West Virginia’s Cranberry Wilderness
One of my favorite areas within West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest is the 47,815 acre Cranberry Wilderness which is located in a Black Bear sanctuary it is here where I saw the largest Bear I have ever come across in the East or the West it came out of nowhere and stood facing my partner and I less than 50 yards away, I reached for my camera and he waved his hands and yelled at the bear scaring it, we watched the estimated 400 lb. plus animal climb virtually straight up the steep embankment with lightning speed out of the Middle Fork Williams River drainage astonished at the brief encounter but in general the area is a quiet and scenic mixture of high ridges and low river valleys within an elevation range of 2400′ to 4600′ rugged terrain with minimal signage it is the largest wilderness area in the Eastern United States I must have backpacked and day hiked that area at least a dozen times over the years as I kept pushing the boundaries of exploration outward (eventually to the West coast) always wanting to see and experience more wilderness I was a motivated young man sometimes driving from Northwest Ohio down to West Virginia hiking a 10 – 14 mile loop light and fast then driving back in a single long day due to time constraints while at other times backpacking multi-day loops through the area with my daughter and many other partners. The Interstate system in the region allowed us to make good time while access at the state and local level was uncongested and incredibly scenic as you wind your way through the “Mountain State” in fact there is a National Scenic Highway we often drove to access some of the areas. In addition to the Cranberry Wilderness there are adjacent scenic historical and recreation areas such as the Cranberry Backcountry and the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area.