Random (but not really)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hiking WV: Cranberry Wilderness

We’ve wanted to do a long hike in the Cranberry Wilderness for quite awhile, however, a 2+ hour drive, then a long hike, then another 2+ hour drive was… unappealing.

So we’ve spent the past couple months gather things we’d need for an overnight trip where there aren’t hotels, Michael rented a tent from the Rec Center, and we were off!

Location: Cranberry Wilderness
Trails: North-South and Lick Branch trails and FR 76
Distance: 9.6 miles
Elevation: 2552-3795 feet (1618 feet elevation gain)

One of the books I have recommend this hike in the opposite direction.

No.

The direction we went–North-South trail followed by Lick Creek Trail and then taking the road back is the way you want to do this look.

First, the North South trail is fine, but it’s steep from the campsite to the ridgeline–about a 9% grade. And although it’s pleasant enough, it’s not the most rewarding view.

Although we did amuse ourselves.

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That sign? It’s warning you that no motorized vehicles are allowed on the Wilderness.

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There is another sign, in a wide view showing you the the surrounding trail.

There is no way you could GET a motorized vehicle to where these signs were, unless it was a hovercraft, and even then it’d be chancy. There were endless fallen trees, lots of going through narrow passages etc.

So, I giggled every time I saw those signs someone was forced to place in an area already inaccessible to motorized vehicles.

Also found a newly placed marker!

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And several swarms of butterflies.

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But, it wasn’t anything spectacular. No views down into the various valleys, etc.

Here is the start of Lick Creek at the top of the Lick Creek trail. Now things are starting to get pretty!

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And this is the end of the trail–pretty much visible from the forest road (and by road, I mean Fire Trail type road, closed to cars but accessible in an emergency).

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Why put the prettiest thing at the start of the strenuous part of the hike? What is your reward for finishing? A 9% grade? Bah humbug.

Additionally, since the last couple miles were on the forest road, that meant we were able to stretch our legs and walk out the kinks from the ascent and descent. Nice! And the road is along the river! So pretty!

So my recommendation is start this loop from the gate. Unless you’re a masochist, in which case this probably isn’t a long or miserable enough hike for you, so why bother?

Written by Michelle at 7:14 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hiking WV: Coopers Rock

Yesterday kept threatening thunderstorms all day, so no hiking. So today we went down to the Mont Chateau trail. The creek was running really high.

Location: Coopers Rock State Forest
Trails: Rock City, Ridge, Mont Chateau, Rhododendron Trails
Distance: 4.3 miles
Elevation: 1497-2107 feet (724 feet gain)
Temperature: 68-72 F

This is where I usually build my rock piles. As you can see, everything previous was washed away.

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Much deeper water than normal. Plus MUCH colder.

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Water was cascading down both sides of the split. Not fast enough to be dangerous, but fast enough for me to be extra careful.

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Nature left this, perhaps in compensation for knocking down all my rock piles.

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Written by Michelle at 7:08 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Monday, July 3, 2017

Hiking WV: Coopers Rock

Because Michael had to go into work yesterday, we didn’t get out to the woods until late, so we took the Iron Furnace trail, which is rocky but much less steep, down to the Mont Chateau Trail, and then played around in the creek for awhile.

Because what’s the point of being an adult if you can’t play in the creek?

Location: Coopers Rock
Trails: Iron Furnace, Mont Chateau Trails
Distance: 3.4 miles
Elevation: 1517-1946 feet (810 feet gain)
Temperature: 79-78 F

Last week’s storm knocked down my rocks, so I stacked up more.

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I would have stayed longer if I wasn’t worried about stumbling on my way out in the dark.

Written by Michelle at 1:42 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Monday, June 26, 2017

Hiking WV: Blackwater Falls

Since we were already in the area, we decided to stop by Blackwater Falls and see what the heavy rainfall was producing.

It produced a lot of water going over the falls and down the river.

We didn’t hike any full trails, just wandered out to spots that I knew would be pretty.

