Exploring Backroads in West Virginia
Hunting for Historical Markers and Just Exploring in:
Morgan, Hampshire, Hardy, Grant, Pendleton, and Mineral Counties
The stars suddenly lined up: I was caught up at work (taking photos of cars for a 3-dealership network's websites) and the weather was calling for two sunny days with no rain. My loving wife said, "Why don't you go for a ride?" OK, if you insist!
For those of you who have not followed my work the past 5 - 6 years on the West Virginia Historical Markers Project (see link below), I headed up a group of motorcyclists who have combed the entire state to take photos of over 835 Historical Markers. The WV Department of History and Archives (who oversees the markers) was following our work online to take inventory and note the condition of all markers for repainting/replacement. Along the way, I've personally photographed over 400 of the markers and learned a lot about WV History. And, it's for a good cause.
In the past year, several dozen markers have been replaced and I decided to head into part of the Eastern Panhandle to find some of them. After looking through my spreadsheet, I marked about 20 locations I wanted to check in 6 counties. Let's go!
Thursday 20 August 2015
My 2007 Suzuki Burgman 650 is ready to go.
The odometer is at an even 13,500 miles, so tracking trip mileage will be simple.
(I bought this bike 2 years ago with only 2,300 miles on it)
I left the house about 7:30am and headed east on I-68. Normally, I avoid the interstates but wanted to have as much time as possible in the Eastern Panhandle to explore and look for markers. The morning fog was just lifting over Cheat Lake east of Morgantown as I passed over on I-68.
When I was a student here from 1976-1982, I would dive off the beams under the interstate bridge (directly below me) and swim the half mile over to the 2-lane bridge in the distance. I was diving from a height of about 50 feet, and thought the lake was pretty deep. I found out years later, when the lake was drained for some reason, it has filled with silt and sediment and the water is actually only 15-20 feet deep in places. It's a wonder I didn't plant myself head first into the bottom.
Eastbound past Cooper's Rock, the fog was still heavy in some of the valleys.
At Bruceton Mills, visibility was down to less than a half mile.
By Cumberland, the sun had burned off the fog and it was looking to be a beautiful day! Temps in the 70s.
Just east of Cumberland, I exited I-68 and rode for awhile on Rt 144 / Rt 40 (AKA Baltimore Pike). This two-lane parallels the interstate, but offers quieter travels with no big trucks and far less traffic.
For a more detailed look at Rt 40 (National Pike) and Rt 30 (Lincoln Hwy) - Read My Ride Report from July 2014
Goodbye interstate - Hello peace and quiet.
Rt 144 / Rt 40 offers many overlooks into the western Maryland countryside.
More scenery east of Cumberland.
I don't know why, but the Baltimore Pike route changes back and forth from Rt 144 to Rt 40 numerous times.
I-68 is once again alongside.
At Hancock MD, I took Rt 522 south across the Potomac River into West Virginia.
Since there was no place to safely pull off, I parked on the south end of the bridge and walked back for this photo.
View of the Potomac River looking west. (WV on the left - MD on the right)
View of the Potomac River looking east. (WV on the right - MD on the left)
At the south end of the bridge are two new (replacement) historical markers I wanted to photograph.
They are visible to the right of and just past my bike.
Two of the twenty or so markers on my list for this trip.
Marker #1 - southbound entering West Virginia.
Marker #1 - northbound leaving West Virginia to cross into Maryland.
Marker #2. Very nice restoration job.
It had been white with black lettering, and the paint was peeling badly.
About a mile south on Rt 522 was this marker for Lovers' Leap.
Apparently it is a highly coveted item, as several markers have been stolen in the past.
Normally, I try to photograph the subject of each marker and had looked at satellite views to see where I needed to walk to get to the cliff. Unfortunately......... Not today.
Next stop was about 5 miles south - the artistic community of Berkeley Springs.
Lots of craft shops and places to eat in Berkeley Springs.
This marker (already in our records) tells some of the history.
Berkeley Springs City Park. The springs are visible far in the background.
This marker tells about the springs.
People take off their shoes and wade in these troughs of fresh spring water.
Spring house where you can fill your water jugs with fresh spring water.
