Archive for the ‘Davis summer vacation’ Category
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
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.
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.
For years I have read about the magnificent “Forks of Red Creek” within Dolly Sods Wilderness. According to the Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide, the “Forks” is an area along the Red Creek Trail offering several campsites and an astonishing set of water features: “three swimming holes, several waterfalls, fossils in the main stream bed and a natural water slide that drops about 15 vertical feet into a large swimming hole just upstream of an impressive waterfall in a scenic setting. Needless to say, the ‘Forks’ is popular.”
While a great, if sometimes overused, camping spot, the “Forks” make a wonderful day trip. From Davis, it’s best to drive to the top of FS80, then hike the Breathed Mountain Trail, about 2.5 miles to where it connects with the Red Creek Trail. You’ll know you’re near by the roar of the water as it rushes through the narrow canyon. It’s a steep descent to the stream bed, but absolutely worth it. The scenery is spectacular, the air fresh with balsam fir, and the sound of the water energizing.
My daughter Catherine and I hiked the Forks in late May, when it was still too cold to swim. But in July and August there must be no finer place to while away the day, then retire to town for beer, pizza and a comfy bed at the Bright Morning Inn.
This is a spot that is not to be missed. My only regret is that it took me so long to find it!
There’s nothing like spring trout fishing to keep a person young at heart. This colorful fisherwoman, my mother, Sarah Pierson, has been trout fishing lately, at a beautiful spot on the Blackwater River near Davis, WV. She hasn’t caught much, but that’s besides the point. The real fun is just sitting in a quiet spot enjoying the breeze.
Fortunately for Mom, there’s a handicap pier along the river outside town, built by folks at the Canaan Valley Institute, and a popular spot for less nimble fisher folk. Whether you dig your own nightcrawlers, or pick up some PowerBait at the sporting goods shop in town, fishing in Davis is a great and inexpensive way to enjoy the outdoors. And when you need to take a break, or when they’re just not biting, the good part is you’re close to town, with it’s charming cafes and restaurants.
Trout are stocked often in the spring, and fishing is good all along the river from Canaan Valley and down through parts of Blackwater Falls State Park (catch and release only). So grab a big sunhat, or maybe just a visor, and head to Davis for some fishing this spring. My mother says fishing is good for your nerves, and she just might be right.
The Bright Morning Inn prides itself on being pet-friendly, which means we allow quiet and well-behaved dogs. However, for folks vacationing in the Canaan area who aren’t staying at the Inn, there’s another lodging alternative: PetRated, a pet sitting and boarding service in nearby Thomas, WV run by local “dog whisperer” Judy Haverty. is more of a vacation retreat for dogs than a boarding kennel. Every day, twice a day, Judy and her charges pile into the Jeep and head for the woods, and for long walks in the trails surrounding town. In the summer, there’s swimming in ponds and creeks, and a shady side yard for lazy snoozing. In winter there’s snow: huge piles of it for jumping and rolling. At PetRated dogs swim, run and play together
under Judy’s watchful care. It’s no wonder that every year more and more locals, and visitors, too, are treating their beloved pets to healthy outdoor education in our beautiful West Virginia hills. For more information visit www.petratedwv.com or call Judy at 304-463-3388