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Written by Michelle at 8:59 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Canaan Valley

I really like the Blackwater Trail at Cannan Valley SP. It’s a very short trail, with almost no elevation gain, but it goes through three different kinds of landscape–the prettiest of which is beside the winding Blackwater River. If you’re looking for a trail to take small kids, this is the one you want.

Location: Canaan Valley State Park
Trail: Blackwater Trail
Distance: 1.0 miles
Elevation: 3213-3275 feet

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Written by Michelle at 8:52 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Hiking WV: Dolly Sods

We managed to spent the night in Canaan, so we took a long hike at Dolly Sods (most of our Saturday hikes are limited by the fact we have to drive 2-3 hours there and then 2-3 hours home after hiking). So it was nice to know that we could have until we were tired and not have to worry about a long drive afterwards.

Location: Dolly Sods
Trails: Valley View, Rocky Ridge, Raven Ridge, Bear Rocks Trails
Distance: 11.0 miles
Elevation: 3817-4198 feet (1447 feet ascent)

I took about a zillion pictures, because the Dolly Sods area is gorgeous.

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Written by Michelle at 7:49 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Hiking WV: Coopers Rock

Location: Coopers Rock State Forest
Trails: Rhododendron, Mont Chateau, Clay Run, and Unofficial Trails
Distance: 4.6 miles
Elevation: 1510-2126 feet (800 feet elevation gain)
Temperature: 80-85 F

Last week’s rock sculpture was still there!

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So I added a new one, to a newly fallen tree.

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It’s just so lovely and peaceful.

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Written by Michelle at 5:46 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,West Virginia  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Hiking WV: North Bend State Park

Every other place I’ve been, a trail named “Nature Trail” is about a quarter of a mile long, extremely flat (if not paved) and frequently has interpretive signs.

This was not your average nature trail.

Location: North Bend State Park
Trail: Nature Trail
Distance: 4.3 miles
Elevation: 708-1183 feet (875 feet total ascent)
Temperature: 79-85 F

I’m not saying this was anything like last week’s trail with a 24% grade. Just that this was a 4 mile trail that had significant elevation gain (although with switchbacks, not straight up!). This trail went through the entire park, which means that most of it was quiet and peaceful, except for the bits that went through the campground, near the swimming pool, and along the picnic area. Those parts were loud and populated. But for a loop it was an easy price to pay.

At the top of the trail, we saw the remains of a very old fence.

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These original state park trail signs are getting rarer. I particularly like the descriptiveness of this one.

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Found an old cemetery.

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Very old, since these were the only grave markers we could find.

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We also took a brief stroll on the North Bend Rail trail.

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These little spaces were built every few feet into the tunnel. For someone to escape into if they were caught in a tunnel when the train came through.

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Written by Michelle at 8:58 pm      Comments (4)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Decay

I have long had a fascination with decay. If there is a decaying building, I want to go look at it.

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If there is a decaying machine, I want to examine all the parts.

Park of Decay

If there is a building being torn down, I want to examine the ruins and see the normally hidden bits exposed.

Sunnyside Deconstruction

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In cemeteries I’m drawn to the oldest tombstones, the ones that are broken or can no longer be read.

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When we hike, I am always delighted to come across some long abandoned sign of human habitation, lost in the forest.

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I love taking pictures of these things so I can look at them later, and see bits that aren’t always visible at a quick glance.

This means that I find West Virginia an endlessly fascinating place. As we drive along two lane back roads, full of switch backs and steep grades, we continually pass houses and barns and buildings that are falling down.

However, I also find this terribly heart-breaking. Because, you see, some of those houses I see falling apart are still being lived in. Or they are next to an old trailer that is obviously inhabited.

These buildings are not just the past coming into the future, but are the past that still remains someone’s present.

So I almost never stop and take pictures of these buildings, because it feels terribly rude–because I am looking not at the interesting structures but at someone’s poverty. No matter how much I want to explore, I keep in mind that my fascination is of someone’s struggle.

