Wednesday, July 15, 2015

An Epic Adventure in which nothing went according to plan

...and the gps on my phone really, really, wanted me to total my car.  And possibly die.

I really, really, wish I had taken a break from freaking out just long enough to take photos of the insane road my gps tried to take me up.  But I was too busy trying to back down it without falling into a ditch or rolling over.  Even once I had made it safely to the bottom and managed to get myself turned around, there was no going back to take photos, I wanted to get out of there as fast as possible.  It didn't even occur to me until later that I should have taken photos.

Back to the beginning.  The photo-destinations I visited today have been on my list for awhile, but I was waiting for someone to go with me, as it was a lot of driving, and such trips are always more fun with a friend.  However, I am in my third week of no work (kids come back next week, then it will be back to babysitting for me!), and I only need so many days of sitting around the house before I really want something to do.  Something fun, to be specific.  There's always work I could do, but that wouldn't be the most enjoyable way to spend my free time.  Looking at my calendar for the week, and the weather, I decided that I would spend today adventuring.  The weather forecast said cloudy, but 0% chance of rain until mid afternoon, and the radar was clear.  (Tomorrow looked way better, but I have various appointments for my horse tomorrow because I am moving her to a new barn.  I'm sure there will be a post about that later.)

I was on the road at 8:50 AM.  It started raining at approximately 8:55.  I already had my bike on the car, all my bike and camera gear in the car, and I was on my way.  So I decided to take my chances and hope the rain wouldn't last.  The first 30 minutes or so were calm, then, on a narrow back road, I came upon stopped cars, and a police car parked diagonally across the road in front of them.  Turns out a car had gone over the cliff, they were in the process of a rescue, and we would have to turn around.  Detour 5ish miles back to Rt 60 to take it instead of the back road.  Still raining on and off.  More on than off.  Various slow-downs for construction.

The original plan was to go to Fayetteville, ride a 20 mile loop on my bike, take photos of the New River Gorge, then drive to Cathedral Falls and photograph that before returning home.  As I neared Rt 19 and the New River Gorge, it was still raining, and a bike ride was not very appealing.  I decided to change things around and go to Cathedral Falls first.  It was further than I thought it was, and I was starting to wonder if I had somehow missed it.  It was supposed to be right next to 60, and easy to find, but I was second-guessing.  So, while stopped for construction, I put it into my phone's GPS, which told me I hadn't passed it yet, but it was only 3 miles away.  (Hooray!)  The GPS took me another 2-3 miles, then told me to turn right onto Taylor Hill Rd.  All I could see to the right was a parking lot.  I took the following right, onto what actually looked like a road, but the GPS was adamant that I needed to turn around.  So I did.  And pulled into the parking lot that it was telling me was a road.  There appeared to be a very narrow road, that was a short/steep incline over some railroad tracks, then a hard right up a mountain.  My car scraped bottom getting over the tracks, but I made it, and barely made the turn up the mountain.  The road was barely wide enough for my car, and I was very skeptical as to how this was the "easy to find falls right off of Rt 60." After about 10 seconds, I came to a sign that said "Jeep road only, all other vehicles will be winched."  Now I was entering freak-out mode.  There was absolutely no possible way to turn around.  My preferred method of backing up is to look out the back window.  It was rather clouded up by rain.  I rolled down my windows and used a combination of the side mirrors and the back window to back myself down the road and back across the tracks, the whole time positive I was going land in a ditch or my brakes were going to fail and send me flying down the incline.  Somehow, I survived, and as far as I know my car is still in one piece.

I gave up on the idea of Cathedral Falls and decided to just head to Fayetteville.  A quarter mile down the road, I saw the falls on my left as I flew by them.  The sign said something about the Gauley River, nothing about the fact that there was a giant waterfall right there!  I found a spot to turn around, and this time made it to the falls.  It was still raining, so I had to juggle an umbrella with my camera, and pass on playing with the tripod, but I got a few photos.

Done at Cathedral Falls, I got back in my car and headed to Fayetteville.  I hadn't originally planned to stop at Hawk's Nest State Park on this trip, but I was really hungry and decided I may as well stop there on the way by, take some photos, and eat some lunch.  If it had turned out to be a long hike to the overlook I probably would have skipped it, but it turned out to be pretty short.  

The New River is a raging muddy mess after all the rain we've been getting!

Fed and mostly recovered from the terrifying-ness of my Cathedral Falls search, I got back on the road and headed to the Canyon Rim Visitor's Center.  It wasn't really raining anymore when I got there, so I decided to take my chances with a bike ride.  I had mapped out a route that would take me down into the gorge, across the river, and then climb back out the other side of the gorge, eventually ending up on Rt 19 which I could take over the New River Bridge and back to my car.  I had exported the route onto my garmin, so I pulled it up, expecting to be able to follow it.  It showed up as a thick purple line on a white screen, with no way to actually see the roads and no where I was going.  So I scrapped that plan.  I pulled up the route on my phone, and after a few wrong turns while trying to accustom myself to how it worked, I figured out how to follow it and set out on my way.  The course was outlined in red, and an arrow was following along the course as I moved along it.  Great.  Until suddenly the red line stopped.  I scrolled out on the map and discovered that I was not in fact on my planned course, but that somehow an extra line had been added, which I had been following.  The road was narrow and a mess of rocks and branches from recent storms.  There was no way I was backtracking.  It took me back out to Rt 19.  I scrapped my original plan, and decided to just wander.  So I took 19 across the bridge and wandered around Fayetteville for a bit.  15 miles in it started to rain again, and I wasn't too far from the bridge/Visitor's Center so I tended my ride.  

Once I had my bike stowed back on my car and my gear put away, I got my camera bag and umbrella and headed to the overlook.  

Done with taking photos, I put on dry clothes and headed home.  The sun came out sometime in the 1:30 drive.  And stayed out for the rest of the afternoon.  My luck.  It was supposed to be clear all morning and storm in the afternoon.  I got the opposite.  At least there weren't any thunderstorms while I was out and about!

As of right now, I am very grateful to have made it home in one piece, with nothing worse than some frayed nerves.  I will definitely be going back to these places on a day with better weather, to get some photos that are a little sharper, without the misty quality the rain lent to many of these.  And I'm glad that I now know exactly where Cathedral Falls is and I will not be trying to go up any more sketchy-looking roads.  Although I may have to park at the bottom of that one road and take photos of it next time I am in the area...

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