One of my goals is to summit the highest point in each of the states in the country. I have a bunch checked off my list, but have decided to start again at zero and see how many I can accomplish this with Sheila.
This weekend we went to Spruce Knob Lake, West Virginia to hike Spruce Knob – The highest point in West Virginia for peak #1 as a team. Charlie, the best man from our wedding drove up from Maryland to join us in his old college state (WVU alumn).
What Spruce Knob- The high point of West Virginia “The Mountain State”. West Virginia ranks 24th in the country at 4,863 feet. This puts it about middle of the pack so this seems to be a perfect starting point.
We needed to hike 3 trails to reach the summit – The first Following a creek. The next hiking straight up a grassy meadow to a ridge line, and the final a combination of soft pine trails and huge rocky trail.
Day 1 – We had to drive about 500 miles from Rochester, NY to Spruce Knob Lake, WV or in other words, about 9 hours in the truck. We went up and down winding roads, and just as the roads became scary, narrow, and almost more trail and less road – We lost our GPS signal.
Thankfully I have an atlas in the truck and Sheila navigated our way to the Monangahela forrest from where we were and we eventually found our route.
12 miles of dirt roads and we finally arrived at our site – Charlie showed up from Maryland no too long after having experienced the same death defying drive we did. We spent a few hours setting up camp, gathering and cutting firewood for the weekend, and then cooked dinner on our coleman camp grill while enjoying a cold berverage or two.
The camp site is primitive, pot hole toilets, no running water, no electricity and the closest phone is 30 minutes away (about an hour from cell phone coverage). We were basically the only people there. In other words, we had the woods to ourselves. (Well, us and the animals).
We enjoyed the evening, had some beers to catch up, went star gazing, and then called it a night. We were woken up a number of times by animals in the camp site, coyotes calling at the moon, and a pair of owls that decided 4am was a jolly good time to begin an across the lake conversation… one was right in our camp. Loud is a word that doesn’t describe it.
Day 2 – Up early to head over to Spruce Knob summit, I like to start early so we have time to still enjoy the day when our hikes are complete. The hike would be about 9 miles, and due to the short weekend, we drove one car to the summit, and another back to the trail head where we would start our hike. We would only hike up, not up and down.
We began our day at the Seneca Creek Trail head, hiked 3 miles of beautiful soft, sometimes single track, sometimes wide trail. We crossed streams, and creeks a number of times. The trail here was flat, and enjoyable with a few campsites set up off to the side in small clearings along the creek.
After a bit more than 3 miles, the trail heads to Judy Springs. Judy Springs has fields available to set up a camp, a beautiful spring fed waterfall, and great scenery. We made a silly and simple mistake here that had us looking for the trail for a good 20 minutes, scaling up a cliff where the trail ended looking for more trail markers. Eventually we got it figured out and continued on our way. We had gone to the Springs to the right, when the TRAIL was to the left.
Judy Springs trail was short, but the most intense hiking of the day. We climbed right up an open meadow to the ridgeline that would take us to Huckleberry Trail and the summit of Spruce Knob. This section, was only .7 miles but it was in open sunlight and up steep terrain. It also left us with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain range. We had lunch at the Judy Springs/Huckleberry Trail junction before we began to make our way up Huckleberry Trail.
Huckleberry trail was beautiful with numerous places for backpackers to camp. We made our way quickly up the final 5 miles or so over loose rocks, and big boulders. Sometimes the trail was soft, sometimes it was technical. Either way, we made it to the summit with smiles and energy to spare.
There is a tall observation tower that gave us 360 degree views of the surrounding mountain range. Being at the high point makes for great photo and video ops. It also gives a real feeling of accomplishment.
After the hike we headed back to camp, collected and cut more fire wood, played some frisbee, ate some dinner and settled in with another beautiful evening and campfire.
Day 3 – We awoke early this morning, broke down camp and decided to go for a quick run from the site to the lake and back. We saw a bald eagle make it’s way across the lake, took in some final views and clean mountain air, and called it a trip.
Positives – The camp site we reserved was isolated and primitive. It also was driveable which meant we could use it as a “base camp” of sorts. That makes it so much easier to bring food and gear.
This hike was possibly the easiest summit of any of the high peaks I have completed. This is an easy up and down in one day kind of hike if you want it to be. Hiking high peaks with Sheila is awesome!
I love camping with Shme and the dog, it was cool to camp with Charlie ,who I have not camped with in tents before, and we have not seen him in a while. The company was great!
Beauty – Being isolated allows nature to take over. Nature trumps buildings any day to me. The sheer beauty of the area always leaves me feeling satisfied.
Negatives – Limited gas stations. Yep that is about it. I got a bit nervous as we had to drive well into a town to try and find gas. There was just nothing out there. Then they had an old fashion pump, which made me laugh.
I did not sleep well either. There was A LOT of animal movement going on. Deer, mice, birds, coyotes, and possibly bear… It was noisy and we were not used to it, so I was continually awaken by the sounds. This was much different than anything the ADK offer. I had so much fun.
3 pieces of Gear used –
1. Coleman sunlight ridge tent. I recently did a little review on this tent here. It again came in handy, more than enough room for any gear, and we were even able to bring camp cots on this trip. This tent makes it easy for the dog to come and go, and not get our bags wet and muddy. If you want a bit of room and have a tight budget, this is the tent for you.
2. Columbia Omni-Dry hike shorts – If you want a pair of shorts that do everything, these are the shorts. Multiple pockets, omni-dry fabric, comfortable fit. They get wet, and then dry almost before you even realize it. Even the belt incorporated with these shorts is moisture wicking and quick drying. Columbia seems to have thought of everything with these shorts.
3. Fila Skele-Toes version 1.0 – I was so happy to have made the decision to wear these. With no worries about water I was able to cross all the creeks by walking right through, avoiding the rock scamper usually reserved for creek crossings. I was able to walk through muddy sections of the trail with no real worry and avoid making the trail wider by going around.
I was also able to easily handle the multitude of rocks and roots on Huckleberry trail as my FEET did the work, not shoes. Others seemed to be rolling ankles (most likely due to lack of feel) while I hopped from rock to rock with no real issues at all. These may become my go to hiking shoe in the future as I was thrilled with the performance.
The versatility of this shoe is astonishing. I can literally do anything from run to hike to boat to mow the lawn. These shoes do EVERYTHING and they do it well. The allow my feet to work, and for that, I am thankful.
So there it is, Spruce Knob and West Virginia are checked off. If you could send us to our next peak. What would it be. Why? Let me know and maybe we can visit your high point soon!