Seneca Creek: June 4 – 6, 2010

The Seneca Creek Backcountry belongs to the expansive Monongahela National Forest in Elkins, WV, and covers the wild areas surrounding the gorge its namesake waterway carves into Spruce Knob.  Like many hikes in the eastern woodlands, the trails make use of the plethora of old logging roads, giving good access to the high meadows routes, as well as Spruce Knob itself.  The centerpiece of the area are the Seneca Falls where most campers tend to gravitate to, due to its superb beauty and scenic campsites.

Map

We departed the homebase on Friday afternoon to make the 4 and a half hour drive out to the Monongahela.  We arrived at the trailhead about three hours before nightfall, giving us plenty of time to scope out a campsite.  The plan for the hike was to head north on the Lumberjack Trail, and then pick up the High Meadows trail before looping back on the Seneca Creek Trail, but according to some of our pre-hike research, there were no good campsites along the Lumberjack trail.  Thus, we trekked a mile down the Seneca Creek trail to where Andrew read there was a decent, streamside, campsite, and then double back to the car and start the loop in the morning.  In addition to Matt, Steven, Andrew and Robert…good ol’ Jack was also in attendance.

Camp

Andrew & Steven cut wood at campsite 1

We located the awesome campsite on the banks of Seneca Creek and set up camp underneath the canopy of pine trees.  There weren’t flat spots for a tent so we set up our sleeping area twenty feet away along an intersecting trail.  This may have broken a hiking rule, but the trail was wide enough.  This was the first hike where Steven introduced his new camp meal masterpiece: ground bison meat, with cheddar cheese and grilled peppers and onions mixed in with garlic and steak seasonings.  All we had to do at that point was divide it into patties, wrap it in tin foil, and toss it in the fire.  We each ate two while we sipped on our Jack and told stories the rest of the night.  Our campfire song was the one Stu sang from the Hangover, and we made up harmonies so we all could sing it together.  “What do tigers dream of…”

Tearin Camp

Taking down our tents on Day 2

Day 2 we woke up and ate a breakfast of cliff bars, hard boiled eggs, oatmeal and went on our way.  We doubled back to the parking area to start the loop by walking .2 miles back along the forest road until we reached the trailhead of the lumberjack trail.  This trail was a five mile straight-away, that climbed so gradually you almost thought you weren’t climbing at all.  It was a real yawn to say the least – flat, muddy, and uninteresting.  We trudged on because we knew the meadows were approaching and that kept us going.  Just before reaching the intersection with the Hucklberry trail, we ran into a huge pack of Russian hikers that were either unaware of our presence, or just didn’t care to let us by.  Also, moments before it also started pouring on us.  So, as we started to descend the ridge to High Meadows, we were all a bit wet, tired and annoyed.  Just before the first meadow we found a nice rock to stop and eat lunch while we let the Russians continue on their way…and out of ours.

Meadow 1

Our first meadow of the day...

The meadows, or the Jurrasic Park meadows, as we called them, were fantastic.  There’s something about emerging from muddy, wet forest, into a beautful, expansive vista.  There’s a sense that you just can’t look long enough.  We stopped to take a few pictures, but unless you are Ansel Adams, pictures can’t capture the width and scope of the magnificence.  The trail pushed through the tall grass, and shot through a small section of brush before emerging into an even greater meadow.

Meadow 2

Our second, greater, meadow

This time the trail gave us a bit more time to enjoy them before plunging us back into the forest.  Nonetheless we stopped to document our awe.  Before we re-entered the woods, we all slipped on a wet rock.   Steven, in particular, took a hard fall.  It was deceiving because it looked like an innocently flat stream crossing, but the slick rock awaited your naive footfall.

Falls

Matt and Robert gaze at Seneca Falls

We dropped back into the valley and forged through Seneca Creek a few times before arriving at the falls.  The original plan was to camp here so we could swim in the falls, but the area was packed with weekend campers and we opted for a bit more solitude downstream near Judy Springs.  However, we did stop for some pics at the falls, which were stunning.

Campsite 2

Camping at Judy Springs

The hike upstream to Judy Springs was catergorized by frequent stream crossings without the aid of rock hopping or bridges, so by the time our tired feet arrived at camp (total of 11 miles that day) our boots were soaked.  Also, it had started to rain again, so we were all itching to build a fire.  Judy Springs once was a public campground, but when the bussiness cleared out, all the sights remained, some of which are the best backpacking campsites I’ve ever seen.  All were equipped with rock seats and a well built firering.  Ours even had an old fold out table.  The firering was built up so high to accomodate the enourmous pile of ash, we it predicted had probably been accumulating for decades due to the popular use of the area.  The tiny meadow it inhabited added to beautty, as well as the gently rushing creek that back-ended it.  We got our wood gathered and got our wet fire going.  The rain subsided for a bit, but decided to come back in full force while we cooked dinner.  As is sometimes the case, just when you think the rain won’t stop – it does.  Fortunately, the weather left us alone the rest of the night so we could enjoy our fire until we retired to our village (two tents right next to each other), for the night.

Matt

Matt, over Seneca Creek

On Day 3 we woke up and took our time taking down our camp and then headed down the Seneca Creek Trail to our car.  This would be the fourth time we hiked this stretch of trail over the course of the weekend.  About two miles from the end the sky let loose and the rain unleashed on us.  Within thirty seconds we were drenched, but thankful we were leaving that day.  We all agreed we would have been more disheartened if we had had more camping to do.  Along the way, we ran into the Russians again.  They were taking refuge under some trees wearing their ponchos, which didn’t seem to be doing that much good.  They shouted something to us that we didn’t understand, so we smiled and continued our trek.  When we finally reached the car we had no dry clothes to change into, so rung ourselves out as best we could and loaded into the truck.  On the way we stopped at the Lost River Brewery on 55 East, for some burgers and local West Virginia brew.  It was good eats, and in the background a bluegrass band was wailing on their instruments, completeing the mountain atmosphere.  Whenever we stop for food for our post hike feast, we always like to get the flavor of the local town.

More Pictures:

Filtering

Steripen in action!

Water

Steven filters water

three shot

Steven, Matt and Robert

Meadows

Traversing the high meadows trail

Deer

The remains of a deer...

Wood

Matt cuts wood

Fire

Robert, Andrew, Steven sit around the fire

Cooking

Cooking the bison patties...

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~ by thewoodsboys on June 22, 2011.

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