Spruce Knob: We would have done just fine on the prairie.

Ah yes, Fourth of July.  Long weekends in my house mean #ECSUT altitude training.  Given the fact that I practically live at sea level the only way to get any kind of altitude in is to go west.  This weekend also meant bagging the highest point in West Virginia, Spruce Knob.

Friday morning Perry and I packed up the car, made one slight side trip to the vet, and then we got on the road and headed to Monongahela National Forest.  Full disclosure, I’m a huge sucker for Forest Service and BLM lands. Why? They aren’t nearly as overrun with people. This is due to a whole host of reasons, but the main reason why is amenities.  Personally, I’m there for the trails and the scenery not the gift shops. The drive out to Spruce Knob campground is not for the faint of heart due nor the technologically dependent.  Somewhere about 90 minutes from the campground I lost cell and didn’t get it back until I returned on Monday.

After I set up the campsite (and Perry supervised) we headed down the Spruce Knob lake.  There is a mile trail around the lake and I just wanted to check it out.  As we were walking down from the campsite a couple in a Subaru passed us on the road.  We met them again when we got to the far side of the lake.  Turns out Allison and Bobby were on their honeymoon.  Even more coincidentally, Allison just graduated from the exact same program at the University of Maryland that I am getting ready to start.  As we were sharing drinks later in the evening we started to pull the thread and we found out that we had even more people in the common.  Apparently we had to travel 300 miles to the middle of the woods to meet each other! Looking forward to hanging out with them when they return from their honeymoon.

Total for the day: 2.5 miles

IMG_9665Saturday morning I woke up in a FOUL mood.  Altitude always does that to me.  I don’t sleep well my first night therefore the next day I’m a little on the cranky side.  Normally I can push through it just fine, but Perry decided that he was going to be a major jackass on the trail.  I had decided to do Allegheny Mountain Trail to Tom Lick Trail to Seneca Creek.  However, there was one tiny problem.  Even though AMT sits on top of the ridge line, it was still a huge mud slick.  Combine over 20 pounds of water on your back with the mud slick with a dog who smells deer and it’s a recipe for slipping and sliding.  One hyperextended knee later my mood was upgraded from foul to downright bitchy.  We both managed to make it back to camp, alive, but there were some tense moments in the woods.

Saturday afternoon GardnerGirl arrived.  She was laughing when she got out of the car.

“I saw a BEAR! On the road! And I didn’t get a picture!!!”

I was stunned, “How could you not get a picture?”

“I was too busy staring at the bear!”

“But you grew up in Maine, how could you never have seen a bear before??”

We decided to drive up to the top of Spruce Knob to do Huckleberry Trail.  The plan was to do 10ish miles and be back to the summit by the time the sun was going to set.  Ah, yes, plans, amazing how those change.  Once we found the trailhead we started to pick our way down it.  Rocky doesn’t even begin to touch this trail.  It was becoming less and less fun as we went along.  An hour in and we had only done 2.5 miles.  I looked at her and said, “I want to turn around now, this isn’t fun any more.”  Sometimes you just have to know when to say enough.

IMG_3847We went back to the summit and posed for pictures and wandered around the summit.  Ok, now this is fun again.  The view was absolutely stunning from the top.  You could see for miles around with hardly a house, building, or anything to be seen.  IMG_3848We headed down the mountain to make dinner.  We had appetizers of grilled tomatoes, melted mozzarella and basil with a drizzle of balsamic glaze.  Followed by steak, potatoes, and grilled asparagus.  As we were piling our plates up with super yummy food GardnerGirl remarked; “I think that we would have done just fine on the prairie.”

Total for the day: 15 miles

Sunday was going to be a long day.  Seneca Creek is a 5.2 mile out and back trail.  On the fly we decided to make a slight adjustment to the plan and decided to go up Judy’s Spring (which is a near vertical climb) up to Horton’s Trail and then take Hortons back down to Seneca Creek. It was going to add a bit more mileage, but would make things a little more interesting.  As we turned onto Judy’s Spring we turned right instead of left (misreading the sign). We cleared a ridge and I was not feeling super confident due to a lack of blazes on the trees.  Despite GardnerGirls wanting to go on, I dug my heels in and we turned around went back to the last sign and turned left instead of right.  Ah! Blazes.  Sometimes being a chicken about ‘exploration’ goes in my favor.

IMG_9712I need to say this: God how I love the climb.  The steeper the better.  It just makes me happy.  I don’t know why, but I just do.  Judy’s Creek may only be 0.7 of a mile up it’s straight up.  I just engaged MountainPony mode and up we went.  I may have gone a little too fast for GardnerGirl.  You see that tiny pink spot in the middle of that picture? Yeah, I think I may have gone a bit too fast.  Perry and I waited for her at the top of the ridge line.  Oops.

Horton’s Trail down from Judy’s Creek was nasty.  It was rocky, wet, and slick. We were shocked that mountain bikers were going down (we assume down) the trail given the number of trees that were down.  While it wasn’t as bad at Huckleberry it was a fairly close 2nd. We connected back up with Seneca Creek and started making our way back to the car.

Total miles for the day: 11.5(ish) my GPS died so mileage is estimated.

Total miles for the weekend: 29(ish)

I’ll take it! While 4,000′ may not be the 10,000′ I’m going to run into in Utah, at least it beats 0′.

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