Sure, sure, it’s a work van, but it just so happens to dovetail nicely with all my other interests. Just a lucky coincidence I guess.
So off on a road trip to a place I first visited 40 years ago, June 1976. A place to recharge and relax, this time with a vehicle perfectly suited to my travel needs and wandering itinerary.
First stop on our way out is Our Lady of the Pines, smallest church in the lower 48 in beautiful Horse Shoe Run, West Virginia. The church is there for scale since who can really say how big the trees are.
We get off the interstate, travel 20 minutes along single lane switchback, no guard rail and no berm between you and the 300 foot chasm below. At the end of that 20 we begin the 40 minute climb along rutted, gutted and graveled into the Dolly Sods Wilderness area.
4,000 feet up. I’ve been snowed on in July and parched out in November. This year in June was like arriving amidst a cloud. Far as I could tell I was the only human among 100,000 acres of primitive wilderness. I set up the tent, watched the sky turn a roiling angry black, swept aside my camping purity and slept inside my big cozy German box for the night. We are not barbarians after all.
Next morning the air had cleared, the sun is up and I’ll have Bear Rocks to myself. A 15 minute drive higher through the cedar and scrub with a quick stop half way up to brew another coffee, just cause I can. I hear Ostrogoths really dug coffee.
Ya gotta love a rolling habitat with enough room for all the amenities; a cook ledge, a boot shelf, double clothes line space, two coolers, your favorite trail bike and enough room left over to sweep it all aside and sleep stretched out when the need arises. I imagined this is how the Hun lived.
Coffee’s brewed and time to ascend to one of the most interesting places along the eastern United States. This place is the way it is for a reason, and was left that way for another. The result is a myriad of micro-environments, from barren rocky outcroppings to cranberry bogs to ancient cedar stands, all surviving within easy eyesight to each other.
It can be otherworldly in its calmness, its oddity, its harshness, and its beauty.
It draws you back to itself and to yourself time and again.
You walk along a rutted rocky mud parched dryness filled with rocks, wind, heat and the sun beating midday cracks in your skull. You drop up and over a little ravine you’d not even noticed with your downcast trail eyes and your standing suddenly in an old growth cedar forest where the temperature drops 20 degrees, the humidity disappears, the wind stops and it’s suddenly so quiet you hear the birds scratching along the needled floor. There’s an ocean of ferns blowing slowly in the sunlight and you decide this is where you wish to spend the rest of your days.
Of course that level of revery can’t last. You’ve got a fire to build a dinner to cook water from the stream to fetch cleaning up to do securing tent lines and food scraps cleaning dishes and boots and fortunately several really cold Edmund Fitzgerald Porter’s to polish off. We are, after all, not truly Visigoths.
Like the best in life, this trip was a combination of the primitive and the pampered. It feels good to whittle existence down to the basic activity groups of survival and to realize that running water is really a cold creek along a bottom path. Likewise it’s nice to have a rolling cave to curl up in if the primitive becomes too. I’ve taken probably a dozen vehicles up to Dolly Sods over the years, and the Metris was the first one I didn’t have to think about how. The only question left is, what now?