Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cass Scenic Railroad

Wednesday started off well, checking out of our home for the past few days, the Elkins Hampton Inn.  We headed south on US 219 for Cass, stopping at the Greenbank Observatory for a break and visit to the displays.  We were at the Cass Scenic Railroad a little after 10 am, testing the water in the Greenbrier River.  We were surprised by the low dissolved oxygen content of the water which impacted the overall water quality assessment.  Although specific water quality measures varied from each group’s samples, the low dissolved oxygen was consistent across all groups’ data. 
By 11:30 we had our lunches on the train to Bald Knob, propelled by the Number 11 Shay engine.  The three hour ride over the 11 miles was beautiful and interesting.  We passed from the hemlock/hardwood forests around the town of Cass at 2450 feet above sea level, through the basswood, cherry and oak forests to the elevation of 4842 at Bald Knob where red spruce and mountain ash dominate the landscape.  Although the spruce forests at Bald Knob are likely tertiary growth, the dense forests crowd out underbrush and small herbaceous plants making a dark, open forest floor.  The stop at Bald Knob allowed our group to make comparisons to observations of Cathedral State Park and set up our visit on Thursday to the virgin spruce forest on Gaudineer Knob.

The ride back down the mountain was much faster, especially since there was no stop at Whitaker Station as in the trip up.  Our train was back in the station by 5 pm when we drove to our restaurant Foxfire Grill at the Snowshoe Resort.  After getting our fill of great food, we went down the mountain to our motel, the Snowshoe Resort.

The resort got mixed reviews from our group.  While the location is accessible and convenient, there was no Internet in the room, no cell service due to Greenbank’s blackout, no television because of a small localized storm, the storm also resulted in closing the small indoor pool.

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