Appalachian Mountains

Floating, Fishing and Resting in the West Virginia Mountains.

No matter what time of year I love to be near the water in West Virginia.  I find spending even just a day at the river floating, fishing, swimming or just watching the current brings peace to my soul like nothing else.  So I tried to share that restful feeling with my family this summer  when we spent 4 days exploring several rivers and streams in the Mountains of Randolph County.

We started our trip with a couple of days on the Shivers Fork River teaching my son and granddaughter about tubing and the freedom of just swimming in the wide river.

Christopher and Paige float down the Shavers Fork river near Elkins

Paige and Christopher Powers float along the bank of the Shavers Fork River near Elkins, WV

The Shavers Fork is a favorite for tubers, paddlers and fisherman. The river is wide and often not very deep on a hot summer afternoon. My older son spent the same day fishing for rock bass and caught several as Kayaks floated by.  The afternoons were spent either in the water or on a sandy bank roasting marshmallows for Smores. The smell of  the camp fire would linger for hours in the damp air next to our rental cabin.

The following mornings were about fishing… and lots of it. My family loves to fish just about any where but most often in a trout stream. We traveled from Elkins to the Harman area to fish on the Laurel Fork and hike out of the Laurel Fork campground. It was a perfect day to be on the river, few people, warm weather and fish. The boys caught 3 in a matter of an hour that were all eating size and were taken home for a fish fry later.

the Powers Men fishing off of Laural Fork river near Rich mountain

Tom  Powers  Christopher Powers and Cody Powers all fishing together on the Laurel Fork .

This creek is small and very cold, but is stocked a few times a year with brook trout and brown trout. This time the Paige and Christopher caught only craw crabs and creek chubs but they laughed and played the morning away.

Paige and Christopher fishing in the Laural Fork near Rich Mountain

Paige Powers showing off her fishing skills

After the weather warmed the river I  was pretty hot so I took off to do some hiking on the trails that leave the Laurel Fork Camp Ground. It was a perfect afternoon for finding mushrooms growing along the trail. I shared with Paige names of the plants we found and we talked about the beaver dam next to the trail.

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From the Laurel Fork camp ground we traveled to Canaan Valley  in Davis, WV where we took a long lunch at a local family restaurant  Big Johns Family Fixin’s .We ate on the deck that looked over a fish pound. The kids fed the catfish as they boiled the water looking for small bites of fish chow that was bought for a quarter. The day ended with more time on the Shavers Fork and dinner on the deck of the cabin.

Cannan Valley National Refuge with Christopher and Paige

Our final morning we headed to the Glady Fork and the Allegheny trail head to fish before heading home. The sun was just cresting the hills around us and I just could not help but take photos of how beautiful the morning was and how much fun it was to just spend a few days with my family enjoying the water and time together.

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Paige Powers, Jamie Powers and Cody Powers near Glady Fork and Allegheny Trail parking area heading out to do some fishing.

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morning sun coming up over the Allegheny  Trail Head Bridge

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West Virginia Barn along Rt#33 in the morning sun.

wildflowers Monongahela National Forest Elkins WV

wild flowers after the rain Randolph County West Virginia

 

 

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Categories: Allegheny Trail Head, Appalachian Mountains, cabins, Camping, Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge, Elkins West Virginia, Glady Fork River, Randolph County, Shavers Fork River, trout, Tubing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

1st Land Battel of Civil War reenacted in Philippi, W.V. every June.

My family enjoyed a day full of history, music and food at this spring downtown event.The Blue and Gray Reunion brings history to life in the small town of Philippi, West Virgina every 3rd week in June. People crowd the streets to see re-enactors recreate the 1st land battle of the Civil War. Where men dress as Union solders march their way through the city’s trade mark covered bridge to face Confederate solders who fire muskets at the foot of the bridge. The 3 day celebration is packed with history, music, food and crafts.

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Philippi Covered Bridge build 1876 then burned in the 1980’s then rebuilt. 

Being the only state created during the civil war, West Virginia’s history is forever linked to that tumultuous time in American History. So when I  learned that the first land battle was fought only 25 minutes from my house and they had a festival about the event, that  made it impossible for me to miss.

Our day started on the beautiful Barbour County Court House lawn only two blocks from the Philippi Cover Bridge were most of the canon and musket fire would happen. We took Christopher out to the grass fields where the  solider encampments were set up. He got a first hand look at historically accurate solders accommodations. He asked many questions that the re-enactors answered with responses that were historical correct. The question and answer that surprised even Tom was, “what do you do when not fighting?” The man answered we play rag ball. Christopher and I had no idea what he was talking about and finally he explained that often times soldiers would roll rags into a hard ball and hit it like a baseball with a stick or spend evenings playing cards. We also visited a woman in her tent who had a portable, foot powered, sewing machine and watched as she created a panel for a quilt.She explained that she often made clothes for the solders or did repairs on their tents.

