Late Summer Wildflowers at Blackwater Falls

August 29th, 2016

There is a wonderful plant that blooms this time of year throughout Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls. It’s my favorite: the magnificent Closed bottle gentian or Gentiana andrewsii. It offers a rich true blue that contrasts beautifully with the blond grasses of late summer.

This photo was taken on the trail that leads from Blackwater Falls State Park to Davis, on the south side of the Blackwater River. About a mile long, the trail allows easy access from town to the park, either on bike or foot.

The trail boasts a few nice bogs complete with cranberries and cotton grass, a beautiful little bridge over a small run that feeds into the river, and lots of cool shade in summer. It’s a great little trail for dog walking on a hot day.

But for me the best part is the gentian. It shows up in late summer, our driest season, when days are warm and evenings turning cool. It signals summer is ending and, once again, we are marching toward winter again.

Closed bottle gentian in Blackwater Falls State Park

Closed bottle gentian in Blackwater Falls State Park

Brew Skies Festival This Weekend

August 16th, 2016

If you’ve never experienced Canaan Valley’s gloriously cool summers, and you love brews and music, you’re in for a special treat this weekend. It’s the fourth Brew Skies Festival, and this year it’s being held at Timberline Resort .

Presented by Mountain State Brewing Co., the first annual Brew Skies Festival was held in 2012 as a celebration of live music, West Virginia craft beer and the great outdoors. This year’s family friendly, two-day event will showcase performances from 23 musical acts, local food & artisan vendors, a newly added homebrew competition and craft breweries from around the state of West Virginia.

The Bright Morning Inn is only 9 miles from Canaan Valley, or about 15 minutes away. So come on up. For the cool, the music and the wonderful selection of beers from the Mountain State.

 

Practicing the Art of Breakfast

June 4th, 2016

The Bright Morning Inn is unique among local bed and breakfasts in that we have a restaurant that serves meals to the public. Serves breakfast. Only. And only from 7:30 to 11 am five days a week (closed Tuesday and Wednesday). Obviously serving breakfast is important, but it’s not our core business, which is lodging.

That being said, we serve awesome breakfasts, artful breakfasts, with lots of variety. Because people are different and have different tastes. We get a lot of basic bacon and egg eaters here. And gravy and biscuit lovers. But we also get athletes, and healthy eaters and city foodies with refined tastes. Thankfully, we get mostly easy going people, who are needing fuel for hiking, biking and skiing, which is why they come here.

It’s hard to please all these different tastes, though we try, and we try, also, to support our local farmers. Most of these operations are small, and mostly they are labors of love–no one gets rich from a small vegetable farm or pig operation. Now that summer is coming we are starting to see the results of their labor. This weekend, for instance, we are serving a spicy chorizo burrito from Ben Neustadt’s Canaan Valley pig farm. Imagine such a thing — pigs in Canaan! And we have Scott Weaner’s luscious asparagus cooked with eggs and white cheddar cheese, too. Delicious!

We wish we could offer more local foods, but sometimes it’s too expensive. Plus, our seasons are short and most of the year we have to buy from the big food guys or we wouldn’t have any food at all. Still, when we can, we will try to serve some of this local food to you. It’s an honor and privilege to cook this way, and we know it’s appreciated by the compliments we get.

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Natural Air-conditioning Gets an Upgrade

June 2nd, 2016
New AC system installed this week for those not quite so cool nights

New AC system installed this week for those not quite so cool nights

 

It isn’t what we wanted. And if we’re lucky it won’t be used that much. But the Bright Morning Inn has finally accepted reality and installed air conditioning in our bedrooms. Ugh.

Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls have long been known for their cool summers. In truth, there’s only a handful of nights when you really need it. But when you do, we’re all going to sleep easier knowing it’s available. And in this day and age, with ever present social media, it’s important to head off potential complaints whenever you can.

The units are easily controlled mini-split systems that will allow for both cooling and extra heating in winter. It’s a quiet system, too, and may help those extra light sleepers who don’t like to sleep with the windows open.

It’s the end of an era. A bit bittersweet. But the next hot spell we’ll all be grateful we’ve made the switch.

