Monday, May 23, 2011
Sauron To New Heights
May 21: Today, according to some, is Judgment Day and I am about to climb the dreaded Mt. Storm. Never again will a sentence about my life sound so much like a Tolkien novel. I feel like Frodo, carrying my trusty pack Samwise on my back. Come to think of it, Frodo was kind of a wuss, that ring could not have been that heavy of a burden. I'll gladly trade out the pack for a day with the ring.
Before I would even reach Mt. Storm my path would take me through Greenland Gap. This Dave Letterman-like cleft between two mountains boasts two miles of raging whitewater, punctuated by a small but powerful cataract. Whilst I sat resting aside the river and checking my maps a snake snuck up behind me. Wary after Daniel's warnings of rattlesnakes the night before, I jumped away from the serpent. My mind was quickly eased to realize the yellow and black snake A) had no rattle B)was very small (I know small snakes can be dangerous but it did eliminate some of the intimidation factor) C) was much more interested in an old banana peel than my presence.
Greenland Gap also held the day's history lesson. Here Union Captain Martin Wallace held out against a much superior Confederate force long enough for the Union garrison at Rowlesburg to be warned and reinforced. Because of Wallace's brave stand the rebel raid failed to accomplish their goal of knocking out the B&O railroad and disrupting the Union supply trains.
After completing Greenland Gap I decided to leave the ADT and ascend Mt. Storm. I had spent a lot of time mulling over this quandary, weighing the pros and cons of continuing on the ADT to Dolly Sods and in the end safety issues led me to take this alternate route. Continuing with the Letterman theme here are my top 6 reasons to change paths:
1) Karen and Jerry, whose trail journal from last year I read in preparation, said the Blackbird Knob Trail in Dolly Sods had rivers that could be tough or impossible to cross in times of flood. A source had told me there might be rain for the next fifteen days. If I could not cross and had to turn around that would mean 36 meaningless miles and back to square one.
2) The alternate route is shorter and less steep.
3) Road-walking is faster than trail-walking most of the time.
4) The locals I spoke to said Mt. Storm was the much safer way to go.
5) Climbing something called Mt. Storm sounds so bad ass.
6) Colin Stewart would want me to go to Dolly Sods.
Dolly Sods does feed heavily into the ADT's decision to label West Virginia the trail's "Amazement Park" and it was not easy for me to miss out on an opportunity to see if the region lives up to that billing. Since I am only thirty five, however, and my camera is broken anyway I feel I can have a safer and more memorable visit there in the future. Unless I decide after this trip never to walk anywhere ever again, which certainly is possible.
Back to our regularly scheduled program:
Several huge three-bladed wind turbines waved to me from the mountain's apex as I began the ascent. I had been told the highway had little traffic, but curse my luck, the gravel company in Scherr had picked today to move their pile of rocks to the top of Mt. Storm. An armada of trucks chugged up with me. Their noise aside, the gentle 10% grade was much easier than Table Rock and I went from 1000+ feet to 3000+ feet in only a couple of hours.
My pace slowed from the exertion of the climb, I rested against an embankment where I witnessed a man coming out of the woods riding a snowmobile. There wasn't any snow on the ground, of course. Welcome to West Virginia?
The crest of Mt. Storm is a huge plateau and man-made Lake Storm sits atop. The whole region gets their electricity from the power plant there, which uses the energy from coal to pump juice along the sizzling lines that shoot like strands from a web towards the surrounding communities. The lake is used to cool the plant and is warm year round as a result. You can swim there on Christmas Day!
With nowhere to stay in sight I decided to push on to Davis, where there is a bed and breakfast. The last ten miles were brutal, all forest and hills in the process of being stripped of their coal. I finally pulled into town around ten, having been on the road thirteen hours. I had completed a one day record of twenty eight miles.
My joy at reaching Davis was short-lived. Their B&B had no vacancies and another I stumbled upon had closed for the night.
Having run out of water as well I went to see if I could get some from the local bar. The owner Randy was just closing up and his customers leaving on their horses (welcome to West Virginia?), but he was kind enough to fill my bottles. My luck continued to improve as I met a young man named Jeff who invited me to crash on his couch. The people of West Virginia impress me ever day with the wonderful way they treat strangers. Today was extremely difficult, but also immensely satisfying.
28 miles/347 total miles