Mid April Morels: Musings From a Town in Transition

April 18th, 2017
Fresh morels found under an ancient apple tree in downtown Davis

Fresh morels found under an ancient apple tree in downtown Davis

This morning I was shocked to find a small band of morel mushrooms, right by the alley, underneath an ancient apple tree. Tonight they will be added to pasta, along with fresh ramps foraged from a nearby hillside.

I’ve never found morels when actually looking for them…they always appear unexpectedly. It’s a great life lesson that nature teaches us daily here in the mountains: wait, and keep your eyes open, and see what good things come your way when you least expect them.

Early spring in Canaan Valley and the towns of Davis and Thomas begins drearily. And then, suddenly, spring happens. Today the delicate serviceberry are popping up on the edges of the towns. In a few weeks the apples will be blooming…and they are everywhere.

These towns have been growing apples since the beginning. They were an important food source for the lumbermen and later for the coal miners. They fed whole families with apples; particular varieties for pies or sauce or butter and others just for eating. In those days our towns numbered nearly 2000 each. Today we’re lucky to have 600 people living in Davis, about the same in Thomas, and more houses are vacant every year. Like so many other places, as the elderly die off their children and grandchildren take root in distant states. 

Still, it’s a great place to live if you can figure out how to make a living. And it’s surprising the number of young entrepreneurs and artists who have come here and have done just that. They’ve opened shops and restaurants, started a Montessori school, and created a vibrant young art scene in Thomas. But we need more: people who can move here and join a few hearty telecommuters who find the no traffic, no stoplights, no fast food lifestyle appealing. Liking snow helps, and loving the outdoors is essential. But the key is to bring your job with you.

The morels I found this morning popped up under an ancient apple from the days when Davis was booming and there was plenty of work. I hope that someday I will look up unexpectedly and find Davis booming again, in a good way, a thoughtful way, a way that respects nature and nurtures people too.

 

Davis, WV Perfect Any Time of Year

March 6th, 2017

Here’s a blog post by recent guests Todd, Carrie and Daniel Sechel who visited during one of our least snowy winters…and still found plenty to do and see. You can read more about this incredible traveling family and their worldwide adventures at thesechels.com. Below is their post from March 4, 2017, which proves once again that Davis, WV and the surrounding countryside is beautiful and interesting– every season!

 

We love West Virginia… the relaxed vibe, amazing natural beauty, and really nice people make West Virginia one of our favorite states to visit. Since childhood Todd and I have visited various spots in West Virginia to white-water-raft, hike, enjoy amazing nature, and relax, however we’ve always visited in the traditional peak season (for non-skiers)… June, July, and August. When we were considering routes back from Nags Head, North Carolina on our recent road trip, we remembered this little town in West Virginia that we fell in love with a few years ago… a few days later we were in Davis, West Virginia

So you might be wondering what the heck is in Davis, West Virginia… a state park with great hiking, scenery, and waterfalls, restaurants, breweries, and a fantastic little Inn, and a neighboring town a couple miles away with a funky arts scene. What follows are the details…

Nature and outdoors

Davis, West Virginia is the home of Blackwater Falls State Park… we originally visited Davis so Todd could photograph Blackwater Falls and Elakala Falls… we found that the State Park has a ton to offer…

If you’re a waterfall lover, Blackwater Falls State Park is a must-visit spot. Depending on the time of year and water level, there are many different waterfalls… Blackwater Falls and Elakala Falls are the largest.

In addition to the waterfalls, Blackwater Falls State Park has a number of hiking trails. Some of the trails are especially nice for families because they have shorter options (the short hike to Elakala Falls was one of the first hikes Daniel went on, and enjoyed, when he was 5).

Blackwater Falls State Park has a small lake and on our first visit we rented a rowboat and went fishing.

Our understanding is that when there’s snow Blackwater Falls State Park is a popular spot for cross country skiing and has a large sledding hill. Also, Canaan Valley Resort State Park, about 15 miles from Davis, offers downhill skiing in the winter.

Where to stay

There are multiple great lodging options from camping in the state park to motels to a fantastic B & B that we love…

Blackwater Falls State Park offers a lot… during our first visit to Davis a couple years ago we stayed in a cabin in the state park. We were really pleased with the cabin… a great location in the middle of nature, a small kitchen and living area, one bathroom, and two bedrooms. The state park also offers camping and rooms in the lodge. We didn’t see any rooms in the lodge, but did visit the lodge and understand that it offers traditional motel rooms, a restaurant that’s open all year, and an indoor pool.

