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 USA, West Virginia, Monongahela National Forest, Webster County, Williams River, snow starting to fall 1-2-449-16

Mountain Splendor: West Virginia Fall Driving Tour

By

Thomas R. & Deborah A. Fletcher

 

            The sun skips and plays off the dazzling waters of Williams River.  It is a beautiful day for a fall drive.  The late afternoon sun backlights the trees enhancing the yellow, orange, and red of the leaves.  We stop at the Three Forks Bridge (Williams River) and watch as an avid angler casts, retrieves, and recasts his line.  The fish must not be biting—probably relaxing in the sun's warmth.Route 150 West Virginia's Highland Scenic Highway, a Natioanl Scenic Byway (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # D-04-2032

            We have seen some beautiful country today.  Our drive started in Cowen (West Virginia) and it will end in Cowen.  We will have driven just over 95 miles, seen several deer,   unnumbered squirrel, and a couple of wild turkey.  Mostly, we just enjoyed the splendor of West Virginia 's majestic mountains in fall.  Yesterday the weather was completely different.  We awoke to a fog-shrouded landscape.  Few things are more enjoyable than walking in the mist-covered woods.  Since the weather was perfect for such a walk, we went hiking.  The mist blocks extraneous objects and thus directs attention to things nearby.  Subtle details, often overlooked, are noticed: the veins in a leaf, the contrast of yellow on ochre.USA, West Virginia, Monongahela National Forest, Pocahontas Co., Cranberry Wilderness, Kens Creek 1-2-111-11

            Our driving tour touched parts of four counties: Webster, Nicholas, Greenbrier, and Pocahontas.  Our elevation ranged from around 2,000 to over 4,000 feet.  Most of the drive passes through Monongahela National Forest .  Along the way, we saw several of West Virginia 's most scenic rivers: Gauley, Cherry, and Williams.  We saw Hills Creek Falls , Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, and traveled along the Highland Scenic Highway

            The tour departs Cowen, headed south on Route 20.  A three-way stop in Craigsville is the first turn: go left, continuing on what isUSA, West Virginia, Nicholas County, Cherry River 1-2-204-3 now Route 20/55.  A few miles outside of Craigsville on the right is a sign indicating the Crupperneck Bend overlook of  the Gauley River .  The overlook offers a beautiful view.  Just down the road, one crosses the Gauley River after which the road follows alongside the Cherry River .  If one enjoys fishing, there are several places to stop and cast a few.  In Fenwick, the route number changes to Route 55 (Route 20 turns right across a bridge).  Just continue going straight toward Richwood.  Route 55 passes through some of the most remote and scenic sections of West Virginia .  One may travel miles without any sign of civilization other than the highway.

            Near the Greenbrier/Pocahontas County line, on the right, is a sign for Hills Creek Falls .  The Lower Falls of Hills USA, West Virginia, Monongahela National Forest, Pocahontas Co., Cranberry Wilderness, Kens Creek 1-2-110-15 Creek is the second highest waterfall in the state.  It is well worth the effort to hike down and see it.  About six miles on up the road is Cranberry Glades Botanical Area.  This is West Virginia 's largest area of bogs.  Here one finds many species of plants normally found only in far moreLower Falls, Falls of Hills Creek, West Virginia's second highest waterfall (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # D-WV-03-0400 northern regions.  The last Ice Age, creeping south, transplanted these species from their northern home.  The parking area is to the left of Route 55.  A short boardwalk makes a loop through a section of the glades allowing one to observe the area without sinking in the bog.  It is probably a good idea to stop at the Cranberry Mountain Visitor Center first, to pick up a trail guide.  (This involves a little backtracking; the visitor center is about a mile beyond the glades.)  Continuing on the driving tour; turn onto Route 150, the Parkway section of the Highland Scenic Highway , directly across from the visitor center.  The Highland Scenic Highway is a 43 miles stretch of road beginning north of  Richwood on Route 55, continuing 21 miles to Route 150, and then another 22 miles across some of West Virginia's highest mountains, to the intersection with Route 219 seven miles north of Marlinton.  It is designated as a National Forest Scenic Byway. The highway crosses two large mountains: Cranberry and Black.  There are several scenic overlooks offering spectacular views.

            The next turn will be onto Forest Service Road 86 at Williams River.  For decades this was a well-maintained gravel road, until paved some time ago. Now it is a narrow hardtop, a wide single-lane practically speaking.  Efforts to widen the road by adding gravel alongside the pavement have been ongoing. The road travels along with Williams River on the right and Cranberry Wilderness on the left until the crossing at Three Forks.  Cranberry Wilderness is a congressionally designated wilderness area within Monongahela National Forest.  This road intersects Route 20 about two miles north of Cowen completing the circle.Fall color, Webster County, West Virginia 1-2-295-19

           Monongahela National Forest, Webster County, WV (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # 1-2-300-9  There are many campsites within the national forest, but what about something for the folks looking for a little less rustic accommodations?  Camp Caesar is the answer for those folks.  The camp is located about four miles north of Cowen along Route 20.  Camp Caesar is a non-profit area owned by the Webster County 4-H Club.  The camp offers a warm, dry place to stay and three hot meals a day.  Sleeping is dormitory style, so bring your bedroll partner.  The home-cooked meals are served family style in the large dining room. 

