Category: National Forests

Elakala Falls in Blackwater Falls State Park

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Someone told us to go to Elakala Falls, so we did. It’s a short, but treacherous, slippery walk down to the pretty falls. Another photography workshop was scattered all over the rocks, their mentor moving around to help each.

The Elakala Falls are a series of four waterfalls of Shays Run[2] as it descends into the Blackwater Canyon in West Virginia. They are within Blackwater Falls State Park[3] and are quite popular among photographers, with the ease of access for the first waterfall, and the relatively low traffic of the other waterfalls in the series.[4]: 219  The first of the series of waterfalls is 35 feet (11 m) in height and is easily accessible from park trails. It is the second most popular waterfall in the park.[1] From the official Elakala trail there is a bridge over the top of the first waterfall offering easy access and views.[4]: 219  The remaining three waterfalls of the series are progressively more difficult to access, and have no official marked trails to them.[1] The gorge is nearly 200 feet deep at this section accounting for the difficulty of the descent to the lower waterfalls of the series. From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elakala_Falls.

Bear Rocks Preserve in The Dolly Sods Wilderness

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

45 minutes from Blackwater Falls State Park, driving through Canaan Valley, is the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area. I am on a photography workshop with Mark Zablotsky (https://www.markzphotoworkshops.com) exploring West Virginia. The weather has been for rain the entire week, so I guess we were lucky to be confronted by heavy fog. By the time we got to the gravel road leading up the east side of the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, we could barely see 10 feet in front of us. We crept up the narrow road hoping no one was coming down in the dark. Our goal was to catch the sunrise from the top of Bear Rocks, but that was not to be. Finally at the top, we pulled into a parking lot that was filled. I think most were photographers like us, but there were also hikers and probably others who just wanted to see the area.

“Dolly Sods is a rocky, high-altitude plateau with sweeping vistas and lifeforms normally found much farther north in Canada. To the north, the distinctive landscape of “the Sods” is characterized by stunted (“flagged”) treeswind-carved bouldersheath barrens, grassy meadows created in the last century by logging and fires, and sphagnum bogs that are much older. To the south, a dense cove forest occupies the branched canyon excavated by the North Fork of Red Creek.”

“The name derives from an 18th-century German homesteading family — the Dahles — and a local term for an open mountaintop meadow — a “sods“. From Wikipedia. The wilderness area covers 17,300 acres just north of Seneca Rocks. There are some 47 miles (76 km) of hiking trails within the DSW (see below), many situated along the courses of abandoned railroad grades and old logging roads. The premier viewpoint within the Wilderness, affording a vista of the entire Red Creek drainage, is at a set of rocky crags known as Lion’s Head Rock. It is reached by an almost three-mile climb from the nearest road. The last quarter mile is an eight-foot-wide bench (an old railroad grade) in the side of an otherwise steep slope. Like the cliffs constituting the eastern edge of the Sods at Rohrbaugh Plains, Lion’s Head Rock consists of a mixture of sandstone and conglomerate. The Northland Loop Trail is a 0.3 mile interpretive trail just south of Red Creek Campground on FS Rt 75 which accesses Alder Run Bog a typical, and much studied, northern bog or southern muskeg.[6]” From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolly_Sods_Wilderness.

As we waited in the parking area, we talked with others about when or if the fog might lift. A young lady had a drone, and she sent it up to try to get above the fog, but she could not. She got nervous when it went out of sight, lost in the fog. She was afraid it might not find its way back. I enjoyed talking with a gentleman who had camped at the campground a mile or so back down the road. He said he slept in his car, a Subaru SUV. Looking at the small vehicle, I couldn’t quite imagine, but as he talked about not want to drive up here in the dark, I asked if I could see. He smiled and opened up the back of the car. Using someone else’s design, He had built a wooden camping frame, including a pull-out table and cutting board, storage area, shelves with a rechargeable battery. He was quite proud of his Exbed mattress that he said is just like sleeping at home. He also has a tent that fits over the back so he can leave the hatchback open. I thought it was very cool, especially for a place like this.