During our first visit to Davis we went to Bright Morning Inn for breakfast (Bright Morning has a restaurant that’s open to the public for breakfast a few days a week) and fell in love. The people, food, and vibe were so great that we knew we’d visit again… when we decided to stop in Davis on our road trip we immediately booked the family suite at Bright Morning.

Bright Morning offers a variety of rooms for all different needs. The family suite has two bedrooms, which was perfect for us. The rooms at Bright Morning are very clean, comfortable, and have a cozy feel. We will definitely stay at Bright Morning again!

Great food

Confession… during our two visits to Davis we loved Bright Morning and Sirianni’s Pizza Café so much that we didn’t go anywhere else!

Bright Morning is open to the public for breakfast several days a week depending on the season. Currently, it’s open every day but Tuesday and Wednesday. Bright Morning serves a limited menu to Inn guests on the mornings it’s closed to the public. The full breakfast menu is extensive and includes something for every taste… pancakes, omelets, huevos Rancheros, local granola… I could go on and on…

Sirianni’s Pizza Café has excellent food and a fun and funky vibe. Todd and I both had Greek salads that were super fresh and delicious. Daniel had a pepperoni pizza that he loved and Todd and I had the veggie pizza. If you’re a veggie pizza lover, Sirianni’s is next level… it includes pretty much every veggie you can imagine including broccoli and zucchini.

Though we didn’t go to the other restaurants, we noted a number of options…

If you like breweries, there are 2 in Davis… Stumptown Ales, and Blackwater Brewing Co. Both offer food, but the Stumptown Ales’ menu is very limited. Mountain State Brewing Co. is located between Thomas and Davis.

Hellbender Burritos is a very popular spot… it will be on our list during our next visit!

If you’d like to venture out of Davis and drive a few miles down the street to Thomas, there are more options, including The Purple Fiddle and Tip Top Coffee. We stopped at Tip Top on our way out of town and loved the coffee… we noted that they also have a small bar and offer a number of food items.

Music and art

Susan, our host at Bright Morning, shared some great information about Davis and its neighboring town, Thomas… the towns each have their own vibe, but together offer a great mix of lodging, breweries, and restaurants (Davis), and arts and music (Thomas).

The Purple Fiddle, in Thomas, has live music multiple times a week. Susan noted that it’s a popular spot for bands to stop for a show while traveling between east coast and mid-west venues, and they get some well-known acts. Our understanding is that The Purple Fiddle is a family friendly venue, which is sometimes hard to find for live music lovers… we’re looking forward to seeing a show at The Purple Fiddle the next time we visit the area!

We didn’t have a chance to check out any of the shops or galleries in Thomas, but loved the art displayed in Tip Top when we stopped for coffee.

Getting there

Davis is about 5 hours south east of the Cleveland area. The drive is pretty straightforward for the first 4 hours (the turnpike and other freeways). The last hour is a beautiful drive through the winding roads and hills of West Virginia… probably more enjoyable for the passengers than the driver!

On this visit we came in from North Carolina… from the east almost the entire drive is on a new freeway. Our understanding is that the freeway will be connected to another point to the west and at some point the twisting and winding route from the west will no longer be necessary (although I prefer it!).

Wrapping it up

Davis, Thomas, and Blackwater Falls State Park are great places to visit no matter what time of year it is! We’ll be back!

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Having Fun in Canaan…When There’s No Snow!

January 9th, 2017

Worried that your ski weekend may be a bust because of the flighty snow pack? Concerned about how you’ll entertain your houseful of kids when the weather’s bad? Don’t be! There’s plenty to do in our beautiful high country even when the snow fails us!

Here’s some advice from the King of Fun, Chip Chase, at Whitegrass.

