Posts Tagged ‘blackwater falls’
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
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.
It’s hard to believe that Davis, WV was once a boomtown, with nearly 5000 people and two streets lined with stores. It was a prosperous and busy place filled with boardinghouses, like the Bright Morning Inn, a fine hotel or two, a tannery and lumbermill and, of course, a railroad running right along the Blackwater River.
Nowadays it’s mostly gone…the town has dwindled to around 500 residents and there are just a handful of shops and restaurants, mostly catering to tourists. But we do have remnants of those good ol’ days– lots and lots of old apples trees. Sometimes I think Davis is an apple orchard pretending it’s a town, they’re that ubiquitous. And now, in early May, they are in glorious pinky white bloom.
The old railway bed along the new Riverfront Park is lined with apple trees, and they’re in nearly every yard. And if you north drive to Thomas, or south to Canaan Valley you’re struck by the beautiful display.
Apples aren’t gathered and treasured the way they used to be, when Davis residents needed apples for pies and sauces. Now you’ll mostly see them strewn across the roads or alleys, rotting on the ground, an offering to deer and other critters.
But in early May, when in their blooming glory, they remind us of how rich this funny little mountain town really is, and how giving these trees have been to us these many years.
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!
According to local weather guru Dave Lesher, whose records of Canaan Valley weather can be seen at http://canaanweather.4t.com/, the first nine days of January this year have been the snowiest ever for the past 66 years, which means some of the best cross country and downhill ski conditions in recent memory! At the Bright Morning Inn in Davis we’ve been shoveling, scraping and plowing, and then doing it all over again…to prepare for guests. The inn is mostly filled on weekends this month, but plenty of mid-week slots are open. If you haven’t tried mid-week x-c skiing at Whitegrass or Blackwater Falls you’re missing out on a pleasure mostly known to locals: peaceful woodland trails and a solitude that is sublime. And if you’re a downhill skier at Timberline or Canaan, midweek offers that rarest of benefits: non-existent lift lines.