After an absolutely amazing vacation in Maine (which you can read about here and here), we headed back south toward Harpers Ferry to grab the camper and get ready to hit the road! Over the summer, we had planned out a six week trip that would allow us to do a lot of rafting on the Gauley (Class V, baby!), and explore a number of states and areas we hadn’t seen much of before. Included on our plans were southern and western West Virginia, western North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
We spent a few days back in Harpers Ferry getting the truck and camper ready, and helping the Adventure Center get through Labor Day weekend, and by Tuesday we were ready to hit the road. We received a Monday night sunset sendoff in true Harpers Ferry style: a fiery sunset over the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers.
We headed almost due west, shooting first for Morgantown, West Virginia, and our campground, Coopers Rock State Forest. This was my first experience hauling the camper into the mountains, and it was definitely a learning experience. Lesson number one: don’t haul your camper to the top of a steep pass, then shut the engine off before it’s had time to cool down. The engine cools itself off much more effectively than simple heat dissipation.
Luckily, nothing bad happened, and we arrived safely. The forest and the campground were absolutely beautiful, although all the camper sites were oriented strangely, and I had to drive the wrong way down a one-way loop in order to back in properly. Other than that, though, it was an awesome campground — small, quiet, well-maintained, and hot showers!
However, as I was unhooking and leveling the camper, I found that the lower front of the camper, including the hitch, was absolutely covered in some kind of oil. I looked under the truck, and found my spare tire and much of the back end of the truck were also covered in oil. Only slightly panicking, I quickly checked all the fluids, and was surprised (and a little comforted) to find that they were fine.
I climbed back under the back of the truck to have a closer look, and realized that whatever the oil was, it was pooling under the rear axle. That was outside my realm of vehicle experience, so after a few hasty picture messages and phone calls with my buddy Eric, I found out that it was gear oil, leaking from what was only a year-old differential gasket.
It was late in the day, and we decided to just leave it for the night, since we were planning a quiet night of dinner and a campfire. The next morning, we spent several hours hiking around the forest, ultimately ending up at an incredible view at Raven’s Rock overlook.
Far in the distance is Morgantown, obscured in this photo by the storm that we watched blow in down the valley. It was absolutely stunning. We spent quite a while up there, taking pictures, chatting with a couple who was there as well. Rebecca even decided to do some yoga!
Eventually, the rain caught us, and we hiked a few miles back to camp. After showers, we decided to go into Morgantown, get what we needed for the truck, and check out the downtown and get some dinner.
What followed was a really frustrating few hours that involved pulling over at a gas station on our way to AutoZone because I could hear the gears starting to grind, Geico and AAA being unwilling to help us, missing the 5pm delivery deadline for all local car parts stores by minutes, and finally, getting a ride with one of the only two Uber operators in the entire city.
However, all’s well that ends well. I was able to fill the gear oil reservoir there in the gas station parking lot, and we continued on to our evening’s destination: The city of Morgantown, and more specifically, Morgantown Brewing Company.
Now I don’t say this lightly, because it was a pretty stressful few hours, but nonetheless: Morgantown Brewing was worth the hassle. I got a flight of 9 beers, all of which were tremendous. My absolute favorites were the Eighty Schilling Scotch and Coal City Stout. If you’re ever in northern West Virginia, be sure to give them a try! The Beer Pretzel sticks were delicious, and my IPA Jack burger was awesome, and actually cooked to order, which so few restaurants actually do. We left feeling much better about life in general, and our trip in particular.
The next morning, Rebecca had one more spot she wanted to visit before we hit the road — the actual Coopers Rock for which the state forest was named. Unlike Raven’s Rock, which was only reachable by a very rocky trail, Coopers Rock is right off the road, with paved paths and fenced overlooks. The view, while not quite as good, is very lovely, and some kind fellow tourists even offered to take a picture of us together.
With our sight-seeing finished, we hitched up the camper, and headed south to Fayetteville for some high adventure rafting on the Gauley!