Cranberry Wilderness, WV Backpacking Trip


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The Cranberry Wilderness, WV backpacking trip took place on September 25-27, 1998. Participants were Charlie Johnson, Doug Knowles, Bill Isham and me.

I showed up at the Tea Creek Campground around mid day. This campground,
Setting up camp


At right, setting up camp.
By Bill Isham


located in the northeast corner of "The Cranberry", was to be our meeting place and staging area. Charlie J and Bill I showed up around 5ish. We had a lot to talk about, not having hiked together in a few months. We got a good fire going, ate dinner and placed bets on whether Doug K would show up. Well, around 10:30 that night old Doug came rolling in all the way from MN. This was a dedicated Rag Tag Ranger! We talked some more and finally got to sleep around midnight.

I heard alot of "wild things" around my tent during the night. I pitched
Group photo after the hike


At left, group photo after the hike.
By Bill Isham


my tent near an animal path. During the night I heard something sniffing from outside. It's stomach was growling and it even passed gas, whatever it was! I didn't bother to stick my head out the tent to see what it was, though. The night was warm, thanks to cloud cover that was overhead.

The next morning we packed up and drove to the trailhead, which was about 8 miles away. We were to hike the North Fork, Big Beechy, Middle Fork and North Fork trails to form a 14.5 mile loop. There was parking for about a dozen cars at the trailhead.

We started up the North Fork Trail, then in about 200 yards, turned right and started ascending the Big Beechy Trail and Sugar Creek Mountain. The scenery was


Falls at intersection of Big Beechy & Middle Fork Trails


At right, falls at intersection of Big Beechy & Middle Fork Trails.
By Mike Calabrese


fantastic! Since we were over 4000 feet, the forest was mostly pines and the forest floor was all rocks covered with moss. Once we got to the top of the mountain and passed the District Line Trail, we were hiking level for about 2 miles (one of the few spots where it was level) and then started a 3 mile decent. The trail at this point was very rocky, uneven and close to a cliff edge. There were also numerous blowdowns in our way. The fronts of our toes were burning from all the pressure against them during the decent. When it felt like we couldn't go on any further, we reached the bottom of the mountain and were treated to a beautiful waterfall at the intersection with the Middle Fork Trail at the 6.5 mile mark.

We took some pictures and
Middle Fork Trail at mile 7


At right, Middle Fork Trail at mile 7 .
By Mike Calabrese


dipped our aching feet in the cool waters. If it had been a little warmer, I might have gone swimming below the falls. However, the weather was only in the high 60's, low 70s, so we started up the Middle Fork Trail. And what a trail this was. It was an old rail line which was converted to a forest road which was converted to a trail. The grade was a constant 7 to 8%. It was not that bad since the tread was OK. However, there were occasional washouts that made this one a challenge. We hiked till about the 9.5 mile mark. Charlie J found a campsite and we pitched our tents. We had adequate water from the middle fork of the Williams River. Again, we had a warm night, thanks to cloud cover.

The next morning we got a few brief showers, but no downpours. We again started our trek up the Middle Fork Trail. We had about 4.5 miles to do on this trail at the
Fishing the Williams River


At right, fishing the Williams River.
By Mike Calabrese


7-8% grade. It was a bit of a challenge but easier than the steep downhill action that we saw yesterday. The scenery again was fantastic. Temperatures again were in the 60s-70s and overcast. The river seemed to have a solid stone bottom, giving it a swimming pool effect in certain spots. The forest was awesome. We had some great conversations along the way.

We reached the North Fork Trail, then turned left and hiked it for about 1.5 miles to where we started. Total mileage was about 14.5. The only animals spotted were 2 huge deer.

This trail is great for the experienced backpacker. It offers solitude (we only saw 2 day hikers the entire weekend) and a challenge (elevation changes from 2700-4100 feet). It's best to do this one with someone else as you are far away from anywhere or anyone if you need help. Also, properly store your food as the "Wild Things" do dwell here. There are many combinations of day hikes and backpacking trips that can be done in this area. There are other close by areas of interest. The Cranberry Glades offer a close up look at a northern tundra bog. The Cranberry Visitor Center is first rate. The Cranberry Back Country offers more hiking/backpacking opportunities. And scenic route 150 is a mini Skyline Drive whose views rival that road in Virginia. The Cranberry Wilderness is a true first hand look at the unspoiled beauty of nature.

Mike C

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