White Grass Ski Touring Center is a cross-country ski resort about three hours outside of the DC metropolitan area. Nestled right outside of the Dolly Sods Wilderness and the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, the resort is uniquely positioned to access hundreds of miles of trails across the Canaan Valley for virtually unlimited exploration during the wet and wild West Virginia winters. The resort even features 1,200′ of vertical drop, greater than the downhill ski resorts in the valley. Additionally, I overnighted in the campgrounds at nearby Canaan Valley Resort – dog friendly accommodations were hard to come by this weekend.
|Date(s)||2020-12-19 to 20|
|Activities||Car Camping, Cross-Country Skiing, Skijoring, Snowshoeing|
|Transport||3 Hours by Car (from DC Chinatown)|
|Conditions||Cloudy to Light Snow, Cold|
|Doggo||On-Leash Pet Friendly, Some Off-Leash|
|Gear||Snow Sports, Cold Weather Camping|
The Mud Doggo is part Husky. She’s got them Husky different colored eyes, secondary insulating hair coat, the heavily padded gripper paws, and all of the attitude. Oh, and that genetic code that gives her the gift of energy unlimited by sleep or rest – she just needs food and water to plow through a 50 mile day chasing me on a bike. It can be a challenge to allow her enough exercise and movement for her to rest easily and self-satisfied most nights. If you’ve been following this blog, you may have gathered that most of my outings are primarily for her benefit and possibly yours if you’re trying to plan doggo-friendly outings in this region.
Just the drive into the Canaan Valley is a mild adventure. The winter scenery is a point of interest itself. The driving route via State Route 48 from Front Royal, VA is low key – you only lose cell service in a couple of short runs and there’s only a few places where you feel like you’re driving through the mountains. It’s a nice long, three hour drive that doesn’t make you feel like you’re in the car forever.
I got in mid-afternoon and at that point I couldn’t get a cross-country skiing lesson, which I was going to need before I let the mud doggo pull me along a track. Instead I took some snowshoes to head down the trail I intended to use later to let the doggo get a little familiarity with the surroundings and leave a few scents of her own. I also had the most delightful surprise vegan chili at the cafe.
Let me be honest with you. I drove up here with zero plan on a last minute decision – again. I noticed that there was snow from an image on a news broadcast in this area of West Virginia. This is something I’ve been wanting to do with the mud doggo for a long time. Once we were done and returned the rental snowshoes, I got on my phone and found a complete lack of pet-friendly accommodation availability within a 45 minute drive. My backup plan was to drive into the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, park the mud wagon on the side of a Forest Road and just sleep in the trunk. I brought enough bedding to make it happen even as temperatures dipped below freezing.
So I learned a few things – you can access the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area from Canaan Valley ON FOOT. The forest road is fully located on the wildlife refuge that does not permit overnight parking without a special permit granted only to those headed into the wilderness area on foot. Additionally, there was a tree down on the forest road that is not maintained during the winter, which I could have theoretically taken care of myself, but for the realization that I also wasn’t supposed to be there overnight. No one would have checked, but still, rules are rules and even the surefooted mud wagon was sliding around a little on a road that occasionally sides to a cliff. Going around would have taken 45 minutes of driving.
Some last minute research did, however, point out that the Canaan Valley Resort and Conference center operates a campground year round – for a small fee a hot shower and heated bathroom were some nice amenities for sleeping in the car. The inside of the car stayed fairly warm through the night, probably only coming down to 50 degrees F. I also hit Canaan BBQ (West Virginia style) that evening and Milo’s Cafe in Davis the morning after.
After breakfast, it was back to White Grass to abandon the mud doggo to suffer waiting in the car whilst I stalked a ski instructor to show me the ropes (Sue’s the best). I learned that the first rule of cross-country skiing is sexy pants – Sue remarked a couple of times that she couldn’t actually see what my knees were doing. Armed with some very preliminary knowledge of how cross country skiing is supposed to work after a half hour of instruction and with no time to allow my mind to process any of this information, I was immediately out on the trail, strapping in with the mud doggo to see what hilarious crashes we could get ourselves into.
It was tremendous to have 50% of the workload of moving along on cross-country skis. The mud doggo only pulled me down face first twice but we managed to make short work of five miles of trail in no time. As a reward for her great performance, I let her have a little free play time in the snow.
I’ll be back here again this winter. I know that Maggie loves it. So do I. Aside from one of the guys that works the rental counter that was as short of patience with me as he thought my concept of 6 feet was short in his mind, it was a very good experience for all involved. And I’ll make sure to give that guy a little extra space next time just so we can all have a good time.
One last thing. Do remember to get to and from your adventures efficiently and safely. If there’s one thing I’d like to share with you, it’s this moment from my dash cam: