Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Right after I made my reservations to come to Canaan Valley I was talking with a friend of mine at school about it - she was saying that she and her husband had come out here a few years ago, so I asked "is it a nice place?" Without stopping to think she says "no". But then she qualified her answer explaining that it's like a National Park lodge - a room that is functional - you sleep in it and it's biggest plus is that it's warm.

I was sitting by the door reading my book today (the only place to just sit) and when the wind would gust snowflakes came in through the crack between the door and the door frame. much for the one plus of the room! :) *

*The rooms aren't that bad - they are definitly dated, and worn, and small and not reflective of a "resort", but they are definitly what one would expect at a West Virginia State Park - even the snow blowing in through a closed door is very West Virginia!


The NWS was right on with today's forecast. Snow and wind and lots of it. It started snowing about 8 this morning and kept on all day. There are about 5-6 inches I think - it's blowing all around so it's hard to know how much. The wind was the real issue today though, gusting up to 50 mph - and they were big gusts, more like 3-5 min sustained winds. The temps started in the low 30s and fell to 19 through the day, with wind chill values between 10 and 0.

Here's the view from my room this morning:

The lodge is built "motel" style with each room having a door to the outside. This is very poor design on a day like today. You can't go anywhere in the lodge without going outside. Also the rest of the lodge is very poorly designed. There are no common areas where one can go to read or hang out and see outside. The main dining room does offer a view, however they were closed for lunch today in prep for the big New Years Eve bash tonight.

The picture above was taken at the same place where I took the sunset picture last night. It looked this way most of the day. It would clear up a bit as the snow showers moved through, but just as quickly it would look like this again. The building on the left is the ice skating pavilion - it's basically a pole barn.

Just beyond where I took the picture is a trail head - I'd looked at a trail map and saw that there were a number of shortish trails in this area and decided the plan for today was to explore all these trails, after all there's no such thing as bad weather, only insufficient gear right? I had all that one needed for winter hiking - pink Helly Hansen polypropylene long underwear, mismatched REI synthetic long underwear, fleece pants, fleece vest, fleece jacket, gore-tex outer wear, synthetic sock lines, synthetic sock and gore-tex lined boots, polypropylene glove liners, thick fleece lined waterproof ski gloves - I was more than prepared!

I hiked out the Deer Run Trail and came back the Abe Run Trail - it took about 2 hours and when I got back I was wiped - my cheeks were windburned, I was hot (I'd even had to unzip a few layers to cool off), and hungry. I figured I'd walked at least 4 miles. Turns out it was only maybe 3 - I think the snow/cold adds a mile! :) The wind was bearable in the woods - I hardly felt it, however once I got out in the open the wind was brutal!

Here are few pictures from my walk.....

I think the mountain in the distance, the one on the right, is where the ski area is. Apparently there were folks skiing today - the shuttle bus was going and there were people walking around in ski boots - I can't imagine! In this picture you can also see the road - there were lots of cars going in and out - the road was covered with packed snow.

There were lots of deer in the woods - most barely noticed me or cared that I was there. I did not use any zoom to take this picture - the deer even posed for me. Last night there were a lot of deer in the woods by my room and some people a few rooms down were feeding them cereal! I wonder what part of "don't feed wildlife" is confusing?

This is what most of the trail looked like - walking it in the snow was fun, probably wouldn't have been as fun without the snow!
I got back to the lodge about 12:00 and was headed to have lunch but as soon as I got into the lodge I started sweating and I ended up going back to my room to take off some layers. When I got back I discovered the dining room was closed so I had to eat lunch in the "snack bar". I was planning on going to the snack bar for dinner since dinner in the dining room was part of the New Years Eve Bash and cost $50! I knew the food would be mediocre at best so I didn't want to pay that much for it! The dining options leave a lot to be desired around here.
After lunch I decided I'd hang out and finish my book - Winter Study by Nevada Barr, the perfect book for a snowy day! I ended up going back to my room because there was no place to sit and read and watch it snow.
When I finished my book I thought I'd go ice skating so I loaded up all my layers and headed out. I'd also decided that while I was over at the lodge I'd go for a swim at the indoor pool so I put my bathing suit in my backpack.
It was entirely too cold to ice skate. The wind was whipping something fierce and the temps had dropped considerably from this morning. I headed in and hit the "Beech Club". I sat in the hot tub for about 15 mins - there wasn't much else to do, the "lap pool" really wasn't (it was about 15 yards too short to really swim laps) and there were a lot of kids playing around. So I headed back to my room for a shower. I'd tried to be careful not to get my hair wet because I knew I had to go outside to get back to my room, however the bottom got wet and it was frozen by the time I got back to my room.
About 5:30 I headed over to the snack bar to get dinner - I got a personal pizza - it was ok, but it had no sauce! Onions, green papers, cheese, and decent crust but no sauce! Did I mention that the food leaves a lot to be desired? I'm so glad I brought snacks!
I'd hoped to go snow tubing again, but it's way to cold and windy to even consider going down a hill at 30mph! So I'm hanging out in my room watching TV and maybe getting in another book read for 2008!
Hopefully the weather forecast is correct for tomorrow also and things will clear up! It's still going to be cold - highs in the 20s - but if the wind goes away and the sun comes out it will be bearable! I'm hoping to go back over to Blackwater Falls and I found a local pizza joint that looks good for lunch then after lunch I'll head back home!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Almost Heaven

A few weeks ago I decided to take a quick vacation over winter break and I decided to head West to Canaan Valley Resort in West Virginia - I was surprised that they had availability, come to find out the lodge is only about half full! Such a relief after all the traffic of DC!

