Looking for Coal on the Tuscarora Trail

Back on the Tuscarora Trail!

Back on the Tuscarora Trail!

Back on the 16th, we followed the familiar blue blazes of the Tuscarora Trail.  I suppose this one was 100% my idea.  My father was a coal miner, and King Coal handed me a great childhood and the chance to go to college on a silver platter.  After reading about an old mining operation in the Sleepy Creek WMA along the Meadow Branch, I was pretty excited about heading out on the Tuscarora and jumping off for a short trek down the Old Mine Trail.

Looking into the distance at Maryland.  The Potomac is out there somewhere.

Looking into the distance at Maryland. The Potomac is out there somewhere.

We parked at the end of Audubon Road and headed uphill on a logging road before veering off to the left.  The trail meandered toward an overlook of sorts that was kind of lacking because of the barren trees, gray sky, and dead leaves.  The next two miles were mostly downhill, and much of it was over rocks.  It reminded me of the AT near Pen Mar, maybe a little too much.  In fact, the rugged terrain made me wonder about how difficult it must have been getting coal out of these mountains.

"Enough is enough!  I've had it with these monkey-fighting rocks on this Monday-thru-Friday trail!"

“Enough is enough! I’ve had it with these monkey-fighting rocks on this Monday-thru-Friday trail!”  See the blue blaze?

Nevertheless, in 1837, the Berkeley Coal Mining and Railroad Company bought 4,900 acres along the Meadow Branch, and an 1847 map shows three mines operating in the immediate area.  I’m not sure if they were deep or surface mines, but I was expecting to find a neon sign in the woods pointing toward an opening or a shaft.  Such was not the case!  I do a lot of Sunday hiking, but on this day, I kind of wondered why I didn’t stay home and watch football!  I couldn’t stop thinking about football…

Hey, this looks a bit like those old school goalposts!

Hey, this looks a bit like those old school goalposts!

Yeah, that’s when I came across an odd looking tree which was fronted by another tree.  The combination looked like a goalpost, so I did get my football fix in and decided to move on.  We followed the directions in the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s trail guide toward the junction of the Tuscarora and Whites Knob Trails, and this led us to the Meadow Branch.  From there we headed back up a slight grade and found coal.  The mining company originally wanted to run railroad tracks to the mines, but the coal deposits weren’t nearly rich enough to justify the expense.  I completely understand; we didn’t find all that much either!  Nonetheless, I do have a thing for coal, and even finding a few sparse lumps made my day.  It kind of reminded me that I have a lot of reasons to be thankful.

There's coal in them thar hills!

There’s coal in them thar hills!

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Candee on November 26, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Monkey-fighting rocks? What does that mean?

    Reply

  2. Posted by Candee on November 26, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    Where is the eyeball rolling icon on here? LOL!

    Reply

  3. You sure that’s coal? One piece looks mighty pooish? Enjoyed this post. Sounds like a beautiful place to visit.

    Reply

  4. Posted by LevelWalker on December 6, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    Missie, trust me on this one. As a West Virginian, I know coal, and as a mailman, I have stepped in a truckload of pooish things. Thanks for the comment. It was a cold and rainy day, and I needed the laugh. And, yes, I am a big fan of the Tuscarora Trail!

    Reply

  5. Posted by Matt Panik on March 2, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Can you link to the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club you used? I checked their site and they have many options for the trail. I am a local and have done a lot of hiking south and around devil’s knob. Want to explore the section between the lake and the northern boundary. Would love to retrace your steps.

    Reply

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