Bongo, Daisy and their manservant left their collective tracks in the snow this morning as they ascended the NW section of Honey Bee Trail. The recent winds have dropped many trees and branches on Watoga’s trails but we managed to clear all on this part of Honey Bee Trail save a 14 inch oak lying flush with the trail about 1 1/4 miles from the trailhead. Old Growth.
Now that the existence of old growth trees in Watoga State Park has been confirmed I find myself constantly looking for the large trees. The largest oak spotted today in the Arboretum was well under 30 inches in diameter and the average was probably in the 12 inch range. Grand trees for sure, but the ones in the old growth area have a century or two head start on these youngsters.
If I were to tell you that Bongo and Daisy dragged this downed tree off the trail, you may not believe me. Therefore I will take the credit for it and give them a treat as recompense.
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.
Attention was given to trails in the Arboretum on Tuesday and today the Mongaseneka Trail. Both trail systems are clear however Monongaseneka has just enough snow on it to make it slick with difficult footing in the steeper portions of the trail.
The continued single-digit temperatures this week require more preparation on the part of the hiker to stay warm, but ample rewards are to be found in the form of some beautiful and bizarre ice formations. There is no better trail to view these oddities than Dragon Draft which follows Two Mile Run. Be prepared for a total of 23 stream crossings, mostly on dry rock but with a few locations on ice. For your safety you should at least have hiking poles or a hiking stick to maintain your balance – ice creepers are very helpful as well.
You can access Dragon Draft by parking at the Arboretum on the main entrance road. Dragon Draft, unlike the other trails in the Arboretum, offers a very moderate grade for its entire length. This is a family-friendly trail just keep in mind the current conditions of occasional ice.