Monthly Archives: December 2019

The Trail of Icicles at Audra State Park

 

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Christopher eating an icicle from the overhanging rocks at the Alum Cave Trail at Audra State Park 2019.

Early snows came to West Virginia this year. But this week at Audra State Park we found the perfect day to go hiking on a warm sunny 49-degree day. What we found was magical and my photos do not do justice to the beauty of the thousands of Icicles that form along the Alum Cave Trail in the wintertime.

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icicles forming over the boardwalk at Audra State Park Winter 2019.  

 

I had seen a photo once of the park in wintertime and had always wanted to do a hike along the river after a light snow. With Christopher off from school for the holiday, we headed out without any expectations of what we would find. We waited until about noon to start our hike in one of the state’s smallest parks. Audra State Park borders two counties(Barbour and Upshur) and includes several miles of the Middle Fork River. The park has several picknick sites, two pavilions and offers 67 campsites for guests to enjoy. There are just a few trails that cover the 355 acres of the park. The most popular and most photographed is the boardwalk that passes along the river bank and under a very large and long rock overhang along the Alum Cave Trail. The trip from the parking area to the trailhead and around the small loop is maybe 2.0 miles and is easy except for the very steep staircase that is attached to the boardwalk. There is a larger loop trail that takes you along the river bank for a nice walk of 3.2 miles of easy hiking. Both trails intersect at the boardwalk and return you to the picknick area.

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the very steep staircase to the boardwalk at Audra State Park. 

Christopher and I had not explored much of Audra State Park in the past and the weather was perfect for wandering and taking photos. We hoped to see maybe just a few icicles at the cave that day but were astonished at the amount of ice we came across. We tried the typical route for the hike following the signage at the first fork, we took the lower trail to the boardwalk. As we reached the head of the boardwalk we were met with a huge ice slick that was 15 feet wide and 20 or 25 feet tall. Water was coming over the top of the mountain where the sun was shining and rolling over to the shaded side. This created several layers of thick ice. It was like a small frozen waterfall except across the trail and down to the river. No Crossing Here! We stopped and enjoyed the water and river below for a few minutes, knowing we would have to go around to see the boardwalk.

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Christopher looking at the ice covering the Alum Cave Trail at Audra State Park.

We backtracked and took the upper fork of the trail to the other end of the boardwalk. We often watched the Middle Fork River rumble by and enjoyed the quiet solitude of an empty park. Finally arriving at the top of the very steep staircase at the boardwalk. I was so relieved to see the stairs were not covered in ice. As we descended the steps the ice began to appear….. everywhere. The ice had somehow not gotten on the staircase but flowed all around it. The sidewalls were covered, some of the boardwalk and handrails were covered, the rock faces were covered, the trees and bushes below were covered. Icicles hung from the roof of the cave and froze to the ground all around us. Water gushed from a spring in the back of the cave and water splashed and froze everything but us.

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Middle Fork River at Audra State Park. 

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Ice covers the landing and ramp to the cave portion of the Alum Cave Trail. 

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looking back up the boardwalk ramp to the landing. We had to slide down this portion of the boardwalk at Audra State Park. 

 

Christopher was so amazed at the ice formations that all I can remember him saying the entire time was, “This is AWESOME!…. this is so awesome… can we come back again, Please?” At 11 years old shimmying across the ice-covered boardwalk was fun and exciting, at 51 it was tricky. The handrails along the boardwalk were much-needed support for me to cross the 12-foot sheet of ice going downhill into the cave/rock overhang. It was breathtaking to see the sunshine gleaming through the ice. I loved watching the dripping water drop 20 feet above me. It was one of those moments where you find beauty in nature beyond your imagination.  I just could not capture it adequately with my camera, I am not skilled enough to take backlit photos efficiently. We walked to the spot where the ice flow had blocked our passage and laughed. Then slowly enjoying every minute turned and walked back across the boardwalk.  The return up the ramp to the landing was also one of those moments where you just wonder what you have gotten yourself into. Christopher headed up the ramp first. I figured if he came sliding back down the ramp to me I could stop him, maybe? He made it with no problem. The ice was ruff and dry at this point of the day. So I took a deep breath and started to walk with both hands on the handrail up the ice-covered ramp. Slowly and carefully I walked right up the ramp without a hitch and stepped into the sun on the landing and about slipped. My heart stopped for a minute I am sure. Then we climbed back up that steep staircase to the gravel at the top. I stopped and looked back down at everything we had seen and felt like I was given a gift.

We then headed to the other end of the park and spent some time on the beach section of the river and walked on the frozen sand. Which sounded like a good idea at the time but got very scary very fast. The water makes the sand mushy close to the edge. I didn’t realize this for some reason and just about ended up in the ice-cold river as the sand gave way under the thin frozen crust. My feet sank about a foot before I dragged them free and away from the river’s edge.

