Holly River:

Dreamer's Meadow
Tecumseh Falls
Elk River/Big Mountain
Sutton

Jeep on Big Mountain

10/6/06 - 10/8/06

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Waypoints

Prologue

The last time we went to Holly River, Maria suggested we come again soon without the kids.  That sounded like a good idea so I booked a cabin for our Anniversary weekend.  I called the Holly River office and made a reservation for Cabin 7.

Muster

10/6/06 This was not much different that packing for business travel except we brought some breakfast food in the cooler to make the mornings a little bit nicer.  I brought my laptop so I could dump my GPS, and so we could watch a DVD or two at night.  I organized the data for the GPS - maps, tracks and waypoints from last time, just to make it easier.  I also downloaded a list of Geocaches so I would have a few to try while we were there.  A friend of ours came to watch the kids on Friday afternoon and when she arrived, we visited for a few minutes then hit the road.

Trail

The first leg of the drive was to be spent getting down into the general area of the park.  Since Check In is late (4:00PM), we decided to check out some stores Sam told me about.

Flatwoods Factory Outlet Stores

Flatwoods Factory Outlets

I like to shop so we both had a good time.  We checked out most of the stores.  We bought a butter dish at the Everything Fiesta store, some clothes at another, and trekking poles for everyone at the Coleman Factory Outlet Store

Coleman Trekking Pole Model 802-251T

I was going to get one, then I remembered that the kids had been asking for them.  Then I decided that Maria should not be left out.  So I bought four, along with a pair of butane lighters for later at the cabin.

We got done at the outlets around 4:30 PM and headed out for Holly River.  We had a little trouble because the road connecting to Route 15 from the interchange area didn't exist where the GPS map indicated.  I found a work-around and we were on our way.

Holly River

We got to the park headquarters at 5:45 PM and retrieved the cabin keys from the office.  We went up to the cabin and got things put away then came down to the park restaurant for dinner.  We had a nice meal.  I picked up a couple Holly River stickers for the travel trunks.  We went back to the cabin and got squared away.  We lit a fire in the fireplace and got cleaned up.  While Maria was busy I spent some time looking at Geocaches for Saturday.  I decided I really wanted to do the Big Mountain Lookout Tower cache.  I located it on the map and read the listing:

"Big Mountain Forest Fire look out tower high above the Elk River. There's no doubt about it, you WILL need a 4 wheel drive."

A little further down I read a finder's log entry that said in part:

June 27, 2004 by Team BattleCache "...Even if I got over the drain, I don't think a 4X4 truck would make the grade, a four-wheeler would not have any problems but there were a couple of spots the road had slipped and not quite wide enough for a truck...The cache has outlasted the lookout tower - it is no more... "

I contemplated this for a good long while.  Maria doesn't enjoy "extreme" 4-wheeling.  This trip was not meant to be a four-wheeling trip and I wanted to keep our time together stress-free.  So I didn't really want to spoil things by getting crazy on a mountain road.  But this cache really called to me so I took the time to plot the course along the Elk River and around up to the Fire Tower.  I would explore this with Maria later and see what she thought.

The other caches I wanted to visit were the Dreamer's Meadow Cache and the Holly River Cache.  Dreamer's Meadow looked like a nice walk that we could handle and the Holly River Cache sounded like it was a short walk from the cabin so I marked them both and also saved the Mobipocket data file in my Blackberry for later reference.

We watched a stupid comedy movie (High School High) and had a few laughs and then hit the hay.  All night long I thought about the Big Mountain trail and tried to convince myself it was do-able...

Reverie Trail:  Dreamer's Meadow and Tecumseh Falls

10/7/06 We got up bright and early, cooked breakfast at the cabin then drove down to the pay phone so Maria could check in with the kids.  While she was on the phone I drove up to the trail head for the Reverie Trail and confirmed that there was a spot to park the Jeep off the pavement.  I took the coordinate and went back to pick up Maria.

Holly River Caches Track Legend - Click to Enlarge

Maria Phone Home - Click to Enlarge
Near Park HeadquartersNear Park Headquarters

We drove back and parked.  As we were crossing the road, outfitted with the day pack, the new trekking poles, the GPS, Blackberry, etc., a woman walking a wee dog shouted across the road to us "Are you doing the Geocaching thing?"

I couldn't very well deny it with my GPSr in my hand and standing at the trail head to a cache, could I?  But it struck me as really loud somehow.  Maybe it's my own desire for privacy or something.  I looked at the GPS and I looked at Maria and "confessed" that yes, we were going to hike the trail and check for a geocache while we were up there.

"You're going the wrong way - you can't get there that way!  I went all the way up that way and had to climb down a cliff to get to the cache - it was horrible!"  I managed a weak "Well, we do this a lot and we're pretty sure this is the right way, thanks."  The woman persisted and managed to unnerve Maria to the point she was debating our choice of paths.

