Friday, October 23, 2015

A Piercing Cold Peak on a Windy Weekend

Sunday morning was cold and very windy again. I was meeting a small group to hike up Seneca Rocks, a spectacular outcrop I'd looked up at admiringly but never scaled. I was driving out to West Virginia and left early so I could take the more scenic route.
This mural was on the side of a bank building. It's made solely of plastic bottle tops. Pretty clever and certainly an eye catcher.
I stopped for this barn too, a slowly disappearing advertisement that was once a common sighting. This started back in 1925 when 6 guys, in 3 trucks,  from New York, started painting the sides of barns with this logo. The full story as told by the last survivor, who passed away in 1993, is here.
It was pretty chilly every time I stepped out of the car and I was soon scuttling back to the warm interior as soon as I'd taken my shot.
But again I was stepping out from Stuart when I came across this house, awesomely decorated for Halloween. There must have been a small fortune in decorations here and I had to just stand and take it all in before I snapped any photos. 
The theme was a wedding, aptly titled, "Just Buried", very clever and the owners had a real sense of humor. I adored the skeleton peeking round the gate and the mummified cat. No one came out of the warm house to chat, not that I blamed them in this cold, and I'm sure they've had many people stopping to admire their yard.
These old vehicles had been placed thoughtfully to sit atop the horizon and I'm sure I wasn't the first or last person to stop and take photos of the great scene.
And then I was at Seneca Rocks.
I looked up at the grey jagged peaks and wondered, did I really want to hike all the way up there in this cold wind? On the internet it says the peak is inaccessible except by technical rock-climbing techniques, and if I squinted I could just about make out a couple of people scaling up the sheer rock face. Composed of white and grey Tuscarora quartzite, it is the only true 'peak' on the East Coast of the United States and has an elevation of 2402ft.
I met up with Gary and his wife Wendy in the visitor center and 2 of their friends, noting that everyone was bundled up warmly. We waited a few minutes to see if any stragglers would appear to join us and then set off.
The start of the trail and the bridge leading to the beginning of the uphill climb.
Because of my recent hikes, I didn't struggle too much with this. The climb was relatively gentle and we stopped a few times to stretch overworked calf muscles but I didn't even bother with a drink until I'd reached the very top.
The place where visitors are supposed to finish, the viewing observatory, but we wanted to go all the way up!
We all read this sign, but along with other hikers, walked past it.
And then because of the exposure, with no trees to offer shelter, the wind hit us, or I should say, belted us hard. It was difficult to talk as sudden gusts of about 30mph would whip the words away before they could be heard, and we all held on tightly to the rock face as we scrambled up even higher, bracing against the force of the wind.
And then we were there!
The views were absolutely stunning, a 360° panorama of beautiful natural surroundings, with very few man made structures to mar the landscape. Mountains and valleys, with trees turning into fiery colors, and the clouds overhead creating a patchwork effect. We just sat and admired, taking photos of each other, and then sitting admiring again, gushing at the beauty of the earth. Although we didn't actually say too much because the wind was so cold, so we wanted to keep our mouths shut. My hands were getting numb too so after about 10 minutes we reluctantly agreed that we needed to start descending.  I did notice that the ridge line seemed to be passable to the east of where we had perched, and Lucy said she was sure that a trail went through that way. I will come back in the spring to see for sure and explore that.
We scrambled back down lower and sat for a while behind the rocks where there was no wind at all, to chat and munch on snacks. There were a couple of rock climbers there but they told us they'd had to admit defeat due to the strong cold winds. We felt quite proud of ourselves that we hadn't let it beat us. Those views will stay in my mind a long time.
It seemed like a short descent. Once again, I had no pains in my legs or knees, and was very pleased that my fitness regime was paying off. At the visitors center the others wanted to watch a movie featuring the peak but I declined, wanting to use the rest of the daylight for my home journey and photos.
Across the road were 2 old stores with souvenirs and food, and tucked behind them was a wonderful abandoned motor shop that I took photos of, and another shot of the peak. We were sitting atop of the peak on the left in the above photo.
And then it was back in the car to start my drive home.
Driving back I noticed more wonderful rocky outcrops and even a cave.
I loved these old abandoned caravans in a wood.
And my last photo of the day, an abandoned mechanic shop. I managed to get home while it was still light, snuggling up on the sofa with Kota and Miss Rosie Lee as we watched the trees bend across the meadow in the last of the day's light.

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