Bring your own jug or buy one for $1.
One of the markers I needed to photograph is in this museum by the springs.
Found it! I never knew soaking in spring water could cure so many things!
There is a marker for Porte Crayon listed in the state directory as being located in Berkeley Springs at the intersection of Rt 522 and Rt 9. Since there is a Sheetz gas station on that corner, it was time to gas up the bike and get some cold Gatorade.
David Hunter Strother (September 26, 1816 – March 8, 1888) was a successful 19th century American illustrator and writer, popularly known by his pseudonym, "Porte Crayon".
Unfortunately, after looking for several blocks around the intersection for the better part of an hour, no luck!
Still "missing". Time to move on.
Coming out of Berkeley Springs on Rt 9 westbound is this famous landmark - Berkeley Springs Castle.
For more information and history:
Just a couple of miles west on Rt 9 is the historical marker for Sir John's Run.
This marker was recently refurbished and repainted.
Close-up of the historical marker.
Continuing out Rt 9 westbound.
This is one of the nicest roads to ride in West Virginia. Plenty of curves, great pavement, and little traffic.
Just another mile or two down the road is Prospect Peak.
This marker was also recently refurbished and repainted.
The historical marker is visible to the right at the edge of the parking lot.
And, finally, the wonderful panoramic view.
I had to take one photo with the bike, eh!
Continuing out Rt 9 westbound. Still a great road all the way to Paw Paw.
Just about 5 miles west of Berkeley Springs, Rt 9 crosses the Cacapon River with a view of this old stone train bridge.
More panoramic view of the Cacapon River crossing.
At the town of Great Cacapon, I was amused by this sign since I am the organist at our Methodist Church.
Actually - the previous page on the screen was for a music "open microphone" night coming up. Haha!
It was getting to be lunchtime and the nearest town with a diner was still an hour away, so I stopped here for a slice of pizza and a soda. I joined two gentlemen on the shaded porch and swapped travel stories for awhile. Then it was time to go.
Several miles down the road, Rt 9 crosses the meandering Cacapon river once again.
I stopped to get photos of this new marker at the Morgan County / Hampshire County line on Rt 9.
This marker was previously in bad shape and was refurbished/repainted.
Some history of Hampshire County.
And some history of Morgan County.
How many of you have actually stopped to read these?
Just before Paw Paw, the road splits.
Rt 9 continues north just a few miles to Paw Paw and Rt 29 heads south towards Rt 50.
First, I'm going to turn right for about a half mile to the next marker, then return and head south.
About a half mile north of the previous junction is another Hampshire County / Morgan County crossing.
This historical marker was also recently refurbished/repainted. Same text as previous marker on both sides.
The church by the marker had a great sign.
Continuing south on Rt 29 towards the town of Forks of Cacapon, you will see this roadside attraction.
Pin Oak Fountain. Built in 1932 by the State of West Virginia and local artisans.
This historical marker was previously photographed and documented by our crew.
Because it is still in good condition, it was not repainted.
Either the spring ran dry or someone turned off the gravity. No water today.
After continuing on Rt 29 south another 8 or 10 miles, I came to the town of Slanesville.
From here, I will take County Road 3 west to the towns of Points and Springfield.
View of the beginning of CR 3.
This nice road takes you through woods and old farms. Nice scenery, very little traffic, very relaxing.
Lots of old white churches along the way.
Lots of farmers working in the hay fields today.
Love the smell of fresh-cut hay. You miss that in a car on the interstate.
Stopping to check the map.
This old log house has seen better days. Oh, the stories that house could probably tell!
At Springfield, I turned west for a few miles looking for a marker at the border of Hampshire County and Mineral County on Rt 28. No luck - still missing. Then I turned back around southbound on Rt 28 towards Romney.
Between Springfield and Romney, I looked for two more markers - Oriskany Sand and Hanging Rocks - that were supposed to have been replaced on Rt 28, but no luck - still missing.
Just on the north side of Romney is the Potomac Eagle, a scenic train ride through the area.
Very popular in the fall with leaf peepers.
Emblem on the front of the train.
Information about the Potomac Eagle train rides.
