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 ‘canaan valley’ 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!
Spring comes slowly in the northern mountains of West Virginia. Near Davis and Thomas, in Tucker County, we endure a lengthy and dreary mud season when everywhere else is in gorgeous bloom. But by late April, and early May, we are rewarded by a remarkable show of Serviceberry trees. Not just a few, either, but a mass of trees whose delicate blossoms dominate the landscape for weeks.
The show is especially lovely between Davis and Canaan Valley, along Route 32, but in truth it’s beautiful nearly everywhere. It’s a subtle show, though,
In the mountains we call the Serviceberry “Sarvis” and locals say the name came from the use of these, the first flowers of spring, at church services held by settlers for early circuit-riding preachers. Whether that’s true or not I can’t say. But it’s a good story and one we like to repeat.
The Serviceberry is a valuable tree for wildlife, producing small sweet berries mid summer. Birds, deer, and bear love them, and a small handful will give you a lift when hiking in Dolly Sods.
Still, it’s in spring, when the blossoms come, that this unassuming little tree is truly unforgettable.
Fall in Davis, WV this year is more fruitful that I ever remember. For whatever reason — the heavy spring rains, the lack of late frost– the fruit is simply everywhere.
In the bogs on the edge of town extending all the way to Dolly Sods are millions (yes!) of plump red cranberries. They’re often found near cottongrass, and they grow low to the ground, which makes for a back-aching harvest. If you plan to pick, bring a small bucket to sit on and wear your waterproof shoes as cranberries are found in spongy wet places.
As for apples, they can be found along the sides of the roads, in and out of town, and just about anywhere humans have ever been. Many of them are poor quality volunteers — suitable mostly for cider. But some of them are wonderful, and you can only know by biting into one. Unfortunately, most are simply wasted, piling up in alleys and yards, or collected to feed the deer. The abundance is astounding, and the waste a little shameful.
I discovered a few amazing pear trees this year, and some awesome cherries. Often these trees are zapped by the frost in late spring, which limits their fruit. But this year, when the mild days came, the blossoms stayed, and we are basking in the abundance of what was produced.
Living in downtown Davis, WV isn’t for the faint of heart. Especially in snow season, where drifts can block the sidewalks, push up against your doorway, and bury your car, and that’s in a good year. Last year’s snowfall was the heaviest in years, over 266 inches, or 22 FEET.
In a place where the snow starts in November and ends sometimes in May, we treasure a good snow shovel. People have strong opionions about which type is better: the scoop or the pusher. At my house (pictured above) the scoop is never put away. It sits there all summer reminding me on our perfect summer days how we paid the price for this heavenly weather in February, and how the next winter isn’t far behind.
At the Bright Morning Inn we use a pusher to clear the sidewalk leading to the restaurant. We use it in the morning before we open, and then several more times depending on the weather. We salt the walk, too, using various products we buy buy the bucketful.
A few of the people in town are fastidious about clearing their snow. But most of us do it halfheartedly, knowing that any amount of effort is never quite enough, and in the end the snow will always win. We figure that the skiers who travel to Canaan Valley
, well, they won’t really mind a little snow here and there.
As November turns the corner we look forward to snow season again, for the crisp air and blue blue skies. It brings out the heartiest souls, mostly skiiers who–for whatever mysterious childhood reasons–approach snow with joyfulness and not gloom. It’s an infectious attitude, and helps those of us who work here smile in spite of the difficulties.