04-Sep-2006 -- ”Almost heaven…” In fact, almost in Virginia! Heading northeast on Interstate Highway 81 towards Shenandoah National Park, we took a detour north on I-77 past Bluefield, then turned east on I-64 at Beckley, to break up the trip and attempt our first cp visit in the State of West Virginia. We stopped for the night in the historic little town of Lewisburg ["Only two kinds of people ever leave Lewisburg - those who will return and those who wish they could."]. Of particular interest was a large cross-shaped mass grave containing the bodies of almost 100 Confederate soldiers from America’s Civil War.
The next morning, we were off bright and early, following Ross Finlayson’s excellent directions from his August 2000 trip. Our only glitch was following our state road map, rather than the highway signs, only to learn there is no exit onto Highway 92 traveling east at Exit 81, forcing us to reverse course at Exit 83. [We should have taken Exit 175, past the famous Greenbrier Resort. (And if we’d been a day earlier, we could have taken the newly offered twice-weekly tour of a legendary piece of Cold War history, the former U.S. Government Relocation Facility, commonly known as “the bunker,” located below the resort’s West Virginia wing!)]
Eleven miles past Neola, we parked at Lake Sherwood Recreation Area, which even on Labor Day, the last big U.S. holiday of the summer, was far from crowded. The weather was cool and cloudy, with the threat of a shower. Making our way around the calm lake, we spotted a beaver swimming near its lodge at water’s edge. A little further on we crossed the earthen dam that forms the lake. Although the previous visitor talked about having to get his feet wet to hike across the spillway, we found our path led over a sturdy wooden bridge just below the dam.
On the other side we began an upward climb on the Virginia Trail. A short hike with a gain of 100+ meters in elevation brought us to the Allegheny Mountain Trail and the Virginia/West Virginia border. The ridge was noticeably steeper on the Virginia side, and in a few weeks, on a clear day after leaf fall, the view should be spectacular. After a short walk north along the ridge, we turned downhill toward the cp. Although the forest understory was thin, the tree canopy nevertheless caused problems while trying to photograph ten zeroes. The area surrounding the cp appears unchanged since the two previous visits.
Resuming our journey east on I-64, we picked up a new road map at the Virginia Welcome Station, and couldn’t help but notice, according to the map, Virginia also claims ownership of 38N 80W! Although the location was well within Virginia from at least 1787 until the creation of West Virginia in 1863, some pretty serious plate tectonics would be required today to move the intersection back into Virginia…