Camping

Floating, Fishing and Resting in the West Virginia Mountains.

No matter what time of year I love to be near the water in West Virginia.  I find spending even just a day at the river floating, fishing, swimming or just watching the current brings peace to my soul like nothing else.  So I tried to share that restful feeling with my family this summer  when we spent 4 days exploring several rivers and streams in the Mountains of Randolph County.

We started our trip with a couple of days on the Shivers Fork River teaching my son and granddaughter about tubing and the freedom of just swimming in the wide river.

Christopher and Paige float down the Shavers Fork river near Elkins

Paige and Christopher Powers float along the bank of the Shavers Fork River near Elkins, WV

The Shavers Fork is a favorite for tubers, paddlers and fisherman. The river is wide and often not very deep on a hot summer afternoon. My older son spent the same day fishing for rock bass and caught several as Kayaks floated by.  The afternoons were spent either in the water or on a sandy bank roasting marshmallows for Smores. The smell of  the camp fire would linger for hours in the damp air next to our rental cabin.

The following mornings were about fishing… and lots of it. My family loves to fish just about any where but most often in a trout stream. We traveled from Elkins to the Harman area to fish on the Laurel Fork and hike out of the Laurel Fork campground. It was a perfect day to be on the river, few people, warm weather and fish. The boys caught 3 in a matter of an hour that were all eating size and were taken home for a fish fry later.

the Powers Men fishing off of Laural Fork river near Rich mountain

Tom  Powers  Christopher Powers and Cody Powers all fishing together on the Laurel Fork .

This creek is small and very cold, but is stocked a few times a year with brook trout and brown trout. This time the Paige and Christopher caught only craw crabs and creek chubs but they laughed and played the morning away.

Paige and Christopher fishing in the Laural Fork near Rich Mountain

Paige Powers showing off her fishing skills

After the weather warmed the river I  was pretty hot so I took off to do some hiking on the trails that leave the Laurel Fork Camp Ground. It was a perfect afternoon for finding mushrooms growing along the trail. I shared with Paige names of the plants we found and we talked about the beaver dam next to the trail.

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From the Laurel Fork camp ground we traveled to Canaan Valley  in Davis, WV where we took a long lunch at a local family restaurant  Big Johns Family Fixin’s .We ate on the deck that looked over a fish pound. The kids fed the catfish as they boiled the water looking for small bites of fish chow that was bought for a quarter. The day ended with more time on the Shavers Fork and dinner on the deck of the cabin.

Cannan Valley National Refuge with Christopher and Paige

Our final morning we headed to the Glady Fork and the Allegheny trail head to fish before heading home. The sun was just cresting the hills around us and I just could not help but take photos of how beautiful the morning was and how much fun it was to just spend a few days with my family enjoying the water and time together.

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Paige Powers, Jamie Powers and Cody Powers near Glady Fork and Allegheny Trail parking area heading out to do some fishing.

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morning sun coming up over the Allegheny  Trail Head Bridge

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West Virginia Barn along Rt#33 in the morning sun.

wildflowers Monongahela National Forest Elkins WV

wild flowers after the rain Randolph County West Virginia

 

 

Categories: Allegheny Trail Head, Appalachian Mountains, cabins, Camping, Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge, Elkins West Virginia, Glady Fork River, Randolph County, Shavers Fork River, trout, Tubing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Exploring the National Parks System on it’s 100th Birthday, Aug 25th 2016.

It is in the woods that I find peace and my spirit is rejuvenated. It is in the forest of my beloved West Virginia that I rejoice that we live in a country that values and protects the most unusual of our natural resources. It is in our countries wisdom that they have saved millions of acres of land and miles of waterways for future generations.

West Virginia is one of the states that does not have a fully designated National Park. So for this August 25th celebration I want to share a vision of one of my  states protected National Forests, Monongahela National Forest. This unique forest ecosystem is preserved at the national level within the National Park System along with West Virginia’s  National Rivers, The New River,and Blue Stone, Two National Recreation Areas,The Gauley River National Recreation Area and Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, a National Historic Park at Harper’s Ferry and of course a National Scenic Trail the Appalachian Trail. All of these locations are protected for future generations buy the National Parks System of the United States of America.

 

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The Monongahela National forest represents a wide verity of rare and unique ecosystems, natural wonders, beautiful vegetation, and abundant wild life. It is here within the forest that my family and I have spent hundreds of hours exploring, searching for that rare moment when the outside world disappears and  nothing remains but the sights, sounds and smells of nature.

