Upon arriving at the Monongaseneka Overlook this morning Bongo and I saw fit to tarry a bit and “take in the view”. And what a view it is; changing with each visit depending upon the time of day, season and the weather. One thing that is always striking is the sense of an endless forest stretching out and up the slopes of Droop Mountain and beyond. Monongaseneka Trail & Chestnut Musings.
Thinking Back in Time
I often find myself considering what it may have looked like to the indigenous people and to the pioneers in Appalachia. If I could go back in time it would be my greatest desire to see our primeval forests. Not intending to take anything away from the beautiful forests of today, but those ancient trees of such immense proportions would dwarf today’s trees, even those we consider “old growth”.
Todays forests have many of the same species of trees that greeted the earliest visitors to Appalachia with one very big exception, the American Chestnut. It is estimated that this one species accounted for 20 to 30% of the forest growth. It was one of the most important trees to early settlers. The chestnuts were an important food source for humans and animals alike. The lumber was used for fence posts and to build cabins including flooring and furniture. Some of the Wormy Chestnut can still be seen today in the legacy cabins at Watoga State Park.
When I was a youngster an old man who remembered the American Chestnut fondly told me that the greatest thing about that tree was the shade provided by the huge thickly leaved canopy. He said that even in the dog days of August you could find relief under a chestnut tree.
The Chestnut Blight of 1904 began to kill off the trees and once having gathered steam decimated this wonderful tree throughout its range by 1940.
Protecting Old Growth Forests
Knowing these things makes our existing old growth even more precious. We should, we must, be vigilant in our protection of that which is rare and struggling to become what it once was. For, as yet unknown forces, be it disease or man, will always present a threat to that which we love simply because it is there.
Bongo and I cleared a number of obstacles off of Monongaseka Trail up to and including the overlook today. The trail is good to go. Monongaseneka Trail & Chestnut Musings.
A nice loop trail from the Pine Run Cabin area is starting on either Pine Run Trail (Cabin 28) or TM Cheek Trail (Cabin 21). The loop is sewn together with a short section of the Honeymoon Trail and TM Cheek Road. An added plus to this moderately strenuous hike is passing the TM Cheek overlook. Since it is approximately the halfway point, it is a good spot to sit on the bench and take in the great view for a bit. Today was hiking with canine companions.
My canine associates and I cleaned up this loop hike today. We left behind a few larger trees to be cut with a chainsaw in the near future. These obstacles were delimbed and are easily negotiated.
Canine Trail Companions
I want to introduce you to one of my two trail maintenance assistants, Mr. Bongo T. Bones. Bongo came to me by way of a dog rescue group in Missouri who, in turn, got him from a breeder. Bongo had the misfortune of being born with an under-bite. Breeders do not often tolerate any physical irregularities; sometimes destroying such dogs when they are puppies. I personally love his slight imperfection. I think it gives him a unique look matching his enthusiastic personality. He is always ready for fun or work.
Bongo is a West Highland White Terrier, a breed originating in the Scottish Highlands. So our West Virginia mountains are a perfect home for this breed. Westie’s as they are called are smart, friendly and seem to know that we are out in the woods to perform a task. When I stop on the trail to remove an obstacle they sit off to one side and patiently wait. Then I give the order to “go trail ” and we resume our hike. They absolutely could not be better companions. And they never, ever, complain. Hiking with canine companions.
Now meet Mr. Mossy Log……… No, I will save that for another day.
Litter is an unusual find on Watoga’s trails so the Red Bull can on the Allegheny Trail caught my eye and found its way into my pack. I have always found an unexplainable dichotomy when someone intentionally seeks beauty and then desecrates it. Watoga Trail Report for February 22, 2018.
The good old Z-rig was used again today to move a tree off of the Allegheny Trail a short ways up from Chicken House Road. Numerous limbs were removed from here onto Honeymoon Trail out to the junction with 10 Acre Trail. There are 4 trees down on Honeymoon that will be removed by chainsaw ASAP.
Tomorrow the Allegheny Trail will be checked for another incursion of cattle that heavily damaged the trail, which is part of the Mountain Trail Challenge Half Marathon route. This popular race is scheduled for August 11, 2018.
