Posts Tagged With: appalachian mountains

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

West Virginia Flood waters of Change 2016

 

It has been a very long hard couple of days for friends and family all over my beloved state. It seems as if God opened the floodgates of destruction on some of the most fragile and isolated communities of Southern West Virginia. If they had little before the flood waters rushed into homes and businesses last Thursday, then there is nothing left at all today.

As volunteers, Red Cross, National Guard units and Department of Highways workers rush to the southern portion of West Virginia the reports of loss get larger and harder to hear. The reality is starting to sink in that tomorrow will not be easier than today. That home is no longer home and never will be. That this historic flood was not just a single stream overflowing or even a town that got several street full of water but, county after county is destroyed…. whole towns have been wiped from the maps or our lives.

I am sure that when all the information is totaled this will be listed as the third most deadly flood in our state’s history and the 2nd most deadly caused by nature. Worst on the list is the Buffalo Creek Flood in Logan County, Feb. 26, 1972. The flood was caused by Pittston Coal Company’s coal slurry impoundment dam #3 when it gave way after several inches of rain fell along Buffalo Creek Hollow killing 125 and covering 16 small coal towns in black sludge water.

 

 

Then followed by the Election Day Flood Nov. 1985. The flood was concentrated in northern mountainous portion of the state around the area where I have lived for the last 20 years. The flood was storm related and killed 47 West Virginians. My family was lucky to not suffer damage to property during the flood but spent several days trapped due to high water.

It seems to me that flooding is just part of living in West Virginia. You can not have our high mountains and low hollows without the water to carve them. You can not live with the lush green hardwoods without the water that falls year round. So it is our plight to constantly keep an eye on the river and her course. We all in West Virginia know her power and know that the flooding is a small price to pay to remain within her mountains and hollows. Rebuilding is not a question, it is when that is the issue that hundred face in West Virginia today.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Change, community service, Flooding, historic locations, history, rural life, Travel, weather, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 17 Comments

Victorian Era Mummies in West Virginia

This is a story of one West Virginia mans curious mind. How he managed to develop a formula for making mummies and how he refused to give his secret formula away for years.How his experiments resulted in two mummified females from the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (also known as the TALA in Weston, Lewis County, WV) and how they have survived for over 120 years.

Image being alive during the Victorian Period (1837 to 1901) in the United States. Interest in all the sciences was growing and new discoveries were happening in every field. The interest in Egyptian culture and mummies is fueled by the discovery of the Pharaoh  Ramses II  in 1881. People are collecting relics of everything human, bones, teeth, hair and death masks were all common.Ordinary people are struck with deep curiosity about our world and how it worked.P.T. Barnum was touring the country with a spectacular collection of wild animals, strange entertainment acts, and items collected from around the world. Sideshows traveled small towns with strange examples of natural oddities that everyone could see for a few cents.So for one farmer/undertaker is was a wonderful time to explore his own curiosity about Egypt and their mummies.

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia built 1903

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia circa 1903

Graham Hamrick of Philippi, WV was not only a farmer but also a local undertaker. In his life he was educated in common burial processes and use of embalming fluids. He found the process of mummification interesting and wanted to learn more. It is stated that he found his formula with in the pages of the Bible somewhere among the pages of The Book of Genesis. With a secret formula in hand, Hamrick gathered materials and began to experiment with the process. Hamrick is said to have mummified fruit, vegetables, small animals and snakes before the trying to mummify a human.

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Female Mummy #1 taller of the two

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Philippi Mummy #2 smaller of the two

To mummify a human Hamrick  would need human remains to prove his secret formula worked. Living with in a day ride to Weston, and the TALA, Hamrick  arranged for the purchase of two sets of unclaimed female remains at the insane asylum. This fact makes me sad for the two woman, who were forgotten by families, sold to a farmer and mummified instead of having proper burials. After transporting the remains to his farm Hamrick began the process of turning the remains into mummies.  crop of TALA front lawn on Easter

At the time the process is thought to have taken several weeks but no one was really sure how long. When Hamricks process finished and the results were visible, he had created what resembled Egyptian mummies.He began to share his successes with others in the local area and beyond.

Eventually, he was contacted by the Smithsonian Institute, who wanted to add the mummies to the museum’s collection and display them to the public with the formula he invented. The farmer refused to share the formula even though he had sent in the process into the U.S. Patent office.The mummies remained in Barbour county until they were recruited by P.T. Barnum’s for  his circus shows. The Mummies spent several years touring the United States during the end of the 1800’s.