After the sun came up, the fog was still socked in, so we decided to walk around the bog and take pictures. I thought it a good time to use my Zeiss macro lens. I have not used it because I couldn’t get it to work. Kevin had the same issue, so Mark showed us we had to have it set to the red number on the manual F-stop ring. I had such a good time wandering the waist-high bushy mountain top that I got lost in the fog. With everything looking exactly the same, I wasn’t sure where I was. There were paths, so I followed one to a big sign describing the area and turned left down the hill when I heard Mark calling out to me from the other direction. I yelled back and headed toward his voice. It took a few more yells to get me back to the parking lot. A gentleman said I was lucky. It is so easy to get lost up here in the fog. Heading back down the road, I promised myself to come back as this is a very special place…..and we could barely see anything.

On our way down the mountain, we came upon a young man standing beside his white van that had one wheel stuck in a deep ditch. He said a guy ran him off the road and never stopped. We had no tow rope, but Mark said he saw a similar problem last year and found a truck shop that could help him. We would send help. I think it was Oakdale Repair shop with trucks and cars all over the lot. Two nice young men inside decided who would go, nodded and agreed to head up the mountain. Thanking them, we headed back to Blackwater Falls State Park.

Catskills to Poconos

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33℉ with 3-5 inches of snow in the forecast

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

We drove west through the Catskills, then turned south on 47. We drove the length of the Catskills reservoir that supplies New York City with water. We noted in the last couple of posts about the lack of rain in this area. My pictures don’t do justice to the dramatic low levels of this water system. You can see a bunch of small fishing boats to give you some perspective. Every stream we have crossed is very low or dry. This is home of some of the most famous trout streams in America. There was still water in these, but not a lot. A little research shows that New York consumes 1.1 billion gallons of water from this reservoir. I thought about the similarity to Mexico City, which was built on an area surrounded by huge lakes that are not gone, and underground reservoirs continue to drop. 

Then we drove through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. This is a very pleasant drive through a well-managed wildlife area along the Delaware River, which looks quite pretty. Fields are planted for wildlife, but it also is a great buffer for the river. A nice bike trail runs the whole length, and trails go all through it. 

Stopping for lunch, we studied options for places to stay the night and agreed on Hickory Run State Park in Pennsylvania, open until the first of November. It will be cool here for a couple of days with rain/snow tomorrow. Then it turns nice for a week. It looks like a very nice park with a lot of trails. Although it was chilly, we built a fire and enjoyed sitting out for a while. Martha cooked sweet potatoes in the fire along with pork chops and peas. 

The showers are closed for the season and there are no flush toilets, so I’m pretty sure Martha will be wanting to move on tomorrow. For the first time, she took a shower in the trailer! Out came the exercise ball, the roller log, LL Bean bag  and the yoga mat. I asked how it was and she said, “Great”.

West to Catskills

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32℉ at 5:00

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

We decided to head west through the Green Mountains on Rt. 7, then 9 to 87 south to 23 that took us through Haines Falls, then 214 south into the heart of the Catskills. It was a pretty drive all around. The East side of the Green Mountains were without leaves, yet they were still pretty. At the top of the highest mountain there was a viewing area, but it was on the wrong side of a busy highway with no room for a trailer. After crossing over, there was snow on the ground. They probably got 4-5 inches a couple of days ago. As we drove down the west side, there were leaves and colors. I don’t know what the story is on the town of Bennington, but it is beautiful, and unlike some of the other towns, this is an affluent area.

Well, I hate busy interstates, and 87 goes to New York City. It’s a small interstate with a lot of traffic and a speed limit of 65. The wind was blowing hard, moving us around just a bit, but it makes you concentrate. The scenery was pretty following the Hudson River, but I was happy to turn off on 23 at exit 21. Driving through a wilderness area on a very narrow, winding road with huge drop-offs and road construction, made the palms sweat a bit. It was obvious everything was very dry. There was very little water in any stream. Then winding down 214 south through the Catskills, we arrived at Phoenicia, a small town and a campground that was still open. There is no WIFI and no cell phone service in this little river gorge. We had no WIFI in New Hampshire either, at least that my Mac would let me get on. 

