Posts Tagged ‘wv hiking’
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
Masses of blooming rhododendron are just one reason to visit the WV highlands near Davis and Canaan Valley. Summers are cool here, which means rhodies bloom late, in fact you can usually count on peak bloom near the fourth of July.
This photo, with its unidentified bug, is courtesy of Kurt Manwiller, our friend, guest and sometime innsitter. It was taken near Blackwater Falls, where rhododendron thickets blanket the forest.
The rhodies are fading now but you can still find many blossoms in the higher elevations near Canaan Loop Road, a remarkable 21-mile gravel road offering miles of secluded hiking and mountain biking trails. The Loop Road starts three miles out of town at Canaan Heights, a tiny scattering of homes on the high western ridge of Canaan Valley. It ends at Blackwater Falls State Park, nearLindy Point, one of our most cherished vistas.
The trail network encompassed by the Loop Road is mostly what remains of old fire service roads cut to fight the forest fires that once plagued our area. The entire length of the road is no longer passable, but there’s still plenty of access by car to secluded primitive campsites, a catch-and-release fly fishing site at Red Run and numerous spongy bogs offering cranberry and blueberry picking.
Guests at the Bright Morning Inn are surprised to discover so many wild and secluded trails within a stone’s throw of town. The terrain looks and smells like Alaska…and yet it’s so much closer to home!
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!