This National Forest comprises roughly a million acres of forest land in West Virginia. An approximate 1.3 million visitors come to the Monongahela National Forest each year.The forest spreads across the Southern portion of the state from the city of  White Sulfur Springs to the Northern border of West Virginia to Maryland state line. With the main body of the forest residing on the Eastern side of the state, along US Highway 219.

Within West Virginia’s largest National Forest there is a long list of natural wonders. Some I have photographed over the years and others are still a mystery to me. Some are easy to access and others are miles from civilization. So with the help of my family I have had the pleasure of seeing much of the forest and can share just a few of the wonderful sights that I have explored over the years.

Stuarts Park campground, picnic area. DSC00023

Stuarts Park has several CCC built covered pavilions with in the Monongahela National Forest. Also located within a mile of the campground/ park pavilions is Bickel Knob Observation Tower where it is possible to see about 1/3 of the National Forest and the surrounding towns.

Bickle Knob observation Tower in the the morning sun randolph county West Virginia 2016

The trip up this tower early in the morning lets us see over six different ridge tops and two small towns.

Christopher and JoLynn on top of Bickles Knob observation tower last days of summer 2016

 

The Bowden Fish Hatchery is where the local brook trout, brown trout and the West Virginia Golden Trout are brooded for release all over the state.

Tom Christopher at the Bowden Fish hatchery 2016

We fish in the many streams and rivers in the forest. My son learns to cast at Shavers Fork of the Cheat River.DSC00172

Exploring Smoke Hole Caverns on a hot summer afternoon is a treat.To spend a couple of hours under ground exploring the caves is one of my families favorite summer time trips.

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Smoke Hole Caverns entrance

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The slow drip of the Smoke Hole Caverns ceiling

All of these amazing locations are within the National Forest but what I am most fond of is the simple quiet beauty that we see as we forage and hike through the woods.

mushrooms on stump Monongahela National Forest

Mushrooms growing on a tree stump near Bear Haven Campground

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Young horse at home on public grazing land at Monongahela National Forest

queenann lace with blue flowers summer 2016

Summer wildflowers along a forest service road in the Monongahela National Forest

wildflowers Monongahela National Forest Elkins WV

Wet wildflowers at Stuarts Park, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

 

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Cheat Mountain Salamander takes visitors on rides through hundreds of miles of the Monongahela National Forest. This is my favorite way to see the sights.

This train ride is headed for Green Bank and the National Radio Observatory where in the middle of the Monongahela Forest is the darkest place in West Virginia. It is the perfect location for star-gazing with professional astronomers. This is where my family and I finally got to see the Milky Way with our bare eyes.

As you can see I love my state, love my Forest and am excited to be included in this centennial  celebration. Thanks to Cotopaxi Company  for inviting me to take part in the festivities in my small way. I am proud to share with all of you the great work that Cotopaxi is doing all around our world and how one company with a mission can change the world one backpack at a time. I am so glad that their company supports and loves the outdoors as much a I do. Thanks for reminding us all about how important our Nation Park System is and what would be lost without our ability to explore and enjoy to great outdoors. Again Thank you Cotopaxi for letting me join in the fun!

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Camping, Cheat Mountain Salamander, family fun, Hardwood forest, hiking, Monongahela National Forest, mushroom hunting, natural resources, Potomac river, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Deep Under Ground, Seneca Caverns Pendelton, WV

At the top of a mountain is the opening into the earth that leads to Seneca Caverns. I have always been fond of tunnels, caves and any old, deep dark place. My husband is of coal miners blood and he too likes the closeness and beauty that is found in places that make you feel the earth wrap her arms around you. Here in West Virginia it seems only natural to mine the ground, drill through rock and go caving, because we are so close to heaven already the only other place to go….. is down.

Mineral Stained Columns , Stalagmites and Stalactites, Seneca Caverns, WV

Mineral Stained Columns , Stalagmites and Stalactites, Seneca Caverns, WV

Seneca Caverns are one of around 100 limestone caves that spread along the Appalachian ridge tops of Pendleton County. The caves range in size from shallow to very wide and deep. Seneca Cavern only reaches 165 feet into the cool earth but is quite long and the path can be twisty. It was first used by the Seneca Indians around 1400 as a shelter and ceremonial center. The cave was then officially explored in 1742 by German settler Laven Teter while trying to find a water source for his family and cattle. The property and cave remained in the Teter family until the late 1920’s when it was sold and the cave reopened to the public in 1930. Not much has changed since the discovery of the cave in the 1700’s. The only additions are the walking path, handrails and lights to make it easier for visitors to see the fantastic mineral formations.

