Group at Table Rock Overlook in Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge


Canaan Valley and Dolly Sods
January 2007

Last updated January 15, 2007



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Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four

Growing up in Sacramento, Calfornia, I saw snow at my home about every 8-10 years. But there was plenty of opportunity to go snow skiing in the Sierra Nevada area, only about 2 hours away. But due to various reasons, primarily including expense and lack of interest, I never went. The closest I came was downhill tubing with the church group.

Norma invited me to go skiing with her friends over the Martin Luther King weekend. How could I say no?

Though the others planned to ski, I was more interested in snowboarding. Having grown up skateboarding, snowboarding seemed more intuitive. But I had no expectations of having any natural ability. A lesson, followed by the bunny slope was surely in order.

Day One: January 12, 2007

Norma and I left the Washington D.C. area just after 1430. An accident slowed traffic to a crawl. The heavy traffic of the holiday weekend and the wet weather made for bad driving. It took 5.5 hours to reach the rented condominium at Timberline Resort. There, we met Norma's friends: Allison, Mark, Sherri, Gary, and their newborn, Ashlynn.

We played Scrabble that night on my homemade extra-large board. This board allows for an easier, faster game since lets the players go beyond their normal boundaries. I won that game thanks to my playing the 7 letter word, "thumbing" but I failed to correctly spell "fiery," misspelling it as "firey." That was the last game I won for the weekend.

Canaan Valley resides in Tucker County, West Virginia. Parts of Canaan Valley are contained in Monongahela National Forest.

During the last ice age, as the glaciers moved southward, the plants and animals of the north also moved south. The glaciers did not reach the area that is now West Virginia, but the northern plants and animals did. After the ice age, as the glaciers retreated, many northern plant and animals found a few niches high in the mountains where they could survive further south of what is now their normal range. Canaan Valley, the largest high-elevation valley east of the Mississippi, is just such a niche.
- from "Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge" (broken link as of 2018)

Day Two: January 13, 2007

The forecast for Davis, West Virginia was cloudy with a high near 46 and a 50% chance of rain. Previous days were warm for the area and the only snow was that made for the slopes. The conditions were far from ideal for skiing so Norma and I decided to go on a hike.

Allison and Mark spent the day at Blackwater Falls...a place Norma and I visited on October 8, 2006.

For Christmas, Norma bought me the new Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide, 8th Edition. Thumbing through the book, I found a large number of the photos were provided by my friend, Mike J.

Norma and I decided to do a loop hike off FR75 but found the road closed. Instead, we did a loop hike off FR19 near where it meets FR479, about 1.6 miles west of FR70 and east of the town of Laneville.

We started heading south at 1315 from FR75 on Boar's Nest Trail (TR518) in the Flat Rock and Roaring Plains section of Dolly Sods Scenic Area and Wilderness. According to the trailhead sign, the distance was 2.5 miles and according to the book it was 2.7 miles. According to my global positioning system (GPS), we started at 2750 feet. Along the way, we crossed the South Fork of Red Creek twice; the first crossing after only about 7 minutes. The trail was rocky and extremely scenic. It was blazed by blue, plastic squares. We saw no boar's nest. See first and second photos at left to see Norma crossing the stream at two different sections of the trail. See third photo to see the stream from yet another view.

Like our September 9-10, 2006 trip to Dolly Sods Wilderness, much of the trail was wet and rocky but also green. See fourth and fifth photos at left. I expect the rain over the last few days had much to do with it though I'm also guessing the trail stays wet even days after a good rain. Interestingly, near the higher elevations of Flatrock Plains, large rocks made for natural pavers that prevented us from sinking in the mud.

We stopped in a forested area for a quick lunch. See sixth photo at left. With the light rain and the high winds, resting for any more than a few minutes dropped our body temperatures quickly.

There were numerous switchbacks with nearly constant ascent after the first stream crossing. This combined with stops for photos made us only cover 2 miles in 1.5 hours. We'd have to pick up the pace to be back before dark. With the cloudy skies, skippery logs, and stream crossings, I wasn't wanting to hike in the dark. So once the trail ended at FR70, we increased our pace to a Marine infantry route step pace...I'm guessing over 3.5 mph. After heading northeast on FR70 for about 1.3 miles, we turned left (northwest) on the South Prong Trail (TR517). The book said we'd have 2.7 miles to go. I believe the sign said 2.9 miles.

