Blackwater Falls State Park is named for a picturesque cataract on the Blackwater River (top photo), which along with the sweeping canyon views (bottom photo), brings in most of the visitors to the park. But a short hike on any one of the many trails that wind through the state park and adjacent Monongahela National Forest lands quickly reveals additional treasures: the cascades of Elakala Falls on Shay Run; tea-colored creeks; and fern-blanketed alcoves (middle photos).
Went on a quick hike at Blackwater Falls State Park last week. Most trails were closed due to deep snow and the steepness to the ravine where the waterfalls were in the far distance. Still was a beautiful walk–one of those quiet moments when you can only hear your footsteps in the snow and your own breathing.
Railroad Towns, Vol 1, Part 1. Enter Grafton, West Virginia from any direction, and you’ll recognize immediately that it’s a living, breathing extension of the rusty-veined rail lines that snake through its heart. As with so many places in Appalachia’s tapped-out coalfields, the railroads brought prosperity into the Tygart River Valley during the late Nineteenth Century and then stole it away as the fortunes of America’s heavy industries turned by the Mid-Twentieth Century. When the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad arrived in 1852, the site that would become Grafton was little more than a glorified bean patch on Virginia’s Northwestern Turnpike. Virtually overnight, Grafton came into existence as one of the busiest and most important rail junctures west of the Allegheny Mountains. During the Civil War, its strategic position along the Tygart River made it crucial to the unfettered movement of Union supplies and troops east and west. Confederate forces attempted on several occasions to capture the town and disrupt the Union’s supply lines but failed to do so. In the years after war, Grafton continued to prosper as the B&O filled its railroad hoppers with locally-mined coal for shipping out of state. By the middle of the Twentieth Century, however, the decline of America’s heavy industries, including the steel mills in Pittsburgh to the north, put the breaks on both the train cars and Grafton’s economic well-being. Today, the city struggles with high unemployment and the Opioid Crisis that has engulfed much of Appalachia. But it’s also building on its past to create a better future, leveraging its railroad heritage (including the restoration of the historic Willard Hotel and B&O Railroad Depot), the presence of the International Mother’s Day Shrine, and its proximity to Tygart Lake State Park to bring in visitors.
There was a lot of rain in the eastern United States this past summer, so it was an overwhelmingly good summer for mycology. I got to cross many fungi off of my must-see list, and I stumbled upon
again, which I saw once before but didn’t get to spend enough time with. I’m not going to lie - I spent a glorious 15 minutes just sitting among this patchand poking it.