We wandered through the vendor tents on the court-house square seeing a black smith, candle maker and other crafts made by local artists.  Then in the distance we heard solders marching and calling out orders along the back street behind the Court House. They were getting ready for the battle at the bridge. Tom and Christopher chose to stay on the downtown side of the bridge where the  Confederate troops had their camp and were ready to defend the town of Philippi. I crossed the cat walk of the bridge to get some photos of the Union soldiers following them as they marched across the bridge to have a fire fight at the base of the bridge. Canon fire rang out in the valley surrounding the bridge and the smell of sulfur filled the air. I could hardly believe how loud everything was… Compared to a normal day along main street in Philippi.

 

 

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Cannons fired across the Tygert River in downtown Philippi.

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Union troop members march through the covered bridge to meet Confederate troops on the other side and begin the battle. 

As the battle moved to the field along the river I was able to talk to a woman who was wearing a beautiful dress along side the battle field. She had made her own dress and crafted her hat. She explained how each  person at the event had done research on the clothing and uniforms that they wore. She said that correct portrail of the roles was a key point to the people who did historical reenactments. They loved to learn everything that they could the lives of people that they portrayed.  She explained that it was a labor of love and some people would have hundreds of hours of research done before their 1st reenactment. The day before she had been dressed as a morning widow at a memorial service held for those who lost their lives in battle. Dressed in black from head to toe for the funeral services. She and a friend had walked down main street to the local Civil War area church were singing and poetry had been part of the “services”.

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Lovely hand-made dress at the Blue and Gray Reunion. 

The kids loved to see the solders reload their muskets and shoot round after round of black powder into the air. When the battle was over many of the men shook hands and walked away as friends to the local gas station for a cool drink. But only in West Virginia have I ever seen three men walk casually into a “Sheets” gas station with large rifles slung over one shoulder and no one seems to mind. GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

The whole town becomes part of the action during these three days. Walking down the street we stop under a tree in the shadow of a house that was used as a hospital  during the war. We see an army doctor performing the first Civil War amputation with a dummy. The “Dr.” explains how the procedure was preformed and how to care for the amputation wound after the limb was removed.  Christopher was amazed that they could do this kind of thing in a tent on the grass. The only thing I could think of was how lucky we are today to have hospitals and better medications than these young men had back then.

 

We then followed the crowd up the street for some live music and a hot lunch on the court-house steps. Then to our surprise the music stopped and a ring filled the air as someone tolled the iron bell in the county house belfries for those who were “killed”. An emotional reminder of the history of my state and the generations of people who lived and died as part of the Civil War.

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia built 1903

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia circa 1903

 

With our part of the events over we headed home while many more people enjoyed spending time with friends and family at a late afternoon and evening concert. The Blue and Gray reunion was as much fun as education can get for young and old. I only wish that I had planned more time to enjoy the activities that the event offers. The Blue and Grey Reunion organisation website or their  Facebook page  can help you make plans for next years event or help you learn more about the battle and the history of Philippi and the first land battle of the Civil War.

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Friends take time a hot afternoon to get a cool drink and visit while sharing their history knowledge.

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Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Blue and Gray Reunion, Civil War, Covered bridges, historic locations, history, Philippi, Uncategorized, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

History Lives at Adaland Mansion, Philippi,WV.

I was recently invited to have a lunch date with some friends and co-workers at   Adaland a Victorian mansion high on a hill in Barbour County, West Virginia. The historic register mansion is a pre-civil war home, built-in 1870, that has been restored and is now open to the public. The Adaland Mansion received its name when Federal Judge Ira E. Robinson bought the home in the 1920’s and renamed the property after his beloved wife Ada Sinsel. It is in her honor that the home has become one of the regions most loved locations for weddings and fine events.

front veiw of Adaland Manison

Front view of Adaland Mansion

Adaland Mansion Philippi WV backside

Rear entry area of Adaland Mansion

 

 

The 13 volunteer caretakers of the home and acreage offer seasonal home tours, high tea’s, theater performance and lunch buffet to tour guests and families who rent the home and pavilion for special events.  The home’s history is long and well documented. Even at one time-serving as a coal mine superintendent’s home and engineering office. Anker Energy company was the last owner of the property before donation to the City of Philippi in 1996. At that time, the house was ready to be razed, the barn had collapsed, the land was overgrown and the farm was generally forgotten.It took a dedicated group of volunteers to begin the restoration of the home and do the fund-raising necessary for the project.

volunteers at Adaland Mansion

Susie and Karen two of the many volunteers in dinning area of Adaland Mansion.

I was taken back by the quality of the restoration and the amazing luck that most of the historic detail of the home had remained.The black walnut trim and paneling in the house are original and were produced on the farm.The bricks from the house were also formed and fired at the farm property. The furnishings are mostly donated from the local community and the decor was researched and replaced to the correct time period and installation method.  The experience is time traveling back to a more elegant and formal way of life. The home originally housed servants (at least three at a time) and has servants quarters and an additional  kitchen in the basement. Adaland was also a way-station for travelers so the house plans included a bedroom just for them, with a separate entrance for people traveling the Staunton-Parkersburg turnpike near Philippi.  Here a rider could get out of the cold, get a hot meal and sleep in safety while in one of the mansion’s bedrooms. There is also a large and grand lawyers office next to the travelers room, both are on the main floor and I wondered how many times the Judges clients traveled from all over the state to see him and stayed in the little room next door to his office. The office holds many of the books and documents that Judge Robinson used while serving the people of West Virginia.

