Watoga Update November 4, 2019

Current Happenings in and around Watoga State Park via Watoga Update November 4, 2019

The Riverside Campground sits empty now, the gate was closed last week for the 2019 camping season. Riverside will reopen as it does every spring, on April 1, 2020. It is now a winter sanctuary for dog-walkers and beavers that can be seen cruising the shores along the campground.

The Beaver Creek Campground will stay open until December 8, primarily to accommodate deer hunters. It will reopen the Friday before Memorial Day weekend 2020.

Ten of the Classic cabins will remain open throughout the winter months for the hardier Watoga visitors. Cabins remaining open are 3,8,9,14,15,16,18,19,28, and 33.

Volunteerism at work in Watoga
For the 15th year in a row, the members of the DC Taekwondo group came up to Watoga State Park for training purposes. (It’s top secret and I cannot tell you. Remember, they are from D.C.)

They always spend a day doing volunteer work in the park. When asked why they provide this wonderful service, their leader, Brian Wright, said: “We enjoy our visits so much that we want to give back to the park.”

This year they played the role of Sherpas and carried on their backs pieces of one of two benches to go into the Arboretum. The first bench donated by the Wade Family was assembled by the group at the trailhead and the other, donated by the Watoga Crossing Homeowner’s Association, went into the farther recesses of the park on Honey Bee Trail.

These are the first benches to be built in the Arboretum since the Civilian Conservation Corps hand-built 17 chestnut and stone benches in the 1930s.

David Elliott, acting as the base camp manager, did a splendid job of organizing this effort. He outfitted six external frame packs, spreading the disassembled park bench into near-equal weights, and attached them to the packs.

A huge thanks to the seven members of the Washington D.C. Taekwondo Group, David Elliott, and last but not least, Freia, the amazing pack dog who toted the water for the crew up the mountain.

Pi R Squared?, No, Pie Are Round
At least the ones made at the Hillsboro Library yesterday when 22 students showed up to learn the art of pie-making from Emily Sullivan. I do not use the word “art” loosely; cooking can be an art that takes years and a certain skill set to master and Emily possesses those traits in addition to being an engaging instructor.

Emily Sullivan Art of Pie Making workshop at Hillsboro Library community room.

Under her tutelage, we all made personal size apple pies that we walked away with after class. It was a ‘start from scratch’ course beginning with the most difficult task of making the pie dough. In my humble opinion the crust makes the pie, we learned all of Emily’s secrets yesterday, on pie crusts that is!

Fun was had by all and we started right away planning our next cooking class at the Hillsboro Library. Generally, there is no charge for the class so that’s a big plus. And classes are open to the general public including guests at Watoga State Park.

Stay tuned for information about future cooking classes at the Hillsboro Library.

Dirt Bean To Move One Block Over

Those visitors to our local state parks, including the Greenbrier River Trail, should note that the Dirt Bean has closed its doors at the 812 3rd Avenue location and will reopen in the new location on 2nd Avenue almost directly behind the old location.

The following photo of the owner, Kristy Lanier, was taken just hours before closing the door for the last time at this location. The new store will have the same great coffee, foods and drinks and should be open in the second week of November, if

Kristy Lanier, proprietor of Dirtbean Cafe & Bike Shop Marlinton, WV

Well, that’s it for this edition of the Watoga Update. Watoga State Park is open 365 days a year and there is always something to do in the largest and best state park in the mountain state of West Virginia.

Ken Springer
ken49bon@gmail.com

Dark Sky Park – Watoga

Background

The very first time I saw the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, it was from a distance of 12 miles and approximately 11 hours before I would start the climb to its summit. It rises straight up out of the pine-clad hills, an ostentatious imposition on a terrain that abhors any vertical challenge to its otherwise gentle rolling landscape.

I had pulled my truck off the gravel road that headed straight as an arrow to the basaltic monolith that I would get to know much more intimately upon the next daybreak. I was leaning against my vehicle focusing my binoculars on the great rock when a pickup pulled alongside and a middle-aged man in a Stetson asked in a friendly way if I was lost or broke down. “Neither”, I said, “I am just a bit awestruck by its size.” I did not mention the jitters I was feeling about climbing its dead-vertical face by way of a continuous 2 inch crack on the next day.