I sometimes wish I weren’t so awkward and afraid of approaching strangers, because I would love to hear the stories some of these people might have, and to photograph them with the things they love and what they have and hold dear. But here in WV, we’re had too many people making fun of us, of our poverty, of accusing us of being backwards. I wouldn’t know how to convince a stranger that I photograph WV because I love it, and I love the character to be found in things that are struggling to stay upright.

So instead I’ll just stare as we go past, wondering about the stories, and wondering how long until these places are taken back by the woods.

Written by Michelle at 9:08 pm      Comments (4)  Permalink
Categories: Photos,West Virginia  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hiking WV: Holly River State Park

I’ll be honest. This is the first time in years that I seriously considered not completing our planned hike, because I didn’t think I could finish. The hike up the mountain was that steep. Luckily, Michael checked and saw we were almost to the top, so we persevered. I’m glad we finished what we had planned, but I’m sorry to say the Overlook was NOT worth the hike up the mountain.

Location: Holly River State Park
Trail: Potato Knob Trail (partial)
Distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation: 1855-2677 feet (822 foot gain)
Percent Grade for Steepest Part: 24.1 % for 0.4 miles

First, the hike up the mountain. It was 24.1 % for 0.4 miles. Part of the reason I almost gave up was because we’d only hiked a third of a mile when I stopped to rest. I thought the mountain portion of the hike was about a mile, and if we were less than halfway there was no way I wanted to continue. Luckily, Michael looked at his map app, and realized we were close to the top of the mountain.

Note that there are almost no switch backs, it was just straight up, over fallen trees and rocky ground.

Here is the elevation graph of the hike.

As I said, the overlook was not impressive. Here we are at the overlook.

Very Disappointing Overlook. (Look! Trees!)

Here is what you were actually seeing from the overlook.

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(Michael likes to point at random things when posed in front of signs)

The lower portion of the trail was gorgeous, which made up for the lack of an overlook. However, it is not anything you can manage if there has been a recent heavy rain, as it runs right beside the creek, occasionally stepping into the empty creek bed.

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But as for that hike along (and in) the Holly River, it was gorgeous. I took about a zillion pictures, half of which I put up on Flickr. I’m only going to put a few pictures here.

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So here are my thoughts: if you want to hike the Potato Knob trail at Holly River. Hike the lower portion to the road, but prepared to get your feet wet. If you want to see the overlook, hike to it from the Ridge Road trail, which is a much easier grade. The hike up the mountain? Leave that for masochists and people I don’t like.

Written by Michelle at 9:07 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Hiking WV: Tea Creek Wilderness

We hadn’t been back to the Cranberry area but once since last year’s flooding, so it was beyond time we went back.

We now have a new place we need to spend more time hiking.

Location: Tea Creek Wilderness
Trail: Tea Creek Trail (partial)
Distance: 6.4 miles
Elevation: 3579-3022 feet (557 feet)
Temperature: 70-72 F

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Remains of the old railbed.

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We are definitely coming back here to hike.

The only downside is that the restaurant we usually stopped back coming back from Cranberry was destroyed in the flooding. Any restaurant recommendations in the Richwood area? (Or between Richwood and Summersville?)

Written by Michelle at 9:24 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Almost One Year Out from the Flooding

We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of the devastating flooding that his a good portion of WV. One of the areas that was badly hit was Richwood, which was flooded by the Cherry River.

As we drive through yesterday, there are still condemned buildings standing waiting to be torn down. There are still homes that are lived in that remain in serious disrepair (some of that existed before the flooding). I didn’t take any pictures of this, because it felt like gawking, and invading the privacy of an area that has already suffered enough.

That said, there was also obvious evidence of rebuilding, and the road was in good repair, but still it’s heart-rending to see the continued struggle of the people in this area.

We hiked above the Cranberry Wilderness which is upstream of Richwood. Please keep that in mind for these pictures one year out of the flooding.

Here is how part of the trail looked–I took this picture because you can see the old railroad ties–much of this trail is on an old logging track. Other areas were a more narrow path with high vegetation on either side of the trail.

