Last weekend we took advantage of the 3 days off and went from DC to West Virginia mountains. We were not sure about the itinerary but ended up doing cool activities: it's always better to be close to the nature.
First day, a four hour drive to get our cabin in Franklin, a 700 hundred small town surrounded by a rural, scenic landscape of forested mountains at the headwaters of the South Branch of the Potomac River. The water shapes a beautiful gorge of limestone rock walls, bolted with over 100 climbs, making it a perfect place to learn how to sport climb outdoors.
Despite of the low temperatures and the cloudy day, we couldn't resist to visit the gorge to try a climbing route. We chose 'Blood, Sweat and Chalk' (5.9+), the best and longest sport route of its grade at Franklin Gorge. This route has everything: slots, crack, small overhang and a final steep face. Our cold fingers and the dark made us finish early and go to the cabin.
The cabin overlooks the Potomac River but it's not isolated enough and during the night you can see the city lights. We enjoyed our night cooking and walking on the river bench.
Sunday. Weather forecast snowy -5 C (23 F) . Time to hike up! The destiny would be the Seneca Rocks look. Located in the Monongahela National Forest, Seneca Rocks is a scenic crag and a popular destination for multi-pitch trad climbers . It took us an hour of winding road to get there.
On the base of the rock there are a couple of local stores that will help you in case of any forgotten gear (like us).
There is a 3 hour loop trail that starts at the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center and brings you around the rock formations. Doing it clockwise you will ascend northward through a 2 mile steep but easy trail with some wooden stairs at the middle of the hike. It was snowing lightly and a bit cold, so it was essential to pack some extra food, wear winter hiking boots and warm clothes.
We had lunch at the overlook and then descended through the blue-blazed trail, parallel to the face of the rocks, from north to south. While scrambling down we saw many big walls at our right, most of them can be climbed during spring and fall seasons. The scrambling path is followed by some sets of rock steps until eventually the trail crosses a small creek. This is a very scenic atmosphere, specially during winter, because the lack of leaves allows one to see the magnificent tuscarora rock pillars.
One of the bests spots of the entire trail is a huge cave inside the south end of Seneca Rocks, very close to the small creek that runs between the large rock formations. In the cave there are a few routes equipped with bolts for sport climbing. The view from here was amazing.
From there a 10 minutes hike down crossing the wide North Fork river and arriving to our car covered in a thin layer of ice. Back home we were too tired to make a fire close to the river - though we had spent some time on the morning collecting woods...
Freezing Sunny Monday Morning! We woke up at 7am rushing to hit the road to Snowshoe Mountain. It would be an 1 hour drive trip through 220 south. As it had snow the day before the trip landscape was gently covered by the whiteness of winter.
The road becomes more and more scenic as you start your way up to Snowshoe. The resort has build the road till the top of the mountain so after parking your car (and spending a good amount of money on the lift ticket and equipment) you can already enjoy your way down. He was skiing, She snowboarding. Nice and smooth rides, good snow quality and not crowded. The best ski trails close to DC. It was -17C (1 F) and she got a frost burn on her nose.... Ces't la vie during winter.
Around 5 we made it down to get the final lift. Drove 5 hours in the dark, eating the fuzilli a bolognese that we had prepared the day before heated by the car's air conditioning. Nothing like ski munchies. Got back to DC at 11pm, left the car at DollarRentACar and uber home.
What we did last weekend? Had fun in nature!