He told me that he was a rancher in the area and I commented something to the effect that it would be cool to be able to see such a beautiful landmark every day. He replied, “Well, you would think so, wouldn’t you? but to be honest I go years without really looking at it.” That statement has always stayed with me because I was to learn that his ambivalence is often the rule rather than the exception. We humans sometimes forget to see the beauty around us; it starts to blend in with the surroundings: But only if we allow it to.

Louise McNeill

Our own Poet Laureate of West Virginia, Louise McNeill, never succumbed to the irresolute when it came to her awareness of the beautiful surroundings here in Pocahontas County, particularly the total darkness of the night sky. She often speaks to the exceptional brilliance and multitude of the stars here in this part of the Appalachians.

Referring to the Aurora Borealis of 1941 in The Milkweed Ladies she recounts that “We ran out into the yard and looked up over us. The whole round of the heavens was beginning to quiver with a wild, flickering crown, at first from the north; then the east and south and west joined, and the green-red-blue-gold-purple spear tent was streaming up to the point of the heavens and riving as it came.”

“As I stood there, a kind of awe and fear came to me, as though God had not yet unloosed his might. But he had it, held back somewhere in the banked fires of the Worlds.”

A recent study revealed that 80% of the population in the U.S. are unable to see the Milky Way at night due to light pollution. Most of us here in Pocahontas County have the good fortune of being able to share the joy of Louise McNeill in having a nearly unobstructed view of the nighttime heavens.

However, we should not take this for granted – light pollution is slowly but surely encroaching upon the few remaining ‘dark sky’ regions, not only worldwide, but more particularly here in the eastern part of our country. Pocahontas County is responding to this dilemma by taking the necessary steps to protect and preserve the dark skies for future generations.

Dark Sky Park

Recently Watoga State Park entered into the initial stages of a program administered through the International Dark-Sky Association that will have many potential benefits for our area. The Watoga State Park Foundation, in partnership with the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, has begun the preliminary steps to getting the park designated as a Dark Sky Park.

Watoga Lake under a starry sky

Mary Dawson and Louanne Fatora, board members of the Watoga State Park Foundation, are spearheading the effort to obtain the dark sky status for the park. They both reiterated that this project is still in the very early stages and that it may take up to two years to obtain the dark sky designation.

Meanwhile, preliminary measurements taken by local astronomers have shown that one of the major requirements seem to be met – the Milky Way can be seen with the naked eye. (Louise McNeill could have told them that) Additionally, measurements are required to be taken on a quarterly basis to determine if the visibility requirements exist year-round.

Also required for Dark Sky status is an inventory of light sources within the park, and if necessary they must be shielded. Interpretive programs for park visitors and the general public is required, which will complement the already excellent naturalist’s program at Watoga.

Stargazing

Benefits are numerous, an obvious one being the draw of amateur astronomers and their families to the park and to other parts of Pocahontas County. Anyone who has observed the annual Perseids Meteor Shower from the Scenic Highway knows what a breathtaking display that it provides. This will be a definite boon to tourism.

Less immediate benefits will include the preservation of another of the steadily decreasing number of locations that can justly be called Dark Sky areas. As education about the alarming loss of these areas spread, sources of light pollution such as towns will be more likely to adopt plans that attenuate pollution, furthering the preservation effort.

We have nothing to lose and much to gain in this project. It is hoped that the entire county will respond in a positive manner to preserving the things that those before us marveled at.

I cannot help but think that Louise McNeill, were she still living on her farm near Buckeye, would be overjoyed and supportive of the notion that we have a duty and the will to protect those things of creation that we hold dear.

I will close this edition of the Watoga Trail Report with one of Louise’s poems from her book of poetry, Hill Daughter.

The night will come, though not the “sable” night,

Though not the dark, not the “wished for balm,” the still……

But deathly brightness, thermo-neutron night,

Until some star mad watcher on a hill,

Across galaxies will peer and cry

That where there was once nothing in the sky,

Now there is flame beyond the southward horn

A small, new planet, risen fully born

In one wild surge of green and glowing birth,

And looking at it, he will name it

EARTH.