At Romney, I turned east on Rt 50 for about 15 miles to Hanging Rock.
Rt 50 near Shanks and Augusta.
At Hanging Rock, I turned south on Rt 29. Lots of farmland and farmers cutting hay.
Nice old barn near Delray on Rt 29. This scene repeated itself many times.
Near Delray, I passed this yard full of cool old Chevys!
Two gentlemen were outside talking and one was the son of the man who is restoring these classics.
I asked if this was a 1960 or 1961. Turns out it is 1960. Not bad.
In need of some loving.
When you see the Chevelle in a few moments, you know it will get plenty of love.
Back when cars actually had style and character.
That rear bumper probably weighs just about as much as my Kia.
Final touches being made on this 1967 Chevelle SS396.
Beautiful paint job! All moldings and trim were removed first.
I miss the good old "cubic inches" days.
396 Cubic Inches just sounds more impressive than 6.5 Liters.
Continuing south past Rio on Rt 29. Beautiful country and a peaceful ride.
Between Rio and Baker. Somebody grew up with "Hooked on Phonics".
My West Virginia Atlas and Gazetteer has it spelled "Arkansas" like the state.
View south on Rt 29 at the junction with "Arkansaw" Road.
At Baker, I passed under the new 4-lane Rt 48/55 and continued south on Rt 259 toward Lost River.
Southbound on Rt 259 just south of Baker. Farm country with mountains as the scenic backdrop.
Panorama of farmers baling fresh-cut hay.
Love that smell - but my allergies don't.
West Virginia has its own "Leaning Tower". Just a few miles south of Baker along Rt 259.
I found another marker that had been missing.
It has not been refurbished/repainted, so I don't know why it was previously missing and now in place.
Side #1 of the marker. Located on Rt 259 just north of Mathias.
(Locals pronounce that Muh-Thie-Us, not Muh-Tee-Us)
Side #2 of the same marker.
After turning back northbound on Rt 259, I stopped at Lost River to photograph this marker.
It was also previously missing but is now in place.
Historical Marker in Lost River along Rt 259.
After this, it was time to high-tail it to Petersburg, where my mother and father were expecting me at 6pm for dinner.
I headed back to Baker and took the new 4-lane into Moorefield, then Rt 220 over to Petersburg.
View westbound along the new 4-lane Rt 48-55 coming into the Moorefield area.
The mountains were beautiful in the evening haze.
I made it to our farm in time for a great dinner.
View out the back door of our farm. We rent the fields to a neighbor.
View out the front door looking out at Rt 220.
One of a dozen evening guests around the house.
By 8:30pm, I was ready for bed. Great riding today!
Friday 21 August 2015
I awoke at my usual early hour (5am) and rolled back over for another hour of peaceful sleep. With no A/C in the house, we open the windows at night and it was in the low 50s with low humidity. Nice! At 6am, I could hear my mother getting breakfast ready, so I got my things together and took a quick look at the map to try to plan the day. I decided to head south for a loop around Mozer/Kline and Fort Seybert. But first - fried eggs are awaiting.
By 7:30am, I was on the bike and heading out. About 5 miles south of Petersburg, North Mill Creek Road (CR 220/4) cuts over eastbound to South Mill Creek Road (CR 9).
North Mill Creek Road (to the left) turns off Rt 220 (to the right).
Yes, I'm at the right place.
The road is only about 5 miles long but goes past several scenic old farms.
Another great day for riding! North Mill Creek Road.
Another old farm along North Mill Creek Road.
Still on North Mill Creek Road, approaching South Mill Creek Road.
Mill Creek is to the left, just behind the trees.
North Mill Creek Road. Looks like they did some paving recently.
At the junction with South Mill Creek Road, looking back where we just came out.
Mill Creek is visible to the left.
Now we turn south on South Mill Creek Road (CR 9) and head toward Mozer and Kline.
Very scenic riding around Dorcas.
At Dorcas, I noticed the sign for Spring Hill Fish Hatchery. I used to come out here with my grandparents for picnics when I was a kid staying at the farm for the summer. It's just a 4 mile detour on a side-road.
