West Virginia – Spruce Knob

King of the Mountain

Spanky and I took a great deal of time to rigorously research weather conditions for the next several days, study detail topographical maps, did some return on investment modeling and based on our analysis of the data, we decided that our next victim would be Spruce Knob in West Virginia. Well…….we are in Virginia, might as well go to West Virginia – not really rocket science.

Spruce Knob is another one of those summits that is not really close to anything, not much civilization is what I’m talking about. The closest campground that I was able to scrounge up on the net is another KOA in Verona, VA – bout 150 miles up the pike from where we just stayed to do Mount Rogers. Our drive takes us into the Shenandoah Valley which is in western Virginia bounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Appalachian and Allegheny Plateaus to the west. Normally this would be an outrageously scenic drive (done it before – about a 100 yrs ago) but the weather gods aren’t being kind to us – it is foggy and rainy and we weren’t able to see much of anything.

Me and Spanks waltzed into the Verona KOA about mid afternoon. Despite the crappy weather we took a stroll around the place to check it out. There is a pretty good size river out back with plenty of room to walk a good distance with the pooch. And……..there aren’t a lot of campers around so I can let the boy off leash – he loves that. Now, this is funny. There is a grassy hill in front of our site and it is covered with bunnies! I’m not kidding. There’s dozens of these critters hoppin about – think the campground owners raise em or something. These little floppy eared creatures really got Spanky’s attention. I don’t think he had ever seen a rabbit before. I had to be constantly on guard to make sure Spanks didn’t go off hunting wabbits.

We awoke on summit morning to the sound of rain pounding on the aluminum roof of the trailer. Thank goodness, the rain subsided quickly after sunrise but……..we still had a pea soup fog to deal with. Based on the visibility in the valley, I was pretty well convinced that the drive through the mountains was gonna suck. We made our way west and just as we were getting close to the VA/WVA border on the top of Shenandoah Mountain (approx 3,500 ft I might add), the sun broke through. It might be a nice day after all!

I don’t think West Virginia gets a fair break. There are all kinds of crude jokes about it. Most Americans think it’s full of coal mines and have no idea of how fetching the WV landscape is. It’s got an awesome section of the Appalachian Mountains running trough it. As a matter of fact, it is the only state that is 100% in the Appalachians. The mountains are speckled with lush green valleys and farms. The civilization is very sparse, thick forest, rivers, streams, and mountains in all directions. Oh yeah, West Virginia is also home to the New River Gorge – the only place where you can legally base jump off a bridge (one day a year they open it up for base jumping – pretty cool huh).

So it goes without saying that once the sun came out we were treated to some of natures finest. I had a hard time concentrating on the twisty turny mountain roads – just wanted to gaze at the sights around us. Our drive took us through the quaint little West Virginia town of Franklin. A little main street, old but well cared for homes with nicely maintained green lawns. Looked like the kind of place we could live. And…..I must throw in one more plus for West Virginia – they do the best job of marking their roads out of any state I’ve been in (I’ve been in all 50). Every little road, even dirt roads, are clearly signed. Getting lost is almost not an option.

A few hours of driving put us onto the road into Spruce Knob National Recreation Area. The final several miles of the drive were along a basically one lane, dirt/mud road. You can probably make it in a car but a truck is preferable. My truck, affectionately known to many of you as Great White, is once again Great Dirt! The road is full of rocks and rutted. All the shaking and noise had Spanks up on all fours trying to figure out where the hell I was taking him this time.

Spruce Knob is a knob – I guess. It is another well rounded mountain top. The dirt road leads up to a paved parking lot almost at the summit. A very short trail leads from the parking area to the actual summit and a two story observation tower. Spanks and I went up the trail and on April 12, 2007 we scored our tenth summit. Only forty more to go, we’ve nailed twenty percent (I know, not in elevation, just arithmetically) in just a little over two months. Pretty good for a couple of neophytes – at least we think so.

At 4,863 ft, Spruce Knob is no slouch. It’s up there for this part of the country. The Knob is high enough to have much harsher weather than down below. And wouldn’t you know it, just as we got to the top, a bunch of clouds blow in and it starts snowing. I managed to squeeze off some fairly nice pics but the views would definitely be better on a clear day.

The summit is very rocky. Trees are short and stunted. It really has an alpine flavor to it. Lots of mosses and lichens clinging to rocks amongst short spruce and high mountain shrubs. Being the only ones up there, I let Spanks run around at will. He digs it. The boy sniffs out every nook and cranny and clearly marks his visit on the Knob. Interesting little point (I read it on a sign up there), Spruce Knob is the highest point the drains into the Chesapeake Bay – bet you didn’t know that one.

This is not Spanky’s first time in snow but it is the first time that I thought of a new Spanky game. It’s called, I make a snow ball, throw it in the parking lot, Spanky runs after it and tries to eat all the pieces off the pavement. Spanky thoroughly enjoyed this new activity. He looks forward to doing it again. Me and Spankster spend about an hour walking around the summit, frolicking in the snow and enjoying the peace and solitude. It’s pretty neat to have a place like this to ourselves.

We’ve been on the road now for almost two weeks and it occurred to me that I have not watched a second of TV the whole time. Unbelievably, I’m surviving. Days are spent traveling or hitting a mountain, evenings are spent cooking, updating our memoirs, catching up on email, etc. I really don’t miss it (for now anyway). Maybe when we get home I ought to just throw the damned thing away – not to mention not having to pay a monthly cable bill. Food for thought.

We are headed up to New York City tomorrow. Getting together with a bunch of old friends to celebrate a friend of the family’s 92nd birthday. It’ll be a great opportunity to catch up with a bunch of folks that I have not seen in ages, not to mention, introduce them to Spanky.

As always, thanks for following our ongoing summit soap opera. Stay tuned for more fun and adventure!

Spankster And Me On The Summit

The Sun Breaking Through The Cloud Cover

Lichens And Mosses Thrive In The Alpine Landscape

Another View From The Top


Anonymous said...

Hey Spanky-
Did you get a chance to visit Seneca Rocks while you were in the area?

Ken said...

Rein and Spanky,

It looks like another fun trip. The pictures are great. You are starting to look like Sir Edmund Hillary himself but Spanky still looks like a dog (lucky him). As an active member in the Florida boating community, I stay in touch with our neighbors to the North. There have been reports of high elevation of Spanky urine showing up in the Chesapeake Bay. You better tell him to cool it with the male marking thing until the snow subsides.

Have fun and stay safe.

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