If the Bear Pen Trail is any indication of the current condition of the rest of the trails at Watoga State Park then the trail volunteers are in for a big clean-up task. Cleaning large branches and trees off the section of the trail from the trailhead to just the junction of Buck and Doe took nearly 2 hours. Praise be the person who invented the z-rig. Family Reunion Central.
Last week’s “Watoga- Where Is It ?” photograph of the memorial plaque at the T.M. Cheek overlook has a backstory. And I will share it with you.
Family Reunion Central
Char Weise has a long family history at Watoga State Park dating back to his great grandfather who lived in Renick, WV. Great Grandfather Weise started a grand tradition of annual family reunions at Watoga. These family gatherings continue to this very day as the family has grown through many generations. At one such reunion some years back they filled every cabin in the park.
Here is how Mr. Weise recounts how that familiar landmark came to rest at the T.M. Cheek overlook:
Char Weise’s Story
“Our family has been coming to Watoga every year for the Spencer family reunion since 1963. From the late 1960’s at least, our family usually spent the week in Cabin 21. The trail up to TM Cheek from Cabin 21, which was then called the Honeymoon trail, was my parents’ favorite walk. They’d often go up there early in the morning while my brothers and sisters and I were still asleep and look at the view from the overlook. It was still their favorite walk in their later years. My Mom died in 1995 and my Dad in 1997.
We asked for the plaque to be installed around 2005. The superintendent, Mark Wylie, told us that there was an interest in reintroducing American chestnuts, which had been wiped out in a blight many years ago, to the park. We thought planting some chestnuts at that spot would be a fitting tribute to our dad, who was a biologist with a great interest in conservation. Now every year when we come to Watoga, my siblings and I and our spouses and kids make sure to hike to TM Cheek in the morning, up the trail that our parents loved, to think about them and pay our respects.”
Thanks to Char Weise and John and Margy Goodwin for this bit of history about a park that just seems to bring forth such wonderful memories. Let us hope that many more generations will be able to experience the joy and beauty of being in West Virginia’s largest and best park.
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.
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.
I did not consult the mercury-in-glass thermometer on my back porch this morning so I did not know when I headed out on the Bear Pen Run Loop the exact temperature in Fahrenheit nor Celsius, suffice it to say it was “plenty cold enough”. The rhododendron leaves in full droop and thin as a pencil whispered ” Even colder than that” as I passed by – I will take their word for it.
Appropriately enough there were bear tracks on Bear Pen Trail this morning; a day or so old. It is likely on a morning this cold any bear with even a modicum of sensibility will be denned up somewhere. Coyotes and squirrels left their tracks here and there along the trail which is in quite good shape save for one 10 inch tree across the North Boundary Trail.
Update on trail blockage of the GRT at MM 44: (pictured below) The trees and boulders blocking the Greenbrier River Trail approximately 1 1/4 miles downstream from the Seebert bridge was reported to Arthur and Dale this morning and they are going to cut the trees so that cyclists can get through, but the rocks will have to wait until next week when they can get the backhoe down from Droop Mountain State Park.
Watoga-Leaks: There is an unconfirmed rumor of something being planned for the picnic area by the stables that will be of great interest to Watoga visitors, but my confidential informant had nothing further to say on that matter. I have it on good source though that Watoga Lake will be stocked with trout sometime in January 2018. If this weather continues they will have to cut a hole in the ice to get the wriggling fish in the lake. Among the trout there is expected to be some of West Virginia’s famous Golden Rainbow Trout, pictured below.
According to the Wildlife Resource Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources the development of the golden trout has a interesting backstory: ‘Introduced to the public in 1963 as part of West Virginia’s centennial celebration, the golden rainbow trout took several years to develop. In the fall of 1949 the Petersburg State Trout Hatchery received 10,000 rainbow trout fry from a hatchery in California as a gift. Less than 300 survived, but those fish were bred over the years to create a brood stock that went on to produce a single embryo that started the golden strain.’
‘In early 1955 sharp-eyed Petersburg Hatchery Manager Vincent Evans noticed a yellow-mottled fingerling swimming among thousands of other trout fry. Evans named the juvenile fish “Little Camouflage” and moved it to a separate rearing pond. Later that year Evans was transferred to the Spring Run Hatchery and Chester Mace took over the Petersburg Hatchery. Mace and his assistant David Cochran took a special interest in Little Camouflage. It took two breeding sessions but in 1957 it was noticed that some of the small fish were turning a pale-yellow. Within a few weeks nearly 300 became a golden color and through continued selective breeding the color, size and vigor of West Virginia’s Golden Rainbow Trout came into being. A testimony to the dedication and persistence of the employees of West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.’