Posts Tagged With: camping

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

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

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