Morning mist on Watoga lake: water and ice, kin A moment in life shared: father and son, kin Their time frozen in a stranger’s camera
I almost forgot my ice creepers this morning and I would have soon regretted that. Those familiar with Honey Bee Trail in the Arboretum know that the initial mile of the SW section of the trail is fairly steep, narrow and rocky. And when you throw in a few inches of slippery snow your footing decreases exponentially. Cruising the Honey Bee and Dragon Draft Trails.
But I did not forget the ice creepers. We cleaned a number of large limbs off the trail, plus one larger tree that was relocated with a z-rig and an additional assist from gravity. By the way, when I say “we” I am including my canine trail companions, Daisy and Bongo.
Honey Bee and Dragons Draft Trails Visitor
We followed the fresh tracks of a lone coyote until we arrived at the junction of Honey Bee and Buckhorn Trail. We parted ways with the coyote here and headed down Buckhorn removing a great number of impediments on the trail until arriving at the shelter on Dragon Draft. Two Mile Run is high now due to melting snow so trying to keep my feet dry on the many stream crossings became an exercise in futility. As a result, after several stream crossings I gave up on rock hopping. I plowed through in the same method employed by the dogs. There is a point where you just can’t get any wetter.
Some chainsaw work is required on Dragon Draft between the trail head and the shelter. It can wait for another day though as they are all easy step-overs.
OK all you intrepid Watoga hikers; do you really know this park? Today’s mystery picture is located somewhere in the 10,000 plus acres of Watoga State Park. What is it ? Where is it? You gotta get them both right to score.
Hint: There is a slightly modified old saw that goes something to the effect of “Aim for the moon and you may hit the ___?____”. This was said a lot when I was a kid living in southeastern, Kentucky. It may be idiomatic to that area.
The NW section of Honey Bee Trail was littered with limbs from yesterday afternoon winds. There is one tree down on this section requiring a chainsaw, but is an easy step-over. Opinions about logging Watoga State Park.
Here are some of the comments from the folks who use and love Watoga State Park. It is clear they do not want to see this wonderful park logged.
Opinions About Logging Watoga State Park
“What a shame. Before long we will have no mountains. We are known for our mountains. It all comes down to the all mighty dollar!””
“Nothing is sacred any longer, it’s all about money. So sad”
” I hope our legislature rethinks this terrible proposal to log in Watoga. I have posted about my long connection and affection for Watoga and hope it continues to be protected and respected for time unlimited.”
” We had a wonderful week hiking the beautiful trails that are right out your front door when you stay in one of their cabins. We hiked over 50 miles this week by combining different trails to form loop trails and were in many areas of the park. The beauty of nature is quite evident when you are deep in the woods and have a feeling of peace and contentment like no other! To even consider logging in this beautiful park is so wrong!! Watoga State Park should be maintained as it was created for people to get back one with nature. Once that is destroyed it can never be recreated. Logging should never be permitted in Watoga or any state park!!!”
Why Watoga State Park should be spared from logging. Speaking as an individual who has a fair amount of familiarity and interest in Watoga State Park, I see the logging of the park as contrary to the intentions of its design and conception nearly 80 years ago. As a volunteer trail worker I have tread every foot of the 40 plus miles of trail here many times over. I am often deeply moved by the wisdom of those who saw the unique qualities of this park so many years ago and recognized the need to protect and preserve it for future generations.
One only has to walk out Ann Bailey Trail to once again marvel at the peace and tranquility that these old growth forests and meadows provide. The Arboretum, dedicated in 1938, was intentionally built as an “outdoor laboratory”. Those who venture out on her trails can learn about the many species of trees, plants and shrubs found within the park. At least one area of the park hosts one of the rarest orchids in North America, the Small Whorled Pogonia. It is so decimated it is considered an endangered and protected species.
An Appeal for the Beauty of Nature
I am not an anti-logging proponent by any means. As a former park ranger I recognize that logging is a necessary industry here in West Virginia. I know when done properly it can be a sustainable and environmentally friendly industry. But what I am appealing to now has far more to do with preserving a relatively small area of forest for reasons that have nothing to do with money. Rather, it has everything to do with respect for history and the wisdom to keep some areas of great beauty sacrosanct just because it is the right thing to do. I know that I am not alone in this sentiment. I hear this from the people who come to Watoga year after year.