Servent stairs and travelers door way Adaland Mansion

second story porch with servants staircase and travelers room door on porch with on interior access to the family

Law office of Federal Judge Ira E Robinson

Judge Ira E. Robinson’s office Adaland Mansion

 

We eat a lovely meal that I wished I had photographed, but it was just plain rude to take photos at the table while we enjoyed the company of friends and co-workers. The meal included a garden salad,  BB-Q pulled pork, roasted chicken, home-made bread, corn, bake beans, mix vegetables, boiled potatoes and  desert of many kinds. I chose a serving of peach cobbler with whipped cream. It was wonderful, fresh and homemade in the kitchen of the house.

lunch at Adaland Manison

lunch served in dinning room of Adaland Mansion. All food is homemade in the kitchen in the rear of photo.

buffet in dinning room of Adaland Manison

flowers on buffet in front room of Adaland Mansion converted to seating for luncheon.

Our tour shared lots of information about the families who lived and died on the farm over the century. There is a small cemetery on the property,and barn that is open to visitors. The barn also hosts historical demonstrations of trades that took  place in the early 1900’s when events are held.Visitors are also encouraged to explore the 22 acres that the house still sits on today.

Barns of Adaland Mansion from house

barn and shed below Adaland Mansion

The outdoor pavilion is a new addition to the property and is the main location for weddings and family events during the summer months. Making Adaland a perfect location for large groups and a place where a bride and groom can stay away from the hectic pace of town and sleep in historic bedrooms before, during and after a wedding.

 

 

I hope to return to Adaland over the summer to see one of their Murder Mystery Dinners. Events sell out quickly and reservations are needed to have a meal at an event. Their website includes an event calender for the full year so visitors have pleanty of time to stop in. It was wonderful to stop my hecktec day and slow down to relax and enjoy this very unique home. I hope you enjoy a visit too.

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Building rehabilitation, Cemetaries, historic locations, history, Home, museums, Nonprofit, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Welcoming the TV Show “State Plate” to Our West Virginia Home.

It is so confusing for me that we have not only been invited to appear on one TV program but now two. The second invitation came from a representative from the Television show titled “State Plate” a food show that represents all 50 states here in the US. The show visits a community and talks about regional foods that people love from that state. It would not really qualify as a cooking show, they don’t really show how to make food step by step, they just talk about the dishes famous in that area.The show shares information on the history of that food item and how it is prepared. In my families case, Tom has been asked to talk about one of West Virginia’s most famous foraged foods, Ramps, a wild leak or wild onion that grows wild in the hollows of West Virginia. I on the other hand will be talking about Golden Delicious apples, making an apple dumpling with ice cream. Their will be three other items covered on the show, the pepperoni roll, trout and biscuits and gravy. Other members of our community will be asked to show how they make these traditional dishes in a West Virginia style. So our portion of the show is only about two items out of 5 segments, each being about 6 mintues long.

Field of wild growing Ramps
Field of wild growing ramps

Tom will be the star of the “Ramp” segment and he has 50+ years of experience digging ramps, cleaning and eating ramps. He will visit a family friends farm and dig ramps with the host of the show and then if all goes well the show will visit a ramp dinner here in Buckhannon and see the many ways ramps are prepared and eaten.

fresh cleaned ramps

freshly cleaned ramps ready to cook

Here is a link to some info about the show and their Facebook page if you want to learn more or are just interested in see what states they have visited or will visit in the future.

http://www.insp.com/shows/state-plate/

State Plate Facebook page

Then later the crew will visit our house to film a portion of the show about apple dumplings using Golden Delicious apples. At least this is one thing I know how to make and have made in the past. I am just hoping to not totally freak out about cooking in my house with cameras rolling. Cooking for anyone other than family and friends is a completely new experience, wish me luck on this part of the adventure. I will plan to make a couple of batches and freeze them just in case everything goes terribly wrong. Let’s hope nerves don’t take over and I can’t actually cook on camera. My heart is already doing flip-flops just thinking about the whole thing and the work involved in getting my house ready and getting just the right recipe together.

The filming will take place over Easter weekend and we are going to have a house full off and on all weekend.I am not even planning to make our traditional family dinner this year, we are likely going to get to-go boxes from the local ramp dinner and eat right out of the foam containers this year! I hope you all will fallow along as I work on getting ready for this next adventure into TV.

In a future post I will share my attempt at making apple dumplings for the show and you can see the mess and stress I go through trying to make something worth seeing on TV. I can only hope that we have as much fun making State Plate as we did making the episode of Barn Wood Builders. Who knew, a Hillbilly boy and his family would ever have these kinds of adventures in their own back yards!

Tom and Chris digging ramps

Spring ramp digging Christopher holding his first ramp age 3

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Apples, country cooking, Country life, Easter, family fun, Foraging, ramps, Ramps, State Plate TV show, TV, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge: Hiking The Wetlands of The Refuge.

