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!
Archive for the ‘blackwater falls’ Category
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!
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.
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.
Even though I have owned the Bright Morning Inn for fifteen years now, and have accommodated people’s dogs for many years, I never really understood what all the fuss was about…until now. Because now I own a dog, too, and it’s crazy how much I love her!
Davis, WV is a particularly dog-centric kind of town. It is surrounded by miles and miles of fantastic trails and gravel roads perfect for running dogs. There are creeks for swimming, geese for chasing and muddy bogs for wallowing. There are blueberries to hunt in the summer (dogs love them) and amazing snow drifts to leap through in winter.
At the Bright Morning Inn we accept quiet well-behaved dogs only. And in all these years we’ve had very few problems. It seems that people don’t like to travel with crazy dogs. Imagine that! We don’t take cats, however, as there are way too many people allergic to cats and they can, well, climb on things. Not good in a public space.
I don’t keep my dog Ssoula at the inn too much. She’s good but not entirely well behaved. Still, she has brought me so much joy that I can’t quite imagine life without her, which is just what my guests have been feeling all these years, too.
It’s a mushroom, it’s a fungus, it’s a parasite. It’s chaga, and it’s plentiful in the northern mountains of West Virginia. Known for it’s medicinal properties, chaga is brewed into tea that some people believe will boost your immune system and fight cancer. I have no experience with that. But I do know it’s fun to hunt, fun to collect and when you drink it, it tastes like the forest.
Chaga grows on yellow birch trees found in northern forests. Here in the woods surrounding Davis, WV, such trees are numerous.
The bark of yellow birch trees isn’t really yellow, more like a dull greyish green. But it’s clearly papery and birch like, and relatively easy to spot. The trees are also found in the woods ringing the Canaan Valley, in Dolly Sods and in much of the Monongahela Forest.
Hunting for chaga requires patience and persistence, and a few tools, as it has to be pried from the tree. To brew into tea, the flesh is then dried and ground into powder, or, if you’re lazy, small chunks can simply be steeped in hot water (not boiled). This is the preferred method of local folks, who have turned many people onto chaga over the years. The resulting brew is an excellent tonic after skiing or exercise. It makes you feel refreshed, and connected to nature somehow. Maybe it’s just the hydration, who knows.
There’s much to be learned on the internet about chaga, if you’re interested. But the most important thing to know is that getting out in the woods, whether hunting for chaga or not, is always good for you. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inonotus_obliquus
Tucker County West Virginia hosts its fourth annual ArtSpring weekend on Memorial Day weekend this year, with art, food, music and fun throughout Davis, Thomas and Canaan Valley.
The weekend’s activities begin Friday May 22nd and continue through Sunday May 24th. A schedule of events can be found at www.artspringwv.com or by visiting www.facebook.com/ArtSpringWV
The weekend features activities for every age and interest. There will be fine art demonstrations, caricature artists, street musicians, photography walks, mushroom walks (led by Chip Chase), food and craft vendors, and much much more. The event was created by local artists to highlight the area’s growing art and cultural scene, which, when added to its outdoor recreation venues, creates a vacation opportunity the whole family can enjoy.
So bring the kids. Bring the dog. Bring sunblock…and a jacket. It’s spring in the mountains…anything is possible!
Every season in the WV highlands near Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls is special. But some seasons are more spectacular than others, and as we approach the summer solstice, we encounter the magic of blooming mountain laurel.
Kin to rhododendron, which will bloom a little later here (near July 4th), mountain laurel have smaller leaves and delicate star shaped blossoms. Mostly they are pink, but occasionally you will find pure white ones.
They weren’t always beloved. Most early visitors to our mountains found the woods unpenetrable due to massive laurel and rhododendron thickets. They cursed the hellish “lorals” and moved on. It wasn’t until the 1890’s that lumberman and railroaders could tame the forest with saws and steam engines. But not completely, and certainly not the mountain laurel.
Along the roads outside Davis, WV, in Blackwater Falls State Park and woods of Canaan Valley, the wild display of laurel blossoms this time of year is simply stunning. You don’t realize how completely they occupy the understory of our woods until they bloom, trumpeting that summer, finally, is here.
This shot of laurel blooming at Blackwater Falls State Park was supplied by Bright Morning Inn guest Margaret Peterson, a birdwatcher from Oregon by way of DC. Somewhere near Lindy Point she found a bird’s nest hidden in a laurel thicket. At a time when birds, and wild places, are threatened everywhere, we rejoice in the marvelous resiliance of mountain laurel.
May in the highlands of West Virginia offers a spectacle of tender wildflowers. One of the most beautiful and elusive is the Lady’s Slipper, a wild orchid that grows in the moist woodlands of nearby Blackwater Falls State Park.
Today I spotted a clutch of lady’s slippers off the trail to Pase Point, part of the Dobbin House trail network that skirts the north rim of the Blackwater Canyon. The Dobbin House trails are known for challenging mountain biking track and tricky and twisting cross country ski trails.
The area was the site of a very old hunting lodge called Dobbin House, where wealthy city dwellers came to encounter what was then Virginia mountain wilderness before the Civil War. The House burned to the ground before the turn of the 2oth century, but the magnificent site would ultimately became part of the Monongahela Forest.
Visitors to the Bright Morning Inn, in nearby Davis, WV, have access to miles of fantastic hiking and biking trails, many of which lead right from our door. But the hardiest ones brave the changeable spring weather of May in search of Lady’s Slippers. They are a sweet and elusive harbinger of spring in our beautiful mountains.
Flower lovers, bird lovers, nature lovers of every description are invited to attend the 49th Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage held May 6-8 at Blackwater Falls State Park. This well-known event brings together wildlife experts, ornithologists, botanists and geologists from area universities and colleges who lead tours of well known flora and fauna hotspots such as Canaan Valley, Dolly Sods, Seneca Rocks, Fernow Forest and Otter Creek, as well as lesser known “secret spots”. The small group tours help participants identify particular plants and birds and point out interesting flora and fauna. It’s a fun and informative weekend to experience early spring in the Allegheny mountains, offering lots of great cameraderie, and a special way to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend with your favorite nature lover. To register for the event or for questions, contact Emily Fleming or Vickie Hash at the WV DNR at (304) 558-2754. For reservations for lodging at the Bright Morning Inn (less than a mile from the park) visit our website at www.brightmorninginn.com. This is a fantastic event for hearty souls who want to learn more about our beautiful area. Don’t miss it!