In the Spring and Fall each year, the local ADVRider community collects at Laurel Fork Campground in a Wilderness area of the Monongahela National Forest of WV. The weather is often cold, damp and rainy but the roaring fires, stories and libations help to fend off shivers. The campground is somewhat isolated for the east coast, nearly 20 mi to the nearest fuel station and about 30 to the nearest grocery store. At nearly 3500', the campground stays much cooler with a shorter spring, summer and fall season than in VA. La Tortuga climbed steadily up Briery Gap, Moyers Gap and Snowy Mountain Road past places like Sugar Grove, Dry Creek, Pole Cat Hollow (skunk) Cherryville and Spruce Knob. The forest vegetation began to change to Rhododendron, spruce and firs as my elevation rose. The cool tea colored water of the local creeks run through grassy meadows on this rare sunny day.
Arriving at camp on a Monday was a first for me, joining the elite "die hards" that make the event a week-long escape to the wilds of WV. As it would turn out, the warmest day of my stay was the Monday I arrived. The sunny afternoon beckoned me up the Laurel River Trail to the site of the 1960 plane wreck of a US Air Force C-45. A creek flows through the wreckage which is surprisingly intact after 55 years.
The plane wreck above is completely surrounded by ramps clear up the stream. A wild leek known locally as ramps grow in early spring in wet and cool undisturbed hollows. It tastes a bit like a garlic flavored onion. Despite the abundance, this is a Wilderness area and removal of any plan is a federal offense. Fortunately, up the road some way are plenty of available patches along the roadside. The only real danger with ramps is to one's self the next morning when combined with bacon, beans, meat and beer. The smell around camp is usually quite unbearable and always worth a laugh.
The weather at Laurel Fork is typically cold and rainy. In the mornings it typically drops into the low 30's and often the 20's, coating the various motorcycles and tents in a layer of frost. The first two nights were spent strung up in my hammock along the road. It was toasty warm despite the high winds and passing snow showers which changed to sleet and then back to snow later. Around the fire, headlamps illuminated the yin and yang of rising ashes on smoke and gently falling snowflakes. I stuck out my tongue to catch one but it just melted on my nose.
I spent a good portion of my week hiking throughout the many trails networking out of camp. At one point, I stumbled out onto Middle Mountain Road and continued walking back to camp. The looks given to me by the few passing locals in pickup trucks was borderline concerned and curious. A greying man who I'd estimate to be in his 80's passed and later returned with a rolled down window. "Son, you lost?" he shouted at me over the rumble of the Dodge Ram's V8. "No sir, just out for a hike and headed back to camp." He offered me a ride down the road to the junction and I declined, then thought better of my rule of yes and jumped in the bed. The white weathered farm truck bounced along the twisty gravel road at a steady and cautious pace. I leaned against the bed and looked up at the sunlight flashing through silhouetted oaks, took a deep breath and smiled. Just another day on the road.
Life back at camp usually consisted of telling stories around the fire or working on a broken motorcycle. Steve had some issues with the EFI motors on his KTM 690 so a makeshift workshop was set up while the wind blew rain and sleet outside. Later in the week, Matt helped repair a KLR 650 carburetor on the picnic table.
Attendance was light this year due to the cold and wet weather. By Saturday night, most of the group had left with only 8 or 10 folks standing around the fire in the pouring rain. Can't say I blame most of them for staying home and warm but I'm comforted with the fact that my down bag is dry and my soundtrack is rain on the tent and burble of the creek.
The week before last was spent cruising around the Shenandoah Valley visiting friends and old places I used to frequent. The winds of time have decayed many of the old buildings I once remembered, many replaced by plastic siding apartment complexes and mixed use developments. Despite the changes in the area, it has overwhelmingly stayed the same. Familiar fields of golden flowers lend vibrancy to a cool cloudy day.
Over the last week I've had the fortune of visiting with many old friends in the Shenandoah Valley. Although the time and miles have passed, there is still much in common. Riding through the familiar valley roads named after mills, gaps and shops, I'm reminded of a Paul Simon lyric "Everything is different though nothing has changed". The journey of my mind has evolved as well, the spirit of adventure reinforced with convictions for my future materializing. Stages of spring alternate between vibrant redbuds of the warmer Piedmont and scattered daffodils on cold ridges.
My stay with Don and Tracy has been unforgettable. The only easy way to pull myself from the farm is the assurance I'll be back to visit in the future. Today I begin to head north toward the Shenandoah Valley and my many friends in the region. Hope to see you all shortly!
In May 2014 I quit my job to ride a Honda Ruckus over 69'000 mi and counting. Wild camping most nights and cooking most of my own meals, I keep the costs low and the landscape changing.