Expedition Portal East Coast Fall Trip

Expedition Portal Forums

Blackwater Canyon:

Public Road 18, Coketon, Dolly Sods,
Big Run Falls, Canyon Rim Trail, Olson Tower


October 13, 2006 | October 14, 2006 | October 15, 2006 | October 16, 2006

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4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD!



Note: This trip report is broken into four pages because of the huge number of images.  Links to each day's report are provided at the top and bottom of each page.

I received a message via e-mail from Chris Shontz:


-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Shontz [mailto:cshontz]
Sent: Monday, September 11, 2006 3:41 PM
To: ppro
Subject: wv destination recommendations
Importance: High

A small number of regional members of the Expedition Portal forum are
planning to go on a weekend camping trip to the Dolly Sods area in WV on
10/13-16. We would like to establish a primitive base-camp in a remote
location from which we will explore drivable trails (naturally), do some
hiking, and possibly other outdoor activities.

Since you are well-traveled, can you recommend a remote location (or
possible location) in the Dolly Sods area that would be well-suited for our
encampment, accommodating 5-10 vehicles with tents?

We are generally looking for locations within the confines of this map.

If you're interested, this is the thread that pertains to the trip - it
starts to solidify on the last few pages.

Any info you could provide would be great. Of course, you're more than
welcome to join us! :)

- Chris

I know Chris from a trip I took with him and some folks from Pennsylvania.  We did one trip to GWNF in 2002 - the first trip that I had taken the boys camping.  It was good to hear from him and the idea sounded interesting.  With the trips I had already made to the Dolly Sods area I was confident I could steer them in the direction of things he was describing.  We traded email and I posted to the group message and pretty soon we had nailed down a date.  Weekend Adventures Magazine has a great description of Blackwater Canyon.


I resolved to watch the weather closely the last week before the trip.  Not too surprisingly the weather predicted for the weekend was cold, going down into the high-twenties overnight and not getting out of the thirties during the day.  I ran through the specs on my camping gear, mainly the sleeping bags and confirmed that they were rated down to 0 (zero degrees) Fahrenheit.  This meant I could be pretty sure the kids and I would be warm at night.  Then I made sure we all had proper daytime wear - long underwear and layers of clothing we could peel off as needed, along with wind-breaking outerwear for our time up on Dolly Sods.

This time of year is my favorite, and the last few years I have spent this time in Blackwater Canyon or Canaan Valley.  I wanted to be sure we could be comfortable outdoors the entire weekend, so this was my primary focus during preparations.  I looked at the diet as well and made sure we had plenty of protein for long-term energy, and lots of carbohydrates to keep our internal fires burning.

I charged lots of spare batteries for the GPSrs and camera.  I knew we'd be hiking and making lots of images and didn't want to run dry in the middle of the weekend.  I packed by battery charger as a further hedge against dead batteries.  I should have checked my flashlight because it went belly-up on Saturday night.  Too many hot days inside the Jeep I guess...

10/13/06 I pulled up the rather comprehensive collection of data I have for my GPS and loaded it up.  I added a few hundred Geocaching waypoints as well to support us in the event we went close to any caches.  I loaded the supporting data in my Blackberry - the only real reason to bring it since there is very limited cell coverage in the area we camp.

I went through the camping gear carefully, working the checklist and adding a few items that I wanted in consideration of the cool weather.  I ran to the grocery store for a few last minute items.  When the kids got home from school, we packed the clothes and finished loading up the Jeep.  It took on the usual over-burdened look, with three trunks, three camp chairs, the ground pads, and cooler all bristling off the roof rack.


October 13, 2006 | October 14, 2006 | October 15, 2006 | October 16, 2006

10/13/06 Road-Trip

I selected the auto-routing feature of the GPS-V and intervened when the course it gave took us a little further East than we like, and routed it down Brandonville Turnpike from Bruceton, through Terra Alta where it turns to Aurora Turnpike, and thence for a short hop on Route 50 to Route 24, and down Route 219 to Thomas.

Smallest Church

Movie: MOV02837.MPG On the Road
(Movie of part of the drive)

Pretty soon we had completed the two hour drive. We made a brief trip into Davis to visit the grocery store to pick up some lip balm, S'Mores supplies, and wood.  We also got Hot Dogs and Rolls for dinner.

Chris had already arrived the campsite earlier in the afternoon and done some scouting on his own.

Crayfish Shell

National ForestRoadwayRoadwayRoadway
Chris's CarWindmillsWindmillsViewRoad to Windmills
Entrance to Olson Tower and Public Road 18Entrance to Olson Tower and Public Road 18Public Road 18Entrance to Olson Tower and Public Road 18
Olson Tower
Olson Tower
Big Run Scenic OverlookView from Big RunView from Big RunView from Big Run
Path to Big Run Overlook
Rough spot in Public Road 18Intersection of Public Roads 18 and 18aIntersection of Public Roads 18 and 18a

We reached at 5:50pm the campsite that I had first stayed in 2004.

Temporary Structure in preferred camping location...
Preferred Camping LocationChris at Preferred Camping LocationSeeded to Game Food

We found Chris just leaving a forwarding note on the side of a strange temporary structure that was set up in the exact spot that I had set up my tent. 

Message to other trip participants...

It appeared to be a plywood-walled enclosure with a blue tarp roof.  We said our Hello's and he explained how he had found the structure when he arrived and decided to move to another campsite down the road.

As we were talking, the owners of the structure came along and explained how they come every year, they are hunting, they had problems with their tents being slashed, etc., etc., so we wished them well and drove down the road to the site Chris had chosen.

Arrival 10/13/06 - Click to Enlarge

Chris had done well.  He picked the primitive picnic site at the trail head for the Canyon Rim Trail - precisely where we would want to start our hike to the Canyon Rim Cache.

New campsiteParking near new campsite
Picnic table at campsite

The boys and I got the tent set up and then helped get a nice warm fire started. 

Our Tent

We sat and talked for a while and then the kids went to bed. 


Chris and I talked some more and then Chris took his Jeep for a ride to recharge his battery (from running his fridge ) while I turned in for the night.

On Saturday...(click for Saturday)

October 13, 2006 | October 14, 2006 | October 15, 2006 | October 16, 2006

Chris Shontz Photos in high resolution and more:

This is the lot: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cshontz/sets/72157594334335200/

Pictures that pertain to ppro: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=ppro&w=19972326%40N00&z=t

Pictures that pertain to jim65wagon: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=jim65wagon&w=19972326%40N00&z=t

You can also view the approximate locations for each picture on a Google map by clicking on the following links. Please be patient and allow these pages to load completely. There is a large amount of photo and track data being processed.

Displaying w/out track lines: (faster performance)


Displaying with track lines: (slooow performance)


October 13, 2006 | October 14, 2006 | October 15, 2006 | October 16, 2006

Blackwater Falls Canaan Loop Dolly Sods GPS Data

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