Some families have been visiting the park for several generations. When asked why, they most eagerly tell you it has to do with the atmosphere of the park. Some call it a sense of wilderness. Just yesterday I talked with Carlene and Jon Cox of Parkersburg who stay in one of Watoga’s cabins several times a year. They pass several state parks on their drive down to Watoga. And when you ask them why they do not hesitate to explain that it is the quality and length of the trails here. Such sentiments speak loudly to what has been preserved in this one park.
Experience of Rock Run
I, like many folks I know, came here on a visit and ended up moving here. Why? In my case it was my first visit. I came here to camp and hike. My first morning here I put on my hiking boots an d started up Jesse’s Cove. I was awed by its beauty. Rock Run tumbling from one pool to the next; columbines and Christmas ferns hanging from moss covered cliffs and this wonderful path that ascended the stream flanked by steep hillsides clad with towering trees. I have heard other people compare such places to entering a vast cathedral. I felt it that day. And I still feel to this very day. So much so I made this area my home.
Yes, Watoga State Park offers these kinds of experiences because it is truly unique, one of a kind. Don’t we have an obligation to protect these kinds of places that do so much for the soul. To do so is truly an act of wisdom and demonstrates the very best of humanity. A masterpiece is always better left untouched.
One of the oldest trails in the park was tackled today and I am reverently speaking of Monongaseneka Trail. This trail was in great part built by the CCC; there are still remnants of benches found in the lower portions of Jeff’s Hollow. It is the first trail encountered as you make your way up the park entrance road; maybe you noticed a small parking area on the right along Isle Lick shortly after crossing the first bridge – the trailhead is just across the road from the lower end of the parking area.
This is a moderately difficult trail that rewards the hiker with views of the village of Seebert and the Greenbrier River as you ascend to an outstanding view on the Overlook Loop Trail. From here you have a long view of the Greenbrier River with Droop Mountain in the distance.
Make Monongaseneka Trail Part of a Long Loop
If you desire a longer hike you can continue on Monongaseneka Trail to the junction with North Boundary Trail. From here go right until you junction with Bear Pen Trail , go right again and descend down to the trailhead for Bear Pen Trail. If you have not shuttled a vehicle you will have to walk the entrance road back to your car – please don’t scoff at this as you will have beautiful Isle Lick alternating between the two sides of the road and talking to you until you get back to the Monongaseneka Trailhead. Pack a lunch for this long loop !
The trail up to and including the Overlook trail was fairly clean of obstacles, however there is a large tree down on the trail about a 1/4 mile into the hike from the trailhead.
Some of the intrepid Watoga visitors have submitted their own reasons why they feel that this particular state park is so special and why it should be regarded as such. The following comment is from John Goodwin of Athens, Ohio – his family has been coming here for over 50 years, on one occasion filling up all of the cabins for a family reunion. It is a heartfelt testimony to the love and concern people have for Watoga State Park.
Remembrances of 1st Watoga Trip
” I am reminded each time of the connection I have to Watoga and why it’s so special to me. I remember my first visit to the park many, many years ago and how pristine it was. It was my wife’s family reunion and we had our first cabin together. From the moment I first drove up the park road and seeing all the log cabins and then to be greeted at the top by a beautiful lake I fell in love with Watoga.
To this day I still love the drive knowing that at the end of that drive is a little piece of heaven. I always remember how quiet and still everything is there. A visitor can have everything from many recreational activities to being totally off the grid. I think one of my favorite things is hiking the many trails of Watoga. There are none better ! What has become more special to me about Watoga ? My children love the park as much as I do. To add to that……. my grandchildren love the park as well. If anyone mentions Watoga around our family, all heads turn and the question is asked… when are we going !
So why is this park so special ? What’s the connection? All the reasons above and many others too numerous to mention. Watoga will always be my second home. Our second home. ”
Well said ! Plan a visit to Watoga State Park to see for yourself.
First a big Thanks to Carlene and Jon Cox for reporting trail conditions on the trails that they are hiking at Watoga this week. Watoga trail report.
I returned to Bear Pen Trail today and removed smaller diameter trees on Bear Pen up to North Boundary and one on North Boundary. There is one tree on North Boundary that will require a ” lift of the kilt ” to get over. This and the one on Buck and Doe will be cut with a chainsaw ASAP.
I had plenty of time to consider why I feel so strongly about Watoga State Park on my recent drive back from Florida. Why am I so attached to this one geographic location on the entire globe? After all, I sold my log home on Summerville lake and moved right across the river from Watoga, and that after only one visit .