“Alternative Activities: What to do when you’re wondering why you’re here and the natural snow stinks or is non existent…besides an amazing free and welcome hike up our unbelievable trail system and mountain glades to scenic overlooks and shelters with wood stoves, birds feeding from your hands, or chaulk boards to get you on the website, then telemark ski, night ski, nordic ski on manmade snow, sniff out snow way up high, ice skate, sled run, tube hill, try snowshoeing, horseback ride, mountain bike, fat tire bike, hike, animal tracking, cave, rock climb, backcountry drive, paddle, visit nature centers and state park facilities, explore the tourist info office, trade and demo xc gear, climb olson tower, enjoy a cafe and shop a store, enjoy artist galleries, please stop in for ideas from some experts and enjoy a ski video and great music… many great indoor things that make getaways a good time. Experience the amazing Purple Fiddle, Front Street Grocery, Ben’s Loom Barn, WV Highlands Gallery, Highland Farm and Food, Lamplight , White Room and Creature Galleries in Thomas and the entire Front Street shops, Tip Top Coffee, Billy Hotel Lounge, Stumptown Ales, Wild Ginger & Spice or Mountain State Brewing Company. Tucker Community Foundation would love to meet you. There are many other fine local establishments and they need your business. Be thankful we’re in the mountains and go exploring, everybody’s friendly and if not report back to us!”

At the Bright Morning Inn we suggest that guests check out the two fantastic underground caverns in our area: Smoke Hole Caverns and Seneca Caverns. They’re about 40 minutes away, and about equidistant from the Inn and they’re open every day except Christmas.

There’s also fun at the Canaan National Wildlife Visitor Center, with hands-on activities for kids, interesting nature displays, and a few nature videos. The Visitor Center there is also a great choice for outdoor books and gifts including birding guides.

The Visitor Center at Seneca Rocks is also an interesting place to learn about nature. The weather is often warmer, drier and milder there and it’s a beautiful drive over the Eastern Continental Divide. While you’re there check out the Front Porch Restaurant above Harper’s Old Country Store. In summer you can sit outside, but in winter it’s a cozy spot too, and the people are exceptionally friendly.

The truth is that every season is lovely here, and even the worst conditions can make for beautiful memories.

Whitegrass Ski Season Events: 2016-2017

November 23rd, 2016

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Canaan Valley’s ski season is upon us and last week’s snow has created an extraordinary opportunity for cross country lovers: Whitegrass is open for Thanksgiving weekend!

According to Chip Chase:

“We are open for the season no matter the snow now that it is winter season!”

Whitegrass Ski Touring Center is the much-beloved heart of Nordic skiing in the Canaan Valley, maintaining over 60 km of trails ranging from 3220 – 4463 ft. with over 1,200 vertical feet to cross country up and over. It offers lessons, rentals and a fantastic and cozy cafe offering homemade, healthy and hearty food — an important requisite for the cross country crowd.

Located in the southern end of Canaan Valley in what was once the Weiss Knob ski area, Whitegrass is ten miles south of Davis, WV or about 15-20 minutes. Davis is the Valley’s closest town and provides the Valley’s post office. The town’s quaint downtown offers numerous restaurants, two craft breweries, a grocery store and Dollar General, two art galleries and several lodging operations, including the Bright Morning Inn.

Whitegrass is also unique in its partnership with the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. In exchange for allowing skiers on its property, Whitegrass provides the Refuge with numerous educational outreach events, that help teach visitors about the Refuge and its environment. Chip often serves as a leader at these events, which are largely FREE snowshoe walks on Sunday afternoons…and snowshoes are included!

The following is a list of Whitegrass events for the coming winter taken from its website. These events, largely free and family-friendly, are a wonderful chance for visitors to get to know the Canaan Valley Nordic ski community and its unique environment.

November 27, 2016 Evergreen Wreath Making Workshop – Join us for an afternoon of fun learning how to make your own holiday wreath. Bring a hand pruner and any decorations or adornments you’d like to add to your wreath. We’ll have all the materials you’ll need including a variety of firs to construct your very own piece of artwork. We’ll get started at 1pm and be around all afternoon. Dave Saville will be outa the country and WG is running this event, had plenty of practice…

December 3, 2016 35th Annual Jack Frost Celebration – Help open up the season in honor of one our favorite snowy characters. Bring a dish to share Saturday eve and we will provide the refreshments. We are making a community monetary donation matching all Jack Frost celebration and beer tips to our Tucker County Food Bank. Join in and bring a nonperishable goodie and we’ll add that to the whole shebang! Sunday brunch rounds out the weekend.

Dec. 18 Snowshoe Discovery Tour – 1 pm A natural history snowshoe walk with Chip Chase, owner of White Grass, as he shares fun facts about the climate, forest type, and geology of the area. Enjoy a short streamside jaunt that lasts about an hour and covers around a mile of easy rolling terrain.