 

 

Early Spring in Canaan…Almost Heaven

May 3rd, 2016

frank ceravalo blossom bud

Spring in the Allegheny Plateau comes later than most other places. Most of April is drab here, but toward the end of the month, and in early May, the earth awakens. These are some photos from West Virginia photographer Frank Ceravalo taken on his visit at the Bright Morning Inn last week. It shows the delicacy of this underappreciated season. Though it’s not as showy as fall foliage season, spring is a special time here, made more special because of our harsh winters. Don’t miss it!

Ta-dum…Ta-dum…It’s getting closer. Corridor H that is.

June 26th, 2015

There’s nothing like a shiny new highway to brighten the eyes of developers and land speculators. And in West Virginia, the newest of all new highways is Route 48, an east-west thorofare that when complete will link I-79 in central WV with I-81 and the Shenandoah Valley. And it’s already caused a few land booms (and busts) along the way.
The road has been in the works for many years, as part of a system of needed “corridors” identified by the Appalachian Regional Commission. The plan was to improve transportation infrastructure in this most tortuous of states, and it has largely succeeded.
This year, finally, Corridor H (as it’s known locally) is almost at Davis and Thomas. It’s an impressive undertaking, as it cuts through the mountains from Wardensville, past Moorefield, and up the Allegheny Front to this high plateau we call home. It passes through green rolling pastures, craggy rock outcroppings (with picturesque goats!) and foggy crests.
Will it bring in more tourists? Probably. It certainly makes the drive easier (and a bit faster) for travelers from Washington, DC and helps locals driving to distant jobs, airports and shopping expeditions.
Will it get finished? There are still gaps, including an important crossing of the Blackwater Canyon and a stretch in Virginia that may be years from completion.
Will we all get rich? That remains to be seen. It will require tough decisions to shape growth and development in a way that benefits everyone. But if we’re lucky, we will be able to preserve what is worthwhile about this beautiful area while improving our economy. Stay tuned!

Cobbler Season: Bumper Blackberry Crop Ahead!

June 20th, 2015
blackberry shrub

Thick sprays of blackberry blossoms in early June. They’re everywhere!

Last year's blackberries were good for picking in July and August

Last year’s blackberries were good for picking in July and August

Picking blackberries each summer is one of the simple pleasures of living in Davis, WV. For many of us, walking dogs on the edge of town means checking out the progress of the amazing blackberries that grow here in such abundance. In early June, roads and trails are positively lined with blackberry stalks, each thick with blossoms. In July and August, when the berries ripen, mounds of bear scat appear on the trails. Bear love berries, and eat tons of them, but there are still plenty left for human picking.
This year’s crop appears bigger than usual, if that’s possible. An old timer once told me that as a child he and his cousin picked 98 GALLONS of blackberries one summer, for his uncle, who made wine.
I make cobbler, using a simple crust recipe from Mimi Kibler of La Fontaine Bakery. It was her mother’s. It’s perfect with ice cream and makes a nice supper (or breakfast) if you’re too tired to cook. It’s these simple pleasures that we appreciate living here on the edge of the great outdoors.

Blackberry Cobbler

Filling:

5 cups blackberries
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar

Crust:

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 egg
1/3 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix berries with cornstarch and sugar, add to 9” baking dish.
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Add egg to dry mixture and barely stir to combine. (Using fingers works best)
Sprinkle crumbly mixture over fruit.
Drizzle with melted butter.
Sprinkle top with dash of cinnamon.
Bake 45 minutes.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

They were teaching STEM before STEM was cool!

June 13th, 2015

Unlikely as it may seem, in 1963 a small group of forward-thinking West Virginians created one of the most successful STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education programs in the country. It is the National Youth Science Camp, which for over 50 years has brought together the top science students from every state for four weeks of intensive study and outdoor recreation. A program free to the aspiring scientists, and run by a dedicated staph (their word), the camp is a bona fide success story. Of its alumni, 45% have achieved doctorates, and 85% are working in STEM-related occupations.
Plans are now underway for the camp, and the National Youth Science Foundation that runs it, to move to a permanent home in Tucker County, on the edge of Davis, WV, and near Blackwater Falls. The goal is to construct a National Center for Youth Sciences Education that will improve and expand existing programs with permanent year-round facilities.
It’s a brilliant idea. Tucker County is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled areas in our state, surrounded by nearly a million acres of Monongahela Forest and close to two National Wilderness areas. It’s a great location for recreation and will provide a fantastic laboratory for environmental education. To find out more go the NYSF website, and if you’re inclined, donate to their cause. With their proven track record, it’s a sound investment, and a patriotic way for you to help move our nation’s STEM education forward.

