Archive for the ‘Davis West Virginia’ Category

They were teaching STEM before STEM was cool!

Saturday, 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

Tuesday, 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!

Sunday, 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.

Pet Friendly Accommodations: Now I get it!

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

Ssoula (2)
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.

Hunting Chaga in the West Virginia Woods

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Chaga looks like blackened wood, or charcoal, when attached to the tree

Chaga looks like blackened wood, or charcoal, when attached to the tree

When pried from the tree the underside of the chaga is a rich yellowish orange

When pried from the tree the underside of the chaga is a rich yellowish orange

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.

West Virginia Mine Wars Museum Opens May 16th

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

West Virginia, and much of Appalachia, has a conflicted relationship with the coal industry. It’s an industry that provided and still provides good paying jobs in an area where employment is scarce. It’s an industry that produced pride, in jobs that were necessary, important and challenging. But the price for those jobs has been steep: death, disease and environmental destruction.
In the industry’s early years the coal companies held much of the region’s political power. Attempts to mobilize miners to improve working conditions and wages were met with stiff resistance. At one point the battles between the two sides became actual wars.
The West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, now under construction in the tiny town of Matewan, WV preserves and interprets artifacts and historical records of the local communities affected by the mine wars, exploring historical events from multiple perspectives through the lives of ordinary people.
The grand opening for the museum is May 16th. You can find out more and even contribute by visiting
It’s an important piece of history. Don’t miss it.

West Virginia Spring: A Sea of Serviceberry

Friday, May 1st, 2015

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,

Serviceberry trees dominate the landscape in Tucker Co, WV

Serviceberry trees dominate the landscape in Tucker Co, WV

Delicate and subtle Serviceberry blossoms

Delicate and subtle Serviceberry blossoms

one that isn’t often (or easily) photographed.
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.

Camp 70 Bridge Opens in Davis, WV

Thursday, October 13th, 2011
This handsome bridge at the end of Camp 70 road in Davis, WV now links CVI property to the Wildlife Refuge

It took awhile but it was worth it. On Saturday, October 15th, at 2 p.m. locals, tourists, politicians, dignitaries and more than one dog will be on hand to cut the ribbon officially opening our new bridge across the Blackwater River.

The bridge was built to replace a rickety but beloved old swinging bridge that townspeople had cobbled together after the flood of 1985, which took out an older bridge that had been used for years.
For awhile it seemed like the project would never happen, and there was considerable distrust and grumbling among the locals who had used the swinging bridge to access nearby biking trails. But sometimes the best things are worth waiting for.
Planning and funding for the new structure demanded cooperation between various government and non-profit entities. These groups included Canaan Valley Institute, The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Tucker County Trails, and the newest group representing the Heart of the Highlands trail system.
The stocky new bridge is handsome, made of steel, concrete and thick slabs of wood, and it sits at a sublime spot at the end of Camp 70. In addition to the requisite hiking and biking, it’s a great spot for bridwatching, fishing, and general riverside daydreaming.
So come out this Saturday and watch the muckety-mucks cut the ribbon. It’s been a long time coming, and I hear refreshments will be served!

Bird Banding in Dolly Sods September 2011

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Entrance to bird banding station at Dolly Sods

Merlin captured at Dolly Sods and about to be freed

Busy scene at Dolly Sods bird banding station

As if Dolly Sods wasn’t fascinating and beautiful enough, there’s an extra special attraction that happens every year in the fall, when birds migrate. Within the Wilderness Area area across from the Red Creek Campground, bird enthusiasts from the state’s Brooks Bird Club (among others)  maintain a banding station along the Allegheny Front. The fine nets that are strewn along the rock outcroppings temporarily capture migrating birds as they travel up over the Alleghenies on their way south.

After gently extracting the captured birds,  the volunteers who staff the station gather information to identify and track the various migratory species. The afternoon these photos were taken they had caught a beautiful Merlin, a type of falcon with a mottled breast and bright yellow feet.
After the birds are caught and observed some are banded and then released to continue their migratory journey.

The bird banding station in Dolly Sods operates throughout September and early October. It makes a great day trip for visitors to Canaan Valley and Davis, WV. And it’s just one of many fascinating reasons for exploring our beautiful West Virginia highlands.

Nets along the Allegheny Front capture migrating birds at Dolly Sods

Bright Morning Inn Gets a New Look

Monday, September 26th, 2011

After 22 years the Inn's sign gets a facelift

There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to give a place a lift, and this year, for the first time since the inn was built, we now have a fresh new sign — a hand-painted sign, which is a rarity in these parts. We wanted a hand-made sign to reflect the special character of the Inn, complete with minor imperfections.

The new sign was painted and installed by local handyman Al Pityo. Al is the ultimate jack-of-all-trades:  resourceful and highly creative, and he also has a steady hand. We also had design consultation from local artist Linda Reeves, who chose a fresh but soft color pallette.

There was lots of back and forth about how to make the sign, and what kind of paint to use, but we eventually agreed on good old latex house paint, a decision I hope we won’t regret.

After a few years of winter winds and summer sun we’ll know if we made the right decision or should have gone with one of those stick-on vinyl signs that modern sign guys make. In the meantime downtown Davis, WV will benefit from the beauty of our colorful and charming hand-made sign.