When I moved out to West Virginia, I
invited Carl to come visit and go wheeling. After a while we found a date that
worked and made plans to go wheeling. In the meantime, I had not had much time to
explore new wheeling locations so when the time came to make a trail selection, I didn't
have much to choose from that would be new for us. But fortunately Blackwater Canyon
was close enough to be worth a drive, and Sand Spring Road though not wild wheeling, was
at least interesting country.
During the weeks that followed my move, I
had been on the lookout for anybody in the neighborhood driving a Jeep that looked like it
was taken offroad. For all the watching I did, I was mostly rewarded with SUV's and
lots of stockers that looked like they'd never seen dirt. I did find the West
Virginia Jeep Club and my last trip was
with a couple of guys I met through that group.
Then one day it happened - I was driving
through the subdivision and here comes this red Rubicon with 33's. OK, this guy must
be at least a little into wheeling... I waved and he waved back and since
we were headed in opposite directions, I didn't find out where he was headed or if he even
lived in the neighborhood.
A few weeks later, I caught him pulling
into his driveway a couple doors down from our house. We were in Maria's Cherokee
and looking every bit the pavement pounder. So I felt a little funny pulling up and
jumping out to talk Jeeps. But Charlie was very friendly and seemed very interested
in going wheeling so I told him I would check back with him when Carl and I had locked in
the details. When Carl called on Tuesday and finalized his plans to drive out on
Friday night and go wheeling Saturday, I called Charlie and he signed up for the
ride. Old friends and new friends were in!
Carl showed up late Friday
night so we chewed the fat for a little while and then hit the hay. We got up early
and got the kids some breakfast at Burger King, then went over to Charlie's house.
Charlie was out the door and headed for his Jeep by the time Carl and I got parked to pick
him up. I briefly described our road trip and then we got going.
We soon found that the
weather had turned out great for us. The sun was shining beautifully. The air
was fairly still, and even though it was below freezing out, it was one of those days that
I just want to be out and about. The route I selected was based on my GPS
auto-routing that took us east on Route 68 for a while then south on a minor secondary
road all the way to Thomas and Davis. It was an incredible drive along a windy path
that had many switchbacks, sweeping curves and undulating pavement. It is the kind
of road that made me miss my Jaguar. More often than usual, I had to correct my
course, mainly because some of the intersections were at gradual forks and the GPS doesn't
always show some of the little country roads we were on.
But we went more or less
directly to Thomas where we turned down to Davis to stop for lunch supplies and snacks to
eat on the trail. We stopped along the way for a quick rest stop and to look at the
huge windmills on the ridge outside of town.
Once everyone had loaded up,
we drove down to the beginning of FR 18 in Douglas. There we stopped and got aired
down and disconnected.
We learned that Charlie was
taking the Jeep out like this for the first time so we got out our baseball bats and
roughed up the corners, smashed out the windows, and generally got the Jeep ready for
wheeling. Goodness knows that if we left it in the nice shape Charlie keeps it, we'd
never have had any fun!
But we did show Charlie the
sway bar disconnects that were installed with his Rancho lift kit. I let him use my
Oasis Automatic Tire Deflators. The kids played
by the bridge and didn't get into any trouble. Soon we were ready to hit the trail.
We drove along the trail in
awe of the crisp clear air and the beauty that surrounded us. Soon we came to the
side trail that I had explored the first time I came this way. I figured it would be
an interesting ride up even though it dead-ends where the hunting club has the trail
So we went up the hill on
the narrow shelf, through the muddy ruts covered with a thick ice. I stopped to trim
some branches so we would not get West Virginia pin striped paint jobs.
We drove back down the hill
to the main trail and continued West. Soon we reached a spot where the trail had
some rough spots.
Nobody had any trouble with
that. Next we reached a branch in the trail where we'd decide whether or not we
would take the road less traveled. It is a trail that has been washed out at the
beginning. It's pretty rough though not too bad if you approach it right.
I have gone up on the far
right avoiding the ruts. This time I decided to try the ruts and see how I came out.
Except for a brief moment when it looked like my fender flares might get wiped off,
I got past the rough spot without any trouble. Charlie and Carl each came in turn.
Neither of them had any trouble.
Once we were all onto the
trail branch, we climbed the hill and drove through a pretty pine grove on our way to the
clearing. When we got there, I drove straight down the hill followed by Charlie.