Jan 1, 2017 Snowshoe Discovery Tour – 10 am A natural history snowshoe walk with Chip Chase as he endlessly gabs about the history of local skiing, quirky climate facts, railroad history, and the environmental battle for Canaan Valley vs. the Power Company.

Jan 7 Winter Trails Day 2017 – Free lessons, area use, and clinics to all first time interested skiers or snowshoers. XC lessons every hour and a 10 am and 2 pm clinic on types of snowshoes, clothing, basic techniques, and outdoor winter snow travel followed by a natural history tour on snowshoes into our neighboring National Wildlife Refuge.

Jan 8 Snowshoe Discovery Tours The Wonders of Winter Wildlife – 10 am Americorp Mallory Gyovai will be talking about animals adaptations to the winter season within CVNWR. Focusing on a few species, and keeping our eyes peeled for tracks and other animal signs, we will discuss how the season creates a plethora of reactions from our wild neighbors.

TBA Jan 20 West Virginia Special Olympics Winter Games Gathered are racers from three states, parents, coaches, volunteers, and helpers. This event will give back tenfold what is put in!

TBA Women’s Wonderful Weekend9am to 3 pm Refresh or pick up some new ski techniques. Instruction available for all types of skiers and experience levels from track and skate techniques to downhill control and telemark turns. Lunch included.

Jan 22 Twenty Five Km Mountain State Marathon – 1 pm A rolling long course or settle for a shortened version. Kid’s classes and well groomed for classic or skate. $20 entry fee. Sweet prizes along with website photos making you look like a champ.

Jan 22 Snowshoe Discovery Tours Time to get Squirrelly – 10 am They rummage through garbage cans, steal our bird feed, and love college campuses. But what do you really know about squirrels? Join Americorp Lauren Merrill and CVNWR on a snowshoe hike as we talk about the behavior and life history of these little creatures. You’re guaranteed to see at least one.

TBA Kids Clinic and bb biathlon 9:30 am – noon For Ages 6‐10 Both beginner and experienced kids will have fun playing games and learning new skills. 1 pm optional bb biathlon has 3 targets, 9 shots, and everyone wins!

Jan 29 5 Km Snowshoe Walk/Run – 11 am Well organized by Helvetia, WV distance runner Dan Lehmann this event features a rolling course full of prizes and fun. Snowshoe rentals available for $8. Race costs $5!

Jan 29 Snowshoe Discovery Tours Water Water Everywhere – 10 am Join Park Ranger Ted Hodson on a hike where we discuss how water in all of its forms moves through the valley. Find out why the wetlands are so important to the water cycle, and how we can guarantee its survival.

Feb 1 Our Ground Hog’s Day Ski – 9 am Our annual trek in search for clues to the rest of winter never seems to end. Full day backcountry journeys usually have no route in mind and end up lost.

TBA Parent Child Clinic – 10am to noon Ski lessons for our littlest skiers. Parents and children ages 3-5. Morning session from 10:00-­11:00. What does every skiing parent want for their children? Good health, happiness, and of course a love of skiing. We’ll engage your youngest skier in games and activities that will make them beg you to go skiing again. Plus parents will learn how to play skill-­based games with your little ones.

Feb 19 Snowshoe Discovery Tours Where Wildlife Comes Naturally – 10 am Join Park Ranger Ted Hodson who will be talking about the history and importance of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Learn why the refuge system was created, what our mission is, and all of the fun activities that are allowed on wilderness land.

Feb 26 Snowshoe Discovery Tours Volunteering at CVNWR – 10 am Join Mallory and Lauren who will be talking about AmeriCorps, Appalachian Forest Heritage Area (our program within AmeriCorps), and volunteering at the refuge. We will talk about all of the projects that are made possible by the help of volunteers, and how to get involved.

TBA Skiathon Fund Raiser for Mtn Laurel Learning Coop…start 3 pm, 1hour, 2 lap distances (one for older kids and one for younguns). Pledge forms soon to be arriving.

Mar 5 Natural History Snowshoe Discovery Tour – 10 am with Chip Chase, owner of White Grass and lifelong outdoorsman sharing his knowledge of the area as well as the history of the relationship with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the formation of the Refuge here.

TBA bb biathlon championship – 1 pm 3 targets, 9 shots, everyone wins, adults are encouraged to ski and shoot.

