A Relaxing Finale

The last day of my scouting mission and I was done drove out. A bit too much time behind the wheel for my liking, but we had achieved mission success and created some plans for the future. This trip was back in June, here it is now the middle of August and I was doing my best to remember everything I felt and saw. Not an easy thing to do. I am going to be adjusting a few things for the next trip and at least make notes and rough drafts of a day so I do not struggle to recall the activities. The moral of this admission is I had no clue what my first stop of the last day was, I had to look it up. Sights near Watoga…. As soon as I saw it though, it all came back.

Beartown State Park is one of the smaller parks in the area, but aside from a boardwalk taking you through the rock formations, it is also one of the least developed. I have been to Rock City in Tennessee and while it is similar, Beartown has no commercial appeal at all. Pure Nature.

The limestone formations are numerous and I wondered how much refuge was taken here during the civil war. I was loving the erosion and the dens scattered throughout. Whether they be for bears or foxes. One of my favorites however was the gnome homes…

Or fairy hideouts. Whichever imagination you choose. I was amazed by the slabs and angles that have developed and for a few of them, as in the first image, I wondered how the formation remained upright.

Beartown State Park was only a thirty minute drive from Watoga, just past my next and finale destination of the trip. I know I missed quite a few sights in the immediate area and I will eventually take them all in, they have been noted.

Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park was the location of the final Civil War battle in West Virginia. It was also the states first official state park, christened in 1928. Apparently it is also haunted. Maybe that is why I felt watched the night I was there. The lookout tower is open and accessible, providing a panoramic look down at the valley below.

I did a little hike around the park, seeing preserved trenches, tree breaks, following the literature along the way. Along the way I saw this jutting out of the ground, perhaps trying to escape from the ghosts under ground. No other tree was like it. Not something you see everyday.

Another overlook half way through the trail.

After I was done playing in the woods it was time for slow stroll through the onsite museum. More education and tons of artifacts depicting the era. I walked out of there cringing at the brutality of the period. That is probably the age coming through.

Finally, exploration complete. Three distinct areas, all beautiful, full of wonder and greatly recommended. I am spending a couple days on the Blue Ridge before heading over in October, hoping for skies clear and dark…

Thank for stopping by!


New River Gorge

Day three found me going two hours in the opposite Direction to New River Gorge. Made famous by the Bridge spanning the New River, a bridge that I could not find a suitable location to photograph. They exist in multitude, I was just unwilling to take the time to go find them. This is a detail I shall not miss on a future trip specifically to this area. All in all this location was my favorite as far as general feel and potential. Of course I do have the right to change this once the isolated trips begin.

The kick off point was the Canyon Rim visitor Center, one of four in the region and a required visit to intake the history of the area. After quite some time there I did the suggested drive along Fayette Station Road to gain some more insight into the history of the gorge. It was also taking me towards my first fall of the day, Kaymoor Falls.

You can reach out and touch this one as you walk up the trail, which is closed further up, or so a sign says. Pretty wild thing coming straight down the cliff almost out of nowhere. I would have loved to see where this originates, but having already entered a trail closed area I let it be. It runs underneath the trail and down into the stream below which is very accessible but very sloppy photogenic wise. Still was a fun hop and great to see.

From here I traveled to the ghost town of Drummond. A nice short stroll down the old tracks past some historic buildings, a trip down to the water, but no photos to be had. Stopped into the museum which was very interesting, and had a chat with the ranger. I was hoping for more but worth the stop nonetheless.

This day was highlighted by the magical, 1500 foot wide Sandstone Falls, an incredible location with a photograph to be had within every nook and cranny of the park. There is a boardwalk that takes you out to a viewing platform. The view from the platform is a bit blocked, the real fun begins when you leave the boardwalk and enter the world of rocks and roots, and some trails.

This next photo is the first thing you see when you are at the start of the off board trails. It just gets better after that.

I’m surprised I did not grab a panorama of this section. Next time

The 1500 feet is not exactly straight across. It is a bit jagged with much debris on one side.

One of the little nooks accessible by rock hopping through the water. It was at just the right level where I did not get wet.

I think I spent about an hour here wondering about or just watching the water. Lots of people fishing from shore, some families with kids playing in the pools and even a couple of guys precariously anchored just below the falls casting their lines as well. It was getting late and rain was coming so I started headed back. I had one more quick stop to make and by that time the drizzle had begun. This next photo is a popular one but I just could not pass it up.