Musings of Former Natural Resources Officer
It is not like it was the first park I had ever seen. I was a DNR officer in Ohio for many years. I worked and lived in a great number of parks, including the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. There is something truly special about this park. Although some reasons are emotional and I do not have the words to adequately express these, the more objective things include its history, the phenomenal natural beauty here, the wonderful and dedicated people who work in the park, and the friendly and simpatico people who visit the park over and over.
I hope that over the next several trail reports you will be so kind as to indulge me in expressing these things. I will make my case for why this park is so special and why we need to make every effort to love and protect this park. If we do this, the generations that follow us can enjoy this same affection and serenity we find when we cross the Greenbrier River and enter Watoga State Park.
This will be the last trail report until early February. I take this time each year to visit friends and family scattered about. Before leaving I want to share one of my very favorite poems. It is a wonderful poem by Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. It has a particular significance to me. When I was a young man a good many decades ago I lived on an old farm in the hills of southeastern Ohio. I had an aged Quarter Horse named Lady who had lost her zest for speed and spunkiness some years earlier. She was nonetheless steady and dependable.
There was a deep woods between my barn and a small village called Lore City. It was 2 miles on an old abandoned road that wove through the woods. My custom on Sundays was to ride Lady to a small café. It was run by two sisters in their 70s. The café even had an old metal tie-up post out front. One of the sisters was a bit grumpy and if you tried to change your order, even before she left your table, you were likely to get a slap on the back of your hand. Her idiosyncrasies aside, she made the absolute best Swiss steak and mashed potatoes ever shoveled into a human mouth. And this does not even take into account the wondrous variety of homemade pies proudly displayed in one of those old pie safes situated on the counter. We’re talking fruit pies as well as the cream styles mind you. So a slight slap on the hand was a small price to pay for the sumptuous fare that awaited me.
Yes, my sweet memories are in part based on the food. In addition, also because I made this weekly pilgrimage on Lady every month of the year. And I still fondly recall many rides through those quiet winter woods in the snow as Lady made her sure-footed way back to the warmth of her stall.
Stay warm, hike often and every time the mood strikes you ! Ken Springer
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farmhouse near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake. The only other sound’s the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
We did a sweep of the Bear Pen Run loop. TheBear Pen Run Trail from the trailhead on the main entrance road up Bear Pen Run to North Boundary Trail to Buck and Doe, down the switchbacks to Bear Pen Run, then right returning to the trailhead. All was clear except for a 8 inch tree suspended about 20 inches above North Boundary Trail. More on frost bite.
The trail passed Watoga Lake, now safely frozen solid. I observed an ice-fisherman very gingerly removing his gloves just long enough to bait a hook and drop it into the augured hole. This on a morning where the predicted high is 2 degrees F. And gusts of wind that will bring anything above freezing down to the freezing point in a much accelerated rate. The fisherman was of course being prudent.
More on Frost Bite
Frostbite was discussed in the trail report a few weeks ago in some detail. But it cannot be expressed enough how insidious this condition is. It does not take long, particularly in weather like we have been experiencing of late, for the most vulnerable body parts to be frostbitten. As a response to low temperatures the body shunts blood away from extremities. This prevents a drop in core temperature in the area around the heart, lung, liver and kidneys. Unfortunately those areas farthest from the core such as the fingers, toes and earlobes are at great risk. Blood flow in the extremeties is greatly reduced. It is important to reduce or eliminate exposure of bare flesh to extremely cold temperatures, and to keep these areas covered.
To protect hands and fingers there is an advantage to wearing a mitten over a glove. Because a glove allows cold air to circulate between the fingers, the time to tissue damage is greatly reduced. The warming pads help tremendously (pictured) and are quite inexpensive. We used these this morning and the fingers were warm for the entire 2 1/2 hours on the trail. The package did not exaggerate the claim that they stay warm for many hours. They are sitting here beside me and are still toasty some 6 hours later.
It goes without saying that a warm hat that covers the ears should be worn in low temperatures. In addition to preventing frostbite it also helps prevent hypothermia because we lose a disproportionate amount of heat from the head and neck. Sometimes this is called “The Stovepipe Effect”.
You don’t have to quit hiking in cold weather; just hike wisely.