Finally, they were returned to Barbour County and the Hamrick family. They stored the bodies in several different places over the years, in the barn on the farm, under the bed of a local history buff. Then in 1985 the two female mummies even survived the worst flood in North Central West Virginia.

 James Ramsey, an 82-year-old museum curator, explained in 1994: “After the flood dropped, they were covered with green fungus and all kind of corruption. [A man] secured some kind of a mixture that would get the green mold off them and also the hairs that were growing on them.”

The mummies would finally come to rest in the Philippi Historical Societies hands and be displayed at the Train Depot Museum,where they still remain to this day. They have the mummies displayed with the “Secret Formula” posted on the wall of the display room.

 

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Philippi, WV Train Depot Historical Society Museum

 

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Graham Hamrick information and formula

The Historical Society also was able to get a copy of a letter written by one of the ladies  before her death at the Tran Allegheny Insane Asylum. The transcription of the letter is sad. It is hard for me to believe this young woman (age around 17) would be left and forgotten by a husband and family. Yet,it gives us great insight into the world of the mentally ill in the 19th century.

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Transcription of a letter from mummified woman to family 1880’s

I found the whole experience to the Depot Museum  wonderful. The other objects in the collection are educational also. Most dating back to the civil war era and the stories of the battles that filled the hills of this town are worth their own trip to the museum. Philippi  being the location of the first land battle of the Civil War makes the entire town a treasure trove of stories for further visits.

If you are lucky enough to be traveling in the north central portion of West Virginia. Take Rt #250 through the historic covered bridge into Philippi to see the Mummies. The museum is on the right just across the river next to the train tracks. Pay the small donation fee and take a look at one the little Mummies that Philippi made.

I saw the Mummies in Philippi WV.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Country life, Farming, ghost stories, historic locations, mummies, museums, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, traveling | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

AFHA AmeriCorps, Who We Are, What We Do, Who We Serve.

My friends and I  in AmeriCorps serve my state in so many ways I thought I would let you explore some of the interesting things about, “Who We Are, What We Do, and Who We Serve in the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area in collaboration with AmeriCorps.

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia circa 1903

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia circa 1903

The Appalachian Forest Heritage Area is a regional initiative to promote, conserve and educate the public about our Appalachian heritage sites and forests within West Virginia and western Maryland. We work on a variety of community projects relating to heritage development,conservation,historic preservation and economic revitalization. AFHA AmeriCorps is funded in part by Volunteer West Virginia and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Each year our regional AFHA AmeriCorps service members have a meeting with some of the community members we serve. AFHA,held its Annual Stakeholders Meeting in May in the small town of Philippi, in Barbour County, West Virginia. Philippi is a town of about 2900 people with a rich history that centers around the Civil War and its role as the location of the first land battle of the war.

panorama of Downtown Philippi West Virginia... Wikipedia

Panorama of downtown Philippi, West Virginia… Wikipedia

During these meetings we share information about the projects we are working on within the communities we serve. We give community leaders information about what we really achieve while spending our year with them as service members. It was stated at the annual meeting, by Alison Thornton, Assistant to the Director of AFHA, that “a total of 920 community volunteers who serve in 16 counties have put in 10,076 Appalachian Forest Heritage Area service hours so far this year, with 44,683 beneficiaries of our work. Thrity eight service members have improved or treated 643.60 acres of public land with in our counties and AmeriCorps has over all  39,775.75 hours of service this year.” The impact of those 10,076 hours have in West Virginia is huge. Making the time AHFA members serve worth more than $150,000.00 in  man-hours to our state economy for the first half of the fiscal year.

Many of the positions that AFHA AmeriCorps fill are tough physical jobs in very isolated locations making their positions hard to fill. My fellow members work with the Forest Service and other conservation agencies repairing trails, clearing invasive species and fighting forest fires. Some members spend time working with the Arts, in tourism, and at historic locations doing preservation and giving tours. Some serve in rural communities working on economic revitalization.Some spend only a few hours a month in their office, instead working at construction and demolition sites, where  buildings are being redeveloped and updated. Yet, we all serve with this motto in mind “Getting Things Done.”

So when you get us all together it is a wonderful educational opportunity not only for the public but for us as members also. We see and hear about other members projects and the impact they are making for the better. We hear from speakers, who like us, are trying to make a difference in their area of expertise.We are also encouraged to explore the communities where we serve to get a deeper understanding of the area’s history and needs.