I left this morning about 10 am - it was a stunning day, mild temps, not a cloud in the sky! Before I left I double checked the weather forecast - the rest of the week was slated to be clear and mildish (highs in the upper 30s/40s) both at home and in Canaan Valley.

I headed out 66 to 81 and on to Rt 55 - a nice road mostly - 2 lane but in places 4 - passing through mountains and small towns in WV. Canaan Valley's website directed me to take Rt 55 west to Harmon, WV and then go north on 32. I'd looked at the map and saw that there was another road - 72 it appeared, although the section I wanted to go on wasn't numbered - that seemed to cut off a significant chunk of the road and passed through the Dolly Sods Wilderness area - I have read a lot about this area, it's a BIG backpacker destination and I have heard that it's magnificent. I wasn't sure why that wasn't the preferred route, but I thought I'd check it out.

The turn off to the road through Dolly Sods was just past "Smoke Hole Cabins" - you know you are West Virginia! Turns out Smoke Hole Cabins is "the" tourist attraction of the area - more signs for it than South of the Border!

I quickly see why this road isn't the preferred route, and why it's not numbered on my's not WV 72 the whole way, part of the road is actually:

That would be "Forest Road 19". Unpaved. Rocky. Narrow. Hairpin turns. No guardrail. And it came complete with dire warnings:

We all know that the beginning of an adventure includes turning off the paved road so off I went! It was sunny and mild and there was no sign of snow whatsoever! Since I was "car hiking" I opened the sun roof and put the windows down - it was a bit chilly, temps in the high 30s, but I cranked the heater up!

This is the road - I was actually heading down at this point.

The scenery on the road did not disappoint! There were some spectacular views! I didn't capture as many as I would have liked - driving required my full attention and I was anxious about stopping and encountering another car, also I has no idea how long this little excursion was going to take and I didn't want to end up trying to find the resort in the dark.

The dirt on the back of my newly washed car!
After the FR ended the road improved....well by WV standards. It was paved and had a guardrail.

That is looking back on what I think was the ridge I'd been driving on.

This little guy was sitting in the middle of the road - Quail? He let me stop the car and take his picture but when I tried to get a little closer he flew off.
It wasn't far down the "improved" road when I got to rt 32 and turned off to go to the resort. It was only 2:00 so I decided it was too early to check in and headed out to Blackwater Falls SP. I could help but noticed that there wasn't any snow. Anywhere. This was going to put a damper on my plans to go snowshoeing tomorrow! I explored Blackwater Falls for a little while - there are a lot of little trails there that I was wanting to hike, but I thought that with snowshoeing out for tomorrow I'd come back and explore then. I'd also found another FR that cut off driving through Davis to get to Blackwater that I wanted to explore.
I couldn't really get a good veiw of the falls. They close the main view point for the falls in the winter - there are 216 steps down there and they get icy and dangerous - so I wasn't able to get very close. This is the best shot I could get - I went around and took the "gentle trail"!

About 3:00 I headed out from Blackwater Falls and back up 32 toward Canaan Valley. I stopped at the Canaan Valley Wildlife refuge to get a map of more little trails I could walk tomorrow, and found one that was just a 1/4 mile so explored it.....
You can really see how flat the valley is!

After exploring the little trail I headed over to the ski area to see what what was going on there. I knew I wanted to try snow tubing so I wanted to get tickets and stuff. They had 2 sessions left for tubing - 4:30-6:30 and 7-9 - I took the 7-9 so I could get checked in at the lodge and get some dinner and stuff.
I ended up having a lot time to kill! I wandered around the lodge and got some pictures of the valley from the backside of the lodge. Again, I'm amazed by how flat it is! I guess it is the "valley".

I then went over to the ski area. I found a little bar & grill and had a ridiculously over priced chicken sandwich and read my book until it was time for tubing!
Snow tubing is a lot of fun! It's like sledding on steroids.

On the left of the picture you can see the tow rope - you get your tube and it had a "leash" on it with a ring, the tow operator hooks your ring on to a little bar and you sit down on the tube (lazy river style) and ride up the hill. At the top they have carved out a little hill so the tube slides right down off the tow rope and you get to go for a little ride. You then pick your run - there are 4 and each have their own personality - and lay down on your tube and go flying head first down the hill. That's right, head first. The guy in charge said! I can't believe that it's safer that way! You go fast. Really really really fast.
"Luckily" at the end there's a "run away tube ramp" with a "padded" mat.