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Here are parts of the trail that were flooded / washed out:

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Take a close look at the debris in the above picture. Notice anything? It wasn’t until we were coming back down the mountain that I realized I saw no human trash–just tumbled trees and stones and branches.

That was the one nice thing I took out of the flood damage. That in the woods, those who hike and use the paths keep the area clean of trash and human debris.

You could hardly tell there had one been a bridge here. And we saw no signs of the bridge or human-hewn boards in the area.

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Another washed out bridge. This is at the head of where several different trails branch out. You had to ford the stream to cross here, which might not be doable after a heavy rain.

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So that’s how things looked in the Richwood / Cranberry Wilderness area just under a year out from the flooding.

Something to consider.

Written by Michelle at 9:06 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Flower Pr0n

I came across a few flowers yesterday while we were out for Jules’ birthday party, and today we took a relaxing stroll at the WV Botanic Garden.

No poppies, but it was a nice reflective walk (except for the occasional bursts of gunfire (because there is a gun club less than a mile away (no, I’m not kidding, this IS West-by-God Virginia))).

Despite the name, I’m fond of spiderwort.

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I really do love Mountain Laurel flowers

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Written by Michelle at 7:07 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Photos,West Virginia  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Traveling WV: Spruce Knob

Spruce Knob is the highest point in WV. We generally wander up here after visiting Seneca Rocks. Sometimes there is snow, but yesterday it was just windy and chilly.

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Written by Michelle at 9:26 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Seneca Creek Backcountry

Since I had two different maps, we decided to tempt fate (and ignore the murderous GPS) and take a different way down from Spruce Knob.

We did NOT get lost, and we found a gorgeous trail to hike.

Location: Seneca Creek Backcountry
Trail: Elza Trail
Distance: 2.9 miles (out and back)
Elevation: 3169-3982 feet (813 feet)
Uphill Grade: 10.6%

We didn’t hike the whole trail, because I decided I was done with uphill for the day. So we reached the point of being tired (and hungry) and then turned around and hiked back down.

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It was one of the nicest hikes we’ve taken in months, despite being all uphill. We crossed one creek, and then hiked up the mountain beside another. Despite being the Friday for memorial day (and seeing zillions of tents and campers setting up for the weekend) we didn’t pass anyone along the trail, and all we heard was the wind and the creek.

It was a restful, lovely, hike.

Written by Michelle at 9:22 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Traveling WV: Sites Homestead below Seneca Rocks

This is the first time I have ever gone to Seneca Rocks and found the Sites Homestead house open.

The home is very (very) slowly being restored, and most of the upstairs is unsafe to walk on, but that didn’t stop me from being fascinated.

It was fascinating.

First thing you notice is that there is only natural light–exactly how it would have been at the time (they most likely would not have wasted candles during the day).

This is the only non-flash picture I took that turned out well.

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Pie safe against the wall.

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This is where I became really interested. I (of course) looked more closely at the walls, and the scraps and remains left on the walls.

Wallpaper!

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Here is the kitchen.

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Then I went up stairs and looked closely at the wallpaper up there.

The walls and ceiling had been covered in newspaper and then painted, creating their own wallpaper (I can only imagine what a splurge the actual wallpaper downstairs must have been) that would have helped insulate in the winter, and probably lightened the rooms.

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I could have stared for ages and taken as many pictures as I could, but Michael is not nearly as fascinated by these things as I am, so I left after snapping a few pictures. Hopefully it’ll be open again in the future.

Of course being an historical building, they had furniture, and upstairs, small tableaus of how the rooms would have looked. I loved this.

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Written by Michelle at 8:03 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Photos,West Virginia  

Hiking WV (and Maintaining the Light): Seneca Rocks

As we have done for the past four years, we again hiked up Seneca Rocks to remember my cousin Ben on his birthday. And because we’re remembering Ben, we do the hike up without stopping, going as fast as we are able. Because that is how Ben would do it.

