Yellow Creek, Otter Creek Wilderness Area.
Making the trek to the mountains, for myself, has always been about true solitude and adventure. As a young man in college, I often found myself in Otter Creek Wilderness in search of unmapped views I had heard about from locals. Elusive small virgin Hemlock stands left behind from clear cutting 100 years ago, stir the mind of a past history, when vacations and a casual stroll in the forest were nearly unheard of. Having a deep understanding about the history of the area will make anyone visiting Tucker County appreciate the hardships of mountain life and the rejuvenation of a decimated forest.
Otter Creek Wilderness is a vast area with four access points on the north, south, east, and west sides of the wilderness area. This is going to be a three part blog, beginning with the western terminus outside of Parsons, West Virginia. Driving from the Davis, West Virginia area, take Rt. 219 south into the city of Parsons. Make a left onto Central Avenue, then another immediate left, following signs for Brooklyn Heights Rd., Wildlife Viewing Areas, and Wilderness Trailheads. Travel approximately 2.5 miles on paved road until taking a right onto Forest Road(FR) 701. Despite the vandalism of the zero in 701, the sign is visible to an unfamiliar eye.
FR 701 connects into FR 324, completing the fantastically maintained gravel road system. I almost forgot to make the point; this is the best US Forest Service road I have even been on in Tucker County! Trailheads found along FR 701 and FR 324 are Big Springs Gap, Turkey Run, Moore Run, and Yellow Creek Trailheads. Each location has an obvious sign, albeit this is what I found when exploring the area for the very first time!
Moore Run trail head sign on the left. Trail sign damaged by wildlife is not uncommon.
The drive on FR 701 is picture perfect.
The plan was to hike Big Springs Gap down to Otter Creek for a view and to scope out how well the trail intersections are marked. A common theme here is minimalism, on every level. Pulling into the first parking lot, I was greeted by a Fernow Experimental Forest informative trail and signage. Since no signage screamed Big Springs Gap, I continued south on FR701. Should have looked closer, this was the correct lot.
My expectations were not far off, the signage is minimal, and going to plan B was to drive to the dead end of FR 324, which is also the parking for Yellow Creek Trail. At some point, when confused or lost, a bearing needs to be found, orientating oneself on the map. Bingo! Made it to the obvious dead end and not a single sign, other than a scarcely used trail in the back left corner of the gravel lot. A short exploratory walk down trail, revealed an aging official sign for Yellow Creek Trail. Good to go!
Again, anticipating no trail signage, I am aware the first trail intersection I should come upon in approximately 0.5 miles will be McGowan Mountain Trail on the left. Marked by only rock cairns (purposely stacked rocks) I exit the fairly overgrown Yellow Creek trail head to an inviting merger with McGowan Mtn. trail. Taking McGowan Mtn. trail from the north into Yellow Creek Trail seems to be the common route used due to the width and clarity of the trail. The above picture is the end of the 1.5 mile Yellow Creek and Otter Creek trail intersection, showing the lack of signange and a rock cairn designated trail intersection.
100 year old railroad ties lay as they were left over a century ago on Yellow Creek Trail.
Otter Creek Wilderness is that place for me. Sorry Dolly Sods Wilderness, as majestic as you are, you are overplayed, weekends may as well be spent in Davis, since solitude is what can be elusive in Dolly Sods. The difference between seeing one person vs no one, leaves the senses in place for a revolutionary experience. When the sights, sounds, and smells are only driven by nature; accountability is 100% of your own responsibility, no matter how prepared, s%*t happens, and you or your party stand alone. There is no better feeling, this is what it means to be alive!
Tucker County roars to life the second weekend of June with the annual return of Cycle Source Magazine’s, Big Mountain Run, to Parsons, West Virginia. The Big Mountain Run (BMR) is the quintessential biker rally celebrating iron framed around V-twin power, comradery, and the good times that come with being in the mountains of West Virginia. You also better not mind getting a little rowdy.
I headed to the Big Mountain Run venue at Camp Kidd, five miles north of Parsons, WV, to catch up with the Dotson family. Without them, there would be no BMR on Holly Meadow overlooking the grand landscape of the Appalachian Mountains. Frank Jr., better known as Chip, and Christine Dotson have their hands full putting on the full-fledged nonstop fun.
Most of the riders are found camping on perfectly manicured, flat grounds. Large campers/RV are accommodated with ease, I would have to say the earlier you arrive, the better the site.
After getting the tour of Camp Kidd from Frank Dotson Sr., it’s off to Patriots 4 to indulge in a pig roast, swim in the Cheat River, and watch biker games. Yes, tough bikers can be big kids also. In the world’s only Tramp-Triathlon, contestants must jump out of their tents, put their boots on, run 30 yards to their bikes, ride 30 yards to the water’s edge, then swim 30 yards to victory. An absolute blast! Check out the YouTube video below.
The fun has just begun. An organized group ride to Blackwater Falls State Park on the finest road surface in the state. I did not make the flat track races, wish I had, with so many classes the entertainment seemed endless. Live music every night, Metzeler burn out contest, and old time bike games are all part of the four day event.
All kinds of bike build contests show off the mechanical skills and ingenuity that come with choppers, bobbers, and baggers.
Getting to know Chris and Heather from Cycle Source Magazine, as well as Chip, Christine, and Frank Dotson was as genuine an experience as one would expect from the hills and hollows of Tucker County, West Virginia. The single biggest take-away is BMR appreciates the exact thing every other local organization or festival desire. Unique locations, small numbers that keep the event intimate and relatable, and the welcome feeling you get from Tucker County residents and businesses. See ya'll next June!
Canaan Valley, West Virginia is unique when it comes to short term rental properties. Not because the actual homes are one a kind or out of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural brilliance. Properties are unique because of the experience afforded when in the highest valley of its size east of the Mississippi River.
Views, peace and quiet, personal space, and the darkest of nights, alone, make for a true getaway from the realities of life. Edward Abby sums it up best with his quote “Freedom begins between the ears.” and Canaan Valley is a great start. Add in the unbound outdoor recreational opportunities and you have the making for an epic vacation rental opportunity.
Since the mid 1980’s development in Canaan Valley shifted from hunting and fishing cabins to vacation homes. Today you will find hundreds of accommodations throughout Canaan Valley in every conceivable configuration.
This day, I was given permission to visit a few homes in Old Timberline for the purpose of writing the Tucker County tourism blog. Exposing all that is great and distinctive to renting a vacation home in Canaan Valley.
How do you like your view?
From the hammock and horseshoe pit.
Ironically, the biggest complaint I have heard from visitors is that...IT’S TOO QUIET! Canaan Valley is where you are guaranteed an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
The picture window effect is a common theme in just about every location. Wide open floor plans make for the ultimate social setting, accompanying all those views to die for.
Can you see the making for a Weber Grill commercial? Well, this is our reality in Tucker County, West Virginia, and we are happy to share it with you. If this is your cup of tea for the ultimate mountain getaway, seven real estate agencies are located in and around Canaan Valley. Visit canaanvalley.org for the full listings and contact information. Make Tucker County yours for the week, you will not regret it!