South Prong Trail was much easier hiking than Boar's Nest Trail. We did two more crossings over the South Fork of Red Creek. Nothing terribly scenic. We finished at 1715. By 1740, it was definitely too dark for hiking.

We finished a 6.7 mile hike that included a 1755 foot climb with a minimum elevation of 2520 feet and maximum elevation of 4275 feet, according to my GPS. Spectacular views and much needed exercise after a long drive the day prior.

That night, we all sang karaoke. Norma and I did karaoke to Weird Al Yankovic's "Amish Paradise" a parody of Coolio's "Gansta's Paradise" (see Coolio's video before Weird Al's). Next, we played Pig. I was the first loser on Pig. Finally, we played Pictionary. Gary and I lost to Sherri, Allison, and Norma, though it was a close game.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Day Three: January 14, 2007

With the weather much the same as the previous day, hiking was more favorable to skiing. This time we all went, including Ashlynn, though she had some help from Gary. Our day was spent in the Canaan Mountain Area.

From route 32 at the town of Canaan Heights, we headed west on Canaan Loop Road (FR13). After 6.4 miles, we passed the Railroad Grade Trail (TR110) trailhead. After 9.9 miles, we arrived at Table Rock Overlook Trail (TR113). This is where we began our first hike.

The trail was 1.1 miles long according to "Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide, 8th Edition" and 1.2 miles according to the trailhead sign. There were some nice green, mossy, and fern covered areas. See first, second, and third photos at left. Much of the trail was covered by water, like yesterday's hike. Fortunately, there were no stream crossings as Gary had to do the hike carrying Ashlynn.

Mark took a haunting photo of the tree tops. See fourth photo at left.

The Table Rock Overlook was spectacular. Though the day was overcast, we could see the valley created by Red Run and the 3843 foot Mozark Mountain to the southeast. See fifth, sixth, and seventh photos at left. In the sixth photo, from left to right are Mark, Allison, Gary, Ashlynn, Sherri, and Norma.

We returned back to the trailhead and ate lunch. It rained lightly. Sherri and Gary headed back while Allison, Mark, Norma, and I headed east on Canaan Loop Road, stopping at a waterfall. See Mark and his Cadillac camera in the eighth photo at left, taken by Allison.

Allison and Mark headed back while Norma and I hiked part of the Railroad Grade Trail (TR110), going out about 1.4 miles. This trail followed the bed of an old logging trail. Hence, it was straight and had good drainage. See ninth photo at left.

According to the book, we came to a shelter after 1.1 miles or 1.2 miles according to the trailhead sign. The shelter sleeps 6. Next to it is a scenic stream, grill, and picnic table. The stream, and some of the other streams in the area, had a distintive brown hue, reminiscent of my May 21, 2006 kayaking trip on the Pocomoke River. There was also a considerable amount of foam on the water. In one area, there was a mound of foam about a foot high. See tenth photo at left.

We posed for a photo (see eleventh photo at left) and hiked a little further. The trail got wet and hard to follow. Could use a few more blazes. Never made it to Plantation Trail (TR101) at mile 1.7.

On the way back, we saw the jawbone of some animal.

The total mileage for the day was a mere 5 miles with little elevation change.

That night, all 7 of us went into town to eat and hear live music at the Purple Fiddle. Unfortunately (for us, not them), the place was packed to the gills. Instead, we ate at the Blackwater Brewing Company, which serves German and Italian food. I had a traditional German bacon cheeseburger that really hit the spot.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Day Four: January 15, 2007, Martin Luther King Day

After eating a fine breakfast made by Sherri and Gary, we cleaned up the condominium and were off by 1000.

The drive home was much easier than the drive up. I'm guessing we shaved an hour off the driving time, including a stop for a fast food take-out lunch.

The day was unusually warm. At least 60 degrees in Washington D.C. Having spent the last two days on the trail, my thoughts were now on the water, longer days, and warmer weather. But thanks to Norma and her friends (now my friends too), I had good reason to enjoy the short, colder days of winter too.

Though I didn't get to ski or snowboard, I still had a good time. Nice views, good people, and a chance to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors.