Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Autumn Ride through the Valley and Sods

A week after our Spruce Knob ride, I rendezvoused with Chris and Ivan again to enjoy one of the top three most gorgeous rides I've ever had the pleasure of doing. We headed up the center of Canaan Valley, climbed Cabin Mountain into the Sods, and then did a loop up there before returning the way we came. Q and Ivan were outstanding for the whole ride. The colors were beyond gorgeous. I feel SO lucky to call this place home!

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From the very start, the trees were amazing. Chris and I were absolutely beside ourselves with the gift of this day, the colors, and this place we call home.
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Just LOOK at all of the color on Cabin Mountain! That slope is northeast facing and so the colors were not quite as far along as the rest of the valley (which was mostly fiery tones by this point) making it damn near PERFECT in my opinion. I like a variety and diversity of autumn tones.
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You can see the golds/oranges of the trees on the valley floor more here. 
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Looking down into Canaan Valley as we crest above the treeline into Dolly Sods.
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Ivan with his happy ears on near the end of our climb.
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By this point we'd already crossed paths with 4 hikers and 2 dogs. A lot for a Friday morning. 
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We would go on to pass somewhere around 40 hikers. It was nuts. The overuse of the area is becoming a bigger issue by the day. I hope we can come up with some feasible solutions to protect and share this resource in coming years.
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Rocks become more prominent as we enter the Sods. Part of this is natural and normal for the change in topography, but a lot of the reason so many rocks are exposed like this in the Sods is due to long-burning fires that smoldered down into the humus until heavy snows snuffed them out. These fires were started from burning cinders from trains that carried the timber out of the area back when the state was heavily timbered in the early 1900s.
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And thus the rocky terrain really begins! Worth noting that for this 16.5 ride Q was totally barefoot! Her kickass hooves continue to kick ass!...and rocks.
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Looking into Canaan Valley. It was so orange and beautiful! Also, just left of center, dipping just below the horizon line is that wee little flat ridge that I and the horses live on top of! The Sods are ~4200' and my house/farm are ~3700'.
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Signage marking the wildlife refuge boundary.
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Looking into the Sods where it slopes down into the valley.
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Fire tones coating the valley floor.
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Absolutely in awe of where we live.
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Doodle mostly stayed in second position for this ride, letting Ivan grow and learn in the front position. 
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Beaver ponds and the headwaters of Red Creek. 
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We would head down into this general area as the next part of our ride. We even stopped and had lunch before continuing back up out of these lower areas.
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Climbing out of where the Red Creek headwaters accumulate, we went through an absolute tunnel of gold and orange beech trees.

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The flaming red along the ground is all blueberry/huckleberry.
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And lots of cottongrass blooms! Cottongrass is a wetland obligate species. When you're foraging for cranberries, looking for cottongrass is a great way to find the low lying water-loving cranberry plants. We have TONS of wild cranberries around here. Every other Christmas, I will pick cranberries and make a savory cranberry chutney for Christmas gifts. (On the years I don't do this, Dave makes Italian meat/cheese pies from scratch to share instead.)
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Flagged spruce (due to wind), mountain laurel, blueberries, cottongrass, and (hidden) cranberries!
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The only "staged" photos I did the whole ride. It was too damn gorgeous not to. 
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Chris and I can both "see" our houses/farms from here!
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Ivan was totally over our BS by this point lol. 
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Qdle, eyes closed, also completely over my BS by this point.
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A very epic Chris and Ivan. 
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This horse has such a wonderful brain. I love it.
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I hope you've enjoyed your virtual tour of our beautiful ride!


  1. It's just all so stunning and the air is so clear!

  2. Stunning colors. Riding the sods is a bucket list item for me. Do you carry your real camera with you on trail? And how? These photos are outstanding.

    1. I do carry my real camera! Any watermarked images are from the DSLR. I put it and two lenses in a case inside a backpack. When I want to grab photos, I just flip the backpack around to my chest and open the top and get what I want. I even switched my lens as needed. Pays to have horses who give zero fucks about what I'm fussing with on their backs lol. The only photos I took from the ground are the ones of Ivan and Chris toward the end of the post.

    2. I think my camera would fit in my saddle bags. It's pretty beat up and on its way out so if I destroyed it, I wouldn't be devastated. You've inspired me to try bringing it on my next trail ride!!

  3. Replies
    1. Aw, shucks! I both hope they do make it in one and also hope they don't ... only because I don't want to give away my secrets about this place to too big an audience haha!

  4. wow, that looks amazing! One day I will see autumn colours in person, and experience it for myself. For now your pictures will have to do!

  5. These photos and views <3 I'm still crying internally that I can't ride this fall season...But at least I can enjoy it through your video and photos haha Glad you are enjoying your little piece of heaven to the fullest.