This past fall Tom and I were encouraged by some work friends to explore one of the hidden gems of West Virginia. The Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge in Davis, West Virginia. An unusual place, high in the Allegheny Mountains, a wetland on top of  the mountain, where you feel as if you have entered a cranberry bog in Main. Tom at the edge of run off pond Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge 17 .jpg

We were not prepared for the difference in environment that the refuge supplies. We planned our hike for a day that was predicted to be the peak fall color in the hardwoods.   We thought we would be hiking in the shade of those trees. We did not bring water or plan for lots of mud. Instead, in the wetland we spent time with thorn trees that provide no shade.We found our trails blocked by wet weather springs and beaver dams. We hiked past rock outcrops and over wild blue berry bushes. We found sandy beaches and twisted evergreens, but not the leaf covered floors of my back yard woods. We spent our day a little bewildered, visiting parts of the valley that felt as if I was no longer in West Virginia at all. It was a splendid surprise and I am so glad we were able to spend our day here.

Toms family for years had a time-share condo in Canaan Valley Ski Resort area. They used it in the off-season during the summer to rest, swim, play tennis, sight-seeing and shop. They never spent time hiking or learning about the unspoiled portion of the valley. Tom was so surprised by what he saw that he now has plans to explore the rest of the refuges 16,550 acres.

Tracking an enormous black
bear one morning in the mid1700s,
George Casey Harness
came to a spot, “on the western
slope of the Alleghenies which
overlooked a wide, well-watered,
wooded and grassy valley. The
breathtaking beauty of the wild
valley so impressed young
Harness that he involuntarily
cried out, ‘Behold! The Land
of Canaan!’” *This story is but
one of the ways that the valley
may have gotten its name.

Within the refuge there are about a dozen trails, all well-marked and made on relatively flat ground (easy to moderate ratings). We spent most of our time either hiking the bowl edge of the valley, while getting wonderful views of the ring of mountains that surround us, or in the bottom land walking through water. The Camp 70 Trail is the best view of the wetlands and is the location of the beaver dams. It is only 3 miles from downtown Davis, West Virginia. It was a photographers dream…. so many colors,textures and reflections to see and capture on the 2.4 mile hike into the park.

When we arrived we drove through the typical West Virginia hardwood forest into a new world that we had never experienced before.

Hwy 7 between Canaan Valley Resort and Davis West Virginia.

Hwy 7 between Canaan Valley Ski Resort and Davis, West Virginia

The park spreads across the highway and covers areas that are very flat to areas that are mountainous with rocky ledges with heath bogs. The  Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge boarders the Dolly Sods Wilderness area with another 17,700 acres of wilderness and the Monongahela National Forest with 919,000 acers.All three are worth the trip even if you can only stay long enough to walk a mile to see the splendor of the area.

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Trail to large beaver pond. In the back ground is Dolly Sods wilderness and the Monongahela National Forest.

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Rock choppings appear along the trails everywhere In the Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge.

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twisted horn tree in the wet land of Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Over the course of a day we did two trails with about 6.5 miles total. We then left the refuge and headed towards Dolly Sods to see the heath bogs and a more rocky terrain. Some where between the two we ended up on a forest service road deep in the Monongahela National Forest and never arrived at Dolly Sods. We followed the forest service road for about 15 miles and ended up seeing some wonderful mountain views that lead us to Seneca Rocks State Park.   We drove through some of the most beautiful places in West Virgina, and never planned it.  The trip home took longer then expected but the day in the wilderness was well worth getting lost and finding our way back home again.

If you plan to visit the Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge keep in mind that many acres of the refuge are not on trail maps and the surrounding acreage are mostly National Forest or State Parks with huge land holdings you will not be able to tell when you have left one place and entered another if you are not on a marked trail. Combined these three land holdings have over 930,700.00 acres of wilderness. Each park, refuge and forest have different rules about their trails and land uses. Also keep in mind that camping is not allowed on the refuge but is in some areas of the State Park and National Forest. Get Maps… if you plan to do any cross over hiking, or off trail exploring. It is rare to hear of someone getting lost in the wetlands or forests but it can happen. Be prepared for Bear! This is bear country, while we hiked that morning (during early bear season) we met a large group of bear hunters who had gotten a bear only 3 miles from where we hiked. The group traveled with a large pack of hunting dogs, 5 or 6 of the sweetest dogs you ever wanted to meet. But, if you are not a hound lover it can be overwhelming to see 3 or 4 running at you down a trail. The men were friendly and we talked with them for several minutes about the success of their hunt and that it was the senior member of the group who at 76years old had taken the bear after hiking 8 miles to find it and another 6 to get back to a truck parked near by. All of this hunting had finished before 11am that morning. This is West Virginia and hunting is legally allowed in all of these locations with limits to non-populated areas. Become part of the “Leave No Trace” program and take back what you bring into our parks, forest and refuges leaving no trace.Making sure that everyone can enjoy all that is Wild, and Wonderful about West Virginia.

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Beaver pond with reflections, Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge, Cannan Valley Ski Resort, family fun, hiking, Monongahela National Forest, Randolph County, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Warm Feet for Winter Project was a Meaningful Success.