Christopher and I headed home about three hours later and stopped for a drink. We talked about when we wanted to go back and made plans to see the rhododendrons in bloom in May. Overall the hike is very easy, the scenery is beautiful and the water is clear. I am not sure I would have enjoyed this as much if we had been surrounded by a lot of people. The trail is very narrow and not level, not graveled or maintained very well. You hike across what seems like a creek bed for several hundred yards on rolled stones so you need some room to move on and off the trail. Otherwise, for a relaxing afternoon in late Dec. I could not think of a better place to spend the day.

 

Categories: Audra State Park, Barbour County, Camping, family fun, family memories, hiking, ice, photo review, State Park activities, Uncategorized, Upshur County West Virginia, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

2019 Learning to be Free.

I think 2019 was the year I finally grew up. I think maturity came even when it was unwanted. As I look back over the year I see where I really grew a lot and where I struggled. I can’t believe that in a matter of 12 months I have started my own business, changed offices twice, lost my mother to Alzheimer’s, took a major vacation, ended up in the hospital for migraines, made another epic Halloween costume and almost figured out the State of West Virginia’s tax system.

Jolynns Steam Punk Halloween costume

2019 Stockert Youth Center Haunted House. Homemade costumes are the best.

Of course, starting a business was stressful and at times frustrating. It took over ninety days for me to get my business license and when I did get it they sent it to the wrong address and I had to contact the state about the error. Then wait a few more days to get the corrected license. All while trying to pay my quarterly taxes. All I can say is congratulations to anyone who has survived the first year of becoming self-employed.  My first year was a never-ending mess. I think I will do better next year! The taxes paid and now if I can just find a good accountant to do our federal income taxes I will say whoo hoo another year done!

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watching my Philippi Gate Way project get installed in Aug 2019

While working for 3 different organizations I did have three different desks in three different offices in two different counties. This is not a good thing and I would not recommend it to anyone. Things get left at one office while you are working at another one, people have no idea where you are or when you plan to come back. I officially will only have one office and one desk next year and one phone number. That alone is reducing the stress I feel just thinking about it.

My work on the Golden Rule is finished until fall. I will miss this Grand Old Girl for a few months and then begin the work of designing the buildout of the retail space. I am helping with fixtures, layout, displays and the general look and feel of the space. This is actually pretty close to the work that I did just after college. It should be fun to put on my interior design hat again.

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Back view of the Golden Rule after cleaning up the brush.

 

I also lost my 87-year-old mother this summer while I was working at the Golden Rule. My brother called while I was loading Items for donation into a truck to tell me that she had aspirated. Its when you inhale something you shouldn’t and it causes damage to the lungs. When that happens instead of bruising and swelling alone the lungs fill with fluid and eventually if the damage is severe enough you end up with phenomena. In my mothers’ case, she was weak being taken over by Alzheimer’s and had so many other issues the lungs filled up within hours and she passed away in my brothers’ arms before any of us could get to her. It was shocking and expected all at once. My brother made arrangements for her burial with my father in Colorado when we all could gather together to say goodbye. She died on West Virginia Day, June 23rd, the same day that West Virginia gained its independence from the State of Virginia, that is a date I will never forget.

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My mothers’ memorial tattoo 2019 

In trying to allow myself time to morn and still work I did something totally crazy. I got a tattoo. A large one on my back that is a memorial for her. Then two days later I found myself having to say farewell to another friend who had been in town for a month and was heading home. I was just overwhelmed with all of the feelings of loss that I had. I just wanted everyone I love to stop leaving and ended up in tears in the front seat of my car. I should have just driven home that day but I just went to work and headed to a meeting. Within hours I was being driven to the hospital for a very painful headache that made my vision blur. I am not sure what they gave me that day but I was so drunk from the medication that I was not able to drive and my oldest son came to take me home. I slept for hours and hours and he was relieved to know I was going to be ok. I now know that I need to learn to vet my feelings better, I also need to rest sometimes. I need to take better care of ME!

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My Friend Dominic Piacentini summer blueberry picking 2019 

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JoLynn Powers working in the basement of the Golden Rule Building 2019

We then planned a huge trip to Colorado to inturn my mother’s ashes and take a few much needed days off. The trip was wonderful and the sightseeing we did brought me in contact with a large group of high school friends and family members I had not seen in several years. It was an eye-opening trip and I think the little angry girl that I had been most of my life finally was left totally behind in the mountains of Colorado. I finally had outgrown my home town, found out how much I am loved, found comfort in old friendships and felt free for the first time in my enter life. I was finally who I was intended to be.

 

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Visiting with my dear friend Natalie summer 2019

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View of Glenwood Springs Colorado summer 2019

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View of Glenwood Springs Co. from the Valley below 2019.

This new feeling of freedom has continued for several months and has helped me grow. I spent time working with Christopher’s fundraiser Haunted House again just after we returned home. With Toms’s help, I put together a wonderful steampunk ringleader costume. A mixture of old and new items and lots of hot glue. I spent the weekend working at the door of the haunted house and helping to clean up the huge mess the next day. I won a costume contest at work dressed up for Christophers School party, and trick or treated with the kids. It was worth every minute I spent one making the costume.  Next year’s costume is already in the works and is planned to be much scarier and less human. I am thinking of a smoking dragon… if all goes well.

