Category Archives: outdoor roadside attractions

Again, On the Road: Spruce Knob, W Va

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Spruce Knob, on the Allegheny Front eastern continental divide, is the highest point in W Va and the highest point within 200 miles of Washington DC (about 185 miles, 5 hours including 40 minutes to drive the narrow paved road, 12 miles, to the summit, from US 33/WVa 28 near Riverton).

I thought I hadn’t gotten to the summit since 1994, but I then discovered I had been there in August 2010, and then returned to Blackwater Falls in September.

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SR 93 from Davis through the old strip mine fields is now replaced by US 48, which is being made into a freeway.  The Atlas shows 48 intersecting 32 just north of Davis and south of Thomas.  But the sign still says 32. The W-bound side still is about 8 miles short of completion to Davis.  The reclaimed strip mines look like terraced landfills, near the Mt. Storm power plant.  There is one coal processing plant. Halfway between Mt. Storm and Moorefield there is a rather ugly quarry, shortly after the scenic overlook, looking east from the Allegheny escarpment (with wind turbines on top of the ridge).

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(Posted: Friday, July 22, 2016, at 11:30 PM EDT)

A couple more cell pictures, posted on Instagram

Spruce Knob summit

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US 48 view,  some stripmine cuts or quarries visible from overlook 20 miles NW of Moorefield

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Mountain trip: VA, W Va high country clips

 

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One of the most scenic highways in Virginia is US 250, which crosses eight mountain gaps on the way to the W Va border.  It is the highest normal US highway in the East north of North Carolina-TN (where US 441 is over 5100 feet in spots).  There are plenty of hairpin turns, and the last approach to the divide above Monterey takes forever.   There are no tunnels to my knowledge.

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Along US 250 at Shenandoah Mountain gap, about 3300 feet

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Allegheny Mountain, on W Va border, 4330 feet on highway, about 4500 on surrounding peaks; there is a nice home and property on the border at 4500 feet maybe a quarter mile off the road; a lot of land is privately owned despite National Forest. This is also the Eastern Continental Divide; the same mountain formation houses the Allegheny Mountain tunnel on the PA Turnpike 150 miles to the north. Climate is Canadian in winter, like going 600 miles north. Elevation matters more in eastern US than in the Rockies. The same mountain also produces Spruce Knob about 30 miles to the north.

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Spruce Knob Mountain Center, on dirt road from W Va 28, I think at about 4000 feet; the peak is off in the distance

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Shenandoah Mountain on US 33 west of Harrisonburg, very steep road although elevation not so high (about 3500 at gap)

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(Published: Saturday, June 18, 2016 at 10 AM EDT)

Visit to Rays Hill Tunnel, Pennsylvania

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Sunday, I visited the abandoned Rays Hill Tunnel at the western entrance, near Breezewood PA,  on a section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike rerouted over two mountains between Breezewood and Fort Littleton.

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You can park just east of the Quality Inn, at the Tannery Road lot off US 30, on the north side.  You climb up a little hill, and it is about 8500 feet to the tunnel, about 25 minutes to walk.

The graffiti is striking and vulgar.  There is a work room that looks like a chamber of horrors,

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Donald Trump would ask, why doesn’t the Pennsylvania Turnpike fix this up, charge admission and make money off this land as a park open to the public, especially bicycles (which use the trails “illegally” now).

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Films of the Shenandoah (“Brown Mountain” or “Rocky Mount”) fire areas

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On Monday, May 16, 2016 I visited the burned are in Shenandoah National Park, 12 miles south of the US 33- south entrance (between Remington and Harrisonburg, VA), near the Brown Mountain Overlook at Milepost 77, looking West.

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It’s important to note that this not the same as “Brown Mountain NC”, site of the famous lights (which actually occur at several places in Virginia and North Carolina — high school chemistry explanations — covered here Nov. 4, 2015).  The fire has also been called the “Rocky Mount Fire”, no connection to the Rocky Mountains in western US and Canada.

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Vegetation was already starting to grow back.  But the visual effect was striking.

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I saw very little fire damage on the south side of Skyline Drive.

Wildfires may occur in the East.  The Virginia fires don’t seem to have jeopardized homes.

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Here’s a video on “What Caused the Fort McMurray Fire?” in northern Alberta?

And I can’t resist sharing this slide show of Expeditions by (22-year old nuclear physicist) Taylor Wilson, maybe the raw material for a documentary film. in Nevada, New Mexico and northwestern Arkansas. The “SCI” in the website name seems to refer to a level of security clearance.

The next-to-last story in my “Do Ask Do Tell III” book is called “Expedition“.

(Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at 12 noon EDT)

 

 

Visit to Sideling Hill abandoned tunnel from Pennsylvania Turnpike

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On Saturday, I visited the east entrance of the Sideling Hill Tunnel on an abandoned section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  I was able to find the parking lot off Pump Station Road. There is a mailbox suggesting private property, but there is a lot about 400 feet into the woods, on top of the abandoned turnpike itself, blacktop, then cut off with concrete barriers so that no one can drive on it.

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It takes about 20 minutes to walk to the tunnel (off to the west), about one mile, around two curves.

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There are a few private mobile residences on the ridge above it, to the south, along with cats who live there and may greet visitors.

You can get to the entrance on paved road. Take 522 N toward Fort Littleton, turn off just to the south of US 30 on PA 475 toward Hustontown, then take Hess Road, paved, about three more miles to Pump Station road.  The parking lot is in a wooded area less than a mile south of this intersection.

I see that I had written about an earlier trip on April 19, 2015 on the other WP blpg, link.

Here are a few clips I made.

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There’s an odd graffiti mark that suggests the name of “Rado Suhl”, after whom an Army buddy at Fort Eustis had named himself back in 1969.

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Some scenes from John Hillcoat’s apocalyptic thriller “The Road” (2009), based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, were filmed around the tunnel entrance (maybe the west side), review link here.

(Published: Sunday, May 1, 2016, 11:45 PM EDT)