 

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pile of my families mismatched socks

Today was a beautiful West Virginia early winter day. The temperature was 50 degrees, the sun was shining, and my car was loaded with donations to the local homeless shelter. 60 pairs of new socks overflowed into the seat of my little station wagon. I was able to collect them from my co-volunteers at our annual holiday dinner.With each donation my friends said “This was so much better than buying a gift for each other.” That they were happy to help in this collection drive, and things like “I picked theses socks for a woman who needs them much more than I do.” Today I  was happy to drop off the donation and I am filled with  the spirit of what Christmas means to me.

As you can see below I created a graphic to share with my friends and co-volunteers from the Appalachin Forest Hertiage Area, AmeriCorps program. I wanted everyone I work with to have the opportunity to do something different with their money for the holiday days.

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I took my lunch hour  the fallowing day to drive downtown to drop off the socks. As I drove the large shopping bag and box to the local homeless shelter, I had no idea what to expect. I thought I would walk into a house with an office with basic amenities where I would drop off the socks. Then an administration person would hand them out and make sure everyone in the shelter would get their fair share.

What happened instead at the homeless shelter was enlightening. I parked at the front of the building only to find a note on the front door to go around the house to the back,  go up to an office on the second floor. Before I could get my foot on the wooden steps to the second floor, a door opened, a woman leaned our of a doorway and asked if she could help me. She must have seen me coming around the house. I told her about dropping off the donation and she said she would send a couple of people out the front door to help carry everything in. So I headed back to the street and popped the hatch of my car.

What appeared out of the front door of the blue Victorian house was sad for me. Two men, one my husband’s age (in his mid fifties) and the other maybe 35. The older was weathered from years of smoking. He wore a faded coat issued by the US Army and had only a T-shirt under his coat. The other younger man was taller, thinner and darker. He asked if he could help me with the box and I passed it to him out of the hatchback. I smiled and said “thank you” to the tall, thin man. He responded with a smile of  broken teeth of a meth addict. The older man took the large bag and spoke very quietly to me. He hoped that my friends and I  knew how much these sock would mean to them and the others who would not get off the street this winter. He reached into the bag and pulled out a pair of heavy thermal socks. He rubbed his wrinkled, dry hand over the bundle of two socks and said” hummmmm these will be so warm.” The younger man turned and walked up the steps to opened the door to the house.  I watched the older man in his green army coat step away from my car and up to the porch. Holding the heavy bag in one hand, he raised it as if in victory, with the other hand he waved saying “Thank you so much, have a Merry Christmas.” I returned his wave and would spend the rest of my afternoon thinking about him and the 11 other residents of this shelter.

I have known and loved some poor people in my life. I have seen men bundle two and three socks together to make a decent pair of socks to cover the wholes in each pair. I have seen the ravages of alcohol, meth and heroin addiction in my own family. It is never easy to look into the eyes  of a person who is struggling, when you are not. But when we take time to see them, talk to them and be kind to them we raise them up. It also raises us up, together we can share in something meaningful even if it is just warm feet for winter.

I challenge you or your work place to do something kind for someone who needs it more than you do over the holidays. It was an uplifting experience for me and my friends. It could be life changing for a person who is on the street and could get not get shelter over the winter. Even a pair of socks can made a difference and I was happy to be part of the Warm Feet For Winter Project.

 

 

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, Christmas, community service, Helping the homless | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Deer Meat, Pretty Girls and The Ghost Women.

It seems to me that family traditions are become fewer and fewer with each year. We talk less, spend time together less and often it is too late when we realize we needed information that has already slipped away. So to prevent that from happening today my husband and I spent the day teaching two of my younger girl friends the art of skinning, quartering and cutting up a deer to make into venison burger.

So when Danielle and Samantha asked me about our life style here in West Virginia, hunting and deer processing came up. They both asked if they could learn more about butchering and how we prepare the meat that we hunt. It was a wonderful day of being outside spending time with  two pretty girls and my husband.

 

So the morning started with the 4 of us in the garage with a nice buck hung and ready to skin. The process is easier when the deer is still warm but with this deer we wanted to the girls to help learn the process from the beginning. Tom took time to explain the steps needed to cut through the skin and the processes of pulling the hide down over the body to the head of the deer. Each girl taking turns pulling and tugging. Then he showed each girl how the quart the deer and cutting off anything we don’t butcher. Slowly, we moved the quartered pieces into the house to be cut up and ground into burger.

Each took a cutting board and knife and begin to talk about the different cuts of meat that people use. We made roasts and talked about stake and stew meat. We talked about our favorite ways to make jerky and what people do to cut the “gameness” of venison.  We eventually had a tub full of venison chunks that would be ready to grind in a few minutes.

 

As we talked, laughed and told stories I had the distinct feeling of the past coming to life. As if generations of women were watching us and reflecting on our work. A tribe of woman from Danielle’s Alaska, a group of farm woman from Samantha’s Ohio and a group of homesteading woman from my West Virginia, all crowd around us in spirit. They whispered their comments, talking about how they once smoked, canned, dried and froze the meats that men and boys brought home. How they took pride in their work and how hunting and butchering were shared activities in families. How no one was left out, everyone was expected to help in providing for the long winter months.

