized almost every exit!  We’d driven this section of I-64 many times on our way to and from Williamsburg when we lived in Cincinnati.  Milton, Hurricane, Nitro, Scott Depot, Institute, Dunbar, crossing the Kanawha River, the dome on the State Capitol Building in Charleston, all things that made me smile and remember being here other times!

I stopped for lunch at Tamarack.  Tamarack is an Arts and Crafts showcase at a Service Plaza on the West Virginia Turnpike. They have food from The Greenbriar, which is an exclusive resort in White Sulphur Springs. I ate a sandwich in the van thinking I’d treat myself to Cherry Cobbler.  The cobbler wasn’t as good as it could have been.  It had your basic cherry pie filling, which was entirely too sweet, and a decent crust.  I’d wanted ice cream on it but they didn’t have any vanilla so since I’d already paid for the ice cream I ended up getting pistachio – which was the only flavor they had that I thought would be ok with cherry cobbler.  The ice cream wasn’t that good – the nuts were gummy!  Disappointing on the treat front, but I did enjoy walking around and looking at the products they had for sale!

After Tamarack I was headed to Lewisburg, a cute little town with cute shops, but I got a bit sidetracked.  I was back on I-64, Lewisburg was about an hour away, and I saw a HUGE brown NPS Service sign informing me that The New River Gorge National River Grandview Visitor Center was at the next exit.  New River Gorge huh?  That sounds interesting.  I’ve got time.  Let’s check it out!  Off I went down a narrow West Virginia road into the unknown!  It was only 5 miles back to the visitor center!  There was a nice volunteer at the visitor center who told me all about the park – there are several parts of it, all with different views of the gorge. There are also several spots where you can put in and take out boats on the New River…hmmm…can the Sea Eagle handle the New River?  I just might have to find out!

I walked out to the viewpoint and enjoyed looking down on the river, the mountains and the train tracks – there was even a coal train heading up the gorge. It made me think even more about the differences between here and Colorado.  We looked at many canyons and gorges in Colorado.  They were all rock.  This gorge is rather gently, or at least seemingly gently, sloping hills, covered with trees, leading to a wide river. A stark contrast to say, Black Canyon of the Gunnison! I’d thought Colorado was like West Virginia on steroids, and in many ways it is.  But, in many other ways they are totally different places!



I didn’t hang out at the New River Gorge long because I still wanted to make Lewisburg before heading to the campground.  Turns out I should have stayed at the Gorge.  Lewisburg is a cute little down with some interesting shops, the problem was that most of them closed at 5.  I got there at 4:50.  There was a bike shop, a yarn store, an outfitter, and a used book store.  They were all closed.  boo.  I was able to find a place to park and I walked around a bit so that was nice. 

I headed out from Lewisburg about 6 and crossed the Virginia State Line around 6:30!  I’d done it! I’d driven from Virginia to Colorado and back!  As soon as I crossed into Virginia I got the notion that I should just press on and go home.  It was only 200 miles.  I could be there by 10:30.  I quickly realized that I’d be miserable by the time I got there and that in order to do anything at home (including crawl into bed) I had to unpack the RV first.  My whole life is in here now and it’s gonna take at least an hour or two to get everything moved back into the house.  It was way easier to enjoy one more night camping and then deal with “moving out” of the RV tomorrow! Besides, I’d been wanting to visit Douthat State Park and now was my chance!

This park is smaller than I expected, but it’s very nice!  It’s a narrow road in with lots of trees! I’m not sure I’ve ever really noticed the trees before – after a month of not really seeing trees they are novel! The campground is very nice – great big sites like at Lake Anna – but it’s kinda far from the other stuff in the park.  It was dinner time when I got here so I didn’t spend long exploring.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have time for a quick walk on one of the trails before I take on the last 200 miles.