It was a good decision - for two reasons. (Read on)
Lo and behold, just before the hatchery, I saw a historical marker. I didn't know there was one here.
It turned out to be a marker that was listed as being located nearly 30 miles away in Williamsport.
No wonder nobody found it during our project!
Close-up of the marker. This is what many of them looked like before being refurbished/repainted.
Another view of the church. It is empty now and was locked up.
Next stop was the Spring Run Trout Hatchery. Last time I was here was with my grandparents 40 years ago.
Nearly 200,000 people fish in West Virginia every year.
Hatcheries like this supply millions of fish to stock the rivers and streams.
The main office and residence of the head ranger.
These long ponds are where the fish are raised.
Fresh water flows through the ponds supplied by this spring above the hatchery.
The spring water flows out of these pipes into the upper end of the ponds, and is released at the lower end into the stream.
Some of the trout are visible in this photo.
Eric is one of the handful of people responsible for the care, feeding, and distribution of the fish.
He informed me there are a total of about 400,000 fish in this hatchery.
Most (just over 300K) are rainbow trout.
About 30K are brook trout / 22K golden trout / 16K brown trout.
Some of the rainbow trout are visible here.
The golden trout are easier to spot.
Alas, by the stream nearby.
Heading back out to South Mill Creek Road.
This was a nice detour - finding a "missing" marker and re-discovering the hatchery.
Back out on South Mill Creek Road heading south toward Mozer and Kline.
A few miles above Mozer, southbound on South Mill Creek Road.
These young cows were interested in the bike.
Just north of Mozer is this scenic spot with horses to the left of center.
(hard to spot here - see next photo)
Close-Up of the horses in the previous photo.
An angler trying to catch some of those yummy trout on South Mill Creek Lake.
So quiet and peaceful.
Entering the town of Mozer southbound on CR 1 (was CR 9 previously in Grant County)
Entering Kline southbound on CR 1.
Kline area on CR 1.
Just south of Kline, I turned onto Kiser Gap Road (CR 1) while the main road south changes name to CR 11 into Upper Tract.
From here, the road narrows and becomes quite winding, but is paved. Watch for fine gravel, though.
View up the start of Kiser Gap Road. Uphill for the next couple of miles.
Heading uphill on Kiser Gap Road. The pavement is OK, but a little rough in spots.
Kiser Gap Road - very scenic and peaceful. A car came by maybe every 10-15 minutes.
Another scenic spot to stop.
At the top of Kiser Gap. Siple Mountain area is visible in the far distance.
What a great name for a road! Troublesome Valley.
There are actually 3 sisters from this area who have attended WVU and our church in Morgantown,
and each have sung in the choir. Very nice young ladies.
At the junction on top of the mountain, watch for this sign to take you eastbound toward Fort Seybert.
Beautiful view from the junction of Troublesome Valley Road and Siple Mountain Road.
The next photo was taken in the far distance looking back at this spot.
Looking back at the spot where I took the previous photo.
View along Siple Mountain Road.
Soon, the road narrowed even more than before. In spots it is only 1 lane wide.
Coming down the last stretch into Fort Seybert, I was taken by the beautiful view of the
layers of mountains through the trees. This is maybe my favorite photo of the trip.
At the end of the road in Fort Seybert along CR 3 (Sweedlin Valley Road).
Starting northbound on Sweedlin Valley Road (CR 3) toward Moorefield - a little over 20 miles.
South Fork River bridge shown in previous photo.
Lots of old farms and fields along Sweedlin Valley Road (CR 3) northbound.
More scenery - very relaxing and enjoyable ride. Pavement is excellent in most places.
CR 3 also goes through some woods along the way to Moorefield.
Once you enter Hardy County, the road name changes to CR 7 - South Fork Road.
CR 7 - South Fork Road - lots of old barns along the way.
Many large fields along CR 7 - South Fork Road - this scene would play out again and again.....
... and again. Big corn field here. Moorefield is just about 5 miles ahead.
In Moorefield, I stopped to get lunch at Taco Bell and to fill up the bike with gas
(so far averaging about 48 MPG with all the stops and starts for photos).
Then, it was north on Rt 220 to look for another "missing" marker at the county line.