Glade Creek Grist Mill in Babcock State Park. This may be my base of operations next year if I can get the family to come with me. The park, not the mill…

Day three concluded. One more day to go. Thanks for stopping by!


Blackwater Falls – Day Two

The day two destination was the area of Blackwater Falls. It was just over a two hour drive from where I was staying, which would normally be a no go in my book, but since I was on a mission of exploration and discovery I accepted my fate. This was initially to be my base of operations until I decided to take in more of the area. I am already planning a trip back here in October. There are so many sights to see and things to do I think I may be making a few trips over the next couple of years. Might even get lucky and coral a dark sky or two.

More steps to these falls. 214 to be exact. But they were dry! A couple of different viewing platforms on the way down, no free trailing here. Gorgeous, but almost a commercial feeling to it because of the way the entrance is set up. There are a couple of other vantage points as well I just chose not to go there.

Pretty great idea building a park within an area of so many amazing sites. The next set of falls is close by, right next to Blackwater Lodge. A short jaunt through the woods on a slightly covered trail. This was a day of the walk, no hiking needed which was much appreciated. Free to roam on this one to get the best vantage point. I was able to get to two of the four on this run. I could hear the third one clearly but it would involve a bit of bushwhacking to get to and being unsure of the access limitations no further off-trailing to be had.

Lots of room to roam
Wall Art!

The name of the first one is Elakala Falls. I do think they each have there own name but they are all in an area entitled Shays Run. This next one was a bit difficult to get in front of. That gap is not as narrow as it appears.

After I was done admiring the falls I went out to Lindy Point. Parking is a bit tight, but most people do not stay long so spots open up frequently. Another short trail brings you out to this:

While there is an actual platform to hang out on, there are also rock ledges accessible on either side for other vantage points should you desire. And if you are young and adventurous, you can jump four feet across to get to one of the tower formations for the perfect angle. This is a great lunch spot or in my case a spot to take in various snacks.

Douglas Falls was an interesting ride. Bringing you through a older town and wondering if you are going the right way you get to a dirt road, then a bit later passing some old coal ovens you get to park and walk 100 or so yards. Follow the stream…

There was much more to explore but I wrapped it up early so I did not have to drive back in the dark. Made it back to the cabin for dinner and still feeling the energy I decided to go suffer the night skies. I knew the clouds would be interfering with me for the duration so I went out before the moon set just to check it out. This is the Droop Mountain Battlefield lookout tower. I spent some daylight hours here so more to come on this front. This is 30 seconds of moonlight. If I had more patience I would have gone out later in the night when it had set, or perhaps if there were no clouds I would have just stayed and waited a couple of hours for the moon to go away. If…

Reservations made for October! Super excited to go back. Thanks for stopping by!


Almost Heaven?

Almost Heaven. West Virginia’s recreational moniker. Is it though? The time for change was present so I went on a mission was to find a new playground to explore. And I succeeded. I had never explored West Virginia before, in my mind it never had the appeal of Maine, The Whites, The Smokies or the Blue Ridge. The mind plays tricks on us all the time regarding what is there and what is not. Perceptions develop, influences creating half truths emerge and you are left to wonder why would one ever want to experience something negative. The thing is perceptions are like assumptions, often miscalculated, bordering on pure fiction. I am here to confirm that West Virginia is as gorgeous as those ads say it is.

West Virginia is also home to three dark sky parks in the US, apparently, as I was informed by a local pro, it is also one of the cloudier places in the country. Plan away, but understand that part of your journey may come with a some disappointment. The clouds come out of nowhere! Mini Mountains… That was one of the main draws for me to this area. Five days spent, no night sky for me. The treasure trove of day trips commence.

I chose Watoga State Park as my base of operations, situated nicely in the middle of two other locations I had on the hit list. NO cell service, NO internet, NO TV. Sounds almost like heaven to me. Arrived early in the evening, checked in and went out for some provisions for the cabin before it got dark. Let’s emphasize before dark. The roads were of the windy, hairpin bends, up and down if you do not know them tread lightly variety.

I had a loose itinerary for the trip and the first stop was out to Cranberry Glades for an easy stroll through a field and down to a wildlife viewing area. After a day in the car it was a great way to loosen up the legs before the fun began. I did not do this daisy any justice but I thought it was cool just standing there in a field of yellow.

