Norma racing down a hill at Whitegrass

  

Blackwater Falls Ski Weekend 2013


Last updated January 23, 2013

 

 

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Day One | Day Two | Day Three


In September 2012, Ralph announced that he would be leading a cross country ski trip for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club - Ski Touring Section (PATC-STS) at Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia from January 11 to 13, 2013. He reserved an 8 person deluxe cabin for this event.

Ralph's trips are always popular so it wasn't surprising that it filled up quickly. In addition to Ralph and Beth (Ralph's wife), he had Dorothy, Suzanne, Ray, Jennifer B., Bela, and Dave. I was late in getting my check and paperwork to him so I found myself on a waiting list. He suggested that one of us on the waiting list reserve another cabin so that is what I did.

I too reserved a deluxe cabin. Nothing but the best. It was comprised of 4 bedrooms consisting of
  • one queen sized bed
  • one queen sized bed
  • two single beds
  • two single beds

  • Ralph sent out an announcement letting folks know that more space was available. By mid-December, this second cabin was filled. In addition to me and Norma, my cabin would house Al, Anne (Al's wife), Jim A., Sara and friend, and Peggy (Sara's mother).

    Norma and I have spent a good bit of time at Blackwater Falls State park and have many fond memories there.
  • October 8, 2006: My first trip to the park.
  • February 14, 2010: Snowshoeing to Lindy Point.
  • March 4-6, 2011: Staying at a cabin with Norma's family.

  • This weekend was just another chance to add one more memory to that list.

    In late December, there was a lot of snow at Blackwater Falls State Park. So it seemed we would have great cross country skiing. And if skiing wasn't a good option, then we could do some hiking. Sadly, as the day approached, it looked like neither would be a good option.


    Day One, Friday, January 11, 2013


    Norma and I drove 3.5 hours in rainy or foggy weather to arrive around 1630. A few of the other folks in our cabin arrived before us. Sara and her friend had to cancel at the last minute.

    The cabins were new and luxurious. They felt like motel rooms rather than cabins. See photo. This didn't seem right for a state park known for hiking and skiing. I actually preferred the older, rustic cabins. Those had a real fireplace with a woodshed in the back. These had a gas fireplace and a big screen television. I brought my hatchet, hoping I could make kindling.

    We all went to Ralph's cabin for dinner. There we met the other guests. Most were members of our kayak club.

    Discussions began regarding what to do the next day. Most of Ralph's group was going to do a 9 mile one-way hike with a car shuttle from Canaan Valley State Park back to Blackwater State Park. Norma had already done that hike so I came up with a 12 mile hike option for us in Roaring Plains.

    The forecast for tomorrow was mixed. Depending on the weather source, there was either a 20% or 70% chance of rain with high temperatures anywhere between the high 50s to the low 70s. If we wanted to ski, we might not have enough snow. If we chose to hike, we would be walking through mud.
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.


    Day Two, Saturday, January 12, 2013








    Norma made pancakes that morning. I helped a little with cooking the pork sausage which came straight from her family farm. Actually, it went from the farm to our house then back west. So this pig probably traveled about 370 miles before it was eaten. Regardless, a free breakfast was one of the perks of staying in our cabin.

    Al called Whitegrass and spoke to Chip, the owner. Chip said there was good skiing. So Norma and I changed our plans and decided to go to Whitegrass for the day. Al and Anne went too, skiing separately from us.

    Arriving, it looked like a Subaru convention (as does many sea kayak events). It cost $20 per person just to use their trails. That seemed expensive to us, so we took our time and made sure to stay out awhile to get our moneys worth.

    The person working at the White Grass Center said the north/south trails had the most snow. But looking at the map, that didn't help much since the trails were mostly spread out over an east/west direction. At least we knew to get to the higher elevations for the most snow so that is what we set out to do.

    Norma and I headed west because we saw some snow (man made) on trails leading that direction. But as we found out later, the best skiing was on the east side. She followed one older fellow who was also heading uphill. He was really moving and we quickly lost him. But we were able to follow his tracks which took us off the main trail and onto something unnamed and only marked by blue ribbons tied around trees. It was too narrow and steep for skiing. Except for the ribbons and his tracks, we wouldn't have known it was a trail. It might have been a hiking trail but definitely not one for skiing. Our trek up the mountain was slow and steep. Sometimes I took off my skis to help with the climb but that wasn't very helpful as I sunk down in the snow. Snowshoes would have been better, even though it wasn't more than a foot deep. After much drudgery, we finally made it to a regular trail, Bald Knob Trail. This led us to the top, Bald Knob, at 4308 feet. That means we climbed 973 feet, mostly in snow.

    At the top, there was no snow. Al later told us that as soon as it falls, the wind blows it off, which might be why it is called Bald Knob. But the view was great. See first and second photos.

    There was another couple up there. The man had what he called "skate skis." He effortlessly glided uphill taking wide steps from side to side. We've seen other skiers do this. It looks pretty and efficient.

