Monday, June 11, 2018

Into The Darkness...

We left The Creeper Trail with plans for a direct run to PA for a visit with family.  

During a break from driving, we accessed the internet and the next thing we know...

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the North Bend Rail Trail in West Virginia became a part of the plans.

After all, anything is "on the way" if you take the right roads!

The 72 mile North Bend Rail Trail crosses 36 bridges and travels through an impressive 10 tunnels (including the "haunted" Silver Run Tunnel).  It is part of the 5,500-mile, coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail and there are plans in the works to join it with a few other long range trails.  The trail runs along a railroad bed that was built by the Northwestern Virginia Railroad before the Civil War.  The track was a major supply line for the Union Forces during the Civil War.

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We actually hesitate writing much about this trail because we had it all to ourselves and we liked that!  Pre-ride online research revealed some harsh reviews and critics in recent years.  Those are usually the kinds of things that make us want to try something and we sure were glad that we did.

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The kids -  packed, pointed east and excited to get going on down the line.

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Two minutes later - critter sighting.  A cute little cottontail.

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We found the ride to be beautiful with just the right mix of tree cover and wide-open.

One of the consistently positive comments about this trail that we clued in on was how much wildlife you would see. 

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Excited to see what we believe to be Phyciodes incognitus.  A new Butterfly for us - the Mimic Crescent.

Of course, that is difficult to confirm with an older specimen like this one because as the name implies it looks like others. 

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Spotting a photo-cooperative Groundhog was a new one for us.

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A real cutie.  We watched for a bit.

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Across the river...

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This Carolina Wren was singing its little heart out.

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We saw this Juvenal's Duskywing flittering about and

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we passed by a small farm with miniature horses

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and some ducks who had their very own swimming pool with entry ramp.

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As we turned to head back to Annie

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this beautiful Eastern Wild Turkey crossed our path.

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The return trip was a pleasant one as we took in the scenery and finished our day at around thirteen miles.

That evening we did a check on the weather.  We had known that our rain free first day on the trail was a lucky one in terms of weather.  Strong storms reported to last two weeks were on their way.  Still, we were enjoying this trail so we decided to shuck the forecast and head to another trailhead down in the valley. 

There was a time many years back when traveling though Kings Canyon N.P. that our GPS tried to tell us to drive off of a cliff.  Despite her constant pleading.  We didn't do it.   Ever since then we have questioned some of her suggestions.

On our way to this next trailhead, she told us to turn down a road that had a sign that said "No Outlet" even though a zoom in on the map showed a through street.  We decided that the sign was just folks not wanting people to keep going down their quiet country road to get to the trailhead and forged on.

The road quickly turned to a one lane loose gravel road with a significant down grade toward the valley floor.  We weren't going to turn around on that so we slid our way to the bottom and were greeted by an impassible section of road.  At that point, we completed a 20 point turn in what limited space we had, dropped Annie into first and floored it up those slippery slopes with hopes that we would not encounter anyone sliding down.

At the top, we breathed a sigh of relief and opted for another route to our destination.  Although our second choice in roads was narrow and pothole riddled it was also paved and thus a significant improvement over the first attempt at finding this trailhead.

Funny thing is that we had just been discussing changing Annie over to more passenger oriented (quieter and better mpg) tire tread since we have been in a less adventurous mode with her then we were when we first hit the road.  Now we're not so sure!

It rained steadily throughout the night and when we awoke the threat of more loomed.

A look at the trail map however indicated that there was a tunnel only three or so miles from where we were at. 

So, we pointed Boneless and Hop-a-long toward the tunnel and were excited for this new experience.

We prepared for three miles of drizzle with a chance of heavy rain

and a very muddy trail by donning our $1 raincoats.

Save for a few puddles from the night before, the trail was actually quite solid.

With the threat of heavy all-day storms we motored the whole way to save on time.

We questioned our decision to forge ahead when we noticed that not even the birds or the critters were out but at least it would be dry inside the tunnel.

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We stopped only twice.  Once to check out this item tied to a tree

which turned out to be the first of around five geo-caches that we spied along this section of trail.

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Then there was this stop to view what used to be the left side of the trail now resting about thirty feet down in a gully.

A short motor later, we rounded a corner to see this....

the Eaton Tunnel!!!  At 1,840 feet long it is the second longest on the North Bend Trail.

While their Mom's get organized for their first tunnel ride, Hop-a-long and Boneless stare into the darkness.

Our steeds came with integrated headlights that run off of the battery so we took off our raincoats, turned on our lights and ventured into the cool, damp echo chamber that is the Eaton Tunnel.

Save for the low glow from our bike lights the slight curve to the tunnel threw us into complete darkness for a bit.

In the low light / darkness the wet and slightly slippery terrain required more focus than we had anticipated.  Nicole attempted to record the experience and we both focused on not letting the bikes slide out from under us so the first actual photo that we took was on 'the other side'.

The exit was eerie and mist covered.  It was a neat experience to emerge into the warm humidity.

For our return trip we decided to walk through the tunnel and look around.  We were surprised not to see any bats or other creatures.  There was plenty of graffiti though.

Cute elephant.

One cool cat!

A sad frog.

Wyle E. Coyote makes the tunnel go BOOM!

Back where we started.  The light at the end of the tunnel.

Near the entrance Darlene spotted something.  See the black arrow?  It is pointing to a little tunnel guard sitting in a hole.  He didn't move at all.  Not a wink, not a breath.  We took lots of photos and still nothing.  So, we thought he might not be real. 

Even the guards at Buckingham Palace blink or wiggle once in a while.  Not this guy.  But when Nicole eventually approached him, he darted back into his cave. 

Once we saw the toad we figured there probably had been a lot more stuff staring back at us as we walked through the long, dark tunnel.  It was a comforting thought.  Ha Ha

By the time we had ridden into the darkness and back again, the weather had cleared enough to rid ourselves of our raincoats

and we started spotting some critters stirring.  Pretty sure this butterfly and the one below are the same kind.

Most likely a Mimic / Northern Crescent although we are still trying to confirm a definite ID. 

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Since our return trip was only three miles we had plenty of time to look for critters.

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Just off the trail we found plenty of them on this day.

Like this Morbid Owlet Moth - Chytolita morbidalis

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Hmmmm....????   We're still looking for the ID on this one...

Black Firefly - Lucidota atra

Peek-a-boo, we see you in that leaf-roller cocoon.

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Carolina Satyr - Hermeuptychia sosybius

IMG_6307 Black and Yellow Millipede - Apheloria virginiensis
A cool new discovery - Apheloria virginiensis - the Black and Yellow Millipede

IMG_6305a (2) Hobomok Skipper
Hobomok Skipper

IMG_6309 Zabulon Skipper
Zabulon Skipper

Red-eyed Vireo

Our final bridge crossing on the way back to the van.

We saw this beautiful and apparently freshly hatched Swallowtail right next to what we thought was its cocoon.

Further research on the cocoon however has us leaning toward Rusty Tussock Moth.  Just a coincidence to see the swallowtail next to it.

We peered at the water for a bit before continuing on to the van and hitting the road for our next destination.

One of our shorter yet eventful rides complete with our first tunnel experience under our belts. 

We are now just under the 200 mile mark on our trail rides.  Never thought we'd have gone that far in such a short time being back on the road.

More to come....