Non-Caving Activities

— SOUTH EAST of Convention —

CASS SCENIC RAILROAD STATE PARK [16]

The town of Cass is located about 90 minutes southeast of Dailey on State Route 92. It is about six miles southwest of the town of Green Bank, and although not on Route 92, the turnoff is very well marked. Cass is an old timber boom town that at one time had one of the largest lumber mills in the state. Several of the old logging steam locomotives are now used to pull visitors up Back Allegheny Mountain, which is west of the town. Almost all of these locomotives are Shays, which are small, slow steam engines that have gear-driven power to all wheels, including those under the tender. This, together with their offset boiler, allowed Shays to climb grades as steep as 12%, swing around hairpin turns, and negotiate frail temporary track. In 1911, 3,000 miles of logging railroads existed within West Virginia, and today, many of the state’s hiking trails are old Shay railroad grades.

Trains leave Cass at 11 AM, noon, and 2 PM. The noon trip ends near the top of Bald Knob, which is the second-highest point in West Virginia. This is a 4.5-hour round trip, and the train travels 11 miles one way and climbs about 2,400 feet. The other trains go to Whittaker Station, a halfway point, and require about two hours. There is a lot of history and scenery, as well as an historical exhibit at Whittaker Station. There are also gift shops, museums, the remains of the old logging mill, an engine shop, and a model train display in the town of Cass.

The costs are $16 35 for kids and $21 45 for adults for the short trip, and $27 55 for kids and $30 65 for adults for the long trip. For more information call 304-456-4300 or visit www.cassrailroad.com.

GPS: 38.39729, -79.91426 (Train station)

GAUDINEER SCENIC AREA [18]

Gaudineer Scenic Area is located about 25 miles south of Dailey on State Route 92. It is about one mile north of the highway on a dirt road very near the top of Back Allegheny Mountain. The area boasts a stand of virgin red spruce, some of which are over 300 years old. It is about 10 acres in size and was left uncut because a surveyor did not correct for magnetic declination. The 250mile-long Allegheny Trail passes nearby.

GPS: 38.60007, -79.85122 (Turnoff from U.S. 250)

DURBIN ROCKET [17]

The Durbin Rocket is a 55-ton, antique engine that was built in 1910. It departs from Durbin, which is located about 45 minutes south of Dailey on State Route 92. The train travels 10.5 miles down the Greenbrier River and offers views of the river and the Mon Forest. The ride requires two hours, and costs $25 for kids and $35 for adults. Call 304-636-9477 or visit mountainrailwv.com for more information, reservations, and departure times.

GPS: 38.54524, -79.82331 (Train station)

GREEN BANK NATIONAL RADIO OBSERVATORY [19]

The Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory is one of three radio observatories operated under contract with the National Science Foundation. The Observatory has eight radio-disk receivers, the largest of which features an innovative clear aperture, a collecting area of 2.3 acres, and a computer-controlled reflecting surface of 328 by 360 feet, making it larger than two football fields. Tours are provided. The Observatory is located about one hour southeast of Elkins on State Route 92. For more information call 304-456-2150.

GPS: 38.397295, -79.914262 (Visitor Center)

GREENBRIER RIVER TRAIL [20]

This is a 78-mile-long rail maintained by the West Virginia Park System that was a Chesapeake and Ohio rail line. The trail has a packed surface and a one-percent grade that makes for easy bicycling, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding. The trail has two tunnels and two large bridges, and closely follows it the Greenbrier River, offering users countless opportunities for swimming and fishing. The northernmost trail head is just south of Cass on the west side of the river. It requires three days for most people to complete the entire trail.

GPS: 38.39217, -79.92250 (Cass trailhead)

LAUREL FORK WILDERNESSES [21]

The North and South Laurel Fork Wildernesses are located on opposite sides of dirt Forest Road 14 in the area of Laurel Fork Campground. These two areas are 12,200 acres in size, offer plenty of opportunities for hiking and fishing, and have elevations that vary from 2,900 to 3,700 feet. The areas are bordered on the east by Rich Mountain and on the west by Middle Mountain and are remote and a fine place to go if you enjoy solitude. Night temperatures can drop as low as 30 F in summer, and deep snow is very common in winter and the temperatures can become as low as -20 F

The Laurel Fork Campground is reached by turning onto the Middle Mountain Road at Wymer, which is located at the top of Middle Mountain. Follow the road south for 11 miles, past one junction, and then turn left at a junction that leads down the eastern side of the mountain. The campground is an old Civilian Conservation Corps facility located at the bottom of this mountain.