Carl decided to pose on a rock first...
At the bottom of the dip
between the two hills at the clearing I let Teddy get out to make movies of us going up
the hill on the other side.
Movies (click and wait for movie to
At the top of the clearing,
we stopped for lunch. The kids dragged the cooler to the top of a little sand hill
and ate while the "grown-ups" talked. When we were done eating, we headed
back down the hill and then down to the main trail. I caught a shot of Carl coming
out of the entrance.
Continuing west we came to
the Big Run Scenic Outlook we usually stop at. Now I have pictures of this in three
seasons - Summer, Fall, and now Winter. It's a
Time to hit the trail again.
I had not told Carl and Charlie about the observation tower. I mentioned it
on the way and soon we reached the tower. They were quite interested and soon we
were all climbing the long stairway to the top.
spot in Summer |
I should mention at this
point that I am not fond of heights. I can usually overcome this discomfort by
reassuring myself that the place is safe, the safety factors adequate, and my fear
unreasonable. If however, there is anything that causes a lapse of confidence, like
say a rotten step, a loose railing, or evidence of shoddy workmanship, I quickly crumble
in my insecurity.
The tower is constructed of
galvanized steel. Everything from the superstructure to the railings to the steps
and landings are made of this metal. Each part is bolted together with substantial
nuts and bolts. I can personally vouch that every joint is properly bolted (I
checked them as I climbed). I knew that my youngest son Tom was also uncomfortable
with the tower. The last time we came he first decided not to go up, then
reconsidered on his own and came half-way up with me. Whether lacking the fear of
heights or being just plain foolish, my oldest son had no problem on the last trip or this
one and climbed all the way to the top without hesitation.
So when we got to the tower
I asked Ted to stay with Carl and told Tom I would stay with him and he could go up as far
as he wanted to go. To my surprise and only slightly to my chagrin, he decided this
time to go all the way to the top. It's a long climb and for people like me who do
not climb enough stairs on a regular basis, it wears one out. Add to this the chilly
weather, and the slight discomfort of the height, and I could just as easily have lived
with going up part the way.
To my surprise, I found that
Carl too was having a little trouble with the height. Fearless Carl! So he and
I kept our little neurosis to ourselves lest the kids catch it from us and soon we had all
reached the cabin on the top of the tower.
The door was open so we
climbed in. It was awkward getting in owing to the trap door and the psychological
factor introduced by the gap of un-fenced air between the last few feet of stairs and the
floor of the cabin.
Inside we all huddled
together and took in the view. I had observed the wooden floor and was feeling a
little less confident but managed to enjoy the view. But Tom got nervous so we
wrapped it up and then the fun began.
Climbing back out the trap
door was harder than getting in. It was mostly a head trip but getting past the
first couple steps where the trap door gets in the way and the lack of railing make one
question sanity. Obviously we all got out and took the long way to the ground
(stairs). Tom got an adult in front and another behind and he too was pretty calm by
the time we reached terra firma.
After that, we drove the
last little bit of road back to pavement and down to the Canaan Loop road. We drove
in and over some of the rough spots until we reached the crossing I like. I went
over to the campsite and took pictures of Charlie and Carl crossing.
We stopped for a few
The kids wanted to go down
by the stream so I warned them about staying out of the water and not getting too close to
the edge. I might as well have told Teddy to take off his clothes and go swimming.
A few minutes later he came walking up soaked to his knees, confirming my
admonition that his boots were not waterproof. I guess he had to find out for
Soon he was sitting inside
the Jeep in his bare feet with his soaking wet boots and socks parked out of the way.
He would spend the rest of the afternoon in the Jeep, not for punishment so much as
there wasn't anyplace else he could go in bare feet and 20 degrees outside. I doubt
he will get his feet wet so casually again, but we shall see...
After crossing back I
climbed a pile of small boulders and watched while Charlie and Carl followed.
Backtracking the way we came
in we crossed back over a stream. I got a great shot of Charlie coming over.
Back onto pavement, we shot
up to the Davis car wash to clean off the vehicles, reconnect and and then to the Exxon to
air up and for fuel and snacks. We helped Charlie get the disconnects back in place,
I fed the kids some candy they asked for, and we headed for home.