Camping in a Fire Tower: Seneca State Forest

Camping in a Fire Tower: Thorny Mountain Fire Tower, Seneca State Forest.

We have traveled all over the Eastern Side of the United States and still are finding extraordinary and unique opportunities like this in our home state. When we first learned you could rent a fire tower, we were game. The timing never coincided with time off and available reservations dates, but last year in July they matched. We have had our reserved dates for a year to stay here, and within that year we became pregnant. She is 36 weeks today and fingers crossed he doesn’t decide to come early. Lol!

This post will be in a journal style because we will be documenting each day as we camp above the forest.

Day 1

We arrived and started our climb nervously to our sleeping quarters above. I was fine until the last few steps where I had to open the gate. There was a good breeze that evening, enough to knock you a little off balance. Once inside, the only word to explain the view is, “Breathtaking.”

Thorny Mountain Fire Tower.

After the first trip up and down the tower I became much more relaxed in the process. We hoisted our nightly supplies up and made ourselves familiar with the park. After exploring the Greenbrier River Access and adventuring around the lake, we headed back to the tower to start dinner and to watch the sunset. For supper, we wrapped potatoes and corn on the cob separately in aluminum foil and tossed them into the hot charcoal within the pit. We then grilled some steaks and had a fabulous meal. The sunset was breathtakingly beautiful. We came back down and set by the fire until the suns glow slowly faded to dark and the night sky revealed to us more stars than we have ever seen. Heather thought it strange that we didn’t see any lightning bugs/fireflies, but we joked if we kept looking up at the sky, you could see 10 plus planes flashing their lights at any given time.

A beautiful night for grilling.

While settling into the tower, we went out to see the stars one last time before we snuggled into bed. Once in bed, it was our first meeting with Gilbert. He is a tiny thing and seems to mean no harm. I would recommend not bringing any food or snacks up into the tower. Gilbert seems to be a hungry creature, from what others have journaled.

Day 2

We awoke at 5:15am with the rising glow of the sun. The golden hour started around 5:45am, and it was amazingly beautiful. Watching the rivers of fog below run through the valleys as they faded away was a very calming and peaceful way to start our day.

Sunrise at Thorny Mountain Fire Tower

The wind was a little chilly, and we started a morning fire to warm ourselves. The morning restroom call was now upon us, and it was our first experience of the hilltop restroom. Once opening the door, we were attacked by no less than 8 million gnats and 200 flies. It was a force to be reckoned with. Luckily for us, we stopped by the restroom at the lake yesterday, it was a much more bug-free facility.

After a quick shower, down behind the headquarters, Heather grilled us some breakfast burritos: scrambled eggs, sausage, covered in cheese wrapped in a burrito shell. We then headed out for the day.

Green Bank Obeservatory

Our first stop was a morning tour of the Green Bank Observatory and a tour of the facility and grounds. We then headed down to Cass to explore the town and grab some lunch. This is all that we really planned, but if you are up by 5, there is so much more time to do other things. Our day was finished by noon.

We headed to Watoga State Park and explored some overlooks then found ourselves in Calvin Price State Forest checking out preemptive camping sites, seeing an old looking schoolhouse, and accidentally finding a GEO Cache. Heading back through Watoga we came across a sign directing us toward Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park and Beartown State Park. We drove through Droop Mountain and learned a lot about the Civil War Battle that happened there. We then headed to Beartown State Park. We have hiked 100’s of trails, but the Beartown Boardwalk was nothing like we have hiked before, a boardwalk trail showing very unique rock erosions and how it pertains to this region of the state.

Beartown Boardwalk.

We stopped in Marlinton and had dinner at the Greenbrier River Lodge and Grill. It was nice not to worry about making dinner this evening. With the extra time, we walked a few miles down the road beyond the tower. It was a nice walk, and we returned to watch the most beautiful sunset we have ever seen in our lives. The sky did not look real, an explosion of colors was blasted across the skyline. I just have no way to explain it, but to say it was surreal. Yesterday’s was beautiful, but it couldn’t compare to this evenings display. We have never seen anything like it before. With the moon and stars back out to greet us, it is time to head to bed and prepare to welcome the morning sunrise.

Sunset at Thorny Mountain Fire Tower.

Laying here in bed and being surrounded by the night’s sky we are talking about just how beautiful this place is. Then it happened. Gilbert’s second visitation. At 11pm we heard what sounded like crunching. Gilbert found my coffee cup and was trying to chew the lid off of it. I tried to snap a picture of him/her, but Gilbert shot across the South wall and ran up the South East Corner to a small hole below the window frame of that corner. I’m not sure where Gilbert is now, but I filled the coffee cup with water and have placed it outside for Gilbert’s drinking pleasure. I do apologize to the tower’s next guest. There was coffee left in the cup so Gilbert may be running on high octane during your stay.

Day 3

We awoke to another beautiful morning sunrise. Our time here in the tower has now come to an end. As many have said, this is a unique and special place. Luckily for us, our baby decided not to arrive early, and I wasn’t writing about child delivery in the tower. But, it’s time to load our gear, make some breakfast and head out on our next adventure. Cranberry Glades & Falls of Hills Creek, here we come.

Seneca Lake.

Explore, Learn, and Experience Life!


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