Kanawha State Forest, West Virginia
On The Road
I was late. I always get held up at the last minute while discussing GPS systems and the advantages of open sights versus scopes. It was a little after three in the afternoon, and I should have left over half an hour ago. Cox was greedily awaiting the release from his office so he could savor the air of higher elevations. As I headed down the drive of my hidden mountain refuge, I realized if I was to travel anywhere outside a 50 mile radius and back, a much needed visit to the gas station at the border of town was in order.
As I came cruising into the hangar-like enclosure to pull into the gas station, a cop swung his vehicle around the two-lane road and perched himself like a dickless vulture on the edge of the parkinglot and perversely eyeball-fucked me as I ritualistically payed ‘n’ pumped while fantasizing about wiping down my windows with the complimentary squeegee and paper towels that were displayed in a seductive manner next to the pump. I of course being on the verge of having a panic attack (I have a bit of a “record” and tend to attract subhuman law enforcement) think only about slowly reentering my van (read that as “cop magnet”) and lawfully lurching back onto the narrow country road from which I was birthed. The cop, obviously distracted by either a wallet full of child pornography or engaged in a trough of a box of this morning’s doughnuts, did not violently approach my vehicle to signal me to the side of the road, threaten me with promises of heartless gangbangs by a group of his peers, and illegally search my vehicle. Instead, he vanished steadily in my rearview mirror as I rounded curve after curve and sank deeply into the sunless afternoon on the twisting back roads heading towards Hinton to rendezvous with my fellow mountaineer.
Having left so late, I had a touch of leadfoot, and barreled down Sandstone Mountain at an established eighty-five miles per hour (not once glazing the break, there was no time for such foolishness) which amazingly cut down nearly one-third of my usual time, and had retrieved my Viking brother and made my way back towards my secret mountain refuge where we would rest up after a few glasses of egg nog so that we could get an early start towards Kanawha State Forest the next morning.
The trip home took a little longer compared to my urgent task that was completed less than an hour before, especially pushing a ’91 Chevy Beauville on a three-quarter ton frame up a hill with a grade that even the most seasoned truckers cringe at. The fogless homecoming offered by GauleyMountain was a much appreciated gift from my unpredictable mistress, and my smiles and hearty laughs were fashioned from the shimmering winks of her deep river beneath the stars, which is one of the many clues that I had returned home.
The required skills and knowledge of how to properly maneuver a large black van up a narrow hillside driveway is a talent that I flaunt shamelessly for the guests that are aboard my midnight express, as to reaffirm at the end of the expedition “victory is mine”. Wrestling the steel-boned beast into its parking spot is sometimes troublesome after a moderate downpour, but as the captain of this reliable vessel, I persist like the admiral of a great naval battle with cunning and pride as I ease onto the parking break with the touch of a weathered champion.
Needless to say, Cox H.C. was flabbergasted by the swank and posh condition of my living quarters. As an invitational transient (you’ll understand how this works, someday) at the West Estate, he saw my quaint sleeping quarters, vast library, alien-like music studio, elaborate kitchen full of gadgets and wares, and far-reaching grounds perfect for hiking and running, and was able to settle any worries that his old pal was the victim in pain he once knew living out of a Chevy Astro and eventually a garage with two sinks (where unemployed masses humbly congregated daily, but there’s no time for that now).
Great introductions were made, deep, boisterous chuckles were unleashed, and conversations of unchartable remarks and lessons were held. As before any anticipated hardship (a war, a great sea voyage, a final exam), we retired for the evening with snow-capped dreams of nurturing plateaus and high summits.
The next morning, I awoke to Cox H.C. transmitting an air of gratitude towards The Most Illustrious Mr. West over a pot of coffee and the morning paper. I tend to reward myself with an extra 15 minutes of sleep when applicable, because with my Alaskan-style solar schedule of hardship versus holiday, I take advantage of a relaxing, gradual awakenings. I served up a breakfast that the Hunnic tribes would have paid tribute for, as I tend to do before any excursions that take me far from the “clean living” of a reclusive artist and we tossed our packs in the van and descended the now-vacant property.
Heading towards West Virginia’s capitol city of Charleston, our fears were suppressed as the tall buildings and careless drivers faded and Connell Drive quietly served us to the entrance of KanawhaStateForest (where we have plans of going on January 9th, but pay attention).
I played footsie with the accelerator long enough until I was overwhelmed by the call of nature and rudely placed the van in a small parkinglot like a hand on a breast and leaped out of the vehicle. Pack resting on the pavement, I relieved myself on a dogwood and Cox H.C. and myself made our way down the main road to start scouting for our gateway to the wilderness.
Pigeon Roost Trail (which I later read was a “Moderately Difficult” trail) was waiting there, expectantly, as your two favorite mountain junkies indulged like depraved creatures on the steep inclines and narrow trail paths, this was our nirvana. It was a pleasant yet speechless march up the mountain side, and what could make such a treat any more enjoyable than breaking the trail numerous times to climb up the pathless mountain face, grappling from tree to tree, aided only by a random scattering of rocks and our burning desire to reach the top. The trail split many times offering what seemed like escape routes for the over zealous and faint of heart. This of course was the last thing I would imagine while occupied by this virtual orgy of trailheads and rock faces.
After an energizing walk through various parts of the mountain that served as access points for park rangers, we reached the highest plateau of any of the visible ridges. After stopping to feast on great cans of almonds and sun-dried raisins washed down with cold water, I was subsided by a feeling of inferiority as the peak loomed over our modest banquet. I turned to Cox H.C. and said “I want that peak. We EARNED that peak”. In a silent agreement communicated only through a methodical series of head nods, we packed up our gear and began fighting towards the seemingly impregnable crown of this majestic land mass.
Razor sharp briar patches, concealed potholes, and not a trail in sight, we aggressively pursued the untraveled route, and after many leaps and bounds, we reached the deepest portion of our leaf-blanketed nightmare and stood with a glorious aura that only the most legitimate and deserving victors could contain.
Only for appreciation of the attention span you’ve dedicated to the implied intent of this particular story, I will spare the details of the peaceful and leisurely stroll back to the van, or the fact that once we arrived home we both collapsed with exhaustion.
KanawhaStateForest is host to many tourist attractions as well as an abundant resource of activities for regular attendees. I WILL be returning soon for my high-adventure fix.