Location: Seneca Rocks
Trail: Seneca Rocks Trail
Distance: 4.2 miles
Elevation: 2484-1582 feet (902)
Temperature: 58 F

Hike up (starting from the sign @ bridge)
Distance: 1.4 miles
Elevation: 1587-2446 feet (859 feet)
Grade: 11.7 %
Time: 35 minutes

Last year, starting from Roy Gap Road (which was impassible this year) we took 40 minutes.

At the top, wearing my Maintain the Light shirt. (Which I took off right after, because it is heavy 100% cotton and HOT to hike in. I am only willing to suffer so much.) The crag is up and behind me. Because of the rain, we were more cautious than normal scrambling up there.

Happy Birthday Ben.   Once again we hiked straight up without stopping in your memory.

I do mean impassible. We have had a lot of rain this year, and a lot of rain leading up to our hike yesterday. (It even drizzled a bit on us at the top.)

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Seneca Rocks was used by the 13th Corps Mountaineers for Combat Assault training during WWII. I wonder if this is left from that time? (The rest of the WWII combat training done in the area was less benign, leaving UXO in many areas that eventually became Wilderness areas.)

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The view across the top of the crag looking south. The weather had cleared just a bit while we were up there.

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The rocks at the top of the crag.

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Looking SSW past some of the rhododendron growing along the wider edge of the crag.

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Here is part of the view, looking SSW, from as far up the crag as I was willing to scramble. (I’m not proud. I mostly butt-scootch up there. I know myself.)

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Written by Michelle at 7:36 pm      Comments (3)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Hiking WV: Lost River State Park

The forecast was for rain throughout most of the state, but I found that the Eastern panhandle was just supposed to be overcast, so off to the Eastern Panhandle we went! Since we visit Berkeley Springs/Cacapon relatively frequently, we decided to go back to Lost River State Park, since that is one of the first state parks we traveled to.

Location: Lost River State Park
Trails: White Oak, Millers Rock Trails
Distance: 4.5 miles
Elevation: 2956-1940 feet (1016 feet)
Average Grade: 6% (lower portion of the trail to first shelter ~11% grade)
Temperature: 72-75 F

Here is a panorama shot from Cranny Crow overlook. It’s a beautiful view, looking over into VA and WV.

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FUTURE SNACKS!

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Switchbacks! You can see two portions of the trail below.

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It was a gorgeous view.

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Map of the hike.

Elevation Graph

Written by Michelle at 8:10 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

The GPS Really Is Trying to Kill Us

I’ve joked repeatedly that the GPS hates us and is trying to kill us. (“Here! Take this turn down a dark alley filled with vampires! Best route!”)

Here is pictorial evidence of it. Lost Creek State Park Road is a little wider than a lane and a half, full of switch backs, and much of the road is cut into the side of the mountain, so if you miss, you’re doing down the side of the hill.

You can see clearly here, the GPS believes the speed limit for this road is 55 MPH. Michael is driving 25 MPH.

The GPS really is trying to kill us. This is NOT a 55 mph road.

Michael has edged up to 30 MPH, but that’s really the limit for this road.

The GPS really is trying to kill us. This is NOT a 55 mph road.

Also: potholes and uneven road!

The GPS really is trying to kill us. This is NOT a 55 mph road.

But really, why would you want to drive super fast? The view is beautiful and well-worth admiring.

We had an excellent dinner and dessert at O’Neills in Moorefield. We’d stopped here the first time we went to Lost River, and then spent the intervening years trying to figure out WHAT that restaurant was.

The GPS really is trying to kill us. his is NOT a 55 mph road.

Written by Michelle at 7:19 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Photos,West Virginia  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday Flower Pr0n: WV Botanic Garden

ANOTHER DAY OF NOT RAIN!!!!!

Columbine

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Dutch Iris

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Bluet

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I wasn’t scoping out future snacks. (I totally was.)

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Peony

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Written by Michelle at 6:09 pm      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Photos,West Virginia  
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