Sunday, August 23, 2015

Day Trip Adventure: Bridge Crossing - by Catwalk!

Mr. P. and I traveled about an hour southeast from home recently, to the sleepy little town of Fayetteville, WV, for a day's worth of outdoor fun. On our to-do list for the day:  hiking the Endless Wall Trail within the bounds of the New River Gorge National Park in the morning, followed by lunch in town, and then an afternoon guided tour along the Bridgewalk - across the New River Gorge Bridge - via the catwalk beneath it! (see photo below).
New River Gorge Bridge, Fayetteville, WV
To get to this area from our home, we first traveled through country roads beginning just fifteen miles outside the capital city limits, straight into the coal fields. The fog was pretty thick, and coal hauling trucks had traffic backed up more than once, as they traveled to and from the mining sites and prep plants.
Coal preparation tuck, plants, winding roads toward Fayetteville, WV
We arrived and started our hike around 9am, and hit the trail while temps were cool. The Endless Wall trail starts out graveled, but turns to a dirt path shortly into it.
Endless Wall Trail path
The trail is designated as a moderate hike, 2.4 miles that passes "through rich forest, crosses Fern Creek, then zig-zags along the cliff edge."  We worked our way to various points at the peak, rewarded with views of the New River from several ledges.
Endless Wall Trail Views
The most notorious of the ledges on the Endless Wall Trail is Diamond Point. We met another couple when we reached Diamond Point, and we exchanged the favor of photo ops for each other.
Diamond Point, Endless Wall Trail
Although the fog was still burning off and the sun wasn't quite high enough to make for optimal photographs, we were still able to capture a pretty good look at the New River Bridge from our vantage point. Later, we would see Diamond Point from the bridge's catwalk.
New River Bridge, as viewed from Diamond Point
Off the trail by 11am, we headed into town less than two miles aways for lunch at the Secret Sandwich Society in Fayetteville. Catering to hungry outdoor enthusiasts as well as indoor business clientele, we chose a couple of sandwiches from the menu, all named after historical political figures and presidents. Mr. P. got the Lincoln, "exercising his freedom of choice" for meat, cheese, and sandwich spread. I got the McKinley (meatloaf with a chipotle-bacon jam, 1000 island, and crispy onions on sourdough), with a Hansen's diet cherry vanilla creme soda - so good! We both enjoyed our lunch fare.
Secret Sandwich Society in Fayetteville, WV
Without much time to waste, we next headed back to the adventure-central area of Fayetteville for our afternoon excursion, the BridgeWalk.
BridgeWalk, New River Bridge, Fayetteville, WV
There were twelve in our group, with folks from New Hampshire, Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh), and Ohio (Cincinnati). We were considered locals, and our guide was was pre-med college student from the area.  I'm not gonna lie, the walk was intense, especially when our guide would step out onto the crossbeams and stop to tell us cool facts. Four lanes of highway traffic zoomed overhead, while the river below us was paralleled on either side with railroad tracks, on which coals trains rumbled by repeatedly.
Views from BridgeWalk, New River Bridge, Fayetteville, WV
In the photo above, (left side), you can see the bridge that preceded the New River Gorge single-span, steel bridge. Navigating and accessing the previous bridge was via a hairpin-curved, country road. Completion of the New River Gorge bridge in 1977 opened a huge tourist industry of whitewater rafting (rafts, appearing as a dotted line, are visible in the bottom right portion of the photo above).

Below is a view of the Diamond point ledge we hiked to that same morning, on which we had our photo taken by another couple we met there. The white arrow points to the Diamond Point ledge, as viewed from the catwalk on the New River Bridge.
Diamond Point, as viewed from New River Bridge Catwalk
The bridgewalk was invigorating, albeit a little tense for me. We were tethered onto cables above by a simple lanyard strap and clips. The bridge is 3,030 feet long, and is the second largest single span steel arch in the Western hemisphere, and the highest vehicular bridge in the US at 875' (facts, as of this writing). We finished the trip in just under two hours, and made our way back home by late afternoon. A great day!
BridgeWalk
Every year since 1979, the New River Gorge bridge is host to Bridge Day, held the third Saturday of every October, now in its 36th year. Base jumpers literally catapult off the center of the bridge, parachuting from its peak height of 875' at the bridge's center. It is the only day of the year where this is allowed, and the bridge is closed to vehicle traffic. Rappellers are also allowed to go off the bridge that day, along various points. It is a tourist event, with as many as 20,000 people descending upon this sleepy town, creating a festival atmosphere.

The night we returned home from the New River Gorge National Park, a local professional photographer, Steve Shaluta, happened to be at the national park, seeking photo ops of the perseid meteor shower. With his permission, I am sharing this stunning photograph he took between 2-3am that night.  You can see one meteor, just above and near center of the bridge's arch. To view more of Steve's gorgeous photography, click on his name, which will take you to his website.
Perseid Meteor, New River Bridge, photo credit Steve Shaluta
Voted one of the "Top 10 Coolest Towns in America" by Budget Travel Magazine, Fayetteville, WV has a population of less than 3,000. As small as the town is, though, it's pretty much put WV on the map as far as tourism is concerned, thanks to the New River Bridge. In 2005, the New River Bridge image was voted by residents to be featured on our state quarter.

I hope you enjoyed the recount of our trip. If you ever get the chance, you really should try to visit this golden nugget in our Wild, Wonderful West Virginia. Several links are embedded within here, which will provide information on the places mentioned. You can also check out our state's tourism site, Go to WV, for a free travel and much more. Thanks for coming along!
Rita C. at Panoply

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