Seneca Caverns' Restaurant and mountain view, Riverton, WV

Seneca Caverns’ Restaurant and mountain view, Riverton, WV

Once below ground the air is cool and damp giving my family a nice break from the hot summer day that we visited. The temperature inside the cave is stable 54 degrees unless over the small pool in the end of the cave where the temperature sometimes drops to 49…. a little cool. Guides recommend jackets for those who get cold easily. This day Christopher was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and began to complain that he was cold over the pool. It is hard to believe that the pool (the coldest portion of the tour) is only feet from the outside world that was a toasty 85 degrees. Before doors  covered the exit portion of the cave it was not uncommon to find deer and other animals drinking from the cool water and staying in the shade of the cave.

Christopher Powers 165 feet underground at Seneca Caverns, WV

Christopher Powers 165 feet underground at Seneca Caverns, WV

This cave is small and low unlike other caves that are known for the high ceilings and wide views. It has some taller rooms but it is wise to wear the hard hat that guides require to enter the cave. Even I hit my head while passing from one room to the next. At 5’8″ I am too tall to not lean over in several places. I also recommend that people who are claustrophobic skip this tour and take another one. Some rooms are small and passages tight… very tight. So tight that a man of 6 foot and in the weight range of 220 fits but it could be a squeeze if you are heavier.

looking down on main room used by Indians at Seneca Caverns, Wv

looking down on main room used by Indians at Seneca Caverns, WV

The tour takes around an hour with groups of 10 to 15 in the summer. The first few rooms are tall and wide and as the tour progresses the unique features of the cave get closer and tighter. You are asked not to touch any of the formations because of the slow growth of the stalagmites and stalactites, some taking centuries to grow a few inches, yet the crowed passages almost force you to touch the wet walls.

Flowstone formation Seneca Caverns

Flow stone formation Seneca Caverns

 

Dripping Ceiling Formation at Seneca Caverns

Dripping Ceiling Formation at Seneca Caverns

Popcorn Walls Seneca Caverns, Wv

Popcorn Walls Seneca Caverns, WV

Floors are WET! Beware if you wear Crocs! I should have worn any other kind of shoe on the planet. Well maybe not flip-flops but the floors are slick and there lots of stairs to go up and down. I am thankful the stairs are a rough concrete so I at least had a chance to keep my balance. I never did fall but it was a constant worry.

3/4 of the way through the cave you drop to its lowest point at 165 feet below ground level. The room is commonly called  Hell’s Kitchen.The room is small ( maybe the size of a compact car) but has a high and narrow opening almost to the surface. The view up reminds you of a stove-pipe or chimney. It is also one of last rooms that has evidence of use by the Seneca Indians. Making it a great place for ghost stories and interesting views.

Hell's Kitchens Chimney Formation, Seneca Cavern, WV

Hell’s Kitchens Chimney Formation, Seneca Cavern, WV

Then my favorite portion of the tour is the formations that look like a fairyland. These formations are Calcite and sparkle in the low light… I think they look like snow or ice frozen deep under ground.

Calcite formations that look like frozen waterfalls at Seneca Caverns, Wv

Calcite formations that look like frozen waterfalls at Seneca Caverns, WV

Calcite Stalagmite Seneca Caverns, Wv

Calcite Stalagmite Seneca Caverns, WV

Then for dramatic effect some of the formations are back-lit to show off the true strangeness of the world underground.

limestone formations

limestone formations

Red lights on drip formations at Seneca Caverns

Red lights on drip formations at Seneca Caverns

Finally the tour ends with all us slowly crossing a narrow foot bridge over the pool of water that Laven Teter was looking for. In his months of exploring the cave Teter finally found the small pool hundreds of yards from the opening where we also ended our journey. Had he continued through the pool to the other side he would have found a small exit way only 20 feet from the pools edge. Where his livestock could get water with little effort.

We return to world of light and heat, I think each of us moaned with dread.The sun was bright, the heat and humidity unbearable.Our eyes had become very accustomed to the dim lighting and dark paths, our bodies liked the cool dampness of the cave. I see where being a hermit in a cave could be very comfortable in the hot humid West Virginia summers. My family really enjoyed the tour and finished up with a stop at the restaurant for some hand dipped ice cream.

As we had only a few more hours to get to our campsite we left the small park and headed back to the main road to continue our trip. In passing we stopped at a road side memorial in Riverton. The stones and flags looked new and I wondered if by some chance it was for climbers, hunters or Veteran’s who had lost their lives near by…. what we found was shocking and kind of creepy.

