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                   Monday, March 3, 2008 - 10:10PM

Photos: Little Coal River off-trail hike

By DAN ROBINSON
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25 Years of Storm Observing
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This afternoon I decided to explore the mountain ridge overtop of the railroad tunnel at the end of Little Coal River Road. There are no trails going up there, so I just hiked straight up the side.

Here is the view from the railroad tracks below. That ridge doesn't look all that high up there, until you start the climb up to it. It took me about 20 minutes to make it to the top.

If our mountains weren't tree-covered, there would be nice scenic vistas everywhere. Here is a view from the ridge:

I found this tree on the ridge with a well-defined lightning scar and channel furrow:

From the looks of it, the strike happened several years ago, as the tree is pretty far gone. Here is a zoom of the top, showing the furrow carved into the trunk by the lightning channel.

Old glass insulators still remain on the railroad's communication lines. As is the case with most railroad tunnels, this part of the lines goes overtop of the ridge rather than through the mountain with the tracks.

Looking back on the other side of the mountain, the portal of another tunnel (Sproul Tunnel) is visible about a mile or so away.

The only green on the mountain this time of year is the spotty lichen and moss on the rocks and ground.

Before heading back, I walked around the area directly above the tunnel for a while in the hopes that a train would eventually go by. I only had to wait about 5 minutes.

The empty hoppers blur their way in the fading daylight to one of the dozens of coal mines in southern West Virginia.

The sun dips below the horizon, which around here is pretty high up - meaning that 'sunset' occurs about an hour earlier down in the valley than it does up on the ridge.

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