RICHWOOD, W.Va. — Most West Virginia outdoor enthusiasts can understand the appeal of a campsite at the edge of a red spruce forest overlooking a large, brushy glade and the summits of Cranberry and Yew mountains. As a place to escape the summer heat and hit a variety of trails leading into the Cranberry Wilderness, the setting is hard to beat.
But in the dead of winter, this site near the 4,445-foot top of Kennison Mountain, deep in the Monongahela National Forest, is one of the state’s coldest, snowiest locales. Temperatures routinely dip below zero, often accompanied by brisk westerly winds and drifting snow. And that’s just the way a hardy group of Boy Scouts from Buckskin Council’s Elk River District like it.
“If there’s a place in West Virginia where you’re likely to have a true winter camping experience, this is it,” said Steve Berkhouse, who has accompanied Scouts from his Sissonville troop to the annual Winter Camporee here for most of the past 20 years. “Over the years, we’ve had everything from three feet to a dusting of snow, and temperatures from well below zero to just above freezing,” Berkhouse said. Though it may seem counterintuitive, when temperatures rise above freezing, the comfort level drops. “It’s pretty miserable when everything’s wet all the time,” he said.
For the past 30 years, groups of 50 to 100 or more Boy Scouts and their leaders have spent a late January weekend here taking part in Winter Camporees, in which winter camping and survival skills are taught and put to use, and Scouts discover firsthand that fun can be found even in Arctic conditions.
“The goal is to keep the feeling in your feet…