At 4,770 feet, Roaring Plains plateau is the highest in WV. It is so named because of the boisterous winds that blow through. Our route was a 5-mile loop that runs along a steep canyon rim with panoramic and magnificent vistas, but not today. All we could see was pea soup fog and huge wet snowflakes rapidly descending upon us. Visibility was only a few feet and to make matters worse, Dave’s glasses were fogged the whole time making it even more dangerous.
In the best of conditions, getting to the rim of the canyon requires squeezing through a narrow path of thick foliage while hiking extremely rough terrain. Besides the uphill exertion, there are also rock fields and creeks to cross, and thick blueberry bogs. The rock fields were ½ mile long requiring good climbing skills. Impenetrable mountain laurel and rhododendron are everywhere. Forget your phone. There are no signals.
My brother is a highly skilled backpacker, but even for him, this day was a challenge. Just when we realized we were flirting with danger, we ran into a guy who had been hiking for 3 days. He was lost. We asked him to join us, but his backpack couldn’t fit through the tight trails. It was eerie to watch him disappear into the fog as he took off to find another route. At least he was prepared. We weren’t. We had no tents, no sleeping bags, and no dry clothes.
We did have fire starters, but even if we could find enough dry wood to burn, hypothermia was a real threat. It was going to freeze overnight and we were wet. It didn’t make sense to turn around. We were ½ way.
So, onward we trudged, hiking over steep cliffs in slippery conditions unable to see. Hiking in single formation, it was hard to talk. I was a little scared. Afterwards, my brother told us that the GPS kept losing signals and he was navigating the dangerous trails mostly from memory. Long story short, we made it.
At the car, we quickly changed into dry clothes, relived the terror, and gave thanks for our good fortune. After a beer and a snack, we started home. But, in keeping with the general drama of the day, unexpectedly from the back seat, my brother says, “Dave, do you know how to do the Heimlich maneuver?” Seconds later Dr. Dave dislodged a pretzel piece from my brother’s throat. What a day!! Imagine what would have happened without a plan.