From the mountain trails of Watoga,

Ken Springer

Let’s Talk Snakes

Let’s Talk Snakes

Brian Hirt, one of Watoga’s volunteer trail workers had already put a full morning’s work into the Arboretum on Sunday, May 19. Then he decided to finish out the day by continuing his trail marking project on the Allegheny Trail. He had marked several miles of trail when he ran out of trail markers. So he turned around and started back to his car deciding to clear as much debris off of the trail as possible on his return trip.

At one point he reached down, grabbing a large branch, and started to give it a tug when he heard the distinctive and unmistakable sound of a rattlesnake that was hiding under the branch. The rattler did not strike at Brian, nor did Brian provoke the snake, he just walked away. This story has a good ending for both man and snake because Brian did the proper thing when encountering a venomous snake

Copperhead snake
Copperhead Snake Agkistrodon contortrix

We humans seem hard-wired to react to snakes and even something that merely resembles a snake. I remember reading an article in a science magazine about a controlled study in which the subjects were exposed to a series of images on a screen, while an fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) was measuring their brain activity based on blood flow. When body patterns of venomous snakes were shown there was increased blood flow to the amygdala initiating the Fight or Flight Response.

I can relate to this when I remember being startled enough to jump back recently by nothing more than a long, curving section of grapevine lying across the trail. I had reacted physically before my conscious mind confirmed that it was not a snake.

Roy Moose Snakes of West Virginia

Those of you who have attended Roy Moose’s snake program at the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center know that Roy’s level of engagement with the audience is exceptional. He captures the complete attention of adults and children alike. It is somewhat humorous to watch Roy hold forth a garter snake to youngsters who lean forward to accept the snake as the parents simultaneously lean back away from the snake.

Roy Moose Snakes of West Virginia at Cranberry Mountain Nature Center

Roy’s ever-popular Snakes of West Virginia reveals many facts and misconceptions about the two poisonous snakes found in this region; copperheads and timber rattlesnakes. Roy has been bitten by both species of snake which are pit-vipers. He said that the hand that was bitten swelled up over five times the size of his other hand. And he added that if you are bitten by a poisonous snake you will know it immediately. The pain is horrendous.

He stressed that neither poisonous snake is aggressive; both are exceedingly shy by nature and most people who are bitten were attempting to kill the snake. The best thing to do when you encounter a copperhead or rattlesnake is just to walk away. The strike zone from a coiled position is only half the length of the body. And they can only cover ground at a maximum of five miles per hour so most people could easily outrun a rattler or copperhead.

According to the WVDNR publication Snakes of West Virginia, no one has been killed by a copperhead bite in West Virginia for over 30 years. As for fatalities from rattlesnake bites, from 1969 through 1992 only four people were killed by rattlesnake bites in our state. During the same time period over 15 times more fatalities occurred from bee stings, cows and horses.

Dr. Jennifer Shreves, an emergency room doctor, at the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, assured me that the facility has a protocol in place for snake bites and anti-venom on hand.

Dr. Shreves emphasized that victims should not bring in the offending snake. Their treatment will be based upon evaluation once they have arrived at the emergency room. This will include a blood test for toxins as the venom from both species of snake are hemotoxins as opposed to neurotoxins.

I asked Dr. Shreves about hikers and trail workers who may be some distance from help. If the victim is alone they should walk slowly back to the nearest help, trying not to get their heart beating any faster than necessary. If the victim has a car nearby they should drive only as far as necessary to get help. If in the company of other people it would be ideal to carry him or her out, however, given the type of terrain in our area that would be extremely difficult at best.

As one ER doctor with experience in treating snakebites puts it, “The most important first aid equipment for a venomous snake bite is a set of car keys.”

As for the toxin, over half of the bites are “dry” bites, meaning that the venom sac is empty. After a copperhead or rattlesnake bites its prey it takes approximately a month to replenish the supply of the toxin. As a side note, if you are bitten you better have good health care insurance; the average cost of an anti-venom treatment is $30,000. It is always better to exhibit smart behavior around snakes than getting treated for a bite.