Riverton Battle Memorial with two flags

Riverton Battle Memorial with two flags

We walk up to the stone to get a better look and read the inscription.

Inscription on the Battle of Riverton stone

Inscription on the Battle of Riverton Stone

The stone tells of two men who died at the battle and one of them shares my husband’s name…… We have family that have lived in Randolph county but did not know of any who lived in Pendleton County. How strange It felt taking this photo, Tom standing next to the stone with his name inscribed on it from 1862.

Thomas Powers at the Battle of Riverton memorial for Thomas Powers

Thomas Powers at the Battle of Riverton memorial for Thomas Powers

Also unique is the fact that  my husband, his father and his grand father were all name Thomas Powers along with this man. All but one was a Veteran of a war, proving that Thomas Powers is a great name for any one who wants to serve our country! What a cool way to end our trip to Seneca Caverns, seeing this made both of us feel like we are  a part of these mountains and caves ,that we have roots the run deeper than any Cavern.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Camping, Caves and Caverns, family fun, photo review, Seneca Caverns, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Haunting of The Lee Family Cabin at Lost River State Park, WV

The weekend was full, we had plans for fishing, hiking, seeing the Lee family cabin and sulfur springs at Lost River State Park and camp ground near Mathias West Virginia. The drive is several hours of mountain Highways. Up one mountain and down again until you reach the valley of Hardy county. In a matter of minutes you drop from the rocky cliffs and steep grades of the Appalachian Mountains into a valley that is several miles wide and fallows an ancient river bed. The valley is full of dried corn at this time of year ready to harvest for the cattle feed and chickens that are the main source of income in this river basin. Farm after farm leads you from Baker West Virginia to the entrance road to Lost River State Park at Mathias West Virginia. The park is a favorite for those looking for wilderness and a peaceful get away from the big city of Washington D.C. The capital city is only about 1 1/2 hours  from the border of the park. Once inside the grounds you have stepped away from the world of barns and farms into a place of hard woods and mossy rocks. The park has over 3,700 acres for exploration and a haunted cabin owned by the famous Henry Lee family of Virginia ( Robert E. Lee’s father).There are 15 lovely  cabins built by the Conservation Core during the great depression and 12 modern cabins. Making this wooded rustic park a perfect setting for a ghost story and tails of murder and destructive fires

Cabin at lost River State Park in the rain.

Cabin at lost River State Park in the rain.

Rainy day at Lost River State Park

Rainy day at Lost River State Park

Lost River State Park was once a land grant estate starting with several owners from England including Lord Thomas Fairfax slowly changing hands over the years to the Revolutionary war hero General Henry ( Light Horse Harry) Lee. Henry received the  Granted property for superior service in 1796 and the family soon built on the land. First was a cabin that they used as a summer retreat from the hot,humid summers of their Virginia home. Henry had 7 children one of the youngest was Robert E Lee the famous Civil War General. Over the years Henry and his boys continued to build in the shallow valley, he build a resort hotel and had visitors come from D.C  and Maryland to bathe in the sulfur spring water that pours from a historic spring, relaxing in Victorian style. The resort caught fire and burnt to the ground in 1923 and after years of financial trouble for the family the property sold to West Virginia in 1933. In 1934 the park was open and ready for visitors.

Only the cabin and sulfur spring remain on the property and are open to the public. The cabin is a two-story frame and hewn log house with a large stone fireplace and large porch with 4 rooms two on the main floor and two rooms upstairs. There is no drop ceilings in the upper rooms making for a tall vaulted roof that reaches a steep peak. The stair case is in the middle of the house as a room divider with two bedrooms up stairs and living room and kitchen below.

front view of Henry Lee cabin at Lost River State Park

Front view of Henry Lee cabin  with Fire Place at Lost River State Park

We toured the home and were able to see that the rooms in the top story of the house are white washed and the kitchen below also. This seemed rather strange to me although I did not ask right away why a cabin of this age was white washed if it had not been used for anything more than a museum for the last 70 years and a retreat before that. Most cabins would have never been treated in this way if they were not a primary residence. Then I found out the story of why the upstairs rooms and kitchen needed paint.

White Kitchen fire place at the Henry ( light horse Harry) Lee cabin

White Kitchen fireplace at the Henry ( light horse Harry) Lee cabin.

Living area of Henry Lee cabin at Lost River State Park

Living area of Henry Lee cabin at Lost River State Park.

Bed Room of Henry (light horse Harry)Lee cabin at Lost River State Park

Bed Room of Henry (light horse Harry)Lee cabin at Lost River State Park.

vintage clothing hung on back wall of cabin

Vintage clothing hung on back wall of cabin Lost River State Park.