AFHA AmeriCorps members listing to Barbour County Circuit Clerk explaining about community history and the courthouse.

AFHA AmeriCorps members listing to Barbour County Circuit Clerk explaining about community history and the courthouse.

This by far is the most important part of our meetings from a member standpoint. We talk with local leaders about the successes and failures of our program. We see first hand what our service is doing in these communities. It is a time to see that our efforts are real and tangible.So with cooperation from the city of Philippi we were able to tour the town, see historical locations and see some of the physical evidence of our work. It gives all of us a chance to understand the area where we serve better and leaves each of us with a feeling of pride as we share in each other’s positive impact.

AmeriCorps listen to Dustin from Woodlands Development Group about redevelopment work done on the Sunnyside building with the help of AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps listen to Dustin Smith from Woodlands Development Group about redevelopment work done on the Sunshine building with the help of AmeriCorps.

Alex Thomas discusses the challanges of historic Preservation and redevelopment of the Sunnyside building with another AmeriCorps member

Alex Thomas discusses the challenges of historic preservation and redevelopment of the Sunshine building with another AmeriCorps member.

Alex Thomas serves as a AFHA AmeriCorps project manager for Woodlands Development Group  ( a local non-profit housing developer) on this main street building in Philippi. The building was almost a total loss for redevelopment in a town of this size but with many community groups working together and funding coming from grants the future looks brighter for this building. When finished the building will have retail space and two modern upstairs apartments for people who work in the downtown area. It is this collaboration between local officials, AmeriCorps service members,non-profits, the State and Federal Government that we begin to see what is possible. Every AmeriCorps wants to be part of the solution for our communities problems.

Store Front of Sunshine building before repairs begin

Store Front of Sunshine building before repairs begin photo courtesy of Alex Thomas

Hands on crew members inside the Sunshine building doing restoration work to the punched tin ceiling

Hands on crew members inside the Sunshine building doing restoration work to the punched tin ceiling photo courtesy of Alex Thomas

In the end AFHA and AmeriCorps is all about the people and communities we serve. In Philippi we were lucky to have the opportunity to see one of the largest covered bridges still in use in the United States. Seeing the bridges long historic arches puts all of our efforts into perspective about what is important about this region and its history. We serve as AFHA AmeriCorps to remind the world that we have a proud and long history that deserves to be protected, preserved, developed and cherished. As AmeriCorps members we make a difference in little communities just like this one all over West Virginia, so that the future of this region will be brighter, our communities will be stronger and our history will never be lost.

Barbour County, West Virginia, Philippi Covered Bridge

Barbour County, West Virginia, Philippi Covered Bridge 2016

It is my pleasure to serve the people as an AFHA AmeriCorps in rural West Virginia!! For more information about AmeriCorps and where they serve follow this link, National Service AmeriCorps, or visit http://www.appalachianforest.us/americorps.htm, and think about joining us.

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Americorp logo

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Civil War, community service, Friendship, historic locations, Nonprofit, rural life, Travel, West Virginia, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Wishing these houses would share all their Stories

Victorian two room house

Victorian two room House, Johnstown, WV.

 

Often when I have free time I drive the back roads to my destination. I make a point to bring my camera and give myself plenty of time for extra stops along the way. As I drive the hills and hollows that surround my home I always find some treasured old building and take its photo. This one really caught my eye last week and Christopher said it was “beautiful” as we drove to his dental appointment. It seems more decorative than most two room houses you usually see along the back roads. Making me wish that the somehow theses old houses would share all of their stories with me.

It is the stories that I love, not so much the genealogy of the houses ownership, that makes me write this blog. I want to hear about the births that happened in the houses, and if the children lived. I want to hear about the medicines that the woman of the house used when those children got sick. I want to know if those long gone children, got doses of cod liver oil in the spring as a tonic, just like mine. It was traditional every spring to line the children up for a heaping spoons full of the nasty oil. I wonder if everything moving got a dose as if they were cattle that needed spring worming.

Dried herbs grown for medicine in the 1700 to 1800.

Dried herbs grown for medicine in the 1700 to 1800.

I have always loved stories of feather tick beds in those houses, although my mother’s family could only afford to sleep on straw and corn shucks. I imagine a grandmother airing out the house on a warm spring day with the bedding hanging out the windows. I can see her out in the yard beating a rug on the clothes line and see her walking back from the root cellar with jars of canned food for supper on a cool spring night.

empty canning jars

Empty canning jars on my kitchen table.

