Monday, March 11, 2013

Snowquester: One Last Snowshoeing Trip to West Virginia

On Wednesday, while the rainy, snowy mess that was the Snowquester in the DC area amounted to very little, it was snowing buckets in West Virginia.  While g-chatting with a friend that afternoon, we decided it would be a crying shame to let that kind of snowfall go to waste.  Within an hour, we had reserved a cabin (with real beds and heat!) and started making serious plans.  Ultimately, we rounded up a total of eight like-minded people for an overnight at Blackwater Falls State Park near Davis, West Virgnia and met at the cabin on Saturday morning.

For all of the times I have parked at Blackwater Falls State Park so I could go backpacking at Canaan Mountain immediately to the south, I had never really explored the park itself.  Four of us set out to explore the rim of the north side of Blackwater Canyon (The rest of the group went to Dolly Sods).  There were about two feet of snow on the ground and it was warm enough to snowshoe in a t-shirt.  We crossed a dam on Pendelton Creek and then left the trail to explore the little canyon formed by the same.  We crawled through and around rhododendrons and hemlocks, getting glimpses of pretty snow-covered waterfalls along the way.  Finally, we reached some cliffs that we couldn't get around, so we made our way back up to the trail.  From there, we followed the trail west to a rocky overlook where we had a great view of Blackwater Canyon.

Saturday night, we checked out the falls which the park is named and we had a proper feast, complete with WanderMindfully's awesome lasagna.  Sunday morning came way too early after a late night of games and especially after the time change.  Everyone else had to be home by a reasonable time, so WanderMindfully and I headed to Timberline Resort and up into Dolly Sods.  It was cloudy and a little chilly when we arrived, so I started snowshoeing in a long-sleeve shirt, which meant I didn't sunscreen on my arms.  I would pay for my oversight since, as soon as we started climbing, I put on a short-sleeve shirt.

We hiked up one of the ski runs into the wilderness and turned north, basically following the route I took after another freak weather event at the beginning of the season.  Like that trip, we found three feet of snow up there. Remarkably, it wasn't windy on this trip, even out on the very edge of the plateau. It was even warmer than on Saturday. We had lunch there looking down on the Canaan Valley, soaking up the sun.  In spite of the snow, the trees have buds on them.  We meandered along the western edge of the wilderness until it was time to return to the car.

This was my third trip into Dolly Sods this winter and I just have to say that it just doesn't get old:  It is such a spectacular place.  Today, I am tired and fairly sunburned, a great price to pay for an amazing trip.  What a way to finish the winter!

Pictures (click to enlarge):
Blackwater Falls at sunset Saturday.
 The trail behind our cabin at Blackwater Falls State Park.
Pendelton Creek below the dam.
Untracked snow on the Pendelton Trace Trail.
 A rhododendron bud.
Boot/Snowshoe Shot over Blackwater Canyon
Melting snow near the overlook of Blackwater Canyon.
Another view of Blackwater Falls.
Fuel for snowshoeing in the form of lasagna.
 The entrance to Dolly Sods.
 Windblown ripples in the snow on the western edge of Dolly Sods.
Buds on trees:  a sure sign that spring will be here soon.
 A massive wind-blown snow drift.  This was taller than me.
 Tracks in the snow.  I think these are bobcat, but they were not especially distinct.
 More tracks in the snow.
 Looking northeast over the northern section of Dolly Sods.
Droplets from melting snow.

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