GPS: 38.74049, -79.69248 (Laurel Fork campground)

PARKERSBURG-STAUNTON TURNPIKE [22]

The Parkersburg-Staunton Turnpike (together with the Northwestern Turnpike and the James River and Kanawha Turnpike) was one of three major highways that crossed western Virginia prior to the American Civil War. The Parkersburg-Staunton Turnpike can be followed west from Dailey over Rich Mountain toward Buckhannon, and it can also be followed south from Dailey to Huttonsville, and then southeast and up Cheat Mountain, where it follows the present-day location of U.S. 250. An alternative route is to drive up the Files Creek Road, which can be reached by turning east in Beverly at the historical museum. This is a fairly long, scenic dirt road that follows the top of Cheat Mountain and provides access to Shavers Fork for fishing and hunting. U.S. 250 is intersected about 21 miles south-southeast of Dailey, and an old Union fort, Cheat Summit Fort, is reached about three miles to the east—this is just south where U.S. 250 crosses the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River. Robert E. Lee attempted unsuccessfully to capture this stronghold early in the war through a series of intricate maneuvers. This was before he commanded the Army of Northern Virginia.

There are also old Confederate breastworks located on private lands at Bartow, which is about 10 miles east of Cheat Bridge. The Battle of the Greenbrier River was fought here on October 3, 1861, and the Federal advance east along the Turnpike was finally halted. The Union army was forced to withdraw to Cheat Summit Fort. The breastworks from the battle are visible on the open hillside southeast of the old motel.

The old turnpike ascends Allegheny Mountain south of U.S. 250’s present-day route. There is a Confederate fortification, Camp Allegheny, located astride the old turnpike near the Virginia-West Virginia state line. This is in the gap south of where U.S. 250 crosses into Virginia. This fort is on private land and consists of an extensive series of breastworks (in an open field) more than five acres in size. It can be best reached by turning south onto a dirt road at the Camp Allegheny historical marker on U.S. 250 just west of the Virginia-West Virginia state line.

Camp Allegheny is located at an elevation of 4,400 feet and was one of the highest fortifications constructed during the Civil War. It was attacked on December 13, 1861, but the Federals were repulsed and retired to Cheat Summit Fort. Because of its exposed position, winter at Camp Allegheny was extremely harsh. Disease carried away hundreds of Confederate soldiers, and the losses of men and the logistical nightmare of keeping the camp supplied forced its abandonment in April of 1862. Cheat Summit Fort was also abandoned for the same reasons in the same month by the Union army. Everyone decided to go fight the war somewhere warmer.

GPS: 38.47459, -79.72792 (Camp Allegheny)

SINKS OF GANDY [SG]

Although on private land, the Sinks of Gandy is visited so often that it appears on State and Forest Service maps. The entrances are usually nice, cool places to visit, even for the non-caver. The Sinks is located about six miles southeast of the Laurel Fork Campground. Its Upstream Entrance is located about 300 yards southwest of a hairpin turn going down a small forested hill. Its Downstream Entrances are located about a quarter mile north of the turn. All three entrances are out of sight of the road.

GPS: 38.71546, -79.63767 (Parking area)

WEST FORK TRAIL [24]

This is a 27.5-mile-long, gravel rail trail that ascends a low divide south of Glady, and then descends the West Fork of the Greenbrier River to Durbin. There is also a spur that leads west and over Shavers Mountain (avoiding an unsafe tunnel) to the Shavers Fork. The trail is the old route of the Coal and Iron Railroad, which ran from Elkins to Durbin and started service in 1903. The weather can be cool in September, and there is fishing in the West Fork. The bottom side of Shavers Mountain is limestone, but very few caves have been found here to date.

GPS: 38.79217, -79.72160 (North end in Bemis)
38.55604, -79.83066 (South end on U.S. 250 in Durbin)