 

Dairy Barn Rt #20 Harrison County

Dairy Barn Rt #20 Harrison County

I  imagine her grandchildren taking a wagon down the road about 6 miles to this dairy barn to collect the milk she would use to make butter, and cheese for her family. I can hear the cows and see the doves flutter away as the children run toward the barn. Somewhere in the distance is the  dairy farm owners house. Where the same family has lived over 125 hundred years. Working the land and raising beautiful cattle and gallons of rich milk.

Century farm house Lost Creek, Wv

Century farm-house Lost Creek, WV.

Christopher feeding a 4 day old calf.

Christopher feeding a 4 day old calf Lewis County, WV.

It is the stories of the people who carved out a life from the woods that call to me. I wait on them and try to catch a glimpse of them as they pass by an old frame windows and hide behind creaking wooden doors. I listen for their voices when I sit quietly on an old porch.I wait to meet the old folks when I smell wood smoke from a stone chimney and hope that they invite me in for a spell around the fire.

Tom surrounded by smoke from a 1860's chimney

Tom surrounded by smoke from a 1860’s chimney

Cellar steps into the basement to Sunny Pointe Guest House

Cellar steps into the basement to Sunny Pointe Guest House

Hutte Hause window

Hutte Hause window  Helvetia WV.

I dream of sitting on porch swing and talking for hours about the “old days” with a woman who shares a jar full of sweet tea with me. I feel that somehow we have known each other for generations even if she is nothing but a dream. I ask her about her  life and family and then when the light changes she is gone and all that is left is her home place.

SunShine on old house Doddridge County WV

SunShine on old house Doddridge County WV

I know that her house wants me to stay a bit longer, so I linger. I look in the windows at the mess that is left from a long life of children and farm hands. I know that really  my job is just to uncover the stories that live in these houses, cabins and barns. They want me to  spread the stories of peaceful joy and long-suffering. They want me to remind the world that they existed and promise that their memories will not be forgotten. I hear on the whispering wind that these old houses are not willing to die without a fight. That like the men and woman of the mountains they will not go down easy into the earth.

At times I wonder how  I am going to share the lives of so many. Then it happens, a house or barn or person  appear. They show up in my life without any warning. I take photos and hear the most wonderful tales. They remind me that I am just supposed to slow down and listen to the stories these buildings want to share.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barns, cabins, Country life, family memories, ghost stories, ghosts, Memories, nostalgic | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Legend of the Dogwood Tree, Spring in the Hollow

Like so many things in Appalachia, legends surround almost everything and many are held as truths still today. One of my favorite folktales told over and over in West Virginia is the Legend of the Dogwood Tree.  (This is a wonderful copy of the poem that tells the story)

Dogwood blooms in Buckhannon, WV

Dogwood blooms in Buckhannon, WV

As the story was told to me over two decades ago… Jesus was nailed to a large wooden cross made from Dogwood timber and as he died he blessed the tree because of it sorrow for its master’s death. The blessing held that the tree would never again grow straight or tall enough to be used for a  crucifixion cross again.  The flowers would be a symbol of his life, death and resurrection, to everyone who looked on them. With the white blooms standing for Christ and the red tinged edges being the symbol of his blood. The petals of the flower would shape a cross with two long arms and two short and the center in gold is the crown of thorns that he worn on that day.The notched edges of each petal are a reminder of the nails the held him on the cross and each spring we are reminded of his being raised from the dead when the Dogwood blooms again.

So is the story true? No, not really. The evidence pretty well shows that the story is just a tall tale. Do the people of the mountains and hollows still look forward to seeing the Dogwoods bloom every spring… and do they remember this story, Of course!

Dogwood berries ready for winter

Dogwood berries ready for winter in our back yard

The legend moved me so much when we lived on the farm, that while my neighbor was clearing the fence line between our two properties, I stopped my car along the road where he worked. I asked  the older man “please not cut down the young dogwood tree”. I shared the legend  with him while he looked on in amazement and put down his saw. For the following 10 years that same farmer never cut down the dogwood tree that stands in our shared fence row. At that moment I understood for the first time the power of the circuit ministers of the 1800’s in Appalachia. They must have had a lot of time to think when they rode these hills and hollows. They needed ways of reaching people so that they could understand the ideas of crucifixion, resurrection, sacrifice, forgiveness and love. So they used nature as a teaching tool(just like most folktales) to keep a story alive in a way that everyone could understand.