Hash Hound Harriers ski hash schedule announced as they are determined.

NATO Telemark WorkshopDickie has retired and will not be leading classes or tours for 2016-17 as far as we know.

Full Moon Skiing Trips are around each month’s lunar glare Dec 14, Jan 12, Feb 11, and Mar 12. We usually head out around 7:30 pm. Good snow, surprising visibility, mysterious sense of control.

Paragliding at Canaan Valley Resort

November 12th, 2016

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Canaan Valley is known for outdoor adventure. It’s the home of West Virginia’s earliest ski industry. And its cool summers are beloved by mountain bikers, hikers, golfers, hunters and fishermen. Today the Valley offers two downhill and one cross country ski resort and a 16,000 acre National Wildlife Refuge.

The area’s newest activity is the high adrenaline sport of paragliding, a growing sport in North America. Canaan Valley Resort State Park is home to the new paragliding launch site, which further expands the Valley’s offerings .

“It’s a project that we’ve been working on for the past six years, and finally it’s come to reality and everybody is really excited about it,” said Stan Beafore, park superintendent.

Just more than 4,000 feet in elevation, it can be accessed via the resort’s scenic chair lift. The southwest facing launch site faces into the prevailing winds, which are extremely rare in the Appalachian Mountain range.

“We actually had some people launch off here for the first time last week. Really great experience. It was fun to see, it’s going to be popular,” Beafore said.

Canaan Valley Resort and the Mountaineer Hang Glider Association opened the site on Oct. 8, 2016. It is one of only two sites in the Eastern United States that is accessible by a ski resort chairlift.

The site can be accessed from Memorial Day through the end of October, and mid December through mid March. The fee to ride the chairlift to the top of the mountain is $7 for adults. Pilots can carry their paragliding equipment with them on the lift, and the launch site is a short walk from the lift.

To use the launch site, pilots must be current members of the U.S. Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. Landing sites have also been set up with two family farms nearby.

Although pilots can fly year round in the region, the most favorable flying time in the Potomac highlands  (where Canaan Valley is located) occurs in the afternoons during the summer and fall.

Unlike other launch sights, Beafore said it’s legal to paraglide in Canaan Valley Resort State Park. To expedite the project, officials there developed a plan to protect the Cheat Mountain salamander, a threatened species known to live atop Weiss Knob. A raised boardwalk was built over the salamander habitat so that pilots could reach the launch site without disturbing the creatures’ travel.

Beafore said the West Virginia State Parks Foundation, the Foundation for Free Flight and the Mountaineer Hang Gliding Association all helped pay for the launch site.

The Mountaineer Hang Glider Association have a contractual agreement with Canaan Valley Resort for operation of the launch site. Pilots using the site work directly with the hang gliding association for launch times. Pilots can make launch reservations with Ben Herrick by phone at 304-866-3312.

 

Portions of this article reprinted from The State Journal October 20, 2016

Dog in a Bog: Picking Cranberries near Canaan Valley

October 21st, 2016
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Pitcher plants in Olson Bog filled with rainwater

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Happy little dog laying in a bog

There are many reasons to visit West Virginia in the fall besides beautiful foliage. True, we have remarkable fall color here, which peaks early in the Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls area.

But for some of us, the most exciting part of fall isn’t the leaves, it’s the cranberries, and the beautiful bogs where they grow.

These photos were taken in an especially fine bog called Olson Bog, which is near one of the few remaining fire towers in the Monongahela Forest: Olson Tower

The tower provides 360-degree views of the surrounding area including the Cheat River watershed, Parsons, Blackwater Canyon, Canaan Mountain, Backbone Mountain and the Otter Creek Wilderness.

The tower offers spectacular views when the leaves are changing, though it’s the bog that’s the real treasure. It stretches out as a sea of fluffy cotton grass. Underneath, cranberries lay thickly, ripe for the picking by anyone with wading boots and a bucket. In between are clusters of maroon pitcher plants, which fill with rainwater, waiting for insects to fall in…and drown.

Hiking in a bog with a happy dog, picking cranberries in the quiet, is a delightful way to spend the final days of fall.