Thanks, I needed that.  I replayed my research activities in my head.

1.  Mike told me about the cache and his hike with his wife a couple weeks before.  Knowing what he is willing to go through I was pretty sure if there was a cliff involved, he would have said something.  He had not.

2.   The maps - nothing on the maps about a cliff.  Just a hike along a stream up to the location.

3.   The finders logs.  None of the people that went there said anything about any terrain hardships.

I asked Maria if she was going to let a perfect stranger undermine her confidence in my navigation skills.  She confessed it did seem a little silly.  We continued up the trail with the woman watching us like we were nuts.  It was a strange encounter.

The trail to Dreamer's Meadow is perfectly lovely.  It follows the stream up gradually with a few crossings where you might get the bottom of your shoes wet.  I could see a person walking the trail in sneakers or flip-flops having a hard time but hiking boots are our standard footwear; today was no exception.

Reverie Trail to Tecumseh Falls
Reverie Trail to Tecumseh Falls

We reached the meadow.  There was a moss-covered post at the entrance but the meadow was at first unremarkable and there was no sign to mark it so we were unsure if this was the place. 

Sign Post for Dreamer's Meadow? - Click to EnlargeFireplace near Dreamer's Meadow - Click to Enlarge
FungusFungusMaria

The trail ran to the right and up a steep hill, and the cache was indicated to be some 300 feet north of our position.

We spent a few minutes walking to the right of the meadow and stopped about 100 feet beyond the meadow where we found a curious fireplace.

Rather than get stalled there, and with the clues suggesting we were too far away from the meadow, we continued up the trail to Tecumseh Falls.

Carved Tree

Along the way we encountered some stairs that promised to make the climb a little easier.  It probably did but it made the steep section look more ominous than it probably really is.  We didn't have much trouble though.  Was this the "cliff" that the woman was talking about?

Steps to Tecumseh Falls

Once up the steps, we continued to the falls.  It is a beautiful, peaceful spot.  There was just the faintest of a trickle of water coming over the slab of rock.  We looked around a little, while we caught our breath, and then retreated back down the trail, down the steep steps, and then along the trail and back down to the meadow.

Tecumseh Falls - Click to Enlarge
Tecumseh FallsOverhang at Tecumseh FallsOverhang at Tecumseh FallsPaul at Tecumseh FallsPaul at Tecumseh FallsTecumseh Falls
Paul at Tecumseh Falls

I noted some rails on the trail on the way back down.

Rail segment near Tecumseh FallsRail segment near Tecumseh Falls

 

I restarted the "find" operation on the waypoint provided and walked directly to the indicated location.  This was about 330 feet north of the post (not 75 as claimed in the geocache listing).  I found the cache and soon Maria was with me.

Fireplace near Dreamer's MeadowFungusBoulder

Dreamer's Meadow Cache - Click to Enlarge

Dreamer's Meadow Cache Log Entry

Horn 'O LittleDreamer's Meadow Cache contentsDreamer's Meadow Cache adviceCoin in Dreamer's Meadow CacheCoin in Dreamer's Meadow Cache

 

Fuzzy WuzzyTrail sightsDreamer's Meadow Sign Post?
Maria near Fireplace - Click to Enlarge

We checked the contents, signed the log, and took a break for lunch.

After lunch, we hiked the rest of the way back down the trail we had come in.  We could have followed the trail in a full circuit coming back down by the cabins, but I wanted to save some time and move on to the next cache...

FungusFungisMaria on the trailTrail Sights

Trail SightsTrail SightsTrail SightsTrail SightsTrail SightsTrail SightsTrail Sights
Maria on the Trail - Click to Enlarge

 

Maria suggested we go back to the cabin and take a siesta.  I told her about Big Mountain.  I told her that it had been described as potentially impassable with a vehicle.  I asked if she'd mind if we just went to see for ourselves.  I reasoned that if we got there and it was over her threshold of tolerance for a low-stress afternoon, we'd either hike on foot if it wasn't too far, or skip it altogether.  It goes without saying that even if she was fine with what we found, I too might have my own reasons for not wanting to go up, and I reminded her of that.

Elk River

So she agreed to go along.  We drove down to Webster Springs, Maria slept most of the way.  We then took the Elk River Road along the (what else) Elk River.  It was intriguing.  There were lots of houses along the 20-somthing mile road all the way to the foot of Big Mountain.  Most houses were on the west side of the river.  I noticed a few fords but for the most part there were big suspension foot bridges.  One was wide enough for the ATV that was parked on the bridge on the east side of the river near the road.  Another was listing eerily and was a patchwork of gray, rotted, and otherwise scary materials.  A car was parked nearby and it tested my imagination that someone actually crossed the thing.  Another one was very robust, with what looked like very new materials, and was dead level all the way across it's long span.  Ironically it had a sign warning that crossing was at your own risk.  We eventually made our confident crossing at Clifton Ford where a large modern span carried us over the river-level ford that still exists.

