Mountain State Monday: Sinks of Gandy

West Virginia is no stranger to caves as our natural mountain landscape is home to many of them.  Some of the more intricate caves, or caverns, have even been commercialized and are open for tours.  However one of the most intriguing caves to me is one I had heard about for years but never visited until recently due to its rural location.  And that cave is known as the Sinks of Gandy in the beautiful countryside in Randolph County.

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You will not find the Sinks of Gandy on any tourist brochure, nor will you find it located on a map.  In fact, if you look on a map, the only marker is a creek that disappears, only to reappear an inch later.  To know it’s there, you have to know someone who’s been there — that’s how I found out about it.  Modern history says that the Sinks of Gandy were discovered in the 1780s and named for landowner Uriah Gandy.  There is nothing overly unique about the Sinks, aside from it being a natural cave that which Gandy Creek flows under.  The large entrance is approximately 40 feet wide and the smaller “dry” entrance is 30 feet wide but only 15 feet high.   Additionally, the length of the cave is walkable with terrain varying from large rooms 100-feet in diameter to tight A-frame passages.  There’s even a small lake for those trained to take a dip.  Because of this, the Sinks are a favorite of amateur cave explorers and  curious people like me who wish to see it what all the fuss is about.

There are a handful of ways to access the Sinks, but the easiest is arguably from Route 33/55 East between Elkins and Harman.  Coming from Elkins, turn right onto County Route 29, marked by a small brown National Parks Service sign announcing a turnoff for Spruce Knob and Spruce Knob Lake.  Follow this road through the small towns of Job and Whitmer, continuing once it turns to gravel as you enter the Seneca Creek Backcountry/Spruce Knob Recreation Area (bonus tip: along the way you will pass some excellent fishing locations so keep that in the back of your mind if that’s your thing).  Continue driving until you reach an intersection for Forest Route 1 and Gandy-Osceola Road at which point you will drive straight onto Gandy-Osceola Road (if you take FR 1, you will drive up to Spruce Knob Lake and eventually Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia).   Soon the forest will give way to farm land indicating you are nearly there.  Keep driving until you see the gate pictured below — this is the gateway (sorry for the pun, but I had to) to the large opening of the Sinks.  You can’t see them from the road, but as you will notice in the pictures below, there is a faint walking trail through the field that takes you down to the river.

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The second entrance to the Sinks of Gandy, or the dry entrance, is accessible off Gandy-Osceola Road as well.  If you made it to the gate previously pictured, you’ve already passed it.  This signal is also a gate, but rather a small one made from two slabs of wood in the middle of flat fence.  If you find this gate, there is no designated path to walk on but it will take you to the dry entrance which is the easiest to venture into.  The only reason we found the dry entrance is because on our way out, we saw three men with head lamps hopping the gate and we ended up joining them.  I don’t remember their names, but if you read this — thank you!

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Keep in mind that while the Sinks of Gandy are available to visitors, they are on private land with one entrance being owned by the Teter family and the other by the Tinglers.  The owners are fully aware that the Sinks draw attention from spelunkers and cave enthusiasts and generally do not mind people visiting, but please be respectful and do not damage their fences/gates or the natural landscape.   If you do decide to venture into the cave, be sure to have proper gear (flashlight, closed-toed or water shoes, and quick-dry clothing) and make sure you step carefully and watch your head as you walk.  It takes approximately 1 – 1.5 hours to venture through the cave and it would be a good idea to let others know your plans and when to expect you back, just in case there is an accident.  While inside, you may even come across a team of cave explorers (with wet suits and hard hats) like we did!

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For more information about the Sinks of Gandy, take a look at the websites below.  They certainly helped me when planning my route and are a valuable resource for anyone wanting to visit.
Spelunking the Sinks of Gandy
Virtual Bike Tour

Until next time,
Sara (WV Travel Queen)

Note:  It will take you nearly one hour from the turnoff on Route 33/55 to get to the Sinks due to the partial gravel roads.  Alternatively, you can take Dry Fork Road/CR 40 off of  Whitmer Road/CR 29 to access the Sinks as well.  Both routes have the same ending place and you can make a loop if you choose by taking one road down and one road back.  However, we only traveled Whitmer Road/CR 29 so I cannot speak to the conditions of Dry Fork Road.

