We’re over in the Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia for the second half of our trip, and we’ve gotten in a few hikes and a few bike rides despite a bit of a turn in the weather (it’s been pretty stormy here). We’d be posting more as we go, but we are apparently in the middle of the National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ). Raise your hand if you know what this is (ok, so I can’t actually see you, so never mind on the hand thing).
I have just enough internet to be able to learn that the NRQZ is a 13,000 square mile area with highly restricted radio transmissions. It was created back in 1958, and the reduced transmissions are intended to protect the capabilities of two nearby radio telescopes used for military intelligence and scientific research. As a result, there is very little broadband or cellular coverage here (cell phone towers are limited to just a handful of larger towns).
There are actually trucks that run around the valley to detect excessive transmissions and tell you to knock it off (so if this blog ends suddenly, you know why).
Anyway, while it’s a little harder to share adventures without broadband, there’s been no shortage of adventures to share. Looking back, we did a great hike on our last day in the highlands, nine miles across the shoulder of Mount Rogers. We had a bit of everything: streams, summits, high meadows, rock scrambles, and of course wild ponies. Mount Rogers has a population of wild ponies that were first introduced in the 1940s.
Midweek, we drove across to West Virginia, stopping long enough en route to hike to the Cascades in Giles County, near Virginia Tech. The Cascades are very well visited, but we caught them on a rainy day so the crowds were thin. I’d never done the hike, am pretty sure I’m the only Tech grad that hasn’t been up there. It was a popular place to go on a date in college, so I told Souzz I’d act awkwardly to pretend like we were on a first date (she told me I do that all the time anyway).
From there we made it over to our current AirBnB in Slaty Fork, where we have biked and hiked our way through a bunch of new spots. We started with a long stretch of biking on the Greenbrier Trail, including passing through 500 foot long Sharps Tunnel and visiting Clover Lick Depot.
We followed up the Greenbrier Trail with a bike ride into the Cranberry Wilderness along the gated forest service road above Cranberry Campground. The river flows out of the bogs in the high country, with the headwaters well above 3000 feet. The Forest Service does a great job of maintaining access while preserving the natural beauty of the wilderness. We loved that trail, didn’t see a soul, and the Cranberry is just as beautiful as I’d remembered.
In between, we’ve also been cooking a lot at our AirBnB, including sides like a nice smoked trout dip and my mom’s macaroni and cheese recipe last night (this blog is called souzzchef, after all). These dishes are always crowd-pleasers (although we can’t gather a crowd as we don’t have cell service and we are in the middle of a pandemic).
Back to hiking, today’s outing was to Otter Creek Wilderness, another of West Virginia’s crown jewels (along with the Cranberry and Dolly Sods). It was a lovely hike in mostly dry weather, highlighted by Souzz spotting a big black bear crossing the creek. I love the candid expression here (on Souzz, not the bear).
Otter Creek is rugged and wet, in a bowl between Shavers Mountain and McGowan Mountain. It feels intimate in there, is shady even on sunny days, and yet it’s very green–and stunningly beautiful, definitely worth a visit. We could have spent multiple days there.
Tomorrow we have one last adventure planned, but we don’t want to share too much about it and trigger the radio detector truck. If we do somehow encounter the truck, Souzz tells me she’ll just act like we’re on our first date.