            Another place to consider staying is The Four Seasons Lodge just outside Richwood.  The Four Seasons features clean comfortable rooms with cable television.  The roar of the Cherry River provides a soothing sound as it passes just behind the lodge.Fall, Big Ditch Lake, Cowen, WV (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # 1-2-375-6

            The mountains of West Virginia are drenched in color this time of year.  The driving tour passes through some of the highest and most scenic areas of the state.  A hike in Cranberry Wilderness has its own rewards.  Some may come to Camp Caesar and decide not to venture out.  The camp has 300 acres with many hiking trails, a mountain bike trail and it borders Monongahela National Forest.

                                               

                                                                                     

IF YOU GO:

 

Cowen is about a two-hour drive north from Charleston.  The airport in Charleston features auto rentals.  Take I-79 North from Charleston to exit 57 (Summersville/U.S. 19).  Follow U. S. 19 south to Birch River.  Turn left at Birch River on Route 82.  Follow Route 82 the 16 miles to Cowen.  Route 82 intersects Route 20 just past Big Ditch Lake.  Follow Route 20 north (turn left at the intersection) through Cowen to  Camp Caesar about 4 miles beyond.  If staying at a Camp Caesar acnin, bring a pillow, sleeping bag, towels and washcloths.

 

Monongaleala National Forest, Fall Color, Webster County, WV (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # 1-2-218-8  Monongaleala National Forest, Fall Color, Webster County, WV (c) Thomas R. Fletcher #  1-2-226-9  Monongaleala National Forest, Fall Color, Webster County, WV (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # 1-2-226-8

 

Last of Fall Color, Approaching Storm, Webster County, West Virginia (c) Thomas R. Fletcher #1-2-225-20         Sugar Maple Leaves, Fall Color, Webster County, WV (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # 1-2-295-12

 

Tea Creek, Monongahela National Forest (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # 1-2-280-17  West Virginia Country Road in Fall (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # 1-2-402-3  Williams River, Monongahela National Forest, Webster County, WV (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # 1-2-449-18

 

Williams River, Monongahela National Forest, Webster County, WV (c) Thomas R. Fletcher #  1-2-449-4       Fall Morning, Big Ditch Lake, Cowen, WV (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # 1-2-377-9

 

Fall, Monongahela National Forest, WV (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # 1-2-111-12  Route 150 Highland Scenic Highway, West Virginia (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # 1-2-297-11  Big Ditch Lake, Cowen, West Virginia (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # 1-2-377-17  

 

Williams River, Webster County, WV (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # D-04-1985         Cherry River, Nicholas County, West Virginia (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # D-04-0385

 

Cranberry River, Monongahela National Forest, WV (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # D-06-2371                            

 Route 150 Parkway Section, Highland Scenic Highway, WV (c) Thomas R. Fletcher         Williams River, Monongahela National Forest (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # D-04-2014

 

Leaving Richwood, West Virginia Route 55 Highland Scenic Highway (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # D-WV-03-0386         Lower Falls, Falls of Hills Creek, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia (c) Thomas R. Fletcher # D-WV-03-0402

Camp Caesar  

Phone: 304-226-3888

1-888-3-CAESAR

http://www.campcaesar.info/ 

E-mail: campcaesar@frontiernet.net 

Camp Caesar has camping facilities and cabins for rent.  Cabin lodging is $15 per person per night for groups (bring your own sleeping bag and toiletries).  Individual cabins may be rented for $47.00-$60.00 per night—or the per person rate, whichever is greater  Camp sites for campers and RVs with electrical/water hook-up  and dump station is $20/night.  Tent sites are $15/night with bath facilities at the pool bathhouse.

USA, WV, Monongahela National Forest, Pocahontas Co., Cranberry Glades Botanical Area 1-2-283-20Monongahela National Forest Headquarters               

200 Sycamore Street             

Elkins , WV 26241                                   

(304) 636-1800

Web:    http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/mnf/

Cranberry Mt. Visitor Center

USDA Forest Service

P.O. Box 110

Richwood , WV 26261

  Phone:  304-653-4826

  Web:    Cranberry Mountain Visitors Center

Potomac Highlands Travel Council

1200 Harrison Ave.

Elkins , WV 26241

(304) 636-8400

Web:    www.mountainhighlands.com

 

Ranger District USDA Forest Service    P.O. Box 10  

Richwood , WV 26261  

(304) 846-2695

Four Seasons Lodge

Drawer F/ Route 39-55

Richwood , WV 26261

(304) 846-4605

1-800-829-4605

 Essays on Faith

West Virginia Tourism  

2101 Washington St. E.

Charleston, WV 25305-0312

Phone: 800-CALL-WVA

(304) 558-2200

Fax: (304) 558-0108

Website: www.westvirginia.com 

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