This tail is still heard in churches and at picnics here West Virginia. In spring as the forest slowly returns to life, it is the dogwoods blooms that remind me to tell this story again to another generation. So that my children will one day will share the story that holds many in these mountain hollows together.

Dogwood tree from Wikimedia commons

Dogwood tree from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Buckhannon West Virginia, Church, Country life, Folk tails, spring | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The “Creepy Virginia”, Stereotyping West Virginia.

When I hear about people joking about West Virginia it ruffles my feathers. I am not a native to the Mountain State so I find it even more offensive when outsiders make fun of the people I love and work with everyday. Last month I was again disappointed when I heard that The Daily Show’s Twitter feed called my state “Creepy”.

The Darden House my office in Elkins WV

The Darden House my office in Elkins WV

The Daily Show’s Twitter statement that I have linked to, shared a disparaging comment about West Virginia and it struck me as irritating. As usual, a person who knows nothing about history or culture has attempted to paint a crude generalisation about the people who call West Virginia home. Calling West Virginia “creepy” and implying that West Virginia is not the “Good Virginia”, pissed me off for about 2 seconds. It took me two seconds to get mad and then two seconds more to understand that maybe being creepy is not such a bad thing…. Let me explain.

West Virginia is 75% wooded and has a population of about 1,844,128 about 36,488,393 LESS than California! That ranks West Virginia in the lowest 12 populated states in our county. So lots of woods, few people, few big cities, means less of the problems that many of our Western States face. Massive growth and terrible air pollution( I know about this one, I grew up in the Denver Metro Area and you can keep the brown cloud) are just a few of the Less Creepy Problems that California, Colorado and Nevada face everyday. Then when we start to think about Virginia you know the “NOT SO CREEPY STATE”… the one with Washington D.C. I wonder if the Daily Show would like us to forget the constant gridlock of traffic in and out of the Capital City?The high cost of living( 6th highest in the country) and the amount of people pleaser who live in and around D.C. Also does The Daily Show really want all of us to forget about the Crime Rates of other states and cities all over the country? We are not perfect here in West Virginia but we do have some really great things going on, maybe Creepy is not so bad after all.

Old cabin in Cleveland West Virginia

Old cabin in Cleveland West Virginia

As my mind rolled this twitter post around over the following weeks, something came to mind. It is a very specific kind beauty that popped into my imagination. An image of something that is not found just anywhere but in the deep hollows and on the high ridge tops. The beauty of the ancient and of the decaying, the beauty of the “Wild and Wonderful”. The beauty that is found in hard work and long-suffering,the kind of beauty that is epic and larger than a single story. These are not the images of perfect clean beaches, crisp snow-covered vistas or smooth sandy deserts. They are not images of the huge skyscrapers or modern metro stations. They are images that are creepy and I love them.

Kenchelo road barn before being torn down

Kincheloe road barn before being torn down 2015.

I am not a fantastic writer or photographer, but I have dedicated my blog to trying to share the magic of my state. I share my love of  the creepy, decaying, damp, world that I see every day.

Fairy Mushroom in the woods of West Virginia

Fairy Mushroom in the woods of West Virginia

Snail on river moss, cleveland, WV

Snail on river moss, Cleveland, WV

If you find in some way that these photos  are creepy, then you have discovered the ancient magic of West Virginia. A magic that is not always visible to outsiders, as the above Tweet reveals. West Virginia does not open her secret vaults to all who pass by her borders. She remains hidden just like Avalon in Camelot.Only allowing those who understand her mystery to view her treasures.

 

Iron train bridge in foggy Lewis County West Virginia

Iron train bridge in foggy Lewis County West Virginia

snow bales, west virginia

snow bales, West Virginia 2014

So, I now am wondering if maybe Trevor Noah and the crew at The Daily Show are close to the truth when posting that West Virginia is “Creepy”. Maybe our lives seem foreign to people who live in the big city under the spotlight. I am thinking maybe being Creepy is the very best way to keep our state a secret for another generation.Saving all of us Mountaineers from the problems of the “Good Virginia” and other states.

reenactment at the TALA front lawn

Reenactment at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum  front lawn, Weston, West Virginia.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barns, blogging, Country life, history, rural life, Stereo Types, stereotyping, trends, Twitter, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Celebrate Easter with Trout and Ramps .