We checked into the campground and talked with George, the owner. He said they hadn’t had rain all summer, and the river we were camped on should be two feet higher. He only takes cash, so we went up to town, a block away, got some cash and walked the two blocks of the cute, little town. Martha went into the library to get WIFI and emails while I roamed the interesting hardware store next door that had a sign on the front for guided fishing trips. A young girl worked the counter. She was bored to death, working her cell phone. 

A few doors up we went into a deli and baked goods shop. A german lady greeted us. I first noticed what appeared to be a banana coated with almond slivers with an edge of chocolate. “Now that’s the way to eat a banana!” I said. With a strong german accent, she said, “Not a banana”. I never quite got the name of it, but it was almond paste with coconut inside and I bought one. Martha bought a double cookie filled with jam and dusted with powdered sugar. We also bought some roast beef and some wild berry jam. I wanted a few other things, but resisted. The lady smiled as we left and said, “Enjoy your not a bananna”. 

There were a couple of restaurants, a grocery store, a gas station and a wine shop. What else do you need? With a forecast of 4-5 inches of snow tomorrow night, Martha wants to escape to the south, so we will wind our way south through the park tomorrow and head for Amish Country of Pennsylvania, and hopefully some WIFI.

White Mountains

High of 56℉

It has been raining for two days, sometimes very hard, sometimes very light. Driving in from Naples, we stopped in Conway, a busy place with tourists everywhere. The train is the thing right now as it travels through the mountains with the leaves still in color, but they are past their peak now. We visited the busy train station, then went across the street for a coffee and bagel. Main Street is long and lined with shops, restaurants, ski outfitters, clothing and fudge shops. This place is active all year long with ski slopes busy in winter. 

Rt. 302 goes through the park, and despite the rains it was still pretty. Big, impressive mountains surround you as we drove through Crawford Notch. I stopped at a viewpoint and took a picture. A Jeep was stopped with the hood up and a man leaning into the engine compartment. As I approached, he asked if I had jumper cables. I did, so we hooked them up with no effect. Fooling with everything for 30 minutes, his wife was finally able to get cell coverage enough to call AAA. I hate to leave a guy in that trouble, but we tried everything we could. Probably a bad solenoid or starter. 

Martha called the only campground that was supposed to be open, but they were closed. At the junction of 112 and 3 we pulled into Living Water Campground. While Martha talked with the nice owner, Jack, I looked around. This would do fine, and he was  thankfully open. There was a nice deli and pizza shop connected. It was the middle of the day, so we could have driven on, but we would have missed seeing the mountains. Jack told us about the scenic drives through the park. He said to pick any camp spot we liked. He had shut the water off, and there is only one bathroom, but it has a shower. He said there is 30 amp power behind the office, but the prettiest places are by the river with 15 amp. He gave us the weather forecast with a low of 34 and a little snow for tonight, but getting colder over the next five days with snow every day. We selected a beautiful, grassy spot beside the Ammonoosuc River. 

After lunch, we drove part of the loop Jack had suggested. Some of the roads are main highways going through. Some are smaller, and one you pay $36 to drive through. With rain and fog, we decided not to drive that one today. Still no moose sightings, but we did see three big turkeys. These are very pretty mountains with little towns scattered throughout. Each road seemed to follow a beautiful river, although they were all very low, so they obviously need the rain. 

We went to the deli for carrot and ginger soup and a pizza. Martha was able to do some exploring on her iPad. New Hampshire and Vermont were also slated for some light snows, and open campgrounds were hard to find. On Wednesday the low will be 18℉, and snow on four of the next six days. With highs in the upper 30’s, there won’t be much accumulation, but we might not be biking this week.

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