As we break for lunch, I make a pot of venison barley soup and thin slices of tenderloin fried until brown for steak sandwiches. We eat together and talked about our homes, fulling our bodies with the goodness that our hard work  produced. The ghost women of the past seem satisfied with our skills for today. They know that their grandchildren have learned some of the skills that kept generations of our ancestors alive. Lessons that the ghost women are happy that we are sharing.

Tom takes time to help with the grinding as I stuff it into bags. We feel the ghost women retreat, they shower their blessings on my family and home as they fade away. I take the bags to the freezer and close the lid. I stop in the gray light of the basement and say a prayer of thanksgiving to all of those who have helped me on my way to becoming one of the keepers of this knowledge and a woman of the woods.

6 point white tail buck

It is not often in the modern world we are asked to share our traditions with others. So, I was so happy to have these two pretty girls come and spend a day with me learning a skill that I have repeated a hundred times over the years. It was wonderful sharing my life with people who want to learn about it and want to be in some way a woman of the woods also.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, cooking, deer, deer hunting, family traditions, Hunting, organic food, rural life, Venison | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Art and History Spark Interest in Downtown Elkins W.Va.

Quilts have always kept us warm, reminded us of our past, and brought families and friends together. These same ideals are used to create the Elkins Main Street’s Heritage Quilt Trail. A community supported effort to bring art, history and warmth to downtown Elkins. With guidance from Elkins Main Street and their Promotion Committee, small groups of community volunteers, such as Emma Scott Garden Club, Davis & Elkins College ladies lacrosse team, Youth Build North Central and Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps members, are creating more quilt blocks for instillation on several downtown Elkins buildings this fall.

YMCA Wall with Maple Leave“Maple Leaf” quilt block mounted at the YMCA building in downtown Elkins

The Heritage Quilt Trail began in 2015 with members of the Main Street Promotion Committee discussing how the brightly colored panels could spark a grass roots beautification effort. With information gathered from the Pocahontas County and Monroe County W.Va. quilt trails the committee set out to make their own quit trail. Quilt panels like the one above are created with grant funds and project proceeds received by the Elkins Main Street office.  The funds are used to purchase the construction materials and paint needed to make the 4, 8’ X 8’ft panels. Money gained from the sale of the quilt block panels in turn pays for the creation of more panels in smaller sizes. The current plan includes making 12 panels of three different sizes.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAMembers of Emma Scott Garden Club paint “Bear Paw” quilt block panel

The images used to create the quilt block panels are copied from traditional Appalachian quilts. They represent things that a family from the mountains would see or use every day. The patterns are often designed after nature. Leaves, animals and trees are the most often found subjects in West Virginia quilts, but other patterns like baskets, houses, and stars are also popular. Often families would use remnant materials from old clothing and sewing projects to make the quilts. Mixing materials and colors made each quilt unique and cherished by the owner.

A single quilt block panel will often take over a month to make, from design ideas, to painting, to an installed product. The Heritage Quilt Trail panels have approximately  15 different volunteers’ handy work as part of their finished product and installation. This part of the process is also reminiscent of the traditional creation of fabric quilts. In days past, friends and family would gather for quilting bees, but  today  Elkins Main Street  hosts painting parties, where people from the community come together to get to know one another and take part in community  art.

AmeriCrops working on Hertiage Quilt Block Panels   AmeriCorps Members Molly Greenhouse, Dominic Piacentini , JoLynn Powers (project coordinator) and Katie Marie Simmons add tape pattern to the 8 x 8 ft. panel.

 instillation of Quilt block at YMCA 2017
Volunteers help install the “Log Cabin” Heritage Quilt Block at the YMCA in Elkins

It takes a diverse group of volunteers to make the Heritage Quilt trail possible, and it brings a community together to enjoy them. With the future creation and installation of all 12 panels, the Main Street Promotion Committee hopes to publish a Heritage Quilt Trail Map.  The map/ brochure will give the location of the quilt block panels, a description of the images used and information about the history of quilting in Appalachia. Elkins Main Street hopes to give visitors another interesting reason to linger in the downtown and take time to enjoy the beauty of Elkins.

closeup of West Virginia Star.jpg“West Virginia Star” installed at the Davis Trust Company Bank, Elkins W.Va.

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, Art, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, public art, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A year after the 1,000 year flood in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia

Having the opportunity to travel to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia a year after the 1,000 year flood,the 3rd most deadly flood in the state’s history was eye-opening. The resolve of the people who call this area home, the love and compassion they have and the amount of work that has been done since that day in June 2016 is amazing.

These are the images the country had seen for days in the wake of the flooding in Southern West Virginia. This YouTube Video shows the complete devastation one family experienced as their home not only was flooded but floated away while on fire. The small stream the usually quietly trickles water through downtown that day became a rushing raging deadly river.

 

These are photos taken that same day in different location in the downtown.

 

The flood almost wiped the town from our memory that day. The famous Greenbrier Hotel  resort became the main shelter for many of the effected residence. Rooms that often cost $ 600.00 dollars a night  or more became home for over 200 people for about two months while crews worked to do clean up. Many of my work friends became FEMA volunteers and coordinators helping to dig out privet homes where the nation guard was unable work.

These are the photos I took less than 14 months later.

