After six or so mind-numbing hours on the road from Indy to West Virginia, we finally turned off of I-79 onto US 50. As we entered the Monongahela National Forest, we were treated to a magnificent sight: a row of elegant wind turbines rising over the mountain ridge. They were mesmerizing. Rather than detract from the landscape, they magnified it. We watched for them all along the way as the road snaked up and down the hillsides.
We passed by a few quaint homes with gorgeous views, but more often we saw run-down, dilapidated houses that testified to the ongoing difficulties of the region's economy. (Some have made the argument that wind farms like the one we passed have only extended the economic woes....but that's a discussion for a different blog.)
We finally reache
d the Blackwater Falls Lodge around 5:00. After checking in and checking out our cozy room (with a view of the canyon - worth the extra $5 a night!) we set out on the Elakala Falls trail (pictured). The trail starts from the lodge and almost immediately passes over Shay Trace, which cascades down the canyon to Blackwater River. We relaxed on the bridge for several minutes, enjoying the music of Elakala Falls (left).
The hike was a fantastic de-stressor after the long drive. We walked through spruce and hemlock forests, past moss-covered boulders, and over creeks and cascades. Rhododendrons spread throughout, reminding me of our hikes in the Smokies.
We took the Elakala Falls trail South to the Balanced Rock trail. For the most part, the trails were well marked; colored blazes on the trees lead the way. Unfortunately, on the Balanced Rock trail, the blue blazes ran out, and we never made it to the balanced rock itself.
We turned back to the Shay Trace trail, taking it West a wa
ys to the cabins. Peeked inside one: very nice looking! Clean, with neatly furnished rooms and a full kitchen. Not exactly roughing it, but you still wake up in the morning smack dab in the middle of a National Forest, so all-in-all not too bad. From the cabins, we doubled back and took the trail all the way back to the lodge. On the way, we interrupted a deer family dinner. It was clear they were used to people; mom started slowly walking away, but the two youngsters kept munching on their leaves.
Once at the lodge, we checked out the restaurant. Wednesday night special: Turkey Manhattan!! As there were only two other groups dining at the time, we hoped to get a table by the canyon-side windows, but no luck. Our waitress took us to an empty section off to the side. The food was hearty and tasted good after a bit of hiking.