It wasn’t that awfully long ago that the universal method of treating a bite from a poisonous snake was to simply cut a large X across the wound and suck the venom out, then spitting it on the ground.

With that in mind, I beg your patience in allowing me to share with you a once common tale told around campfires. And in the sort of bars that have singing plastic bass mounted on the wall. And, generally by men.

Humorous Anecdote

As the story goes two friends, Charley and Sam were hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies when Charley took off his pack and headed off into the woods telling Sam he had to go to the bathroom. Charley had just dropped trow and sat down on a log when he felt an excruciating pain that made him howl in agony. Sam yelled, “You OK Charley?” Charley replied, “I’ve been snake bit.”

When Sam got to Charley he asked him where he was bitten; Charley told him that a rattlesnake had bitten him squarely on his derriere. (please note that he actually used another less delicate word to describe that particular area of his anatomy). Charley instructed Sam to run to the little town they hiked through less than a mile back the trail and find a doctor. When Sam got to the town he managed to find a small doctor’s office manned by an elderly doctor. Sam told the doctor that his buddy had been bitten by a rattlesnake about a mile down the trail.

The doctor said, “Where was your friend bitten?” Sam told him the bite was right on his behind. (Sam also used an entirely different word in describing the exact location of the injury). The Doc replied, “Listen, you have to run back as fast as you can and suck all of the venom out of that wound if you want to save your buddy.”

Sam departed immediately and headed back at a fast run. Upon his arrival, Charley was lying upon the ground on his side. In a desperate voice inquired, “What did the doctor say?” To which Sam replied, “He said you’re gonna die.”

With that, I leave you with one more very important thing to do if you see a timber rattler. Please do not harm it. Rather, report it on the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources Rattle Snake Report site. Your participation in this survey will help DNR in managing the timber rattlesnake in the Mountain State.

Happy Hiking,

Ken Springer

1. A special thanks to Dr. Jennifer Shreves and Dr. Michael Jarosick, both ER docs who generously shared information on current treatment modalities for venomous snake bites.

2. Photo of timber rattlesnake courtesy of Rosanna Springston. U.S. Forest Service.

3. Photo of Roy Moose frighteningly close to a rattlesnake, courtesy of me from a safe distance using a telephoto lens.

Pine Run Cabin Area Trails

Today’s trail-work was concentrated on the Pine Run Cabin Area Trails. Two of the classic cabins are open in the winter months.  Consequently, I have noticed that the robust folks who rent these cabins, at this time of year, are often hikers.

Pine Run Hiker Advantages


Subsequently, those staying in this area have access to a great number of trails without having to drive anywhere.  Pine Run, Honeymoon, and TM Cheek trails all have trail-heads in the Pine Run Cabin Area. These trails also junction with trails that lead towards the Beaver Creek area, TM Cheek Overlook and the trails around Watoga Lake.

An old blaze on an oak tree on the Allegheny Trail – one that opens up the tree to damaging insects and fungus. Today a single yellow blaze marks the length of the Allegheny Trail, which I am sure the trees appreciate.

So today we cleaned up the Allegheny Trail to Honeymoon Trail.  Meanwhile, after traipsing through the cabin area, continued clearing the Recreation and Laurel Trails. There are several trees down on these sections of trail.  They will be cut with a chainsaw in the near future.

I find winter hiking to be enjoyable and possessing a beauty of its own. The lack of canopy opens up views that are hidden in the warmer months.  As well, fewer people are on the trails so there is a greater sense of solitude.

Beauty of Solid Water

Plus, when water transitions from liquid to solid, the keen eye spots unique and ephemeral sculptures that may very well be seen by “your eyes only.” Something created just for you ! And you can’t beat that.

A light snow on the banks and dock of Watoga Lake. Soon the lake will freeze bringing joy to the ice fisherman who return every year like the swallows to Capistrano.

