Distance to a Road: 3.2 miles
Cell Phone Coverage: No
Public Land: Yes, Cranberry Wilderness Area, Monongahela National Forest
Travel Method: Backpacking on foot
Travel Time One-Way: 2.5 hours
Something We Learned: While isolated and roadless, we were able to follow a trail, which just happened to be an old road, to within 0.2 miles of the Remote Spot.
Click on the ‘Play’ button below to view our panoramic video of the Remote Spot.
We embark into the Cranberry Wilderness from the Three Forks Trailhead originally to spend 2 days and a night backpacking into and out of the West Virginia Remote Spot. Rebecca carries Skyla in our child carrying backpack while Ryan hauls everything else. Our packs weigh 45 and 65 lbs, respectively. Lugging heavy weight in the mountains isn’t something we are proud of, but rather, stuck with. It is our reality. We must carry our young daughter along who can’t yet walk powerfully enough to accomplish an overnight trek. To save our backs, we must get to work on teaching Skyla how to walk a mile, then two…etc. And soon. The grade is gently upsloping and we reach the Remote Spot much quicker than we thought possible in the rugged West Virginia mountains. Turns out that we are able to complete the mission in one day, a 10.3 mile out-and-back hike.
The Cranberry Wilderness Area is a magnificent piece of Appalachia preserved within the National Wilderness Preservation System. As with many wilderness areas, the Cranberry has many hiking trails lacing throughout. Before the trip, we figured to have ourselves a challenge going deep into eastern mountain terrain off-road. But our calculations showed that the Remote Spot is located just 0.2 miles off of an interior hiking trail.
Judging from the steep, mountainous terrain, if we had to walk off-trail for any significant length, we would have a serious physical challenge on our hands. We think to ourselves, “At some point in the East, and definitely in the West, we will have to hike a serious off-trail distance for multiple days to get to a Remote Spot.” But not today. Not yet in Project Remote. We will have to wait.
When the Cranberry Wilderness Area was designated in 1983, this former road (at right) became the Middle Fork Trail, which follows the middle fork of the Williams River. This is a rare and welcome chance to observe active restoration of a road back to more natural habitat, or, at least to a hiking trail. Hiking trails are far less impacting to ecosystems than auto roads, and we are greatly in favor of foot-based wilderness travel.
Signs of wildlife on the trail–black bear scat. The black bear is now West Virginia’s state animal and is very common in this area. The presence of big mammals requiring large home ranges is an indicator of relatively intact wildlands and ecosystems.
One of us spots a chorus frog. We both just happen to be herpetologists who specialize in amphibian research and conservation, so spotting a frog on our way to a Remote Spot is a definite score! This is the southeastern chorus frog (Pseudacris feriarum).
While enjoying this hike into a renowned eastern wilderness area, we are not feeling incredibly remote thus far because of being on a well-maintained trail. But, with Project Remote, it’s not about how remote we feel, it’s about how remote we actually are. If we could restore half the nation’s little-used roads on public lands with either footpaths or native habitat, then this could be one of the greatest conservation accomplishments in history. Through Project Remote, we are working toward that day.
The crystal clear Middle Fork provides us with soothing scenery and tasty drinking water all day.
We must bushwack 0.2 miles off-trail up a mountainside to the Remote Spot. Even though the distance is small, the challenge is large. It takes us nearly an hour to scramble the short distance. Ryan totes Skyla on his back for the climb. We don’t want to slip with our precious cargo.
We arrive at the West Virginia Remote Spot! There is a special feeling we get when we Go Remote. What a hell of a way to see what’s left of our country. We take a much-needed, restful seat on the ground at Terra Remota. At this very instant, we are–The Remotest Family in West Virginia.
Now, we get down to business. We conduct our Remote Spot Assessment… The RSA consists of spending 15 minutes recording quantitative data on human presence/absence. Specifically, one of us stands calm and observes all surroundings in the time alloted. We observe sights, sounds, and smells of anything of human origin, then we identify it, estimate distance, and record the compass bearing of the datum. This is an attempt to measure the current effects of humanity on remoteness in each state. Additional to the RSA, we make ecological observations and high resolution panoramic photo and video of the Remote Spot. Through Project Remote, we are measuring remoteness as it currently exists in the United States. Put another way, we are measuring the extent to which human activity can be detected from Remote Spots. This work provides a baseline of information on remote (i.e. roadless) areas that is useful to current and future roadless area conservation efforts.
Skyla is a trooper throughout the entire 8-hour expedition, once again reaffirming our belief that children are up for just about any kind of activity…The thing they need the most, after food and water, is their parents, no matter the physical setting. It is amazing to watch Skyla’s lightbulb of consciousness get brighter with each experience.
–The Remote Spotters