It is official spring has come to the Mountain State. Trout and Ramp Season has begone and I am getting excited for the first skillet full of the wild food that is traditional in West Virginia.  My husband’s family have enjoyed fresh trout and ramps for generations. As far back as the family story can remember. The family enjoyed the freedom of the Mountains where tiny speckled fish and ramps are always a part of the celebration spring.

Brookie3_Handy

Brook Trout by Mat Hardy from Trout Unlimited

Often my husband and his father would take off in the middle of April for a trout fishing trip with hopes of also gathering a burlap sack of ramps. The farther from civilization they drove the smaller the trout got and the larger the ramps grew. So off on some deserted logging road on a mountain top, where a small stream started, my father-in-law and husband would be found fishing. The tiny native trout with copper skin and bright orange spots are fighters like anything that lives so far into the mountains.Making an almost freezing morning exciting as the two would wade the stream looking for ramps along the way.

Field of wild growing Ramps

Field of wild growing ramps

When the noon day sun would finally reach the steam at the bottom of the holler they were fishing the two would break for lunch. The two eating pepperoni rolls off the tail gate of an old truck, they would talk about if the fishing was good enough to spend more time in the water or if it was time to trade the fishing poles for a ramp hoes. Neither father or son would want to leave the peacefulness of the rushing spring water but they knew more treasures waited for them on the mountainsides.

Tom fishing on a cold Easter Morning

Tom fishing in a stream in Pendleton County, West Virginia

 

The team would drag themselves up the steep banks of the mountains with a short-handled hoe, looking for clumps of green in the otherwise brown forest floor. If ramps were spotted, one would yell out to the other in the other wise silent woods and the digging would start. Gathering just enough of the bulbs for the family and leaving many to spread out the seeds of future plants.By late afternoon the two would shimmy back down the mossy covered banks to the truck. Fresh fish would be in the cooler chilling, topped with a sack of muddy ramps. The two would ride the bumpy road back home for a fest of fresh spring foods.These foods were almost impossible to get any other time of the year and the deep joy of finally being free from the winter always made the meals more pleasant.

Often the first dinner that we fix of ramps is meatless. Not for any reason other than it seems fitting that such an early spring meal would have also been meatless for  generations of homesteaders of this land. They would have enjoyed a meal of fresh ramps with brown beans, cornbread and maybe if their storage was good fried potatoes. Our ancestors would have celebrated that fresh greens had to grown again and life had returned to the hills they called home.Ramps brown beans and fried potatoes cornbread

So as my family celebrates Easter weekend, I am not only thinking of my Savior and his miraculous life, I am thinking of countless generations of West Virginians who have come before me. I am thinking of the blessings and bounty of another spring and of how to share its traditions and stories with the next generation. How a fish and a sticky bulb were not a trendy food but a way of life for the mountain people of Appalachia and how I can keep the spirit of thankfulness alive.

Happy Easter my friends enjoy Spring !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Corn bread, country cooking, Country life, Easter, fishing, Homestead, ramps, Ramps, trout | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Foraging spring greens and weeds

A friend sent this to me on Face Book just a few days ago. It makes me wonder how many of us really understand how foraging can help control evasive plants. It also made me want to share this with any one who likes foraging for greens. Wild Garlic Mustard is found growing almost everywhere in the Eastern US and can be cooked and eaten like any other bitter green. Another green that is problematic in our area and across the south is Stinging Nettle.  Hardy and fast spreading by seed if given the right  growing conditions these plants crowed out natural flowers and plants . Animals do not like the smell or taste of the Garlic Mustard or Stinging Nettle so they are not controlled by the environmental conditions .

Garlic Mustard Pull flyer

Forest Service Garlic Mustard flyer

 

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Wild Mustard in Bloom

If you are in the West Virginia area and have time to help with this problem and enjoy the outdoors and cooking free wild food we could use your help. My family hopes to attend one of these pulling dates and make a nice side dish of Garlic Mustard Cakes when we get home.A dish made from boiled greens drained to remove bitterness, eggs for a binder and Italian bread crumbs fried in brown butter.

April and May is prime pulling time before the plants start to seed and West Virginia could use all the pickers we can find. We are allowed to take home as much of the Garlic Mustard as we wish but they would love for us to remove some of the plants also. For ideas on how to cook the wild greens  follow this link Cooking Mustard Garlic. Hope to see you in the woods picking this spring.

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, community service, country cooking, Foraging, Monongahela National Forest, organic food, regional food, Uncategorized, West Virginia, wild greens | Tags: , , , , , | 4 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

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