Take a winter hike my friends,

Ken Springer

Watoga Trail Report June 28, 2018 Update

Watoga Trail Report June 28, 2018 Update.  It felt wonderful to get back out Watoga’s trails.  This morning ended a month- long convalescence from rib fractures sustained on the Bear Pen Loop.  My dog Bongo felt it would be a good idea to go right back out on the same trail.  Sort of a “get back in the saddle” suggestion.  And, as usual, he was spot on.  We cleaned all but 2 trees that will require another visit with rope and pulleys.

First Chanterelle of the  Season!

Whilst working the Bear Pen Loop I found my first ChanterelleFirst chanterelle of the season of the season up on the North Boundary Trail, and as a bonus came upon this trio of Quilted RussulasQuilted Russula just a few yards on down the trail. Both of these species of mushrooms are about as flavorful a wild treat as one can find here in the Appalachians.

These delicacies are destined for a dish called a Spanish Tortilla, which has nothing to do with the flat corn Mexican tortilla associated with tacos. Instead, the Spanish tortilla is an egg, potato, cheese and mushroom dish cooked in a cast iron skillet. Don’t forget the wine Laura and Margot.

Yesterday in another part of the park Mark Mengele was transporting a work crew consisting of David Elliott, Ken Hiser and his friend Matt out the Ann Bailey Trail in Mark’s restored Dodge Power Wagon (sorry no pictures yet, hint, hint) to the Workman Cabin.

They spent the morning hours weed-eating the area around the cabin, and removing the large tree that had fallen across Rock Run in front of the cabin. David remarked that they “left a tidy mountain homestead for visiting hikers to enjoy”.

And that reminds me; we need to get down at the other end of Rock Run and clean up those nasty stinging nettles. Pity the poor hiker that heads up Jesse’s Cove with shorts on.

Finally, I ran into Mac Gray this morning on the entrance road involved in a worthy project: He is photographing all of Watoga’s cabins, inside and out. He is always thinking about something called “posterity”.

Well that’s the news from Lake Wobeg…., Whoops, I mean Watoga State Park.

Happy Hiking,

Ken Springer

May 2018 Watoga Trails Update

May 2018 Watoga Trails Update

Report From Brian Hirt, trail volunteer:

“I finally got some spare time and the weather cooperated. So I spent Friday and most of Saturday doing some trail maintenance and cleanup projects in and around Watoga.  Started out Friday morning clearing fallen trees from the landing strip at Beaver Creek.  Then moved onto the Allegheny Trail.  I removed fallen fallen trees on the mile and a half stretch of trail  parallel to Chicken House Run Road.

Yesterday I was at Laurel Run campground.  A couple of pine trees had fallen on campsite #9 sometime over the winter.  I removed them and moved the slash out of the away of the campsite.  After that went up I went up Kennison Run trail from the campground a mile with lopper’s cutting out saplings and undergrowth along the trail.  Some of the creek crossings were a little tough to manage from recent heavy rains.  A lot of debris had washed down and stream banks had eroded.  Trail’s that follow creeks I guess have an ever changing landscape. There wasn’t any fallen trees to deal with as far as I got before deciding to turning back as a thunderstorm approached in the distance.

The blazes on both the Allegheny and Kennison Run Trails are in fair condition.  Bboth could stand to be refreshed in a few locations.  Fortunately both are yellow so I’ll add this to my list of things to do.  I’ve never painted blazes of yellow circle’s on trees in the past.  It’s been always 2 x 6 rectangles.  Might take some practice. But maybe you can teach and old dog new tricks.”

Other News

Mark Mengele is continuing efforts to conduct a bird survey of the Rock Run watershed at Watoga State Park, also known as the Old Growth Area. The plan is to get experienced birders out there at various times of the year, and over the next couple of weeks they will be surveying breeding birds.

While the birds are breeding the plants and trees of Watoga are pursuing their single-minded agenda of reproduction. Fertility and distribution are a top priority for plant life at this time of the year. With that in mind today’s photographs take a close look at several prominent blooms with an unabashed look at their reproductive parts.

Mountain Laurel BloomThe ephemeral mountain laurel bloom so petite and beautiful looks like a hand painted porcelain miniature.

