Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day: Douglas Falls/Siriani's

The morning of Labor Day Monday saw us hike more of Blackwater Falls State Park. In the afternoon, we left the park in search of nearby Douglas Falls, which I am sure the vast majority of visitors never see. First, they don't know about it and second, it takes some effort to find. The marquee falls at Blackwater Falls State Park are on the Blackwater River proper, while the exceptionally beautiful Douglas Falls are on the North Fork of the Blackwater River just two miles as the crow flies west north west. The North Fork joins the main Blackwater about two miles below the main Blackwater Falls, just west of Pase Point to which we hiked on Monday morning.

As we were checking out of the Lodge on Monday morning, we asked for directions to Douglas Falls because we really couldn't find much of anything on the web and nothing on Maps or the Garmin. One of the women at the desk gave us a sketch of how to get there, but the landmarks were a little crazy and some even suspect, her directions quite rambling.

Sketch in hand, we left the park for nearby Thomas WV. Our first try found us making a big circle through Thomas. On our second loop through, I found a turn that I misinterpreted the first time through and we ended up even further out in the boonies, still really unsure of where we were or where we were headed. Then we crossed a bridge over what I guessed was the North Fork of the Blackwater, and I decided to turn left on the dirt road beside it, for not much of any reason except I guess I thought I would follow the water. And I'll be damned if we didn't find first the coke ovens that were a landmark on our sketch and a railroad bridge that was another landmark on our hand-scrawled map from the Lodge. As we pulled into a makeshift parking lot, another couple was heading towards us and they confirmed that we were in the right place. Talk about getting lucky!

The long and short of it is head through Thomas on Douglas Road. Once you cross the river, turn immediately left on Rail Falls Road, a dirt road. Follow the dirt road just over a mile. You will come to an old railroad bridge and then it may dawn on you that you are driving on an old abandoned railroad bed. While there is a parking area on the far side of this bridge, if you're not in a 4x4, you would be best served to stay on the near side: this bridge is not in awesome repair and was quite rough, even in our Jeep. The falls are just a bit further down the road past a gate, on the left.

Driving along the river on the dirt Rail Falls Road (also listed on Google Maps as Blackwater Canyon Trail, for the road peters out into a hiking trail just at Douglas Falls), I had no idea what was beside us until we drove past this clearing and I got a sight of this aquamarine pool. I had no clue whatsoever. Stunning, just stunning!

Imagine Driving Along and Seeing This

Second Little Falls
Further along, after we parked, we walked into the woods on the trail which apparently continues on down into Blackwater Canyon following the old railroad bed. Following the sounds of a torrent of water, we scrambled thirty or forty feet down an embankment to find this incredible sight. I worked my way out into the middle to get this and dozens of other photos. Even at this distance, I was getting spray all over my lens. Can you believe that people kayak over this fall in high water?

Postcard Pretty Douglas Falls

Waterfall Detail
Annie found out just how refreshing the water was when she took a dip in the pool that was maybe five feet deep in the middle. I think she was glad that our walk back to the car was in the direct sunshine so she could warm up. I shot a few frames of some wildflowers on the way back to the car.

The Water Was Brisk

Bouncing Bet/Soapwort by the River

Appalachian Gentian, Gentiana austromontana

Elderberries Ripe for the Picking
On the way back out, we stopped by one of the abandoned coke ovens of the Davis Coal and Coke Company in the area that was known as Coketon, which at its heyday contained about 600 of these coking ovens. This oven is about halfway down Rail Falls Road. The coal mining in this area led to a lot of acid leaching into the water and this accounts for the rusty color of the rocks in the river. I'm not sure why the water is aquamarine; my guess is tiny particulate matter in the water.

Abandoned Beehive Coke Oven
As we were wrapping our day up, we wanted to grab a beer before heading back to Winchester so we headed into Davis to find both Blackwater Brewing and Stumptown Ales both closed. We went into Siriani's to get our beer and while we were there, we also ordered a pizza. Though people rave about it, I guess I'm not stylistically in tune with their pizza. I found the sauce a bit sweet for my liking and the dough too puffy; I like a bit more elasticity in the dough. It was uncomfortably warm inside as well, but I imagine it is a fun place to have dinner and beers after skiing all day.

Eclectic Siriani's

Siriani's Pizza

Never Seen Bell's in a Can Before

For future reference (and for anyone else reading this), Google has Douglas Falls on its maps:

We had a wonderful overnight at Blackwater Falls. I can truly say that West Virginia gets a really bad rap. It is one of the most phenomenally beautiful states in the country and there's an argument to be made that it is the most beautiful state in the country. Almost heaven is pretty appropriate. Our trip to Blackwater Falls and Douglas Falls only reinforced that it is a really special place.

Previous: Part Three of our Labor Day Getaway

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