Sunday, February 28, 2016

Snowshoeing & Camping in Canaan Valley, WV

Back in January, after the big east coast blizzard I went out to Whitegrass in Canaan Valley to snowshoe. It was so fun I knew I wanted to go back this winter. I'd been hoping for a weekend when I could take the RV and camp. We have Tuesday off from school because of the Presidential Primary so I figured that was *almost* a 3-day weekend and I could devote both Saturday and Sunday to playing! And, the weather looked good - Sat was supposed to be in the 40s and Sunday in the 50s with a low in the 20s.

I got the RV Friday evening, got it all loaded up and was ready to head out at 7 on Saturday morning. Thanks to the new and improved US48 I was able to get to Davis, WV before 10am!

The first thing I noticed was that there was fresh snow! All the roads were covered with packed snow and ice! I didn't look like they'd been plowed! The other thing I noticed was the temperature - it was about 24*-28*. I was a little nervous about driving on the snow. I'd only driven the RV on snow one other time and twice it got stuck on a little bit of ice! Today however, the RV had no issues! Up hill, down hill, through a few inches of slush, through a few inches of snow, over ice - she handled it all with no issues!

My first item of business was to secure a campsite at Canaan Valley State Park. I was really impressed with the new lodge that had been built since my last visit in 2008/09 (I was there over New Year's). The lodge now has a large lounge area where you can sit with a book and not be holed up in your room and an improved quick service cafe! Both things I wish they'd had the last time!

I was assigned to site 26 so I went back to the campground to check it out. It was a nice pull through, it had been plowed, however there was a lot of snow I ended up parking in! Now I had to decide what I was going to do next.

I really wanted to snowshoe at Whitegrass but I was worried about parking the van, especially since it was already mid-Morning and likely crowded. I went over there to see what th situation was. I pulled in and there was a nice young man directed traffic and he pointed me to an area that looked more like a ditch with plenty of opportunity to get stuck in either mud or snow than a place to park my RV. I decided to trust the young man and pulled in. It was pretty uneven but I turned off the fridge and got ready to go!

It was 11 and I was ready for lunch, but the cafe doesn't start serving until 11:30 so I went out to stretch my legs! I snowshoed out to a little "snowshoe trail" just inside the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge. It was the perfect little teaser for the rest of the day! There was just barely enough snow for the snowshoes. The trails at Whitegrass are groomed for cross country skiing and snowshoers have to stay to the side so we don't tear up the tracks, when there's not much snow this is hard!

After a lunch of yummy vegetarian Whitegrass Chili, I headed out for a longer snowshoe. This is the 3rd time I'd been to Whitegrass and both other times I'd climbed to the top of the mountain, this time I wanted to do something different. I went up 3 Mile, a long steady uphill. This is one one of the more popular ways to the top and there were a lot of skiers! There was also a wide area to the side of the groomed trail with plenty of snow so it was easy to snowshoe. I then went out Blackbird's Wing, which isn't groomed, or very popular, so it was easier to snowshoe. Then I headed down a Forest Service Road to the Timberline Trail. The snow on the Forest Service road was really thin in places and the gravel under was hard to snowshoe on! The Timberline Trail had plenty of muddy spots, but bare ground isn't too hard to navigate on snowshoes. The whole loop was about 4.5 miles! That's going to be one of my favorite routes because it's more remote than some of the other trails.

When I got back to the van it was only 3:00 but I was done snowshoeing. I decided to go explore the towns of Thomas & Davis. Luckily the roads had totally cleared! No evidence at all of the earlier snow! It was still about 28*, though. Thomas has a nice looking Main Street, but there wasn't a whole lot to check out - an art gallery, a general store, a coffee shop. I walked the length of the street and went in a few stores then headed back to Davis. My first stop there was Highland Market. They had prepared foods from Whitegrass Cafe! I picked up some Spanakopita, which was perfect for dinner tonight when I got home! And they sold The Whitegrass Cafe cookbook! Now I can make my own chili and Spanakopita, and more! I was able to leave the van in the market parking lot and walk up to Hellbender's Burritos for dinner!

