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”

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”

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”

Witch hazel: nature’s medicine & dowser’s tool

Our woods don’t offer up a lot of color in wintertime. That’s why the feathery yellow bloom of the witch hazel tree is such a curious surprise from the late fall to the midwinter months of the year. Because it only grows as a short tree (or a tall shrub, depending on who you ask),Continue reading “Witch hazel: nature’s medicine & dowser’s tool”

Bears hibernate in winter. But you’re no bear.

Sure, it’s cold. Classic winter move. You’re settling into a comfort zone with blankets, something hot and a TV remote and that’s part of the beauty of the season. But dropping temps don’t have to put your outdoor exploring into full hibernation mode. Not a ski fan or into snowshoeing? Doesn’t matter. Even a walkContinue reading “Bears hibernate in winter. But you’re no bear.”

A mileage challenge sets me on a new path

A West Virginia State Parks challenge started me hiking in earnest in 2016. Sam England, the Parks Chief at the time, had issued what he called the Chief’s Challenge. I read about it when the press release came in to our local newspaper. The task, for anyone willing to take it on, was to hikeContinue reading “A mileage challenge sets me on a new path”