    We ate lunch, looked around, then started heading down on Bald Knob Trail. With so much work to get to the top, we wanted to make sure to not come down too fast so we occassionally took a side trail to get closer to the Dolly Sods Wilderness. See fourth photo.

    There are some warming huts at various places. They look like bus stop shelters for children. One had a little stove and Tibetan peace flags (third photo).

    At one point, we decided to take a nap. It wasn't very cold so it wasn't difficult to sleep though I awoke with a wet butt from some melted snow.

    Skiing down from Bald Knob was mostly enjoyable. There was usually enough snow to ski. See fifth photo. The snow was kinda slushy but at least it was snow. It is amazing how little one actually needs to ski.

    We caught Powderline then Three Mile Trail which took us to the east side of the White Grass area. This is the trail we should have taken up. It had a good bit of snow...at least for awhile. Eventually, the snow became patches of snow and dirt. We would go along with a moderate amount of speed, then run out of snow. It was like moving along on my stand-up paddleboard (SUP) then coming to an abrupt stop when my fin catches a log a few inches below the surface. Such an sudden stop makes it easy to lose balance. I fell twice while skiing and at least once on the steep climb up.

    I took two photos from the same point on the lower part of Three Mile Trail. Photo six is looking uphill while photo seven is looking downhill. Quite a bit different, eh?

    After awhile, we just took off our skis and completed the trail in our boots, getting in about 7.5 miles for the day.

    There were some families out skiing along with two kids having the reddest natural hair I've ever seen. Another family had a little girl pulling her sibling in a ski cart. See seventh photo.

    Back at the center, Norma ate a very dense $3.50 granola bar. It was really good and almost a meal by itself. It was really heavy. You could hurt someone if you threw it at them. I had a mediocre cookie and chips with cheese. All the salt and fat in the latter was satisfying. Bacon bits would have made it even better.

    There was a really great dog at the center. I think it belongs to Chip. It is about the size of dog I wouldn't mind having someday. It could fit in the front hatch of my Cobra Expedition kayak.

    We checked out a yurt that was used as a warming hut. Square hay bales helped insulate it underneathe.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Norma and I drove back to the cabin where she changed clothes. Then we drove back to White Grass for dinner. Not the best use of fuel but a woman has got to look her best.

    During dinner, Jen B. told us about their hike. It was very muddy. I think I heard there were lots of downed tree limbs too. But it sounds like they had fun.

    White Grass had live music, and a buffet style meal. The music was o.k. A woman sang soft stuff. Not bad but nothing too terribly impressive either. I guess it just wasn't my cup of tea.

    The food, on the other hand, was excellent. The salmon was delicious and the pork was good enough to make Jen B., our pork princess of Iowa, downright proud of her title. I didn't think I was hungry after eating all those cheesy chips but I made room for it all to ensure I ate $20 worth of food (the cost of dinner).

    Afterwards, we drove back and caught the end of the Denver Broncos versus Baltimore Ravens football game. It went into overtime and came down to one kick, which gave the victory to Baltimore. Suzanne was very happy. I watch football about once every 10 years. Too violent for me. I prefer the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

    Norma and I did a lot of reading that night. I'm not much of a reader but I think I read more that night than I have in years. The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring is about Sugar Ray Leonard and I was reading the chapter about his first professional loss.

    The high temperature for the day was 68 degrees.


    Day Three, Sunday, January 13, 2013




    Norma made pancakes again.

    After packing up, several of us drove out to Pendleton Point Overlook (first photo). There we had a nice view of the Blackwater River below (second and third photos). We could also see Elakala Falls (fourth photo) across the canyon.
    A view of Blackwater Lodge and Blackwater Canyon can be enjoyed from this vantage point. This is the canyon's deepest and widest point.
    - from Blackwater Falls State Park - Breathtaking Views

    Then we drove to the Blackwater Lodge to turn in our keys. There was another vista there but not as impressive as the previous or the next.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.




    We headed to the parking lot near Lindy Point. It was a bit of a walk from the lot to the point but well worth it. See first photo. Here,
    45 acres of pristine mountain views into the Blackwater Canyon provide one of the one of the most famous views in all of West Virginia.
    - from Blackwater Falls State Park - Breathtaking Views

    The morning started sunny but by the late morning, it had gotten overcast. See second photo. From left to right in the back are Dave, Anne, Beth, Bela, Suzanne, me, Jim, and Ralph. In the front from left to right are Jen B., Al, and Norma.

    We bid our farewells then headed home.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    The weather wasn't the greatest but we made due as best as we could. The first trip I ever did with Ralph ended up with way. I think it was 2004. It was supposed to be a kayak trip across Chincoteague Bay, if I remember correctly. But it was too windy so instead, he took us on the Pocomoke River, which was much more sheltered. That was my first trip on the Pocomoke. To this day, that still remains my favorite kayaking river in Maryland. The moral of the story is that you can still have a good time, even if the weather doesn't cooperate.