I'd discovered Hellebender's back in January and couldn't wait yo go back! Their Lost Hiker burrito is seriously good! It's sautéed mushrooms, guacamole, cheddar jack, lettuce and homemade bleu cheese dressing. Odd combo that I never would have put together, but it works! And it's an excellent calorie replacement after a day of snowshoeing. Because Hellbender's is one of the best, and only places, to eat in Davis, I decided that earlier was better and it ended up being 4:15 when I got there! They were almost full and I was one of the oldest people there! Usually it's the old folks eating that early! I suppose there's a chance that the "kids" were eating a late lunch rather than dinner!

After dinner I headed back to the campground so I could get hooked up before dark. I had about 30 minutes of daylight left so I walked the campground, I was surprised by how many sites were occupied, most with tent campers! It was still in the 20s, had been all day! What happened to the highs in the 40s?

I spent the evening curled up with my book and my ceramic heater. The ceramic heater took the edge off the cold, but my hands were still freezing, which made reading hard! I was tired from being up early and snowshoeing all day, so a little before 9, I turned off the ceramic heater and crawled into my nest of sleeping bags and quickly fell asleep.

That sleep didn't last long. A little before 10 I found myself sitting up in bed, wide awake, with the lights on and the CO/LP alarm blaring. Ugh. The alarm shut itself off before I could even get the door open. I was pretty sure it was a false alarm, I hadn't used any propane appliances at all. I tried to go back to sleep. I was almost asleep when it went off again. Seriously!?!? This time I left the window on the sliding door open. 26* and I'm sleeping with the window open. I'd just dozed off again when the sounded a 3rd time. REALLY?!?? Seriously!??! Ugh. This time it took longer for it to shut itself off. I was debating what to do, and was considering driving home. It's a 3 hour drive - so it would be 2am or later before I got home, with the potential for ice on the roads, the RV has a headlight out. This wasn't a good plan. Then it occurred to me that the alarm won't go off if I disconnect the battery! So I went out unhooked the electric, turned off the propane, then disconnected the battery. I did open the window by my head, just in case it wasn't entirely a false alarm, and went to sleep.

(Just a note to other RVers - this was not the safest move and normally I wouldn't recommend it. My LP/CO detector has false alarmed 8 times prior to this over the course of the 4 years I've had it. Propane has a foul odor and if it was leaking in the van I would have smelled it. CO only forms when gas isn't fully combusted. I hadn't used any propane appliances my whole trip. No propane being used, no chance of CO forming. Therefore the logical conclusion in this case was false alarm.)

After the alarm stopped going off I slept great! Didn't wake up until 7! Which is crazy late for me! My feet got really cold, but otherwise I stayed pretty warm! Of course the first thing I had to do was go out and reconnect the electric and turn the propane on so I could make coffee!

I decided that this morning I'd check out the trails in the state park. I'd hoped to snowshoe but I decided that there wasn't enough snow so just walked. I was impressed by the trail network in the park! When I was here in 2008/09 I walked a few of the trails, but it was snowing heavily with a 50 mph wind, hard to really appreciate the trail in those conditions! I'm not sure how far I walked, but I was out about 3 hours, so it was probably close to 6 miles. It was really sunny and warm and a lovely day for a hike. It was a great call to leave the snowshoes, the snow was thin and as the temperature went up it was melting fast!

Next, I headed over to Big John's Family Fixins, for pizza before I left! I ordered a bigger pizza than I would eat so I'd have leftovers to take for lunch tomorrow! After lunch it was time to head home! It was sunny and warm and I had the window down the whole way! I stopped in Frony Royal for fuel - Diesel was $1.77! I filled up the RV for $33! What!?!? Hopefully fuel stays cheap! I got home by 4 and took care of the bare minimum unloaded and made a quick Giant run. Regular school day tomorrow and then I'll catch up on Tuesday! It was great weekend and totally worth not exactly being ready for tomorrow!

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