North of Moorefield, Rt 220 is nice riding with good roads and good scenery.
Rt 220 north of Moorefield - lots of farm country.
Another scenic photo spot north of Moorefield near the Mineral County line.
The historical marker I was looking for at the county line on Rt 220 was indeed still missing. Oh well.
I am still feeling good about finding the "missing" one at the church earlier.
At Rt 50, I turned west at the town of Junction to look for a historic marker at the county line of Hampshire and Mineral Counties. It, too, was still missing.
At the town of Burlington, I turned north on Patterson Creek Road (CR 11). South of Burlington, Patterson Creek is a nice 2-lane road that runs all the way past Greenland Gap and meets Rt 42 just north of Petersburg. Turns out that north of Burlington, Patterson Creek narrows to 1-1/2 lanes with no center line. It's paved, but a little rough in spots - enough that I slowed to about 30MPH in places. That's OK with me, though.
Northbound on Patterson Creek Road (CR 11) out of Burlington.
Another scenic view along Patterson Creek Road (CR 11) north of Burlington.
At the town of Headsville, there is a short "dogleg" as you need to turn left, then right (northbound or southbound) to stay on Patterson Creek Road (CR 11). North of Headsville, the road narrows and climbs several hills.
Out in the middle of nowhere is this huge mansion with several large out-buildings.
And LOTS of "No Trespassing" signs!
A more moderate home along Patterson Creek Road (CR 11)
Tall corn along Patterson Creek Road (CR 11) near Reese's Mill, just south of Rt 46.
This gives you an idea how tall the corn was.
Old farm along Patterson Creek Road (CR 11) south of Rt 46 - Near Reese's Mill.
Patterson Creek Road (CR 11) just below junction with Rt 46.
Junction of Patterson Creek Road (CR 11) with Rt 46.
Looking west toward Keyser (about 8 miles away).
Rt 46 has some of the longest straight-aways I've seen in the state (except for Rt 522).
I found another historical marker on Rt 46 about 2 miles east of Keyser.
The marker has been refurbished/repainted.
Interesting roadside attraction on Rt 46 westbound into Keyser.
Close-up from previous picture.
In Keyser, I continued on Rt 46 west through town and on to Piedmont. The road is still 2-lanes, but narrower and quite twisty (well paved) as it follows the steep hillsides along the North Branch Potomac River. In fact, there was nowhere to safely stop for a photo.
As you come into Piedmont, the one road in/out is only 2 lanes since it is carved into a steep hillside. There is parking along the one lane in alternating sections, and oncoming eastbound traffic has to yield in the gaps to westbound traffic.
About 6 miles west of Keyser is the town of Piedmont.
To the far right, you can see a new historical marker I was looking for on the corner.
New marker to replace a lost/stolen one. Hope this one lasts a long time.
This marker for a famous jazz musician is located in downtown Piedmont.
It was documented earlier in our project but was recently refurbished/repainted.
View of downtown Piedmont looking south from the bridge crossing into Maryland.
Standing in the same spot as the previous photo of downtown Piedmont,
this is the view north across the bridge to Westernport MD.
I crossed into Maryland at Westernport and continued north on Rt 36 to Lonaconing - about 10 miles of very good road. At Lonaconing, I headed north-west on Rt 657 past Avilton to Piney Grove MD.
Heading out of Lonaconing MD on Rt 657 northwest.
Still on Rt 657 northwest of Lonaconing.
Lucky a guy told me the directions because the road forks several times
and it's a guess to whether to go right or left - no signs!
Near Avilton MD on Rt 657. Nice farmland. Good road. So peaceful and relaxing!
Rt 657 just a few miles south of I-68.
I got on I-68 (Exit 24) for the last leg home. There is a good Pilot gas station with food and gas at Exit 22 (Rt 219 North) that is a good place to stop. I finished the last 50 miles on the interstate since I wanted to get home by 5pm. I was back in Morgantown at 4:50.
502 miles in two fun days of riding and exploring.
Averaged about 48 MPG, so it cost me less than $30 in gas.
Hope you enjoyed the ride too - Thanks for joining me.