Part 20: Niagara Falls, NY to Green Back, WV


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The Trip

We were "done" with Niagara Falls and headed out the next morning at Warp 2 heading south.  Our initial destination was Rickett's Glen State Park in PA, but we were not able to make the entire distance in one day.  So, we found another state park along the way and hit Rickett's the following day.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Sometimes in our travels we see interesting vehicles.  While not a super photo (shot through a dirty windshield while in motion), it clearly shows a nice restoration of a mid-fifties coupe.

We traveled quite a ways and were ready for a stop.  Our first attempt was an RV park that we found by the road.  The preliminary inspection drew a resounding "NO" vote from both of us so we motored on.  About 5 miles down the road, we saw a sign for a PA state park so we went to check it out.  The place was more than acceptable and we got, according to the rangers, the best site in the park.

We were right next to a small stream and had full 30 amp service allowing us to utilize the air conditioning.

From the state park we got to Rickett's Glen only to find that the camp site was full.  We went further down the road to a nice RV park.  That section of road required that we descend an 18% grade which required us to be in 3rd gear (out of 5) and use the exhaust brake full-time during the descent.  We spent the night at the RV park and it was HOT.  Gladly, they had both wireless and full electrical.  Next morning, we discovered that there had been a large storm that had struck most of the northeast.  We were not impacted (for now) so we broke camp and headed back up the 18% grade to Rickett's Glen to do some hiking.  Our objective was to see some of the 22 waterfalls that are in the park.  Above is the first waterfall we encountered on the trail.

Because of our arrival time and the trail distances, we took the most direct route to the biggest falls in the park.  This 3 mile trail was reasonably steep and required careful attention to footing to prevent falling.  Along the way we passed a number of smaller falls.  We also passed a number of hikers that were struggling with the steepness of the trail.  Most of these hikers needed to do some preparation for this kind of hike as we will see below.

This in Ganoga Falls, the largest in the park at about 97 feet.  It is a popular place and there were many other folks there.

This specimen is representative of most of the struggling hikers.  Some of the hikers were barefoot which makes no sense to me.

We left Rickett's Glen and headed southwest toward West Virginia.  We found another state park along the way and discovered that Jed had beat us to the park.  Note this fine work of engineering.  You cannot see in the smaller photo included in this web page, but the brace used a screwdriver stuck in the ground.

We crossed the border into West Virginia and then into the highlands near Mt. Storm.  The grade up to Mt. Storm was quite steep requiring 3rd gear.  Near the crest we spotted these windmills on the ridge above us.  I assumed the large cut in the mountain side was part of a coal mine, but we found out that it was part of a large interstate highway construction project.  In the canyon, below Mt. Storm, we passed the "bridge to nowhere" and did not recognize it for what it was.

From the crest of Mt. Storm, we could see that there was a large electric transmission line.  I assumed it was to take power from the windmills to market, but was wrong.

The highway construction project was substantial and they had excavated a huge cut in the ridge to meet the grade restrictions for the highway.

A few miles down the road we discovered the real reason for the large power lines.  On the top of the ridge was a huge coal-fired power plant.  The truck in the lower portion of the photo above is a coal truck.

The concrete wall is not to prevent access but rather part of a dam.  There is a large lake to the left of the wall.  Note the coal pile in the left of the photo above.

On the top of the ridge there were many large earthmovers transporting boulders.

Further on we saw this team building road bed from the spoils of the road cut.

The bulldozer spreads the rubble and the packer gets it flat.

On the south side of the roadway was a team of guys converting slash into wood chips.  Many miles of forest had been cut to make way for the road and the trees had to go somewhere.  The trac-hoes had grippers and were loading the slash into the chipping machine.  The 18-wheeler is on the output side of the conveyer belt taking the chips for processing.

Only a few miles down the road we came upon several large coal mines that were used to supply the power plant.  Note the large earthmover on the crest of the ridge.

We turned south and passed through a small town called Davis and spotted this "tin soldier".

We headed south to Canaan State Resort Park.  In addition to golf, a hotel, restaurant, a ski area and hiking they also had a camping area.  We got one of the few remaining sites for the 4th of July holiday and had a good night.  At the park, we talked to some semi-locals that were camping off their motorcycles.  They had been there several days and were just "marking time".  They were caught in the storm and showed us some awesome photos of trees that crashed on their bikes and narrowly avoided crushing one of the riders.  They were marking time because the damage the storm caused to the electrical grid was preventing operation of gas pumps making gasoline unavailable.  They were pretty sure they could not get home on the gas they had in their tanks.  And they were pretty certain, based on news reports, that their path home was impacted, so they decided to just hang out.  Next morning, we got the photo above as we departed the park.  PLENTY of mowed grass.

From Canaan we headed to the top of the tallest mountain in the state, Spruce Knob.  The road was mixed dirt and asphalt and it was not too steep.  Best of all, there were no trees blocking the path.

We hiked to the observation tower and passed large fields of boulders.

The view from the top was OK, but not breathtaking.   Plus, being overcast, it obscured visibility. Pale in comparison to the west. 

My little Fuji X10 did an acceptable panorama of the view from the observation tower.

From Spruce Knob we headed down the mountain and then south toward the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, WV.  Along the way, we passed debris that was still being cleaned from the storm a few days before.  Indeed, the locals still had no power and the local RV park was shut down for lack of power and water service.

An example of some of the damage.  If the power or phone lines had run next to that tree it would have been down as well.

We arrived at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and I spotted this vintage Checker Marathon sedan.  These used to be the only car that could stand up to being in taxi service in NYC.  This one is ex-Navy and was used as a staff car and I was told that it is quite rare.  The car is rare because it is one of the few that were diesel.  NRAO only allows diesel vehicles on it's grounds due to radio frequency interference (RFI) caused by the ignition systems of gasoline powered vehicles.  This car is still is use ferrying scientist to and from the equipment.

In the parking area of the visitor's center was this home-made dish that started the whole scientific investigation.

Sadly, because of RFI caused by digital cameras, they were prohibited on the grounds and the only photos I got of the dishes at NRAO were from a distance.  The dish above is the biggest dish at the facility and is claimed to be the biggest and most sensitive instrument of its kind on the planet.  The surface of the dish is adaptive and can change the focal point of the dish to match deformations resulting from stresses as the dish is tilted.  The reflective surface of the dish is over 2 acres and the whole device weighs over 17 million pounds.  The guide told us the gain on this antenna is 60 dB, but that seems low to me.  To be sure, 60 dB corresponds to a gain factor of 10^6 (one million), but with that much area it still seems small.  They have a new generation of detector being tested that is 16 pixels (as opposed to 1 pixel normally used).  With the high pointing accuracy of 1 arc-second maps were produced by measuring each pixel and then repositioning the dish for the next pixel.  Repeat until done.  The new detector is more sensitive and is cooled by liquid helium to nearly absolute zero.  And it will finish the job 16x faster.

This is one of the older dishes that has been re-purposed as a solar radio observatory.  The dish is used to look for solar flares and other events that may be a potential terrestrial hazard.

We attempted to stay close to NRAO but the power outages in the are close most of the stores, gas stations and RV parks.  We headed south to a primitive camp in the state forest.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2012, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.