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Birthplace of Rivers Geocaching Challenge

It’s Memorial Day weekend, AKA the unofficial start of summer.  I hope that no matter what you are doing, you have been enjoying yourself thus far and have a wonderful Memorial Day tomorrow.  I also hope that you remember the true reason for the holiday and keep in your heart the memory of those whom have died while serving in the armed forces.

To celebrate Memorial Day and take advantage of a three-day weekend for me, Jon and I decided to head to the hills for a day of geocaching.  With our headquarters in Summersville, we drove to Pocahontas County on Saturday and spent most of the day geocaching and trying to complete the Birthplace of Rivers Geocaching Challenge.  Our day was perfect and the views were some of the best I’ve ever seen along the Highland Scenic Highway.  Geocaching was just a bonus!

Ready to go geocaching!  My GPS, swag bag, hiking boots -- I'm good to go.

Ready to go geocaching! My GPS, swag bag, hiking boots — I’m good to go.

The latest geocaching challenge from the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Birthplace of Rivers runs May 1 – October 31, 2015 and celebrates the eight (yes — EIGHT) rivers that originate in the county.  These rivers are the Cherry, Cranberry, Elk, Gauley, Greenbrier, Shavers, Tygart, and Williams.  Caches are hidden along each of these rivers and in addition to traditional trade items, contain colored stickers that correspond with a space on the official challenge Bingo card.  To complete this challenge, you must download the Bingo Card and collect a minimum of four colors in a row to Bingo.  Although there are eight caches in this series, it is entirely possible to only visit four and still Bingo (but why not visit them all?!).  Once you’ve gotten a Bingo, you can turn in your card and receive one of 100 limited edition geocoins.  As an added perk, if you stay in the county while doing so, you can bring your lodging receipt with you and enter for a chance to win a kayak.  We visited five caches before we had what we needed to get a Bingo.

Snapshots from our day

Snapshots from our day

Because Pocahontas County is vast and rural, if you are unfamiliar with the area, it can seem daunting to undertake this challenge in a day as we did.  However, doing so can happen if you plan your routes correctly.  We entered the county from Route 39/55 outside of Richwood and were able to grab two along this road then loop across Route 150 for two more, finishing up with a stop just south of Slatyfork for our final cache to make our Bingo.  Afterwards, we drove into the county seat of Marlinton to claim our geocoins and grab some lunch at the Greenbrier Grille and Lodge (definitely stop here!).  We found a handful of other caches as well, but some of those deserve their own post so I won’t share them just yet.  To help visualize the location of all eight caches, I’ve put together the map below that may help:

Map provided by Pocahontas County CVB

Map provided by Pocahontas County CVB (red dots added by me noting cache locations).

Before attempting this challenge, be sure to read the cache descriptions below as well as download the Bingo card:
Official Bingo Card
Birthplace of Rivers Geocache —  Cherry
Birthplace of Rivers Geocache —  Cranberry
Birthplace of Rivers Geocache — Elk
Birthplace of Rivers Geocache — Gauley
Birthplace of Rivers Geocache — Greenbrier
Birthplace of Rivers Geocache — Shavers
Birthplace of Rivers Geocache — Tygart
Birthplace of Rivers Geocache — Williams

If you have any questions about the challenge, feel free to send me an email at wvtravelqueen@gmail.com.  You may also send me a Twitter message @WV_TravelQueen.  And for more information on Pocahontas County and a guide to help plan your trip, be sure to visit Nature’s Mountain Playground online at www.pocahontascountywv.com.

Until next time,
Sara (WV Travel Queen)

Geocaching username:  iheartmarshall