Last Updated: 10/18/11
Welcome to a web site full of information on hiking in the Mid-Atlantic Region (PA, MD, VA and WV) ... topo maps, 3-D maps, elevation profiles, GPS data, directions, trail notes, photos.... everything you need to prepare for an excursion into the wilderness. Information for 277 hikes and over 3,332 trail miles are now available. Venues such as, but not limited to, Shenandoah National Park/VA, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, VA and WV, the Monongahela National Forest in WV, state forests throughout PA, Green Ridge State Forest in MD and regional, state, county and federal parks throughout the Mid-Atlantic region are represented.
"Yet in the walks I take through nature in quest of truth and demonstration, I recognize a poetry in earth and sea and sky, ruled in their cycles of harmonious actions, deeper and more sublime than ever muse un- taught in science could inspire." William B. Rogers: First State Geologist of VA, First president of M.I.T. and namesake of Mt. Rogers, Va.
Latest Published Hikes
Stone Tower Loop, PA
M. R. Hyker's Latest Adventure(s)
09/17-20-2011, Watoga S.P. Car Camping and Hiking: At over 10,000 acres Watoga is the largest state park in West Virginia. It offers everything: a swimming pool, lake, two modern campgrounds and one primitive one, standard and modern cabins, a restaurant (in season) and over 33 miles of maintained trails including 5.5 miles of the long distance Allegheny Trail. The real draw for this hiker, though, was the recently (2009) designated Spice Run Wilderness (SRW) which is approximately 1.5 miles south of the southern park boundary on SR 21.
We set up camp on what has to be the largest, flattest site in Riverside Campground. The only downside was that it wasn’t along the very scenic Greenbrier River. We took a drive in search of an old road that lead to the river close to where I would have to ford it to enter SRW. We found it with no problem but, as our luck would have it, it was gated and heavily posted. So much for plan A. Plan B was also out because it included six miles of hiking the Greenbrier River Trail, a scenic rails to trails route popular with bikers. Although easy it would make for a very long day. That left me with plan C, besides the 12.5 wilderness loop I had planned it would include a four mile out-and-back on the heavily rutted SR 21 mentioned earlier.
Immediately we were plunged into the
darkness of a Hemlock grove and two easy fords of the run. The road
then passed through
large meadow with a wonderful view of Pyle Mountain. It
then re-entered the woods, fording the run one last time. Initially
the road made for
nice hike through Calvin Price State Forest with a few
ruts and mud puddles to negotiate. The last 0.3 miles were quite the
opposite. It appeared that local ATVers had brought in a piece of
heavy equipment and created huge “tank traps” - giant, scooped out
mud puddles, reinforced with clay and log dams on the downhill sides
to prevent drainage. It seemed more like an obstacle course like you
would see on TV than a State Road. I was OK with all of this
destruction because in mere minutes I would be back in my element …
the wilderness, or at least so I thought. We arrived at a clearing
with a giant pine tree in the middle and a sign post (with the map
removed) next to what was once upon a time an old jeep road used by
hunters that traversed Spice Ridge. It was my plan to use this old
road to deposit us at the confluence of Greenbrier River and Spice
Run. From there we would hike up the run returning to SR 21. Keep in
mind that this road has existed for something like 30 to 50 years,
serving as the boundary between the Monongahela N.F. and Calvin
Price S.F. Although it might be considered a scar in a wilderness
area it had ample time to heal and was at least partially
naturalized with an assortment of several species of wildflowers,
ferns, mosses, lichens and herbaceous shrubs reclaiming their spot
in the forest. Words cannot express my dismay to find that the
Forest Service had bulldozed all six miles of it as part of a
roughly grading it to match the contour of the ridge it followed. We
hiked up it for about 0.5 miles hoping that it was merely a brief
effort to keep mechanized vehicles out of the wilderness but,
indeed, the devastation was complete. This short part of the hike
was like walking uphill, on a beach with combat boots on, in the
middle of a heavily shelled war zone. It was difficult and plain ol’
U.G.L.Y. It would take another 30-50 years for this new scar to heal
and it will probably not return to the hardwood forest it was once
before but will most likely be replaced with unwanted species such
as Striped Maple and Sassafras, both miniature trees that grow in
dense thickets preventing desirable species from ever taking hold.
