What is it about a road winding through the mountains that entices me so? The unlimited possibilities just beyond the next bend captivate me. There’s always a chance that the next stretch of road will present an entirely new adventure – a bear tromping through a draw, a patch of morels, a snake sunning itself, an unexpected conversation with a stranger or with someone you’ve talked with a thousand times, or a trout craving its next meal.
Such is the case with a recent adventure in the Cranberry Backcountry in Nicholas County, West Virginia. My wife, my two daughters, my son, and I spent an afternoon trekking into “daddy’s mountains” – so called by my children because these mountains are where I find solitude under the stars. The Cranberry (as the locals call it) is a vast expanse of land, dissected by the aptly named Cranberry River. As you enter The Cranberry, the road narrows, forests grow more dense, cell phones lose reception, and the hustle and bustle of society disappears.
As we walked along the road, used only by pedestrians, horses, bikers, and the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, my daughters and son grew concerned about black bear encounters. We had just watched a last–year’s cub sprint across the road and over the mountainside as we drove into the mountains, and all three children were a bit afraid of another encounter. I assured them that we wouldn’t see another bear and even if we did, it wouldn’t bother us. Their nerves were calmed – even if my wife remained “bearanoid” for the rest of the adventure.
My initial intent for the family was a leisurely hike to appreciate the natural wonders of the forest. With no intention of fishing, I envisioned a stress–free saunter, filled with intimate conversations with my children, holding hands with my wife, and chasing butterflies under rainbows – sentimental moments, appropriate for greeting card poetry. But there is no such luck for an old woodsman. Both daughters were adamant that fishing was a required activity. How could I argue? I knew that the first stretch of river accessible by foot is over–fished. I knew that every hole would be depleted of spring trout from the countless casts of fishermen with more expertise than myself. I knew that the better fishing was further upriver, where miles of walking or biking separate the casual fisherman from the truly dedicated. But I also knew that when my daughters look at me with those pleading eyes, I can hardly resist. So, with fishing poles in hand, we set out on a walking adventure.
Even with the required fishing, I stuck to my convictions. We sauntered along, taking in the scenery as we went.
We watched countless chipmunks scurry between the leaves away from us interlopers. We looked at every flower in bloom (pictures of flowers to follow in another post). We debated the age of trees. We identified a few edible plants and discussed their preparation. And we found ourselves alone in the wilderness. Is there a better place for family fellowship?
Our conversations turned to my mountain adventures, many of which I’ve written about here on SmoothingIt. The entire family was intrigued by the the details of my previous excursions into the wild, the fish I’ve caught and cooked on an open fire, the peaceful nights staring at the moon on its elliptic orbit, listening to coyotes howl, watching fawns sneak through my campsite in the witching hours of the night, and sharing stories with my best friends as we approach a long day’s end. And they were intrigued by the possibility of attending these adventures in the future.
I never confirmed or denied their inclusion to my deep wilderness adventures. I just insinuated that we’ll have to see what comes after the next bend in the road.