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Christopher Powers and Jolynn Powers 5th grade Halloween Party 2019

Then the year ended on a very positive note. I have been asked to become an employee of the Barbour County Development Authority in West Virginia. After two years of working with them on community development work, I am now going to be a member of the Staff and continue as a Contractor/ Consultant on a couple of projects for other companies.

Finally, I have found my place in the world and I feel free to pursue every dream that I ever had. It is exciting to be in charge of my future and surround myself with the work I love. I hope in 2020 I can accomplish even more and make the communities I work in prosper as well!

Welcome to Philippi sign in dark

Holiday Lights on the Gateway Project Murals and planter Christmas 2019. My new job for the County starts Jan 2020. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: About me, ageing, Death, dreams, Family, Friendship, friendships, grandma, hobbies, Memorial, Memories, photo review, traveling, year end review | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Polar Express Travels the Hills of West Virginia

For children of all ages, there is a deep and never-changing love for trains and for stories that give us hope. The story of the Polar Express captivated my two sons’ hearts and mine over 22 years ago when the book was first released and I stumbled on to the book at the local book store. Cody my oldest son, got the book and his first of many silver sleigh bells as a Christmas gift while he was in Kindergarten. We read the book over and over that holiday season. After he returned to school he told everyone about the book. For years after that first Christmas, I was asked to come to his elementary school to read out loud the book that had captured the heart of my oldest son and every child who heard the story of a boy and his lost bell.polar express book

 

Then 17 years later Christopher was born and the tradition of The Polar Express continued with the same book and a small boy. Somewhere along the way, others fell in the love with the story and the movie was made that almost every child today has heard of. I was again asked to come to the elementary school and read allowed the worn and dog eared pages to the children. Soon after the release of the movie, an idea came into the mind of a group of avid train people in Elkins, West Virginia and The Polar Express became a live stage show on the rails in the mountains. With last year’s count of riders being over 30,000 who come each year to spend a couple hours on the train to have a short visit with Santa and be reminded that even the oldest of us can still believe in the spirit of Christmas.

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Christopher and Paige ready to board the Polar Express 2019

This year we were lucky enough to get tickets to take my youngest son and my granddaughter for a ride on the Durbin & Greenbrier Valleys Railroads licensed version of The Polar Express. The tickets sell out around April so it takes a little planning to get them before the Holiday Season. We were encouraged to ride the 7pm train just after dark so the kids could see the holiday lights at the North Pole. the Durbin & Greenbrier runs three trains on most nights one at 5pm one at 7pm and one at 9pm with the later two running in the dark.

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Welcome Center Depot at Elkins West Virginia

The experience is geared so that riders are entertained on the way out to the North Pole (45 mins) with the dancing, singing chefs from the book who serve cookies, and hot chocolate to every passenger. The return trip ( 45mins) is filled with meetings with the Hobo that rides on the roof of the train and a visit with Santa and several elves. Each passenger has their Gold Train ticket punched and is gifted a silver sleigh bell imprinted with the words The Polar Express. The evening ends with the Chefs telling jokes and tossing snowballs around the train car and making fake snow.

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crowds board the Polar Express

Dancing Chef on Polar Express

One of the twenty or so Dancing Chefs

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Tom and Christopher Powers aboard the Polar Express 2019

This trip was a gift to my Granddaughter and it was a special experience that we shared together and will never forget. As we left the train and walked in the dark back to our truck, I realized that my cheeks hurt from all the smiling I had done over the two hours. That I was happy about the holidays for the first time in several years. That I had actually gotten a few precious hours of my childhood back and was so thankful to Santa for my very own silver sleigh bell. At 50 I think I needed to remember that there is always hope and a reason to believe.

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Paige Powers tossing snowballs around train car on the Polar Express

Christopher with santa on the polar express

Christopher talking with Santa on the Polar Express

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My first  Sleighbell  from Santa on the Polar Express 2019

The night ended with two very happy young people who drank hot chocolate ate cookies and met the Santa for maybe the last time before they reach their teens. They bought ornaments to take home and snuggled up together in the back seat laughing and smiling about what they saw and how they could do the whole trip again. Tom and I held hands on the way home, at peace and with happiness in our hearts. It was as if Christmas had come back to us too.

I will always be thankful to author Chris Van Allsburg for his skill in writing and drawing. His story has filled my adult life over and over again with hundreds of wonder-filled children who sat patiently to hear about the train ride to the North Pole. His story has helped to revitalize a small mountain town in West Virginia that had a train, the snow and the wilderness of his story. But most of all he has filled my middle age with memories of happy children and my first silver sleigh bell….. maybe if I am still lucky I will hear it ring for many more years to come.

 

Categories: Chris Van Allsburg, Christmas, Christopher, Elkins West Virginia, Family, family fun, family memories, family traditions, Holidays, Polar Express, trains, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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