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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cooper's Rock Weekend

This weekend, I headed out for the annual camping weekend hosted by the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners. This year, we were meeting at Coopers Rock.

Coopers Rock State Forest gets its name from a legend about a fugitive who hid from the law near what is now the overlook. A cooper by trade, he resumed making barrels at his new mountain hideout, selling them to people in nearby communities. He lived and worked in the forest for many years.

During the Depression, between 1936 and 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built numerous structures in the forest, often using durable American chestnut wood from trees that succumbed to a blight that nearly wiped out the species. Eleven of these structures, including the rustic picnic shelters near the overlook, have been included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Henry Clay Iron Furnace

Aside from the overlooks, the Henry Clay Iron Furnace is perhaps the most well-known portion of the forest. Accessible via the Clay Furnace or Clay Run trails, the furnace was built between 1834-1836 and produced pig iron. Capable of producing 4 tons of iron each day, the furnace employed about 200 people and operated until 1847.

Okay, end the obligatory tourist post. I got to Coopers Rock State Forrest, parked in the day use lot, and headed on down the trail toward the Henry Clay Furnace. The trail was rocky, as I had been advised.

I was immediately disappointed at my car when I pulled the camera out and the battery power was blinking. And I had just charged it! So much for great pics all weekend long.

I got to the Furnace, read about it, pondered what "pig iron" was, stuck my head inside the furnace. Appreciated how the works must have hauled "stuff" to feed to the furnace. Went running uphill. Discovered I was at the Clay Furnace parking lot, not where I planned to be, and reversed course to the Furnace.

Whereupon I met JL Brown, marking the course. We immediately recognized each other, (although not actually meeting previously) him by his mustache, me probably by being the only female brave enough to be running around the woods by herself. JL oriented me on the map, we chatted for a bit, and then I was off and running some more.

It was glorious running out there! The footing was rocky,the Forrest was pretty and fern ed. I was climbing up a dry creek bed aka "the trail". I reflected it was smart to use the creek bed as both the 'trail' and the creek. I wondered what happened in rainy season...

I got to "Rock City" and found out why it was called that. I was traversing between two huge boulders that seemed as big as battleships. Then I was ducking through a weather rhododendron section.

Then it appeared I was on "Rattlesnake Trail" which is the area close to the Coopers Rock overlook. There was no running here! This was a climbing up, and down, and through, and around huge boulders. JL had thoughtfully marked this well with flags.

I kept hearing voices around me, as I crept around a very steep overlook, still climbing through rhododendrons...I'm guessing this was the Overlook, where I should have headed up to, to look for water.

But I kept going, hoping my map was keeping me where I needed to be. I was now out of water, and wanting some. I finally saw a sign "to campground" and was relieved. Someone would give me water at the campground, right?

In fact, I found the restrooms at the campground and drank deeply, and refilled the hydration pack. I headed back on the "Roadside Trail" knowing I only had a mile or two back to my vehicle.

I believe I ran around 9 miles. (I kept stopping the Garmin when I found a trail sign, where I dragged the map out, so figure out where I was. Then sometimes I would forget to restart the Garmin directly afterwards!)

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