West Virginia

West Virginia

Matthew, Amanda, Mrs. Morris, Eric, and Cookie on the summit

Spruce Knob, 4,861ft

Date climbed: March 21, 2009 12:13pm

Driving Distance: 400 miles
Hiking: 0.4 miles

Eric Gilbertson, Matthew Gilbertson, Amanda Morris, Mrs. Morris, Cookie the dog

By spring 2009 Matthew and I had officially caught the highpointing bug at 29 for me and 27 for Matthew, and we were looking for another state to check off the list. We only had a weekend, though, it was still winter, and we had done basically all the highpoints within easy driving distance of Boston.

Could we do Borah Peak in Idaho? Nah – better save that for the summer when we could run up it. Kings Peak in Utah? No – it’d probably take closer to a week in winter. Spruce Knob in West Virginia was still on our list, though, and we could even get on a quick direct flight to DC.

At the trailhead

We settled on Spruce Knob, and on Friday evening, March 20, flew down to DC. There we met up with Amanda and Mrs. Morris and rested up at their house to prepare for the trip. Saturday morning we drove out with Amanda behind the wheel and Matthew navigating. The mountains on the West Virginia – Virginia border pose quite a challenge for anyone trying to head west. The mountains are basically long ridges angled South to North, and thus very few major roads head due west. As a result what should have been a 2-hour drive if on interstates turned into a 4-hour drive on secondary and tertiary roads. This route even gave google directions some trouble. At one point Matthew read off this suspicious set of directions we’d printed from online: “Turn left on Jenkins road. Continue 2.5 miles. Make a U turn. Continue 2.5 miles…”

We luckily caught this mistake before going the full 2.5 miles and didn’t lose much time. After four hours of driving we finally rounded the last turn up the windy Forest Road 104 and reached the Spruce Knob parking lot. From here we hiked an easy 900ft on mostly level trail before reaching the true summit, marked by an enormous observation tower. Cookie barked in enjoyment at her first state highpoint, and we all admired the view from just above the treetops. The hike had been easy, but that was no problem with me. My legs were still sore from a 20-mile run I’d done Friday morning (training for the Boston Marathon), and this day was supposed to be a “rest” day for me anyways.

At the trailhead

We didn’t want to immediately drive all the way back to DC, but there wasn’t much more hiking to be had at Spruce Knob. There was, however, a cool rock formation called Seneca Rocks on the way back and we decided to stop there for some more hiking. A short trail led to an observation deck on the edge of a long knife-edge rock ridge. Matthew and I ventured out on the knife-edge ridge as far as we dared, while Amanda, Mrs. Morris, and Cookie played it safe at the lookout point. We watched as rock climbers carefully made their way up the side of the knife edge to the true summit of the rocks. Unfortunately we hadn’t brought any ropes, or that would have been pretty fun climbing.

Back at the car I took over the wheel for the drive back, and we made it back to DC before too late. Sunday we had a relaxing day at the Morris’s house before flying back to Boston.

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