22-Oct-2019 -- As I was in the region promoting the use of geotechnologies (mapping, GIS, GPS, remote sensing) in education at James Madison University in Virginia and at the Applied Geography Conference in Charlotte, and as I had just made a stop at a place I had always wanted to see--the telescope array at Green Bank, West Virginia, I considered that 38 North 80 West might be doable. Would I have enough time before the sun set?
The main challenge in reaching this confluence was not the hike itself, but rather, getting to the vicinity of the confluence. The reason is because the Green Bank telescopes are radio telescopes, and therefore, cell service is disabled in quite a large area around the site. And lacking any paper maps, in departing Green Bank, all I remembered was that 38 North 80 West was near a state park surrounding a reservoir, somewhere south of Green Bank. Thus, I just headed south on state highway 92, keeping the sun at my right at each intersection, ensuring my southerly route. My phone map was now available, but at extremely low resolution, but I could see that I crossed 38 North at some point, along State Highway 92, and cheered up when I found the turnoff to Sherwood Reservoir. The sun was sinking lower and I was a bit nervous about deer in the area, as the forest closed in on both sides of the road. However, my main concern was that I was a bit dismayed upon reaching the reservoir: The closest approach with a vehicle was at a trailhead on the west shore of the reservoir. I had been thinking that I would be able to park near the dam holding back the reservoir. The extra hike would be lovely, but would I have time to reach the point before sundown? Haste was in order! I gathered supplies and a minute later I was off.
As I hiked along at the briskest pace I could, I found myself wondering--was this a lake or a reservoir? There was an earthen dam along the south side, but I suspected that this was a natural lake that had been widened and deepened through the addition of the earthen dam. So, in that sense, it was both a lake and a reservoir. It certainly was beautiful, and I did allow myself a few precious minutes to take some photographs of the sunlight on the far ridge. I knew the confluence lay on that ridge, and at this point it looked pretty steep and completely covered in forest. Nevertheless, I pressed on, leaving the trail to cross the spillway, which was running with water a few inches deep over it. Only after I reached the far bank did I notice the trail bridge crossing a bit to the south. But because I did not cross at the bridge, I missed the turnoff to the Allegheny Trail, which would later be a slight factor.
I headed north on the trail, now on the east side of the lake. I couldn't figure out where the Allegheny Trail should be heading east, and not finding it, soon I decided to break from the trail and head cross country. It became steep; downed logs abounded, rocks were underfoot, along with slippery moss from the recent rains, and it was slow going. I abruptly decided to stop and call this an attempt: I did not want to be up here without a flashlight after dark. But when I took the pictures and realized I was only 330 meters west-northwest of the confluence, I abruptly set off again, and reached the confluence about 10 minutes later. I did quite a long confluence dance due to the heavy timber cover but was glad I had decided to attempt this beautiful spot.
The confluence is on a long saddle that slopes down to the lake toward the west-northwest. It is covered with middle aged trees, so I assume this area has been logged in the past. It I believe is public land with trails off to the south and east. It is just downslope from the state line.
The temperature was about 58 F, with no wind, before sundown on a mid-autumn lovely day. I saw no animals or birds; surprising, as I could have seen deer here or even a bear. This was my first confluence in West Virginia, and so I now have visited a confluence in 48 of the 50 US states--missing South Carolina and Alaska. I hoped to visit a point in South Carolina later this week during this same trip. I have stood on 38 North many times in the past 15 years, from California on the west to Virginia on the east, and I have stood on 80 West several times as well, from Ontario Canada on the north to North Carolina on the south. The view from the confluence is limited, but this was one of the most beautiful confluence approaches I have encountered--the hike along the lakeshore. It was amazing that 13 years had elapsed since the last visit here.
Wasting no time, as it was becoming gloomy in the trees, I as quickly as I could, descended downslope, but a little south of the way I had come upslope. So, at the bottom of the slope, I crossed a small ravine, and found the Allegheny Trail. I quickly realized why I had not seen it on the way up--it was because I crossed the lake end at the spillway instead of the pedestrian bridge. Note to the future hiker: Cross at the bridge and proceed east up the trail, and only cut cross country when you reach 80 West. You will have a much easier time than I did. I got a few scratches but emerged largely unscathed. I was sure I was the only person in the area wearing a tie. I made haste back along the earthen dam and then on the trail along the southwest side of the lake. I reached the vehicle right as the gloom descended. Success and just in time!
I left the lake area and drove south, reaching Charlotte just after midnight. I wished I would have seen the beautiful West Virginia terrain that evening as I drove, but I had seen quite a bit today for which I was thankful. Get out there and explore!