Blackwater Canyon and Sand Springs

Charlie - Click to Enlarge!

2/19/05

Waypoints

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Prologue

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!

Muster

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.

Charlie and Carl
Charlie and Carl

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.

Charlie and CarlCharlie and Carl

Windmills

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.

Charlie and Carl
Airing Down and Disconnecting

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!

NOT

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.

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 gated.

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.

Charlie

CharlieWoodsCharlie and CarlCharlie and CarlCharlie and CarlCharlie and Carl
Charlie and Carl

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.

CharlieCharlie and CarlCarl
Charlie and Carl

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.

CharlieCharlie
Charlie

CarlCarl
Carl

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...

Charlie
Charlie

CarlCarlCarl
Carl

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.

Movie: mov08281.mpg PaulMovie: mov08282.mpg CharlieMovie: mov08283.mpg Carl
Movies (click and wait for movie to start)

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.

Carl
Charlie

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 beautiful spot.

Tom, Ted and Mr. Carl
Scenic OutlookTedScenic OutlookScenic Outlook
Scenic Outlook

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.

The same spot in Summer | Fall

CharlieCharlie and Carl

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. 

From Olson Tower
Jeep-Ants
from Olson Towerfrom Olson 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.

CarlTed

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.

JeepsJeeps

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.

CharlieCharlie
Charlie
Charlie

CarlCarl
Carl
CarlCarl
Carl

We stopped for a few minutes. 

Break Time
Hillside

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 himself... 

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.

Charlie
CarlCarl

Backtracking the way we came in we crossed back over a stream.  I got a great shot of Charlie coming over.

CharlieCharlie
Charlie and Carl

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.

After the Car Wash

Epilogue

The drive back was as beautiful as it had been when we came in the morning.  I once again reverted to driving like I was in the Jag.  I think it was hard for Charlie and Carl to keep up because of their higher gearing and larger tires.  Or maybe they've outgrown this business of driving fast on windy roads.

Eventually we got back to Morgantown.  I broke off to bring the kids home so they could get dry clothes and shoes and get a little cleaned up.  Then we went to Charlies to visit and have a pizza dinner.  Carl, the kids and I met his super wife and we all had pleasant visit.   I am sure we will hit the trails again soon!


 

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