During the late 1840’s a stock trader returning from Virginia to his home in Moorefield, West Virginia came up on an ambush close to the location to the entrance of the park. The trader Charles Sager dismounted and with in minutes the two robbers dragged him the 1/4 of a mile up the hollow between the tree covered hills, through a small creek into the yard of the Henry Lee cabin. All the while the Lee family was away in Virginia not knowing a thing about what was happening. The struggle continued up the steps of the porch to the cabin door… To not attract attention Charles’s robbers pushed him into the cabin that they had already broken into. Then wrestling for his life, Charles climbed up the steep stairs where he was found with no money from the sale of his live stock in Virginia. Being stabbed not once but several times Charles was left to die in a upper bedroom. His remains were found later resting in a huge pool of blood. The blood smeared down one wall and pooled on to the floor where it flowed down the baseboard into the ceiling of the first floor and dripped and pooled again staining the floors of both rooms. The stains from the murder were never removed. That even with scrubbing the blood stains remained and the family could not return to the cabin in such a state. So the walls were white washed and rugs made to hide the stains and allow the family to continue to use the cabin.

So as the Park Naturalist tells the story he suggests that the cabin is still haunted. Maybe it is Charles whose life was take violently that causes the many disturbances in the cabin. On our visit the naturalist did not seem to dislike spending his days talking with guests and making sure we stopped at the Lee Sulfur Spring in the front yard of the cabin. Yet, when I finally did process the photos from our trip the very first photo of the cabin  seems to have some thing wrong with it.  That untreated photo is below for your consideration:

Henry (light horse Harry) Lee cabin Lost River State Park... untouched photo of house with Transparent blob in right hand corner under porch

Henry ( light Horse Harry) Lee cabin Lost River State Park… untouched photo of house with transparent blob in right hand corner of photo.

The next photo I took from the very same location does not show the blob and the rest of the photos are fine. I am not sure what to think. I have had other photos with orbs and rain drops but this is the first that I have ever taken one that just does not make seem like it is the light source. It is interesting to think that this cabin and park have such a long rich history… From Lords, to war heroes, to murder and destructive fires and even healing water spring.

As my family walked down to the sulfur spring in cabins yard we began to talk about how strange it would be to stay the night in the cabin and take a bath in the springs often thought of as Healing Waters. The Resort Hotel that Lee built had used the spring to bring people from all over the south. Many drank coffee made from the spring and bathed in the pink water. It is still believed that even General Robert E Lee returned to the park for a cup of Sulfur coffee or tea after his campaigns during the civil war.  This is all that remains of the spring.  A shallow bath sized pooling area with a Plexiglas cover and this spout for water collection. The spring has never run dry in the 250 years after discovery and people still  gather water for home spa treatments.( we did not collect any of the water due to its overwhelming smell)

Tom getting a handful of water from the Lee Sulfur Spring , Lost River State Park, WV

Tom getting a handful of water from the Lee Sulfur Spring , Lost River State Park, WV

Above view of sulfur water at Lee Sulfur Spring, Lost River State Park, Mathias, WV

Above view of sulfur water at Lee Sulfur Spring, Lost River State Park, Mathias, WV.

On our walk back through the cabins yard I stopped to take more photos and Tom found what he thought was horse shoe tracks at the foot bridge. That same bridge that poor old Charles Sager had been dragged across when he was murdered. My mind sparked at the hoof prints in the mud. Those are the same marks that would have been here 200 years ago when two unknown mounted men attacked and drug Charles through the meadows and gaps behind the Hotel. Where they dismounted at the bridge, pushed and shoved Charles Sager across the wooden bridge and across the yard in front of the spring where the Lee’s house sat. The scuffle that took place outside had to have been the reason that if you believe in ghosts  that my camera picked up the smoky images floating in front of the house. It was the last place the Mr Sager saw before his murder and maybe it is the remnant of his ghost. Who will forever remain part of the Lost River State Park, WV.

I love  ghost stories and will be sharing more over the next month or two as I get time. Happy early Halloween from Mountain Mama!

View of back of Lee cabin Lost River State Park, WV

View of back of Lee cabin Lost River State Park, WV

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Camping, Folk tails, ghost stories, Halloween, rural life, State Park activities, Travel, WV | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Big Bend Camp ground, Cabins West Viriginia

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Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Big Bend camp ground, Camping, Hardwood forest, Monongahela National Forest, Potomac river, Seneca Rocks, Smoke Hole Caverns, State Park activities, West Virginia | 4 Comments

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