The road gradually deteriorated.  From pavement to hard-packed gravel.  From wide hard-pack to narrow hard-pack.  From narrow hard-pack to rutted and muddy dirt.  We came around the mountain and spotted some campers near Elk River.  Here we turned up a little more steep trail and I knew the fun was about to begin.

Big Mountain

Big Mountain Track Legend - Click to Enlarge

3D-Topo Elk River / Big Mountain - Click to Enlarge

I watched Maria's face.  No change from the relaxed look she had while we drove along Elk River.  I had already slipped it into 4-LO at some point in the last few minutes so that transition was already done when we got here.

I drove up the trail a ways and noticed skinny street tire tracks.  It seemed strange that anyone driving a vehicle with tires like that would be up here.  But the trail was pretty easy so far so I figured we'd either find it parked up ahead or see where it turned around at some point.

The trail did get rougher so I stopped, aired-down and disconnected.  Still, Maria was relax and happy to continue along the trail.  So far I had seen nothing challenging for us, though I could see where people who do not drive off-highway might be starting to think twice about driving a road like this.  Meanwhile the fresh tracks from the skinny street tires continued up the road...

We reached the spot where one geocache log entry had mentioned a drain across the road.  When I reached the spot the drain was there.  But it was perfectly fine with just a slight grade up to it and the road continuing over it.  If I hadn't been warned to watch this spot I wouldn't have even noticed it.  Just the same, thinking the drain was rotten and waiting like a sink hole to swallow me, I got out and walked up to it to see if it was OK.  There was nothing wrong with it at all.  The only thing I can think of is that it has either been reburied or replaced because a car could drive over it the way we found it.

So onward and upward.  The road did get a little steeper but nothing like the worst I've ever seen.  This was a decent road leading to a fire tower.  Even abandoned for four years, it was still very passable for us.

Pretty soon we found where the skinny street tires had slipped off the trail and evidence that whatever it was, it had been pulled back on the trail by another vehicle.  There were marks where tires had spun, probably snatching the skinny-tired vehicle out.  There were spots where a jack had been used and pieces of wood.  The plot thickens...

The trail got a little steeper and in a couple spots it was narrow but the skinny tired vehicle continued and so did we.  Then we found the answer to the mystery.

The skinny tired vehicle was a reasonably large house trailer that appeared to have been hauled out here by a pick-up truck accompanied by another pick-up.  The trailer was set up just off the side of the trail and the two pick-up trucks were parked next to it.  A satellite TV antenna was mounted on the side.  The people were apparently inside.

The trail from here got rocky and steeper but still Maria sat calmly in the seat beside me.  So I said a silent prayer that it didn't get any worse and kept going.

The trail deteriorated continuously from there.  We went past several narrow spots, several deeply eroded sections, some fallen trees, but finally we crested the top of the mountain.  The trail continued roughly level for a good distance.  Here the trail was pitted with several deep mud holes.  We pitched violently into a couple, one putting us at a pretty serious tilt, but no problems.

Then we turned down what looked like an ATV path and landed with the Geocache coordinates indicating the cache was 30 feet directly to one side.  The log entries told the tale of thorn bushes and true enough, it was a briar patch of the first degree.  If it had been 100 feet away I would not have bothered but I figured it wouldn't take too long to go 20 or 30 feet.  But it took long enough.

I found the cache.  There was literally no place I could open it up and relax while I wrote my log entry so I picked my way back to the Jeep with the cache and took care of all that. 

Big Mountain Fire Tower Cache
Jeep near Big Mountain Fire Tower Cache

Maria had wanted to get a pony tail band when we left in the morning but could not find one.  Lo and behold!  The cache contained a whole tube of them.  She picked out a yellow one! 

Maria get's something! - Click to Enlarge

Maria get's something!Big Mountain Fire Tower Cache Contents

I logged my travel bugs and so on, then packed the cache and returned it to it's hiding place.

Big Mountain Fire Tower Cache ContentsBig Mountain Fire Tower Cache Contents

Big Mountain Fire Tower Cache Log

Big Mountain Fire Tower Cache ContentsJeep near Big Mountain Fire Tower Cache
Travel Bugs getting logged

I took the rest of the road up to the location of the fire tower.  While one of the buildings was partially demolished, the tower itself was still there.  It was in pretty bad shape though.  I had no intention of climbing it as the first landing was gone and the steps were made of wood, most likely in a bad state of decay.  It would be for some other fool to climb it!