It’s Official: Blackwater Bikes Changes Hands

June 9th, 2015

Downtown Davis Gets A Fresh New Look

Downtown Davis Gets A Fresh New Look


After weeks of speculation it’s finally official: Blackwater Bikes, the well-known bike shop in downtown Davis, WV has a new owner — and he’s getting the sign repainted!
The little shop on Route 32 has been the center of mountain biking activity in the region for many years and a sponsor of numerous rides and races. The shop has an impressive history. The new owner, Rob Stull, replaces Roger Lily, who took over from Gary Berti and Matt Marcus, who bought the place from Laird Knight, who founded the shop in 1982. Whew! All were and are dedicated mountain biking riders and enthusiastic champions of the sport.
Laird’s company, Granny Gear Productions, was nationally known for mountain bike promotions and founded the popular 24 Hours of Canaan race, which was scuttled after the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge eliminated many of the valley’s trails.
The shop is well located in downtown Davis, sandwiched between Sirianni’s Cafe and the Bright Morning Inn, and a stone’s throw from Hellbender Burritos.
Rob will continue selling bikes and gear, running rentals, servicing equipment, and sponsoring rides and races in the area, including the upcoming Canaan MTB Festival June 18-21. And he wants to hear from riders about how they would like to see the shop evolve. His first act, besides giving the place a good sweep, has been to freshen up the peeling paint on the shop’s sign and post his new summer hours: Mon-Sat 10-5 and Sunday 10-4.

Splashdam Trail: Purdiest Trail in 48 States!

June 7th, 2015

heart of the highlands sign

Davis' newest trail is now complete

Davis’ newest trail is now complete

gorgeous new bike trail in Davis, WV

gorgeous new bike trail in Davis, WV

Best trail signs in Tucker County!

Best trail signs in Tucker County!


As if there weren’t enough great hiking and biking trails in Tucker County, WV, there’s a newish one, the beautiful and accessible “Splashdam Trail” which leads now from the bridge in downtown Davis, WV along the Blackwater River about 4.5 miles. The trail is extraordinarily beautiful in a place where there’s already plenty of pretty trails. It’s extraordinary because of the variety of ecosystems it covers. It passes through fern meadows, mossy boulders, a wickedly beautiful stream called “Devil’s Run” and impressive rhododendron thickets. For most of its length it follows close to the Blackwater River, providing views of the river’s whitewater that just weren’t available until now.
Almost as impressive as the scenery are the kick-ass trail-building skills on display. The techniques used are first-class, efforts begun several years ago by Ken Dzaack, a consummate trail engineer with a fine eye for beauty. Ken began the project when the land was owned by the Canaan Valley Institute. The land is now owned and managed by the WV Department of Natural Resources, and is part of the Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area. The trail was finished through the efforts of the Heart of the Highlands organization, a group building a trail to link Davis, Thomas and Canaan Valley and hopefully join up with other major trail networks in the region. The effort, which requires cooperation from numerous landholders, is a long slog, but there are dedicated and talented people behind it (Ken’s wife Julie, for one), and some federal money, which never hurts.
The Splashdam Trail skirts the southern bank of the Blackwater River, away from the majority of established trails, in an area that is basically pristine and little used. It is used by hikers and experienced mountain bikers, mostly locals, who use it to access other trails south of town.
Visitors to the Bright Morning Inn are always looking for hiking ideas and right now, the Splashdam Trail is one of my top picks. It’s beautiful, it’s close and makes a perfect day trip from town. And with the newest section now complete, you don’t have to drive to locate the trailhead.
While you’re at it, check out another local treasure, the “Smallest Church in 48 States,” nine miles north on Rt. 219 in Silver Lake, WV. It’s really named “Our Lady of the Pines Catholic Church” and features an altar and twelve one-seat pews across an aisle. Built in the 50’s as a family church it’s a peaceful spot set among beautiful gardens, including masses of blooming lily-of-the-valley in springtime.



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