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a pole sign the greets everyone on main street near the memorial park.

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The white gazebos that sits at the entry to the memorial park from the street.

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memorial informational sign

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Stone memorial wall left side with names of those who were lost to the flood waters. Eight names and markers 4 on each side were recessed into a grass covered mound in the small downtown park.

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Christopher and Tom walk over the bridge at Howard’s Creek. This bridge was under 5′  of water during the flood. Christopher would have been completely underwater.

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Howard’s Creek the stream that  flooded the town of White Sulphur Springs June of 2016.

 

As my family walked the quite downtown. It was true that many of the shops are still closed.That many of the stores did not have insurance and were wiped out, but today you see these wonderful signs of hope, strength and courage. This place is ready for a renewal, ready to come back to life again. Every thing is clean, every place has taken on what they can to make their town look beautiful. The streets are lined with flowers, benches and trash cans have fresh paint and patio umbrellas dot the sidewalks to eat under.  We felt welcome and wanted in their downtown.

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Alfredo’s Italian & Greek Family Restaurant on main street White Sulphur Springs.

You can not tell the story of White Sulphur Springs without showing  the Greenbrier Hotel. Many come to the area just to visit the historic building circa 1778. It is one of West Virginia true treasures and I was over joyed to be able to spend some time visiting at the hotel.

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Flower beds in the entry parking area of the Greenbrier Hotel Resort 2017

The main flooding to the property was on the hotels golf course so the main build and the rooms of the hotel were free from damage. The 1778 hotel sits high enough on hill at the edge of town to escape the flooding. Making the owner Governor Jim Justice a hero to many who lost everything and were able to have a safe place to stay for a month or two while clean up and recover efforts were underway.

Some outsiders say “if it was not for the Greenbrier the town would have never recovered fully , they are a rich town”… I can’t disagree more. The people of White Sulphur Springs are why the town is slowly rebounding. It is apparent that they want their town back and are willing to work very hard to have the town to thrive again. It takes more than one hotel to get the schools back up and running, it takes more then just tossing money at a mud puddle to clean up block after block of flooded stores, it takes more then a Governor to declare his business a shelter to build a park and make memorials to those who died that day.

White Sulphur Springs is also home to my friends at The Barnwood Builders T.V. show. So just in case you were wondering… Yes, they have their showroom on main street it is called  Barnwood Living. Yes, they are doing all they can to help the town with their business and the donation of a log structure that will be used at a pick nick pavilion for the whole community to enjoy. They also helped do some construction at Hope Village, a community owned and planned subdivision that was built to move families out of the flood plain of the White Sulphur Springs up on a hill where they will always be safe.  They are proud of their home and are working for its successful future. I remain a fan of the show and loved shopping in their store.

White Sulphur Springs is an example of West Virginians commitment to community, family and hard work.The old saying, “she could make a silk purse from a sows ear” might be fitting. Some how the people have taken the worst of a situation and made something better for everyone. My only hope is to return to see what they do to improve in the next year!

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barnwood Builders, community service, Country life, Flooding, Greenbier Hotel, historic locations, Uncategorized, White Sulphur Springs | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

All for the Sake of Dogs: My visit to the Old Hemlock Foundation.

Summer has gotten ahead of me this year. We have been traveling a lot for work and pleasure. So I have a back log of stories about the people, places, and events which, I have been enjoying. Needless to say, I love the people of my state. I have met some really wonderful people this summer like LeJay and Hellen Ann Graiffious, director and caretakers at  Old Hemlock Foundation.

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Lejay Hellen Willow and Laurel

LeJay Graffious with Mountain Laurel and Helen Ann Graffious with Black Willow. Used with permission of OHF.

On the other hand, I am about to say good-bye to some absolutely wonderful AmeriCorps volunteers. It is August and it is the end of their year term, so things are very hectic as some leave and some join the program. So, I wanted share one of the many stories that could be written about another AmeriCorps Site, Old Hemlock Foundation in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia, where I did some hiking this summer.

Tucked away in some of the most beautiful old growth forest property in North Central West Virginia is the Old Hemlock Foundation, the home of George Bird Evans and his wife, Kay. Known internationally as an author, an artist, a husband and dog breeder of profound influence, George called a rural 230 acres in Preston County home. His life could be defined as a Renaissance Man of the last century, a man who lived life on his own terms. Yet, this post today is more about the writings of George and his wife,  Kay, the property the foundation cares for and the DOGS. Oh my, the beautiful dogs!

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 Mountain. Laurel,(back)  Black Willow (front) English Setters  of the Old Hemlock line.Photo used with permission OHF.

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Mt. Laurel in the lap of Tom and Christopher Powers in the home of George Bird Evans.

The relationship we have with dogs can be profound. At the Old Hemlock Foundation a guest enjoys hearing the story of how and why George began the Old Hemlock line of  English Setters, about his love of upland game bird hunting, and the land that he called home. You experience their lives in a personal and inmate way surrounded by their belongings and dogs. The entire visit felt as if George and his wife, Kay, had just stepped out for a trip to town and left my family with the two dogs and neighbors for company. The opportunity to explore their home, enjoy their writings, see their artwork and spend time with their dogs immerses you in the experience unlike most museums or art gallery exhibits.  You begin to feel their presence as you walk the pathways to the house and walk into the woods they saved from timbering.

