[caption id="attachment_81960" align="aligncenter" width="600"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2021\/06\/03.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="800" class="size-full wp-image-81960" \/> Photos courtesy of Skip Heater<br \/>The Bald Knob Wilderness Cabin can be reached one of three ways \u2013\u2002van, horse and train. Below is just a hint of the kind of amazing views visitors will enjoy when they ride the trail on an Autumn Breeze Stables horse. Above, a view of the recently refurbished Wilderness Cabin from the Bald Knob fire tower. Behind the cabin, a horse corral was added by Autumn Breeze Stables owner Skip Heater so the horses are safe during their visit.[\/caption]\r\n\r\n<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2021\/06\/06.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-81962" \/>\r\n\r\nNo WiFi. No electricity. No worries.\r\n\r\nSuzanne Stewart\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nIn the 1930s, the Bald Knob fire tower and cabin were part of the Monongahela National Forest fire detection and protection program.\r\n\r\nThe area was served by forest guards, fire patrolmen and local civilian cooperators \u2013\u00a0known as fire wardens \u2013 until the program ended in the 1970s.\r\n\r\nWhen Cass Scenic Railroad State Park \u2013 established in 1963 as part of West Virginia\u2019s Centennial celebration \u2013\u00a0took possession of the entire company town of Cass and expanded operations to include rentals of company houses and train excursions to Bald Knob, the park also took possession of the Bald Knob tower and cabin.\r\n\r\n\u201cThat was a rentable cabin \u2013 the Wilderness Cabin \u2013\u00a0up to around 2011, 2015 \u2013\u00a0about the same time everything changed with the operation of the railroad,\u201d Cass superintendent Marshall Markley said. \r\n\r\nWhen Mountain Rail Adventures took over operations of the trains at Cass, the cabin remained unused and was slowly being taken over by nature when a spark of interest was ignited in Autumn Breeze Stables owner Skip Heater.\r\n\r\n\u201cMy interest in it started about five years ago,\u201d Heater said. \u201cI rode horses up there from Snowshoe. I had no clue the fire tower and cabin existed and then I thought, \u2018boy, this would be a cool place to ride horses and spend the night.\u2019 Then one day, I was down here at Cass having lunch and someone said, \u2018That\u2019s the superintendent \u2013\u00a0he\u2019s the one you need to talk to.\u2019\u201d\r\n\r\nAfter discussing his idea with Markley, the two pitched the idea of renting the cabin to the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources and soon, the project was on track.\r\n\r\nHeater took on the task of making repairs to the cabin, while Markley sought a contractor to repair the fire tower.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s all one big room,\u201d Heater said of the cabin. \u201cIt\u2019s got an old, early 1900s metal master wood stove. It\u2019s functional \u2013\u00a0bought parts to get it working again. Other than that, all the shutters are operational, all the windows have been re-caulked. Redid things that were deteriorating because of roof issues.\u201d\r\n\r\nAlong with restoring the cabin, Heater made a couple of upgrades to improve the stay, but at the same time, will keep with the rustic feel of the old cabin.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe front porch had a little slab deck and now it\u2019s full length \u2013 twenty-one foot,\u201d he said. \u201cThen there\u2019s a twenty-one by twelve foot deck on the back. There were a lot of downed spruce trees up there and they were made into railing. So, we\u2019ve got spruce logs for the roof supports and the railings. There was no reason to let some spruce trees go to waste.\u201d\r\n\r\nWhen he was doing the renovations, Heater noticed that the tongue and groove oak floor ran parallel except for one portion, which was perpendicular.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt was a trap door,\u201d he said. \u201cThere was an icebox underneath in a little cellar, where people used to set their ice and meats and whatever. I guess it was also to keep the critters away from the food. The shutters [on the windows] aren\u2019t for vandals. I think they\u2019re for bears.\u201d\r\n\r\nBecause they will use Heater\u2019s horses to access the cabin, he also built a corral near the cabin.\r\n\r\n\u201cMarshall picked up a nice corral from Watoga State Park,\u201d he said.\r\n\r\nAs for the tower, Markley got several bites on the bid to repair it \u2013 and nothing could deter Patrick Smith, of Universal Engineering and Contracting LLC, in Elkins. Not even a trip to Bald Knob in January.