Friday, November 20, 2020

Almost Heaven: a Tiny Trailer 4-Day Fall Photography Trek in West Virginia

High Falls of Cheat, West Virginia

Luckily for us, a "very enjoyable four-day 'Fall Color' trip" for retired commercial photographer Ron Snow captures his scenic tour of the mountains of West Virginia . . . with camera gear and home-built tiny trailer. And now we can all sit back and enjoy some gorgeous shots of nature and a great introduction to this area.

Ron built his teardrop on a frame from an old Coleman Popup camper. The build took him eight months and about 800-900 hours. The cabinets were constructed from recycled barnwood that Ron tore down himself. The wood is oak with wormy chestnut door panels. The galley countertop is made from a piece of pre-blight chestnut that was weathered about a quarter inch deep. It is mounted on a piece of dense particle board and edged with pieces cut from an oak barn rafter. 

"I did an epoxy pour over the countertop," says Ron. "I built tambour doors on my upper galley cabinets. This process involved cutting about seventy 3/8" wide strips of oak, routing each piece four times, assembling them in a jig, and then gluing on a canvas backing. I built the door and drawer pulls (twenty of them) by tracing my computer mouse to get the teardrop shape for a pattern. I then used the pattern to cut, shape, and polish pieces of 1/8" thick aluminum. The cabin ceiling is made from pallets--oak, cherry, maple, poplar, and pine--which I disassembled, planed, routed, sanded, and finished with urethane."

"The wheels on the teardrop are from a 1977 BMW. I used rock wall climbing handholds for pull handles on the front sides of the teardrop. The top drawer panel on the cabin cabinets lifts up, and a TV slides out and drops down. The front of the cabin has two cushioned panels that are tilted back about twenty degrees for a comfortable seating angle. The panels open for storage behind. Between the cushions are storage areas and a table that folds out. The rear bumper on the teardrop is made from a pair of springs from an old utility trailer."

Loading up the rig, Ron headed out on his four-day odyssey, stopping first in the Stuart Recreation Area in Monongahela National Forest, hiking the Red Creek Trail at Dolly Sods and overnighting at Seneca Shadows National Forest Campground.

Stuart Recreation Area, Monongahela National Forest

Red Creek, Dolly Sods Wilderness Area

Still spending Tuesday night at Seneca Shadows, Ron had another full day of hiking and photographing. The hike to the High Falls of Cheat in the Monongahela National Forest is an eight and a half mile round trip. "The elevation gain on the trip out and back was nearly 1,400 feet," Ron said. "My goal on my watch for climbing stairs was ten flights. After that hike my watch said that I had hit sixty-three times my goal--the equivalent of 630 flights of stairs. Well worth the trip! I got back in time that evening to photograph the golden glow of the setting sun on Seneca Rocks." That night at Bear Rocks at Dolly Sods, he photographed the Milky Way.

High Falls of Cheat

Seneca Rocks at Sunset

Milky Way over Bear Rocks, Dolly Sods

The third day of West Virginia in its full fall glory focused on the George Washington National Forest area. Enjoying a four and a half round trip hike in the Wolf Gap Recreation Area provided Ron with many photographic opportunities. He spent the night at Trout Pond National Forest Campground, near Lost River, in George Washington National Forest. 

Big Schloss Overlook, Wolf Gap Recreation Area, George Washington National Forest

The objective of Ron's day hike was the Big Schloss Overlook. "My legs were still rubbery from Tuesday's hike, but I had to give it a shot. Not quite as bad. Only about four and a half miles with a vertical climb of about 1,050 feet. At least this time I would only be climbing one way. The views were spectacular.  This climb only netted me 510 flights of stairs. For those keeping score, that is 1,140 flights of stairs in two days. I'm getting too old for this!"

Big Schloss Overlook, Wolf Gap Recreation Area, George Washington National Forest

Since rain was expected to roll in on Friday, Ron decided to cut his trip short and head for home on a Thursday, completing his four-day excursion. He made stops at Valley Falls State Park and Arden Falls on the Tygart River before heading home. Ron said, "I was able to pack quite a bit into a brief, four-day trip. I'm anxious to get out again soon!"

Valley Falls of the Tygart River, Valley Falls State Park

Arden Falls, Tygart River near Arden, West Virginia

Between his tiny trailer and his truck, Ron was able to pack all his gear for staying comfortable and for producing some wonderful photographs. Below is a list of the photography gear he used, which is primarily Canon equipment.
  • 6D Canon body for most of his work with an assortment of Canon lenses: 17-40mm L, 24-105mm L, 100 - 400mm L, etc. 
  • For his panoramas, a 70D body with a Sigma 8mm fisheye lens and an Acratech panorama rotator.
  • A Benro tripod with a Manfrotto ball head. 
  • A Promote Controller to bracket his HDR images. 
  • Photoshop is used to edit. 
  • Ron also uses a variety of other software programs, including PT Gui and Photomatix, and other Photoshop plugins, filters, extensions, and actions depending on what he's editing.

Thank you so much, Ron Snow, for showcasing for us the beauty of West Virginia in the fall--and for sharing with us the beautiful tiny trailer that so clearly reveals your craftsmanship. When times make it easier, I'm certainly up for a trip to West Virginia!

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  1. I've hiked and camped at Dolly Sodds, it's gorgeous. And Seneca Rocks is on my to-do list for next year. It's all about a 3-hour drive for me, so easy to get to. Hopefully by next summer interstate travel will be approaching some semblance of normal.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I'm lucky that if travel gets easier, Ron Snow said I could contact him, and he'd help me with travel plans for exploring West Virginia.