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Living room bookcase with the writings of George Bird Evans.

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Mt. Laurel sleeping on bed

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Fireplace surround and Mantel in Master Bedroom of George and Kay Evans.

The home of George Bird and Kay Harris Evans, built-in 1815 was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 and is still the location of many of family’s personal belongings. Seeing where this talented man spent his hours reading, writing and drawing was enlightening. To be able to write  professionally at the small desk by a north window of their home was impressive. George was dedicated to sharing his stories and helping people understand his life in the field hunting for grouse and working his dogs. It is apparent to me now that the house and desk were merely vessels that George used to get his message out into the universe. His life, home and books will be a source of inspiration for years to come, as I continue to aspire to be a writer.

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Illustrations created by George Bird Evans for Cosmopolitan Magazine.

 

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George Bird Evans photo on top of the desk in the photo.

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Front View of the home of George and Kay Evanses with side porch showed in the sun circa 1780

When you see the photos of the family with their beloved dogs displayed proudly on the walls you begin to understand the family’s connection with the English Setters. With no children of their own the dogs were a constant source of love, affection, laughter, and respect. George writes about his dogs, not in an anthropomorphic way, but in a transcendental mystic way, making his relationship with the animals a spiritual connection. A relationship built on shared respect and the joy.

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Mountain Laurel planted by Kay, blooms at the front wall of the Evanses’s Home

The joy that he experienced with his dogs is shared with guests still today. LeJay and Helen Ann Graffious live with two Old Hemlock Setters on the property. So in the tradition of George and Kay there is never an un-dog related pleasant moment. Willow and Laurel, registered Old Hemlock English Setters, make each and every person feel at home and welcome on the property. The speckled coated dogs( known as belton coats) attend every hike, every meal and class that is given on the property.  They are magical animals … and  I see why George spent a life time writing about the deep love he had for the Old Hemlock breed line.

George began journaling his hunting outings in 1932.With these as his foundation, in the 1950’s he wrote magazine articles about his dogs and hunting adventures. in 1971 he published his first of 21 upland game hunting books. His well known hunting books and a hundred articles are still regarded as some of the best outdoor publications.  He shared his deep respect for the game he hunted, the dogs he raised and the connection he shared with nature. His romantic style of writing that painted vivid images for readers and is unique in the genre. It is easy to understand why his expert writings are still studied, and revered some 19 years after his death. He still has much to share with anyone who wants to learn about upland game hunting, nature and training dogs….. or is it “how dogs train us”?

George with dogs

George Bird Evans with  Robert  Brown current owner of the Old Hemlock Line with the dogs at his home in Bruceton Mills. Used with permisson of OHF.

While at the property we spent a large portion of our time walking the trails that surround the welcome center and log home. With dogs and kids running and playing in front of us we explored some of the old growth Hemlock trees of which the property is named. I regret deeply that I cannot convey to you the awe that I experienced when we entered the deep dark Hemlock forest. It was something like a fantasy  movie set or a church… Yet, none of these words comes close to relating how  startling it is to leave the lush green sunny forest of the hardwood canopy and enter a tall stand of climax Hemlock trees. Everything changes in an instant. The light dims as it tries to shine through the conifer bows. The colors change, there is no bright greens or yellows, just deep rich greens and grays. The height is different, there are no branches that droop and hang low. The Hemlocks stand 80 feet high with broken stumps of branches reaching out to you.  Even the ground is  transformed, with only gray rocks, deep brown dirt and the lush green of moss and ferns under foot.

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Welcome and Education Center for The Old Hemlock Foundation 2017

 

As our group forged ahead of me into the darkness of the thick Hemlocks, I entered the stand alone and last. With Helen Ann with in hearing distance of me, I actually let out an audible exhale, one loud enough to be heard several feet away. I then continued with an “Oh My” and heard from ahead on the trail Helen’s reply, “This is why they refer to Hemlock forests as Cathedrals”… (Also look up Cathedral State Park in West Virginia for other stands of old growth Hemlocks).It is so impressive, that I now crave to see these kinds of woods again and again. I am so thankful that George and Kay found this property and chose to save the Hemlocks from the sawyer. It is another magical part of the Old Hemlock Foundation that should not be missed.

 

 

 

 

After our two-day stay, we packed up to leave the  foundation’s property,  I  knew I had found a place where kindred spirits had lived. We share a love for nature, dogs, writing, art and a passion for sharing what we love most. Thank you to the foundation for allowing us to be part of your education outreach program and for inviting my family back to explore more of the wonders of Wild Wonderful West Virginia.

For more information about the Old Hemlock Foundation, educational programs, history and the dogs, follow the above link to their website or follow them on Facebook at  www.facebook.com/OldHemlockFoundation/. 

Laurel from Old Hemlock

Mountain Laurel Old Hemlock English Setter 2107 age 2

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Dogs, George Bird Evans, Hemlock Forest, hiking, historic locations, Hunting, Old Hemlock Foundation, Preston County WV, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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