 

 

 

Black Raspberry BloomThe flower of the blackberry offers promises of a seasonal flavor to grace our morning cereal, or in dishes with names like cobbler, pie, strudel, tart and turnover

 

 

Tulip Tree BloomThe bloom of the tulip poplar is usually viewed high up in the tree, but this time brought down by wind and rain for a closer look.

 

 

 

Hiking allows us the opportunity to stop and take in the finer details of nature. There is not a better way to “be in the moment” than a hike in the woods.

Jack Horners’s Corner

For the last 21 years visitors to Watoga State Park have driven by Jack Horner’s Corner as they make their way through the village of Seebert, the gateway to the park and a major trailhead on the Greenbrier River Trail. Longtime visitors have observed the steady growth of the building and parking areas; the old building removed, decks added for dining with a view of the river and bike path. Horner’s Corner is strikingly colorful with stacks of kayaks, floatation devices and bicycles.

Stewart & Chissie Horner proprietors of Jack Horner's Corner Seebert, WVStewart and Chrissie are at the helm of this growth, anticipating the needs of the community and the thousands of visitors who stop by every season, which for Horner’s corner is sometime in April until November. This large, well designed building houses a pizza and sub parlor, a huge array of souvenirs touting Watoga State Park and the Greenbrier River Trail as well as basic groceries and drinks.

Kayak Rental and more…

You can stop in to rent a kayak for a river trip on the Greenbrier River and arrange a shuttle. The same service is offered for those wishing to ride a bike on the 80 mile Greenbrier River Trail.

Their ice cream cones have become legendary; I have never been in there in the summer months without a queue waiting for a cool treat. One chap who wanted to remain anonymous told me he cannot go past the place without getting an ice cream cone. OK you have twisted my arm; it is Mac Gray. Mac lives just a few doors down so that amounts to a heck of a lot of ice cream. Sorry Mac, I am terrible at keeping my sources confidential.

Arrowheads at Watoga

Arrowheads at Watoga

Background

Consider the trails currently existing in Watoga State Park.  Some of these are assumed from existing pioneer trails. And those early but historical trails may have been appropriated from trails trod by the ancients. We now call them Native Americans.  After all, the terrain forces us to take the path of least resistance. So it is reasonable to assume that there is a certain logic to the path one takes to get from one place to another.  Trails were important to ancient people for hunting, trade, socializing and annual migrations.

So I was not surprised when I found an arrowhead on Monongaseneka Trail recently.  Finding an arrowhead is a singularly profound experience. Consider the last human to touch it was an Indian who lived and hunted in these mountains hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago.  So, what can we infer about this person by the artifact that he left behind?

Details of the Found Arrowhead

We may be able to determine an approximation of the age of the point by the material it is made of and its design. This point is a stemmed point referring to the square elongation at its base. The color and quality of the flint suggest it may have come from flint found in the Lewisburg area. And finally the design indicates it may be Archaic, a group of Native Americans who lived in settlements in our area in the period from 9000 BC to 4500 BC.  An archaeologist or a collector may have more accurate information.  But it is probably not a tool that belonged to historic native groups, such as Shawnee.

Is it truly an arrowhead ? Was it attached to an arrow shaft and shot from a bow?  Probably not.  Only a small percentage of flint points were used on arrows. Furthermore, it was not until about 1400 years ago when the bow and arrow found its way to the western hemisphere.

Flint points were manufactured for a variety of uses including scrapers, knives, bow drills for making fires and drilling holes, and for spears. This point may have been a spear point, meaning it is attached to a wooden shaft and cast using a spear thrower called an atlatl.

This fine point is on display at the Watoga Nature Center.  It is a reminder of the people of many purposes, languages and customs who traversed these same mountain trails that we do to this very day.

It goes without saying that the removal of any historic or prehistoric artifact in any West Virginia State Park is unlawful and deprives the public of its cultural value.

Monongaseneka Trail

Have you ever ventured out on Monongaseneka Trail here at Watoga State Park?  I highly recommend it. The trailhead is located a mere 1/2 mile up the main park entrance road.  Just after crossing the newly restored bridge across Isle Lick you will see the parking area on the right, with the start of the trail across the road and on your left.

