Starting Mileage: 2403.6
It was downright cold when I woke up the next morning. Rather, it was cold outside; inside it was so warm under the blankets that it took me a while to get out of bed. But the need to get on the road, and a boxer nose that kept making those exasperated snorts in my face, made me drag my butt out from the warmth. I took the dogs for a walk around the grassy area but after they had quickly done their business, they were pulling me back towards the hotel. I got the hint.
After I poured out their breakfast, I made my way to the lobby for mine. I found the offerings to be consistent if nothing else. I guess I can’t expect much for free and in short order I was back in my room with a waffle and some yogurt. I was eager to get going and wolfed the food down before we were back on the highway. I had been debating whether to take my time or push to get back home that night and figured I would let the road decide: if there was something fun worth exploring then we would explore and we would get home when we got home.
Knowing that we were entering Jefferson National Park, I had my eyes peeled for any sign indicating where we would have to go for a hike. After I emerged from a tunnel that ran through a mountain, I finally saw a sign. The sign told me that we were leaving Jefferson National Park. Huh. I thought about turning around to try and find our way back in there but I was soon gratefully that we were not in the trails when a sudden snow storm descended on us. It cleared quickly and I decided to stop for a coffee and made my way towards Bluefield West Virginia. Some parts of the drive were beautiful and had lovely views that I was able to sneak a peak at as we wound through narrow hilly roads.
When I stopped at the Corner Coffee Espresso Bar and Bistro, I saw some of the biggest cinnamon buns being frosted by the woman at the counter. I debated getting one as I asked her where some good places to hike were. She told me about Pinnacle Rock then suggested going to Pipestem Resort State Park. I ordered a latte and passed on the cinnamon bun (I know! I’m shocked too!) and began to backtrack to the highway. The latte was nice and warming on such a chilly day and I had planned to stop at a scenic overlook that we had driven past. Unfortunately it wasn’t so scenic because the snow had began to fall thick and heavy in the swirling hypnotic mess that blows through hill country.
By the time we made it to Pipestem Resort State Park, the snow had stopped and the wind had died down a bit. I drove through the gate and was surprised to see that there was no one working. I guess it was an off-season and admission was free. Wahoo. I drove all the way though the park until finally stopping near the visitor centre on the way back out. Seeing as how there was no one around us I had briefly toyed with the idea of letting them run off-leash, especially since there was a trail that headed into the trees near the lot. But as soon as the dogs got into the forest, both Piper and Jack were on their toes. They obviously knew that there was something out there and they were determined to find it. For all his mismatched and unathletic-looking build, Jack is surprisingly good at tracking and has that single-minded puggy stubbornness that will keep him with his nose to the ground as he tries to pull my arm out of the socket. Piper is also a very good tracker but where Jack is like a fish on the end of the line, she just wants to go. Leo on the other hand was oblivious. He just wanted to pee on everything.
I was really glad that I had kept them on leash when not one but two deer went bounding through the forest. Thankfully it didn’t take long for their attention to be drawn back to the trail we were hiking as it was covered with slippery leaf cover and some steep climbs. By the time we got back t the car, I think they were ready to take a break. I never did find out where the name Pipestem Resort came from.
Now when we left the park and were back on our route, I noticed that we were going to drive by Beckley. I was tempted to stop for a mothman but no. I just had a coffee-based drink. I don’t need to stop so soon. Why would I go back to Beckley? Hey how the heck did I end up in Backley? At the Chocolate Moose of all places. Well since I was there it would be a waste not to support a local business. I had remembered the owner telling me about the New River Gorge National River when I passed through the last time and I had just finished my mothman (which was as good as I remembered it) when we arrived at one of the trailheads.
I hadn’t done any research (of course), so I just drove around until I started to see signs for trails and randomly picked one. This time the dogs gave no indication of there being any wildlife nearby which was great because the footing was a bit slick from the recent snow. The trail is an easy one to follow and I soon realized why they call it Long Point Trail: at a small off-shoot you can look over the gorge and see the bridge that spans it. A fog had started to roll in and partially obstructed the view, which I think made it look even more dramatic. And then the snow started to fall again and I decided to go back to the car instead of finishing the trail. I wasn’t sure if the weather would get better or worse and I didn’t want to risk navigating tricky trails when I’m not familiar with the area. And we would have to get back on the road unless I wanted to spend another night in a hotel. Of course, by the time we got back to the car, the snow had stopped and the sun was actually shining. Oh well. The dogs jumped into the car and were curled up before we got too far down the road so obviously they weren’t upset that their hike had been cut short.
I was driving along the bridge when I looked to my right and saw the very point that we had been standing on. I had known that it was high but I had no idea just how high and for some reason that short glimpse of this jutting outcrop of rock that stood in stark contrast to the dark green trees that framed it, well it just got to me. I would have pulled over if there had been a safe place to do so for a picture. I can’t quite explain why it had such an impact on me; it just did.
The rest of the drive north was incredibly uneventful. We stopped at some rest stops, I finished the leftover pizza, and we drove some more.
And then we got to the border. You know there’s a story with me crossing the border. First I picked the slowest line. Of course. When I pull up to the booth, there’s a woman sitting there and she starts with the “Where were you?” South Carolina. “How long were you gone?” I left on Monday. “Where did you stay?” Red Roof Inn. “Is that a condo?” I’ll admit that one threw me for a bit of a loop when I replied that it was a hotel…er motel. “Did you meet anyone down there?” Now this is the second time I’ve heard that question although the stunning guy from the crossing south was a lot more fun to answer. No I didn’t. “Do you have any firearms or weapons?” No I don’t. “Did the dogs go down with you?” Yes I answer and offer their paperwork which she takes and shuffles through. When she hands them back she again asks if I had any firearms and weapons. I tried not to laugh and I probably sounded like I was choking because all I thought to myself was do you think that asking me the same question twice will trip me up? Like I’d go yes…Oh wait ya got me. If it sounds like I’m harping on her I’m not. I have a lot of respect for the the border personnel and it’s not a job that I’d want to do.
So once that was all squared away, back on the road we went. I was going to stop at duty free but I was just so tired and it was so close to home that I didn’t want to delay being in my own bed. I stopped just once to fill up the gas tank and with it being well after rush hour, I made good time across the top of Toronto.
And at 1:41 am, I turned off the car and brought my weary pack inside. I was so tired that I left most of my things in the car and barely pulled on my pajamas before falling into bed with three dogs and two cats curled up around me.
Finishing Mileage: 3585.7 km