Ripe cranberries growing near Davis, Wv

2017 CVNWR Calendar Now for Sale

October 7th, 2016

2016-calendarEvery year in late summer the Friends of the 500th produce a calendar highlighting photos from throughout the Canaan Valley Region. The project is a fundraiser for the group, which provides valuable financial and volunteer support to the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

This year’s calendar is now on sale at shops throughout the region, including the Bright Morning Inn. The calendar retails for only $11.95, which is a bargain. It’s printed on hefty card stock and professionally produced through the gracious effort of West Virginia photographer Frank Ceravalo, whose own Mountain Mist calendars are sold throughout the state, including Tamarack.

The calendar features stunning photos from the many photographers who visit this special region. It makes an inspiring gift for anyone who loves visiting the Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls area or those who dream of the outdoors… while sitting inside at a desk!

 

New Canaan Valley Trail Map Gets You Out Where You Belong

September 27th, 2016

It took months, maybe years, of hard work but the Heart of the Highlands Trail group recently completed a new trail map of Canaan Valley and its surroundings, and it’s a doozy!

The map detaiadmin-ajaxls all the important hiking, biking and skiing trails in the area, and gives valuable information about allowed uses, trail length and level of difficulty. The map brings together the many land agencies that control public access in the region. It includes the Dolly Sods and Otter Creek Wilderness Areas, the Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area (formerly CVI), the Canaan Mountain Backcountry, both Blackwater Falls and Canaan Valley State Parks, and the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

The map is detailed, waterproof and comprehensive. And at only $12.95 it’s a bargain, replacing an annoying handful of individual maps put out by the different agencies.

The map is now available at Blackwater Bikes, the Tucker Co. CVB, Bright Morning Inn, the Canaan Valley and Blackwater State Parks and the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Visitor’s Center.

 

28th Annual Leaf Peeper’s Festival 2016 this Weekend

September 21st, 2016

fall-window-boxWith days in the 70’s, nights in the 50’s, this weekend is shaping up to be spectacular for our town’s annual Leaf Peeper’s Festival.

Now in its 28th year, the festival includes a Fireman’s Parade Friday evening, Inflatable Rides all weekend, Food & Craft Fair Saturday and Sunday, a 5k/2k Run/Walk on Saturday, Oktoberfest and Live Music on Saturday, Car Show and Golf Tournament on Sunday and more.

At the Bright Morning Inn our cafe celebrates the weekend by serving Pumpkin Pancakes, arguably the best pancake of all. Fluffy and spicy and strewn with walnuts, they are covered in a warm maple butter sauce that’s…almost heaven. A fitting way to celebrate the beginning of fall in our beautiful West Virginia mountains!

For more information about the festival visit canaanvalley.org or click here to download a festival schedule.

Finding Your Way in Dolly Sods

September 13th, 2016
Rock cairns are common sites in West Virginia's Dolly Sods Wilderness

Rock cairns are common sites in West Virginia’s Dolly Sods Wilderness

Most of the trails within West Virginia’s Dolly Sods Wilderness are well worn and easily followed. For years the area has been popular with hikers and backpackers, and for good reason: it’s scenic, peaceful and amazingly wild considering it’s only a few hours from Washington, DC and other major cities.

But there are times when even well-marked trails there can be perplexing, and even experienced hikers can get turned around. Believe me, when hiking in Dolly Sods, being a little cautious isn’t a bad thing.

Seasoned hikers know how to mark their route so they can find their way back. A friend of mine used to leave little stick arrows along his route in case he needed to backtrack. And he was a woodsman who had lived in wild places all over the world.

Not everyone who visits the Sods these days is a seasoned hiker. The new road, Route 48 (Corridor H), is bringing more people to our area every year. Many of them are coming to explore the cultural attractions in nearby Davis and Thomas. Some are experiencing wilderness for the first time. These people need help any way they can get it.

Fortunately, throughout the Sods, thoughtful hikers have created stone cairns to guide you at decision points along the trail. It’s an old tradition. The little sandstone stacks are pleasantly sculptural, and when you are lost, they are beautiful sights indeed.

Not everyone likes the cairns. Some think that if you need to follow a cairn you have no business hiking in a wilderness area. Others hate seeing any sort of man-made thing in such a wild place and consider them graffiti of sorts. (Note to some cairn builders: these really aren’t sculptures, they’re built to give direction, not decorate — and in the wrong place they can cause confusion!)

I get what the critics say, but I still love the cairns. At their best, they are beacons left by someone who thought enough of others to mark the way ahead, simple kindnesses left for strangers. Who could argue with that?



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