Got to the viewing area and immediately had memories of going on walks with my dad and uncle for there in front of me was beaver town. Been a while since I have seen one but I thought it was pretty developed from the ones I remember. They were yapping quite a bit so I hung out for a little while waiting for one to show itself but no luck. It started to rain so I headed back to the car.

I headed down the road a bit to Falls of Hills Creek. The trail here is less than a mile, easy right? The 380 steps to the bottom were slippery but it was going back up that was fun. They are spread out decent so it is not really that bad if you take a couple of breaks. (Gasping for air). The first fall was visible, but contained too many obstructions to photograph. The next two were perfect.

Middle Falls
Lower Falls

Very cool first day , managed to take in a lot of scenery. Cruised the Highland Scenic Highway, had clouds, rain and more clouds so I had relegated myself to no night skies this trip. When I got back to the cabin I had this dude waiting for me. It hung out every day during my stay which leads me to think I am on it’s chosen property.

Thank for stopping by, Day two coming soon!


One for Two

The weather put a damper on my adventures in Maine but I did manage to get in a couple of decent days in the White Mountains before heading home. Seems to be a common theme with me and these trips. Acadia then the Whites. This one may be the last time I make this journey, well, for while. I will be turning my sights elsewhere for future solo journeys which hopefully will not be solo. Natalie did say she is interested in a spot in West Virginia I am eyeing up so we will see if the city beach girl is up for an adventure there.

The four hour drive from Bar Harbor to North Conway provided me with ample time my first day in the Whites. I was able to check in early at the hotel and this opened up even more time for me, so I did something I would rarely ever do. Paid admission to an attraction. I did not have any hikes planned out, I had already seen the falls I wanted capture in previous trips and I figured I had two hours to kill so I purchased a ticket to The Flume Gorge. It was actually a cool way to spend the time and it turned out to be very educational. A few falls and a bunch of huge glacial boulders and a visitor center filled with information, pictures and relics. The park made you really embrace the history of the area. And it was not crowded. Ahhhhh, peacefulness. Totally worth the $18 admission. And I thought it was going to be cheezy, oh how wrong I was.

I came away with a few photos, the first being Avalanche Falls. It is a very photogenic place but you do have a walkway to contend with and when people are milling about it is hard to include in the composition so you get what you are given. Still nice to look at.

Since it was the middle of the summer the flow of water was subdued, I would certainly like to experience this during the spring thaw. The decrease was especially noticeable at Liberty Falls

My favorite look in the park was the covered bridge and cascade running underneath it. This in the fall would be magnificent. It’s like I am talking myself in to going back.

After the park it was time for an early dinner at Gordi’s then off to grab a sunset. Before the sunset though I stopped by a little pull off and grabbed this little diddy. Probably about as artsy as I am going to get here.

My sunset location for the evening was at the Pemigewasset Overlook on the Kanc. This was more crowded than the park but I got there early enough to have no one in front of me. To the side and behind yes, but all clear in front. I have been trying out circular neutral density filters lately but I have found they are not as forgiving as regular filters are. I brought my Lee’s with me just for this type of shot. I think I had a 0.9 soft grad on for this one.

Turning out to be quite a busy day considering I got into town around 13:30. It was the only clear and not cloudy or rainy day of the trip. So, setting off on what I made the trip up for I went down the road a bit to set up for the night sky. While not as dark as Acadia it was gorgeous. Met a local and asked him about other locations to grab and he was kind enough to let me in on a few spots so they will be recorded in the notes for the next time. This years Milky Way adventures did not turn out at all like I was hoping. Weather has been terrible and it is now mostly in the southern sky so that will negate almost any location possible in NJ. So because of the interruptions I guess my Milky Way education will be continuing for another year. Tragedy eh? I think I learned mostly about positioning this year. Still have a couple more months to go so there is hope.

I finally made it up to the top of Mt. Washington – by car- other times it has been closed or only 4200 feet access. The weather is wicked. The clouds are wicked and there was a bunch of them at the top. Like nearly a white out. After walking around a bit and checking out the museum I went down to a pull off a few hundred feet below the summit.

Can I tell you again the clouds are wicked. I could have watched them all day long. Rolling right through.

Next one is just because clouds are cool when they are at eye level. Even though we are right now under a Tornado watch in NJ, I adore Mom Nature.

Shortly after I got back down to the bottom it started to rain, so the rest of the day was shot. One shot of the Milky Way, two different locations. Could have been worse. Make the most of what is in front of you!

It was a trip back to sea level for me the following day to await the next journey.

Thanks for stopping by!!


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