As with my drive through Allegheny Forest, I was once again extremely impressed by rural West Virginia. I didn't take any photos from the road this time, but I did walk to the top of North Fork Mountain and took a few pictures from there. The hike began at roughly 1200' from a trailhead parking area just south of WV 28 on the unmarked Smoke Hole Rd. I took no photos as I walked up the mountain because, without paying attention to details, the forest is the same as any other youíd see in the northeast. Snow and trees. Trees and snow. The real beauty of this area begins around 2200'. Here I began seeing glimpses of the surrounding countryside through the trees. A few hundred feet higher the trees thinned out enough to allow views like the one here. I hadnít been this far off the ground in so long that it didnít seem real. The distant hills looked like miniatures in a giant diorama.
When views to the north opened up I could see the nearest peak, New Creek Mountain, just across the highway. Iíd guess the peak to be about a mile and a half away in this photo, but itís so massive itís difficult to judge. Iím not accustomed to seeing nature on this scale and itís an awe-inspiring sight. I found myself wanting to stop, stare, and take photos at every opening in the trees, but I had to keep going. I knew there would be even better views later on and I could feel early on that todayís hike would be a success. The views certainly helped drive me on, but it wasnít just that. The weather was better and the trail was much easier to follow than on the previous day.
After a few hours I reached a campsite and got my first view to the south. Iím surprised to have found a camp site so soon because if I were at full strength and not planning a return trip that day I could have comfortably gone much farther than the first site. I guess itís nice to know you can take a relaxed walk up the mountain and still make it to camp before nightfall.
Unfortunately, I could not make it past the campsite due to my previous day's adventure. It had taken its toll and I was beat. I also hadn't been able to drag myself out of bed early enough to get any further even if I'd had the energy to do so.
I began to make my way back, but not before exploring the campsite thoroughly. I found one last clearing here offering a westward view more magnificent than any Iíd seen before. This is definitely something that needs to be experienced in person. No photo can convey the grandeur of this landscape.