\r\n\r\n\u201cThat trip usually takes forty-five minutes and I think it took us two-and-a-half hours to get up to the top,\u201d Markley said. \u201cWhen we got to the tracks, it was winter, so there was still eight or ten inches of snow on the ground and there was just no way we were going to make it without getting hung up because that road\u2019s rough anyway. We had to walk to the last mile.\u201d\r\n\r\nLuckily, Markley had a chainsaw in his truck to clear several trees from the road during this excursion.\r\n\r\nSmith will begin work on the tower this summer, with no threat of snow to keep him away.\r\n\r\nAlthough the tower is still under construction, the Wilderness Cabin experience is open for booking at this time. There are several types of excursions for visitors to choose from and more ideas continue to take shape as the project nears completion.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe experience starts with just going up to the cabin,\u201d Markley said. \u201cYou can spend the night there. You have your dinner catered to you by the tour guide, and then you have free rein of the Bald Knob area, so after the train leaves, you have the opportunity to go to the overlook by yourself.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe live in a relatively rural area, but you really feel it up there,\u201d he added. \u201cYou are completely by yourself. It\u2019s an experience I don\u2019t know you can get anywhere else on the east coast.\u201d\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_81961" align="aligncenter" width="600"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2021\/06\/04.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" class="size-full wp-image-81961" \/> Photo by Skip Heater<br \/>Whether sunrise or sunset, the views from the Bald Knob Wilderness Cabin are undeniably amazing. Those who enjoy roughing it and the solitude of being surrounded by nature, will love the experience that can be found at the cabin.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nHeater likened the area to that of a mysterious otherworldly place.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s very enchanting,\u201d he said. \u201cIt\u2019s the kind of place you\u2019d think Bigfoot or Yoda or someone is going to pop out of the fog \u2013 like you\u2019re going to see a little fairy over there smoking a pipe. It\u2019s that kind of remoteness.\u201d\r\n\r\nBut visitors are never truly alone. A tour guide\u00a0\u2013 whether it be Heater himself\u00a0or one of his employees \u2013 will be close by at the cabin the entire time.\r\n\r\nThere are packages that go with the excursion, including fishing at the old town of Spruce, a whitewater rafting trip and a hunting trip.\r\n\r\nFor those with an exceptionally daring streak, the tower will be accessible for views and even those who might want to spend the night in it, although, unlike the tower at Seneca State Forest, it is a smaller cab without a full deck.\r\n\r\nBut, it does offer a great view.\r\n\r\n\u201cWhen you\u2019re up in the fire tower, you\u2019re higher than Spruce Knob,\u201d Heater said.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s really a beautiful view,\u201d Markley added. \u201cThe Bald Knob view is one of the best views in West Virginia \u2013 if not the best. From the tower,\u00a0you can see all of Silver Creek, all of Snowshoe. In the summer, you can see pretty much where all that stuff is, too, but you can also see forever in every direction.\u201d\r\n\r\nIt didn\u2019t take long for individuals to start showing an interest in the cabin once the project was underway. Heater updated the Autumn Breeze Stables Facebook page with progress photos and received messages from interested customers.\r\n\r\n\u201cI talked to a gentleman online who saw the pictures and he said his mother was the last person to work there as a fire observer,\u201d he said. \u201cA lot of people have shown interest just from the pictures we\u2019ve put out, showing what\u2019s being done.\u201d\r\n\r\nAt this time, those who rent the cabin will travel with the tour guide by horse from Autumn Breeze Stables near Snowshoe to Bald Knob \u2013 approximately a four-hour trip \u2013 and spend their time enjoying the sights, extra excursions and horseback rides before returning to the stables.\r\n\r\nIn the future, there is a possibility that visitors will be able to ride the train to Bald Knob to get to the cabin or a combination of riding horses to the cabin and leaving by train. The plans are still in the work for those options.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe\u2019re going to work with people on whatever they want to do,\u201d Markley said.\r\n\r\nThe cabin may be reserved through Autumn Breeze Stables at 1-800-759-7238 and online at wvtrailrides.com or Cass Scenic Railroad State Park at 304-456-4300.