Usually at the WV house, we leave the car parked in the driveway and hike from the house. This time we drove to Laneville to hike Roaring Plains. It gets its name from the frequent winds that blow over the ridge. We planned our route with a variety of partial or old sources:
- Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide 7th edition from 1999 (link to newer 9th edition)
- May Ann Honcharik’s 2008 map of official trails, obscure trails, and bushwhack routes (digital version downloadable from Whitegrass site)
- a few trails in open street maps
- a loop on AllTrails.com
- some heresy gathered by my parents
The best views are on the rim trail. Unfortunately, it isn’t an official trail. As best we could tell, we might have to do some bushwhacking to follow it. Or it might have gotten popular enough to be easy to follow. We started on Boars Nest trail #516. That gave us the option of a smaller loop, or pushing all the way out to the canyon rim trail. First, before the views, we had to cross the South Fork of Red Creek and climb up to Flatrock Plains.
After crossing the South Fork of Red Creek we found the cave mentioned in the guidebook. The trail has been rerouted slightly since the 1999 guidebook. Hang a left immediately after crossing the stream. Then follow a small cliff band south east. First Tyson found a high overhang. Then Isaac found a four foot tall undercut that went back a good ten feet. It was rather drippy in there.
Next the trail climbed up. Up through open birch forest. Up through rhododendron thickets. 1,400 feet up. The whole forest was foggy and damp from rain the night before. We sweated from the climb until we were as damp as the woods. Isaac found slugs and snails and tree fossils.
After the climb, the Boars Nest trail broke out into blooming laurel bushes and sunshine. Tyson loved the brilliant pink ones. Flatrock Plains and Roaring Plains are covered with laurel and a few azaleas. The bushes were as high as I could reach. Occasionally we could see a little way into the distance. Underfoot, the plains have the same white sandstone as northern Dolly Sods. In places it makes white sand beaches. Other places it’s still a solid pebbly mass. The plains also have the same pools of muck and brilliant green sphagnum moss as Dolly Sods.
The Boars Nest Trail ends at forest road 70. Here our exploration began. We looked for the logging road that was a possible shortcut, but couldn’t find it. Instead we stayed on FR 70 until the pipeline. The pipeline cut was another shortcut option, but it looked very boggy. So we continued on to Roaring Plains Trail #548. Next we needed the Teepee Trail which cut off a three mile detour. The Honcharik map showed it as an extra thin obscure trail. The official Roaring Plains Trail was a gully between the laurels. Once on the unofficial Teepee Trail, we were swimming in laurel. Tyson was loving his high gaiters. The rest of us got scraped up. Finally we arrived at the more open Canyon Rim Trail.
The rim trail is unofficial, so the footbed isn’t as well laid out as a proper trail. However, it gets enough traffic that it was easy to follow. We quickly got out to the views. Lots of green ridges and hollows that I didn’t recognize. For lunch, we sat on a sandstone bluff with a good breeze and a view of Mt Porte Crayon. Isaac found slots to explore between rocks. After lunch we continued south to the southern point of Roaring Plains. The view from the point was even better. We could see all the way to Seneca Rocks.
From there, we were hoping to catch a shortcut back. We were all hot and tired. Tyson, Isaac, and I were running short on water. If only we hadn’t left our water filter in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any of the shortcuts drawn on the Honcharik map. We were stuck following the rim trail down to the pipeline, up the pipeline, across some pretty meadows and through fern filled woods. Oddly, the pipeline junctions were marked with thermometers. Tyson found a green snake hiding in the grass. We got back to the car around 7pm after a bout of rain.