#10  Spruce Knob, West Virginia (4,863 ft.)

At the northern reaches of the highpoint-rich Appalachian range is the storied trifecta of West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, all about an hour's drive of one another. Heading north from Virginia, you reach Spruce Knob first. 


The original video I made of this leg of the journey is one of my favorites in the archive, thanks to NPR and my handy GPS. I say "original" because, like all of the original videos, it once was accompanied by music that I have declined to include in the online versions for copyright reasons. Spruce Knob had Daniel Johnston's incomparable "Walking the Cow," and I must say the slow progress of the paragliders through the trees suited the song perfectly. Pity. I replaced it with a techno gurgle created with my vintage Casio MT-65 keyboard and some heritage cables.

A side note about Spruce Knob on food and an amphibian of unusual size. If you're heading north from Spruce Knob to Backbone Mountain and are peckish, I  recommend Hellbender Burritos in the town of Davis, West Virginia. A hellbender, by the way, is a very large (up to 2 1/2 feet long) endangered salamander (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) found in the clearer streams of the Mountaineering State.


Both the salamanders (right) and clear streams seem fewer and fewer in number in West Virginia. Needless to say the burrito joint does not serve the hellbenders in tortillas, but they do have an excellent selection of ingredients, including local garlic scapes on the day I stopped by. They also have a roaring fire, no doubt popular during ski season.

The summit area of Spruce Knob is attractive enough. A pleasant circuit through the conifers leads to the oddly squat observation tower, akin to a Frank Lloyd Wright outhouse. There is also a passing resemblance to Tolkien's Weathertop, a trait is shares with Mount Mitchell's tower.

Dolley Shot: The Effects of Sequestration

As you'll notice in the video, I encountered paragliders at the top of the mountain, as  I did on Mount Brace, in New York, which should come as no surprise, I guess, given that the cleverest paragliders tend to jump from high places.

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