We backtracked to the road and immediately found the blue blazed Catoctin Trail. We were going to have to make a right hand turn on a bike trail in a short distance but I had no idea if it would be obvious or not. A passing mountain biker made the turn in front of us. We followed at a distance although P wanted to run with him. The trail was flat and well maintained but the constant bends and sharp curves made the Salamander Trail seem like a ruler. P was even having troubles staying on trail. The architect of this trail was making sure it went over every flat boulder worthy of riding over or jumping off of. Talk about getting your internal gyroscope messed up! I was considering naming it the Worm Trail since Salamander was already spoken for and a snake couldn’t possibly undulate this much when we came upon a lawn ornament with the plastic head of some kind of doll on it. The head seemed to be of a character out of a cartoon or animated movie … sort of like a Kid Neptune or something or other.
The undulations stopped briefly as we came upon a 4X woods road intersection. We continued straight although in about 5 minutes we realized that turning right would also have worked, both putting us back on the continuation of the bike trail. In about a mile (about a half mile as the crow flies) we crossed Hamburg Road and joined an old haul road that followed the edge of a ridge for a while. After passing the namesake of the trail and crossing a stream on a biker bridge it began a gradual descent until we arrived at another 4X junction. Any direction would work depending on the distance you want to hike. We turned left onto the Catoctin Trail and then left onto an old skid road and followed it towards Clifford Hollow, my favorite section of the forest. The road was maintained in sections but where it made a sharp left turn a biker trail left it and then crossed it further on, ending with a steep descent to the stream. We crossed and took a jerky break on a nice flat rock. P rather enjoyed immersing herself in the cold mountain stream. Another mountain biker came by and chatted with us a bit. He was going to climb a steep biker trail and then downhill on the section of the Catoctin Trail we were going to go up. He was sure he was going to run into us again but this would be the last we saw of him. The hike along the stream was mostly on a gentle old haul road and out of its sight except where we crossed it. We could still hear it and feel its coolness as we walked past the Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron. In a handful of minutes we arrived at a junction with the Catoctin Trail … again. We were again on familiar ground. We had hiked this next section with Dot Com while doing the Clifford Hollow Circuit. We weren’t in a race nor was I trying to catch up with someone or trying to maintain my pace for fellow hikers so we just took our time, stopping twice to check the map and GPS, the whole time knowing exactly where we were. We turned left onto a shortcut trail just before cresting the hill, walked through a grassy stretch lined with dead trees and left onto the same skid road we used to descend to Clifford Hollow earlier. After a very short, gradual climb the road flattened out and alternated between walking through Mountain Laurel Tunnels and young open forest. I should mention here that throughout our hike we enjoyed some nice fall colors. They weren’t that “take your breath away, I can’t believe this is a real photo” kind of color display. The reds, oranges and yellow were more subtle, diluted by the still green oak forest. Somehow the mind has the ability to filter out some of the green, concentrating the colors on some internal canvas and providing a very soothing sensation. I don’t think there is a camera capable of doing that. A second highlight of the hike was to be a series of three ponds. When we arrived at the breast of the first and largest we found that it had been drained. A biker whom we talked to at the parking area told me that they always dry up in the summer but, upon noticing that the drain pipe had been “spiked” several times along its length, I doubt that it will ever fill up. Perhaps this is one of the ponds that had been drained during the long ago Anthrax investigation. There was another “spiked” drain pipe at a pond along the Salamander hike. After crossing the dam we veered of to the right, joining another bike trail. This in turn connected with the Catoctin Trail and soon deposited us back at our starting point. Just before arriving there we were passed by a guy on a dirt bike. I tried to explain to him that he was committing a big no-no but then his potty mouth started up. I decided not to get too confrontational and ruin our day so I just let him go on about his way. Except for that little distraction it had been a most excellent day in the woods.
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