Waxing Gibbous Moon
Climbing snowclad Backbone Mountain was my problem to solve today. Initially, I intended to walk US 50 up and over the top. Several people, though, cautioned me not to take that route. They said it is very steep and narrow with blind hairpin turns. They said it is the primary road for logging trucks. They said don’t do it.
So I consulted Dr. Googlie and concocted a less traveled way, basically straight over the top on back roads, connecting with 135 W in Maryland.
When I tried the route this morning, however, I discovered it went through private land. Posted. No trespassing. So an hour and a half of pushing Bobalooie up up up some country lanes resulted in chasing it down down down back into town. Frustrating.
The alternative to the alternate was an alternative alternate route that retraced my steps back through Keyser, across the Potomac – again – and then heading west on 135 from there. This re-tracing thing is, of course, a major road code violation. Big shame on me.
On the way, a red Ford Ranger slid to a stop in a parking lot next to me. Out popped young John Dawson, whose dream is to hike across America himself one day. He hopes to try it next year. John had a lot of questions and a lot of great enthusiasm. It was fun to talk to him for several minutes and he was nice enough to take my picture. It was pretty doggone cold, so operating my Smartyphone camera was not easy. He also gave me a five dollar bill for the road. Thanks, John.
I kept thinking it was going to get warmer, but instead the wind picked up out of the west and made it even colder. I put on another layer plus gloves and a hood and still couldn’t adjust. I did get to see more views of the Potomac, though, which is always good.
By the time I was on the outskirts of Westernport MD, I knew I was in trouble. I was clammy underneath my jackets from the morning’s climb and the wind was robbing heat from my core. And I was facing a 25-mile walk with a steep grade to Oakland, the nearest town. Most of that ground was covered by the recent snow and the overnight lows were forecast for the mid-20s. Oh boy. I was going to freeze my hiney off in the woodsy woods woodsy.
Enter trail angel extraordinaire Chuck Morton. I had passed through much of Westernport when I spied a Subway sandwich shop across the highway. I hurried on over.
Inside, Chuck and his wife, co-owners of the shop, listened while I talked about Reach Across America. One thing led to another and pretty soon I was loading Bobalooie into the back of Chuck’s Jeep and we were grinding up Backbone Mountain the easy way. All hail the internal combustion engine. Bow thine head.
Chuck is a great guy, a West Virginian with a natural gift for conversation. First he pointed out the construction zone we drove through. Never could I have walked through that single lane traffic without one close call after another.
Then he showed me the paper mill where he works in Luke MD next to the river and the railroad tracks. They make most of the labels we see on canned foods at this plant, as well as magazine covers and other paper products. Very impressive.
And just after the mill he showed me a wall up against the steep, crumbling shale cliffs where people had painted several white crosses. Each cross represents a life that was lost as a result of a runaway truck with burned out brakes barrelling down Backbone Mountain unable to stop in time.
Gulp. My alternate route. Chuck saves.
It was fuh-reezing up there where I was going to wild camp in the snow. Instead, Chuck and his Jeep took me right to the Oak Mar Motel in Oakland. Sturdy. Affordable. Clean. Efficient. This place is the sliced white bread of American hospitality. For one night, I am the ham in room 25.
I am happy to say that I am warm, I am well-fed (Subway sandwich on the house courtesy of the Mortons), Bobalooie is not all crunched up by construction traffic, and there is not a white cross on the Backbone Mountain wall representing Palomino.
This vertebrae-like string of victories is made possible by Mr. Chuck Morton, a West Virginia trail angel living in Maryland, to whom I am forever grateful. My friends, if you ever go to Westernport MD, please stop by the Subway, order lots of good fresh food, and say thanks again for me.
Peace, Love, and Eat Fresh,