When you get going really fast you slam into the mat at a very high rate of speed, such as the person in the picture below.....(he's on the right, the tube is upside down...). This does not feel good.
On my 2nd run down the hill I went careening into the mat and after that quickly learned how to better control my tube. If I drug my feet I went a little slower. If I slid off the tub just as it was going up the run away ramp I slowed down a bit. If I raised my head up on my elbows it was even better. I'm not sure this is an entirely "adult" sport. The ironic thing is that it's all about weight - the heavier you are the faster you go. I was actively trying to avoid slamming into the mat, yet there were a number of lightweight kids who would have done anything to get that far, they just weren't heavy enough. There were a number of guys who were slamming in every time, on purpose - they were all entirely too old for that and I bet they won't be able to move in the morning!
Once I learned to to control the tube a bit more it was really fun! I stayed until almost the bitter end! I'm considering going back tomorrow night (not much night life at Canaan Valley, despite there being very few people everywhere, the night snow tubing session was packed!).
Tomorrow will get interesting. When I got online the 1st thing I checked was the weather. It's going to snow. 90% chance. 2-4 or 3-5 inches, they aren't sure....then after it snows it's going to be windy and blow all over! It's supposed to clear up by Thurs so I should be able to head home (obviously not through Dolly Sods again), but I might be stuck at the resort tomorrow! So much for walking at Blackwater Falls! There are lots of trails here as well as ice skating and a pool. If the roads aren't too bad I can get to the ski area pretty easy for more snow tubing!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pictures from Christmas

Got these up in the wrong order - always forget that blogger puts them in reverse order so you have to upload the last pic 1st! Then I accidentally deleted a few.... Aggghhh....

This picture reminds me of the one with Maggi (my great-grandmother - my grandma's (pictured) mother) and the split leaf!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tagged by Susan

Exactly a month ago Susan tagged me and I'm just now getting to it! It's been a crazy month!

Here are the rules:

Link to the person who tagged you.
Post the rules on your blog.
Write 6 random things about yourself.
Tag 6-ish people at the end of your post.
Let each person know he/she has been tagged.
Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Six random things about me:

1. I have decided that I need to learn to crochet. I mostly know how to crochet, but I have taught myself so I don't really know how. My great-grandmother used to crochet afgans and as much as no one I know needs a crocheted afgan, I'd like to make some! I love cross stitching, but it's getting old and it's time for something new!

2. I'm almost done with my Educational Specialist degree (it's basically a master's degree, but I already have a master's degree so they made up this new category for folks like me....supposedly it's a "terminal" degree, but I think that's just because it's going to kill me trying to get it!). I have just one more class left - human development. I took my comps back in Nov, but I recently found out that I did not pass one of the questions (which was especially shocking because I have gotten As on everything so far - every assignment, every class, everything so this was a huge shock!), I can re-take just that question in the Spring, but I'm not happy about it. I just want to be done and move on to something new.

3. I'm taking a winter getaway over New Years. I'm just going out to Canaan Valley Resort in West Virginia, and it's only 2 nights, but I'm really looking forward to it! I took grad classes all summer and I think I had about 4 days of actual summer vacation - I need to get away! I'm looking forward to being able to play and not have classes or school or other responsibilities hanging over my head! They have skiing, snowtubing, snowshoeing, ice skating, hiking, all sorts of fun stuff!

4. I'm quite grumpy with the Grinchy superintendent of my school system, he's making us go to school tomorrow (12/22) AND Tuesday (12/23). Every other school system in the area got out on Friday and has 2 full weeks for break. We only get a week and a half. And we go 1 day longer in June than other districts. WTF? I was hoping for snow, however we had freezing rain LAST night all of which promptly melted before the temps plunge to 15 tonight. What a waste. Oh and there's more freezing rain predicted. For Tuesday night. Then rain all day Wed. Wed when I have to drive down 95 to get to Williamsburg. grrrrrr.......

5. My favorite state (and I have been to 38!) is Alaska. I went there last summer with my parents and fell head over heels in love. I want to go back. When I was there I rented a motorhome and I loved having my own space with me all the time! As much as there are other things I'd like to see, I'd love to spend every summer in Alaska from now on!

6. I just got brand new flannel sheets! About 7 maybe 8 years ago I bought a set of LL Bean flannel sheets. I used them constantly in the winter, I'd take them off the bed, wash them and put them back on, for about 6 months out of the year. Last year I noticed that they were going threabare, I could see through the flat sheet in places! At least 7 years of constant use if pretty good I think (especially because I'd gone through a number of sets of "regular sheets" in that time period!). I also wore holes in 2 pair of LLBean fleece socks - I probably had those closer to 10 years though. Last week my package of "warm fuzzy" arrived! I'm heading up right now to crawl into my cozy warm flannel lined bed! :)

Who to tag.....hmmmmm.....I guess if you are reading this and you have a blog and you want to write 6 random things about you, go for it! :)