Monongaseneka Trail Overlook at Watoga State ParkThis 2 1/2 mile trail follows switchbacks up the mountain, drops down into Jeff’s Hollow before ascending again to the main ridge high above Seebert and the Greenbrier River. From here you can hike the Overlook Loop out to the overlook where you can sit a spell on the benches before resuming your hike out to the North Boundary Trail.

Monongaseneka Trail Options

The are several ways you can make this a longer day hike by shuttling a car to Bear Pen Trail or the parking area at the picnic shelter. My favorite way of hiking this trail is to leave a bicycle at the park headquarters, then drive down to the Mongaseneka trailhead and leave your car there. Hike up Monongaseneka to North Boundary Trail, Down Bear Pen Trail all the way to Watoga Lake. From here you can hike the Lake Trail either direction until arriving at the park headquarters.

Now this is where the fun begins: you have just completed a long and beautiful hike and now you get on your bicycle and coast down the main entrance road back to your car. The whole while Isle Lick is noisily alternating from one side of the road to the other; a series of cascades and pools. It doesn’t get any better than that.

I spent a couple days up on Monongaseneka trimming striped maple and removing smaller debris off the trail. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use the new benches at the Monongaseneka Overlook, courtesy of John Casto and crew.  A selfie is something I am not inclined to do, in large part because I do not want to mar the great scenery. So instead I borrowed Mr. Frog from one of my dogs and created a “frog’s eye view ” from the overlook.

Jeff Hollow

The largish double-trunk tree can be found in Jeff’s Hollow along with many others of similar size. There is a palpable sense of entering a special place here which can only be felt by being here; it is hard to translate the feeling with mere words. Some places just seem to be sacred; when there we are quite sure that there is a spiritual dimension to the deep wood. And for a while we carry that feeling with us until it beckons us back again.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” John Muir

Emerald Ash Borer Critically Endangers Ash Tree

Feeding Trails of Emerald Ash BorerAncient Petroglyphs found In Watoga State Park? No, these are the feeding trails of the Emerald Ash Borer.  In this case the Emerald Ash Borer is responsible for perpetrating a trick on the human brain, pareidolia. We humans instinctively seek patterns in nearly everything we see. For example, I see an abstract horned creature in one photograph and a coyote in the other.

Emerald Ash Borer LarvaeThe sad truth is that the ash tree is being decimated by the Emerald Ash Borer at a rate not seen in any one species of tree since the Chestnut Blight of the early 1900s. The white ash is considered “critically endangered” and the population decline is expected to be 80% over the next 100 years. As one forester wryly put it ” Without divine intervention we can kiss our ashes goodbye”.

Emerald Ash BorerWhen the Emerald Ash Borer enters the tree it lays eggs. The emerging larvae attack the phloem essentially girdling the tree. They attack trees as small as 2.5 cm in diameter, long before it is mature enough to produce viable seed.   This virtually ensures 100% mortality of the species.  Emerald Ash Borer Critically Endangers Ash Trees.

Invaluable Qualities of White Ash Wood

White ash is valued for its strength and straight grain. It is used for everything from furniture to tennis rackets and baseball bats. I have an old pair of snowshoes that hang on my wall.  They are made of ash. We will miss this tree just as we miss the chestnut, the elm and all the other species that have been the victims of parasitic attack.

In ways we are not now aware of we will sorely miss all of the wild things that go the way of the passenger pigeon. When the last ash tree is gone, we will be all the poorer for it.

With that in mind I leave you with a poem that speaks to the love, utility and admiration of the Ash tree.

The Firewood Poem

Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year,
Chestnut’s only good they say,
If for logs ’tis laid away.
Make a fire of Elder tree,
Death within your house will be;
But ash new or ash old,
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold

Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up bright and do not last,
it is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
E’en the very flames are cold
But ash green or ash brown
Is fit for a queen with golden crown

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke,
Apple wood will scent your room
Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom
Oaken logs, if dry and old
keep away the winter’s cold
But ash wet or ash dry
a king shall warm his slippers by.

By Lady Celia Congreve

Keep on hiking my friends,
Ken Springer