Archive for the ‘blackwater falls’ Category

Exploring the Magic of Mountain Laurel

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

West Virginia Mountain Laurel in Blackwater Falls State Park

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.

Stalking the Elusive Lady’s Slipper

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Sensuous wild orchids known as Lady's Slippers on May 10 at Blackwater Falls

A clutch of Lady’s Slippers on trail to Pase Point

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.

Wildflower Pilgrimage May 6-8

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

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!



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