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Sunday, November 21st, 1999 -- Laneville, WV
Mentat or Minimalist
Story and photos by Greg McCulley, with a little help from his friends

West Virginia
Sunrise from the Roaring Plains
The prequel to this years winter hike proved valuable in spite of mild weather. Free from event coverage, WVOutside editor Marty Lamp and staff reporters Brad Yurish and myself ventured into the backcountry of Dolly Sods. Although familiar with the sods wilderness, this was our first hike to the famed Roaring Plains! We arrived in Laneville late Friday evening, and after a good night's sleep in the back of our trucks, we greeted a beautiful Appalachian morning. Topo map in hand, we plotted a point to point 20 mile trek.

After choosing the South Prong Trailhead as the start, we set shuttle and set out on a highly manicured route over bog and rock. The trail curves back toward the road(FR19) to a parking lot. From here we picked up Boars Nest Trail and, after a steep 1200' climb, reached the open rocky flat typical of these highlands. Eventually the trail "T's" with (FR70) at which point we changed our planned course. Instead of turning right to the next trailhead, we went left 25 yards to an unmarked trail on the right. This rose up for a mile and "T'd" with a gas pipeline clearcut. Turning left at the clearcut, a mile later opened up to spectacular views of Seneca Rocks and North Fork Mountain.

West Virginia
Brad and Greg just love being outside
Here, surrounded by native Red Spruce that seem to stand with their back to the wind, is where we camped. The next day, after making sure to catch the sunrise over North Fork Mountain, we backtracked the clearcut, passed the unmarked trail, and met the Roaring Plains Trail on the left.

After an easy 400' elevation gain, the trail apexes at 4700' with a nearly 360 degree panoramic. Here we enjoyed the midday sun while lounging within the stony confines of a small rock fortress. Only Mount Port Crayon to the west stands above at nearly 4800'. The trail then turns to the right and becomes Flatrock Plains Trail before the 2100' descent to the trailhead where we parked.

The weather on day one was 45 degrees, overcast, misty and rainy, with winds gusting 5-15 mph. Only dropping to the mid-thirties overnight, sunny skies warmed day two at 55 degrees. We still had the gusty winds.

West Virginia
Brad and Marty enjoying lunch at 4700'
Clothing held no surprises. Polypro, fleece, sock liners, gaiters, waterproof shell and dry's to sleep in. Brad had a high tech shirt made out of another material, but you get the idea. Layer, layer, layer!

There are no shelters on this year's winter hike, and after testing tent vs. bivy, the tent has it. Marty and Brad opted to bring a monster 10 lb. 3 person, 4 season, vestibuled wonder. They were glad, and plan to hump this load on the big hike. There is no way to avoid contact between you, your sleeping bag, and the tent wall (now covered in condensation) without plenty of room. Small, one-man bivy-sacks are great when you're carrying them, but the tradeoff becomes apparent on a wet night. A ground-cloth is good to have, too.

West Virginia
An early morning walk about
Don't bother trying to simmer cook when instant or freeze-dried meals are so much easier. An insulated mug or thermos will keep the coffee hot. Don't bother with a water filter, bring purification tablets. Filters freeze! Be prepared to boil lots of water. A wind guard for the stove helps a bunch.

I walk, run, and cycle regularly, but I haven't humped a pack since last winters hike. My feet hurt after the first day, and my body after the second. So, put some weight on your back a few times between now and then to break yourself in. It should be yet again another grand adventure!


When he's not throwing ends on his favorite West Virginia river, riding his mountain bike on the meanest trails, or explaining the intricacies of "Dune", published poet Greg McCulley likes to write for WVOutside.