Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Year of Hiking, part 3

Our last two posts documented two-thirds of our year of hiking. This post will take us into December, and then in the next post, the last of the series, we will tell you our favorites and give our recommendations for seasonal hikes.

Thurmond as seen from the Rend Trail
September took us to the Rend Trail near Thurmond. Another gradual rail-trail hike, this trail offers a bird's eye view of the town of Thurmond even with late summer full foliage. We made a note to go again during the winter and we expect to see much broader vistas of the town and of the river when we do.  A giant bolder that dislodged from the cliffs above now completely blocks the old railroad grade, but a set of wooden steps make it a simple traverse to continue on the trail. A couple of nice old trestles are still in service, but the trail ends at the third - which has fallen into disrepair which the Park Service has no immediate plans to fix.

We took a weekend trip in September to Washington DC, returning via Canaan Valley where we stretched our legs on the Biel Trail South which runs along the Blackwater River. We also took a bike ride on the North Bend Rail Trail in September, riding through the Haunted Tunnel near Cairo.

Skyline Trail vista
In October we ventured across the Gorge to Babcock State Park where we hiked to the Island in the Sky (our second visit) and walked most of the Skyline Trail. We also spent some time exploring the cabin areas and the old swinging bridge trail. Every time we visit we become more certain that Babcock is West Virginia's best state park.

Beartown
If Babcock is the best overall, though, Beartown certainly has to be the best state park for its size. We were lucky enough to visit here on a foggy October afternoon which made the catacomb-like boardwalk seem like a set for a creepy movie.  Not a long hike, but an amazing place unlike any other; especially on a cool, misty autumn day.

Our last hike in October was on the Burnwood Trail, which sits just across the Gorge on the Lansing side of the bridge. The trail is mostly unremarkable - except in October when the fall foliage is near its peak - but it does lead past the American Alpine Club campground and we were able to watch some serious bouldering happen across the gully.

The Gauley River as seen from the Patterson Trail
In early November, with a slight chill in the air, we set out on Craig's Branch Trail, returning by way of Kaymoor Mine Trail to Kaymoor Top. The trail follows an old road for most of the way, and there are several archaeological points of interest in the form of rusting truck parts, and some giant boulders. As the leaves were beginning to fall, some vistas were beginning to open up and we could see the Nuttallburg conveyor and glimpsed the river a few times.

Also affording some nice views of the river - this time the Gauley River - was the Patterson Trail at Carnifex Ferry State Park which we also did in November. And then on Thanksgiving Day we met up with our friends Matt and Lori and their daughter Audrey for a Canaan Valley hike along the Rail Road Grade Trail in that state park.

Brooklyn Mine ruins
With eleven successful months down we couldn't wait to accomplish December's hike so we could pronounce our year of hiking complete. We chose the Brooklyn Mine Trail to officially close out the books, but then added a trip to Cedar Creek State Park in Gilmer County for a nice two mile hike on the Parkview Trail/Fisherman's Trail. With two weeks left in the month, it is quite possible that we will set out on another adventure before we ring in the new year, but we have no plans yet.

By any measure our year of hiking was a success. We saw miles and miles of new territory (we wish that we had kept track of our mileage), and enjoyed being together outside in all sorts of weather. If we had not set our goal and stubbornly stuck to it, our year would have been far less enjoyable. We've already decided to continue on into 2016.

In our next post we will share some of our favorite trails and share some recommendations for seasonally appropriate hikes based on our experiences, successes and failures.

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