Jeep near Big Mountain Fire TowerJeep near Big Mountain Fire Tower

Big Mountain Fire Tower - Click to EnlargeLarge Tree near Big Mountain Fire Tower - Click to Enlarge
Big Mountain Fire Tower
Parts near Big Mountain Fire Tower

We picked our way back out and down the mountain after a stop at an outlook someone had cut in the mountain laurel.  The view was pretty striking!

View from Big Mountain
View from Big MountainView from Big MountainView from Big Mountain
View from Big Mountain

Paul and Maria on Big Mountain - Click to EnlargeJeep on Big Mountain - Click to Enlarge

The ride down the mountain was uneventful though the erosion and narrow spots did keep me from getting too casual about my driving.

When we reached the Elk River Road again, I turned toward Centralia and drove until we reached pavement.  Along the way we were followed by an ATV rider, and encountered another who was looking for his two girls.  He found them while I was loading a search into the GPSr.

Getting closer to civilization again we came to "the geographic center of West Virginia.  I thought my friend Mike would like this so I stopped and made a photograph of a marker commemorating the spot.

Geographic Center of West Virginia - Click to EnlargeJeep near Geographic Center of West Virginia - Click to Enlarge

 

 Sutton

The search was to take us back to the cabin.  It took us through Sutton where I stopped to get gas and to air up. We were tempted to get a bite at one of the local family-style restaurants but Maria had been told about a "fancy Italian place".  So having discovered that the family restaurant didn't take plastic, we decided to go see what the Italian place looked like.  That was a good choice.

Sutton looks like a town being rediscovered.  The downtown area looks to be getting some attention.  It's one of those town's that could be the pattern for "Main Street USA".  We drove over and parked near the fire station, across from City Hall.  On the corner in the space where a hardware store had been, was Cafe Cimino

Cafe Cimino

We peeked in the window at the menu and saw that it was probably going to be just what we needed, we decided to go in.  Now imagine that we hit the door fresh from hike and four-wheeling, with me wearing camouflage, and both of us wearing hiking boots and probably not terribly presentable.  Maria was much better than me.

We were welcomed in and shown a table near Jim Walker who was playing the piano.  We soon were given menus, told about the specials,  ordered drinks and appetizers, etc.  From beginning to end it was the best dining experience that Maria and I have had in a long time.  She had Chicken San Marino and I had Shellfish Pescatore.  The soups we had were out-of-this-world.  Try the Creamy Italian Mushroom - it's superb.  I could go on at great length but suffice to say this was the complete opposite of the rough and woodsy day we spent, and it was just what we needed to celebrate the day.

After we splurged on desert, thanked the hostess and server for their kindness, we set a course for the cabin.  We listened to Ottmar Liebert (Solo Para Ti) on the one-hour drive in the dark.  It was an enchanted ride in an enchanted place.

We got back to the cabin close to 9:00 PM, completely spent.  We got a fire going and watched a movie (Wind Walker) about some Native Americans and their lives.  It seemed a good way to wrap up what was a wonderful day.

Cabin at Night - Click to EnlargeCabin kitchen at Night - Click to Enlarge

Holly River Cache

10/8/06 Since we had to leave on this day, we spent most of the time we had left cleaning the cabin and packing.  But we took some time to have breakfast and have a fire.  While Maria did a couple things I made an abortive attempt to go to the Holly River Cache.  After walking a little ways on the self-guided nature trail I soon realized that it would be much easier to go up to the cache on the road, instead of my walk which would make me late for check out and leave Maria dealing with all the stuff. 

Memorial Plaque - Click to Enlarge

Rock Garden Self Guided Trail

Rock Garden Self Guided TrailRock Garden Self Guided Trail

Rock Garden Self Guided Trail
Rock Garden Self Guided Trail

Deer near CabinDeer near CabinDeer near Cabin

So I walked back, helped pack the Jeep and then take a couple pictures of us together.

Maria at Cabin
Paul and Maria at Cabin

Then we drove up and I walked down to the Holly River Cache.  It was easy to find and was situated in a bright sunny spot that you can't see from the road.  It was nice.  I traded an item I had from one cache for a 1936 Quarter. 

View near Holly River Cache
View near Holly River Cache
Holly River CacheHolly River Cache contentsHolly River Cache with Cabelas Leatherman

Holly River Cache Log Entry
View from Cache toward Road
View from Cache toward Road

Then I walked back up the hill to the Jeep and we hit the road for home.

Maria waiting near Holly River Cache

When we stopped for gas I saw a trailer tent that I want to investigate further - Lees-ure Lite.

Lees-ure Lite Trailers

Along the way we stopped for gas and air.  Maria made a little movie of the Jeep going down the road for me.

Movie: MOV02834.MPG Movie of Jeep going down the road...

Epilogue

This get-away was long overdue.  We had a great time together.  I can't say enough good things about this place.  If you like the outdoors, be sure not to miss it!


Holly River State Park GPS Data

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