33/50: Spruce Knob, West Virginia [4863’]

West Virginia is notable for having the best state motto, montani semper liberi, “mountaineers are always free.”  While choosing sides in the Civil War, West Virginia split off from Virginia because plantation slaves were taxed at a lower rate than the livestock in this rugged mountainous land.

West Virginia fall autumn leaves trees   West Virginia Mountain State Brewery and Pub   West Virginia river   West Virginia Seneca rocks

I wound past the jawdropping Seneca Rocks, white fins of quartzite slicing open the lapis blue sky, then turned up the narrow single-lane road that twists and writhes for miles uphill, peppered with blind corners and dogleg turns through a forest of flaming trees, always alert to crank to the gutter for the rare oncoming traffic rocketing downhill.

West Virginia road fall autumn trees leaves    West Virginia road fall autumn trees leaves    West Virginia road fall autumn trees leaves

There’s a lookout tower not far from the picnic area at the apex of the road, a stack of wide flat platforms.  Rabbits hopped randomly beneath it, bouncing from the treeline to the open area and back again, trying to either trick or simply tire out their exasperated predators.  The view soared over the treetops to the mountains beyond.

Spruce Knob West Virginia highpoint lookout tower      Spruce Knob West Virginia highpoint fall autumn leaves lookout tower

I meandered along a short loop trail, the jagged rocks reflecting brightly all around.  Tall red spruce burst impossibly from cracks in the rocks, their branches tattered by the westerly winds.  I chose a perch on a flat tabletop of a boulder and watched the sun set on me, on the wily rabbits, and on all the free mountaineers in this beautiful range.

Spruce Knob West Virginia highpoint fall autumn leaves    Spruce Knob West Virginia highpoint fall autumn leaves    Spruce Knob West Virginia highpoint fall autumn leaves

 

About the beer: 

There’s a little brewing boom going on down the Blackwater River, where I passed at least three, all closed on a Monday. I stopped at the convenience store right next door to Mountain State Brewing for their Miner’s Daughter oatmeal stout. “What is this?” the girl at the counter exclaimed, studying the label curiously.  I guess the brewery hasn’t quite caught on with locals yet.

Miner’s Daughter– love the name– smells like charred grass and dark chocolate, but the taste is not at all what I expected from a stout, it was more like a bitter English Brown with a sort of campfire ash duskiness, followed up by a chalky and slightly medicinal aftertaste.  I kept sipping at it as I walked, though, and it improved as it warmed up a little bit, with a light texture and an unusual rounded charcoal flavor that seemed well-suited for this mining state.

Spruce Knob West Virginia highpoint Mountain State Brewery Miners Daughter oatmeal stout

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