So I thought up this perfect shuttle. Park a car at the bottom of Bonner Mountain Road, at the Flatrock Run Trailhead. Drive up into the Sods (~2.5 miles past the ranger's station) and park the other car at the South Prong Trailhead (~1,300 vertical ft above Red Creek). From there we would hike out the South Prong Trail, take Forest Road 70 to the gas pipeline. Explore the pipeline a while, hop onto Roaring Plains Trail and follow it until it ends at Flatrock Run Trail, take it all the way down to Bonner Mountain Road, get our car, and drive back up to get the other car. Sounded like a great hike. VERY scenic and not too much elevation gain. Only about 12 miles. That's not much. We did 15 the weekend before....
Well, plans always look good on paper. Problem #1: Driver number 2 decides to sleep in, not answer his phone, or let anyone know what's up. So there goes the shuttle idea. Oh well, we're still going. We'll just hike half way out and then come back. Won't get to see as much but it will still be great. Problem #2: We get about half way to Davis and are greeted with some rain. Not enough to call it off, but enough to get you wet while hiking. Again, we say, "Who cares. We've got good rain gear. By Gosh, we're going hiking!!" So onward and upward. We stop at the Canaan Store to get a few snacks and find that not only it is a little rainy, it's freaking cold. But hey, hiking at a solid pace will keep us warm enough.
The 2 of us arrived at the trailhead around 9:00am and within 20 minutes we were off. Then comes Problem #3: The most scenic trails/vistas in the WV highlands aren't too scenic when the clouds are blowing through. Now don't get me wrong, we're not naive, we expected this. So what else is there to do? Going back to the car after 20 minutes of hiking wasn't an option. Onward we go.
We made it to Forest Road 70 in no time at all. We then followed it up to the gas pipeline and found the Roaring Plains Trail. We spent some time looking around and then took off up the trail. This trail was pretty fun. It is extremely tight and there is hardly any place to trek off of the trail. The mtn laurel up there is extremely thick and fairly high in some places. There was tons that were in bloom, so there was plenty of pink. One thing that kind of stunk about this trail was all of the water that was on it in some places. We did manage to find some overlooks, but it was too foggy/cloudy to see. Bummer.. It was at one of the overlooks that we decided we should probably turn around. Then we got to talking.... "Maybe we could just hike on as originally planned and just do some hitch-hiking" So we said what the heck...
Then comes the Flatrock Run Trail. What a trail!! It is a heavily wooded trail that drops straight down to Red Creek. 5.2 miles and 2,200 ft. It has the highest vertical change of any trail in the MNF. Hey Andy, its the only current ski trail down Mt. Porte Crayon. Altough it would be rough skiing in some spots. There are lots of switchbacks at the top. It is a really neat trail though because you get to witness firsthand as you hike the effect elevation has on the plant life. Near the top the spruce is pretty thick and it gradually gives way to mixed hardwoods. As you get down a good ways there are also plenty stinging nettles. These things were horrible. They even got me through my nylon pants.
Well, we made it to the bottom just fine and started out the last part of Bonner Mtn Road and met up with Laneville road. After a good bit of walking we got picked up by a nice young couple in a Ford pickup truck. They took us all of the way to the ranger's station (which at that point was only 1.2 miles, yes we measured it). We then started hiking up the road, expecting to be picked up at anytime. Problem #4: We just kept walking, and walking, and walking, and watching cars pass us by. What the heck! After about half way there (~700 vertical ft and ~1.5 miles) I'm starting to get frustrated with the people of both Ohio and Pennsylvania. Come on, us WV boys don't look that scary do we? So, too make a long story short, we didn't get picked up. We hiked all 1,300 feet and 2.5 miles..
So, 17 miles and 10 hours later we made it to the car. It was then straight to Hellbenders, where I had the best burrito of my life!
Would I do it again? Definitely, if it didn't mean having to hike back 6+ miles on the road to the car. Even more so if I the weather was nice and you could actually see more than 50 feet.
I'll post some pictures later this evening.
Enjoying the beautiful scenery
The trail was always pretty cool looking
Red Creek at 4,200+ ft
The "Not-So" Scenic Pipeline
Roaring Plains Trail
Plenty of Pink!
I guess since there wasn't much visibility it allowed us to focus on the beauty of the trail right in front of us.
We followed some cairns that lead us to this VERY creepy patch of woods. It definitely looked like a haunted area.
The most scenic view of the day