A poke of purple in the woods

Clusters of dark purple berries stand out in West Virginia woods as trees and shrubs are losing their summer green, and the oranges and reds of fall start creeping in. In a dry spell, pokeweed’s bright red stems and berries are a real stand out in fields and at the edge of forest openings andContinue reading “A poke of purple in the woods”

Catch the WV mountain laurel bloom on the Ziler loop trail at Cacapon State Park

Mountain laurel is blooming right now in our part of West Virginia — in the part we call the Eastern Panhandle. Morgan County has its share of mountains, which means lots of places to look at this wild flowering shrub as its blooms open up. This week I’ve been on laurel patrol in Morgan County.Continue reading “Catch the WV mountain laurel bloom on the Ziler loop trail at Cacapon State Park”

Taking kids hiking – the agony & the magic

17 minutes. That was our magic number. You’re not going to believe me, and maybe for your kids it’s more like 11 minutes. Bless your heart if it’s 25. For me and my kids, the first 17 minutes of many walks in the woods was dotted with protests, complaints, delay tactics and general griping. ItContinue reading “Taking kids hiking – the agony & the magic”

Two out of three ain’t bad: more about spring in the West Virginia woods

Like I said before, spring in West Virginia zooms at the speed of sunlight. Take a week’s break from the woods and there’s a whole other type of tree or wildflowers blooming when you go back. Open winter views are now closed up by a glowing green curtain of new buds and leaves. In aContinue reading “Two out of three ain’t bad: more about spring in the West Virginia woods”

West Virginia wildflowers: Good luck keeping up

Spring in the Mountain State comes on strong. We jump from a grey and brown forest floor to carpets of wildflowers in no time flat. The past few days have delivered summer-like temperatures and powerful sunshine, revving up the spring cycle. It’s here, whether you’re ready for it or not. Nothing to do but plugContinue reading “West Virginia wildflowers: Good luck keeping up”

That tell-tale smell: Getting to know the Sweet Birch

This is weird, I thought, as I stood in a grove of uniform trees on top of Sleepy Creek Mountain. I was five miles from any blacktop road, sort of following a jeep trail that traces the top of the mountain. All around me, tall slender trees reached upwards. It was unlike other places onContinue reading “That tell-tale smell: Getting to know the Sweet Birch”

The mystery of the broken dishes: how a half-empty West Virginia lake reveals some local history

I didn’t know much about Tygart Lake State Park near Grafton, W.Va. when I made reservations to take our family there for a February weekend. Truth is, I had it confused with Prickett’s Fort State Park (20+ miles away), where an 18th century firearms show was being held. I grabbed a lodge room at TygartContinue reading “The mystery of the broken dishes: how a half-empty West Virginia lake reveals some local history”

Four generations at Cacapon State Park, and counting

My father climbed to the top of Cacapon Mountain near Berkeley Springs, W.Va. when he was about 16. He was on a fall hike with his father and younger brother. They all lived in suburban Maryland at the time, and it was, perhaps, their first visit to Cacapon State Park. A photo of the threeContinue reading “Four generations at Cacapon State Park, and counting”

Finding Pee Wee Point, in two parts

One of the great views in Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area (Morgan & Berkeley counties, West Virginia) is from a spot called Pee Wee Point. Thanks to some fancy new signs from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the trailhead that leads toward the point is even easier to find these days. Near theContinue reading “Finding Pee Wee Point, in two parts”

Even when you’re hiking alone, you’re not

I’ll admit it. I like hiking by myself. Blame it on being the mother of two boys. Or my introverted nature. Or too many years working directly with the public. Whatever it is, I treasure long periods of quiet. That’s when I can really find peace — thinking aimlessly, scanning the world around me forContinue reading “Even when you’re hiking alone, you’re not”