Written by BawBaw on 13 Nov, 2013
For visitors who enjoy a good walk but are not quite up to more strenuous terrain, Lindy Point Trail at Blackwater Falls State Park is just the ticket.The trailhead is located on the south rim of Blackwater Canyon and is accessed off Canaan Loop Road.…Read More
For visitors who enjoy a good walk but are not quite up to more strenuous terrain, Lindy Point Trail at Blackwater Falls State Park is just the ticket.The trailhead is located on the south rim of Blackwater Canyon and is accessed off Canaan Loop Road. The 45 acres encompassing the trail belongs to the park but is a separate enclave located slightly southwest of the main park boundary. The portion of the Canaan Loop leading to the trailhead is a one-track road overhung by mature trees—mainly spruce and hemlock with an occasional birch, beech, or maple. Park signage recommends using 4-wheel-drive vehicles for this stretch of road. During our visit, the pavement was wet after a snow, but it was otherwise in very good condition. We found our front-wheel drive was quite adequate. A small parking area adjoins the trailhead.The trail itself makes for a 0.37-mi hike on an easy grade. The greatest hazards we encountered were low-hanging branches draping over the trail and some muddy areas fed by snow melt and groundwater. Otherwise, the trail offered obstacles no greater than small inclines and declines well suited to gentle walking. This is truly a foot trail through the woods, with no pavement or gravel added. The woodlands along the path are typical for this region, including spruce and hemlock, an occasional broadleaf, and an abundance of mountain laurel and rhododendron. The place must be glorious in spring. While on the trail, It’s a good idea to check out the surroundings. I was after glimpses of the fall panorama I had so narrowly missed. I didn’t find the panorama, but glimpses of what it must have been were abundant. Red, yellow, and orange leaves still clung to their branches, muted beneath a layer of snow. Individual leaves wafted down to sparkle vibrantly on snow. Berries ripened by the last warm days of fall hung or spiked in clusters, depending on the fruit. The layer of snow that had fallen the day before offered its own distinctive beauty, providing a pristine blanket of white that still clung to the boughs and branches of the trees and scrubs around us.At the end of the trail is wooden platform offering magnificent views to the northeast and southwest. The platform is built over a rocky outcrop from the canyon rim. Several chimneys of rock detached from the rock base supporting the platform provided dramatic accents to the view, especially when one looks to the southwest. Standing alone on the platform and looking out over the 1,000-foot deep gorge of canyon, it was easy to pretend we were all alone in this vast landscape. We had only the trees, the rocks, and the river below for company. Standing quietly in this space, we could hear only the wind, the muffled roar of the river, and the occasional cry of a bird.Himself and Yours Truly have visited Lindy Point twice, both times in October. The first visit featured the peak colors of the fall season, while the second came on the heels for the area’s first snowfall. Our first time around at the Point was shared with a number of other visitors, the more enthusiastic of whom scampered about on the rocks outside the platform—a potentially perilous activity. On the second occasion, we had the place to ourselves, with only footprints in the snow to suggesting that others had passed this way.Any visit to Blackwater Falls State Park can only be made better by an outing to Lindy Point. Whatever the season, the views will be magnificent and the trail will require a relatively modest physical effort. For us, it was a pleasure on all counts. Close
Written by BawBaw on 04 Nov, 2013
Blackwater Falls is the principle attraction and reason to be for Blackwater Falls State Park near Davis, West Virginia. The falls themselves cascade from a height of 62 feet (five stories) at their tallest point. The width is variable, depending on the volume…Read More
Blackwater Falls is the principle attraction and reason to be for Blackwater Falls State Park near Davis, West Virginia. The falls themselves cascade from a height of 62 feet (five stories) at their tallest point. The width is variable, depending on the volume of the river—Blackwater River, that is, which is named for the high tannin content of its waters. In truth, the river isn’t so much black as amber, reminding me of the peaty streams we’ve encountered in the Scottish Highlands,Himself and Yours Truly have seen a different face of Blackwater Falls with each of our visits. That face has ranged from a few trickles when the river is low to a raging torrent covering the full width of the channel after a period of heavy rains. Most of the time, the falls divide impressively around a beck-shaped rocky protrusion. But when the river is high, the single curtain of the cascade is truly glorious. Much of the majesty of Blackwater Falls can be credited to the location. The river has formed a deep gorge along its course through the Allegheny plateau. At the falls themselves, the south rim of the canyon (actually, it’s more northeast than south at this particular location) ends in a sheer, almost vertical drop, showing off a rocky cliff topped by a mixed woodland—mostly conifers but accented by an occasional broadleaf. The north side of the canyon is steep and would be a hard climb but for the series of wooden stairways and ramps installed by park management. This path serves two vital purposes. It provides less-fit visitors with a convenient way to get up-close and personal with the falls (probably saving lives in the process). And it protects the local ecology by saving it from repeated footfalls, slips and slides from missed footing, and grabs at plants and rocks to prevent the foolhardy from plunging down the slope and into the river below.The season and the weather contribute to the endless variety that brings visitors back to the falls time after time. The natural scents of the woodlands and color scheme of each season form a kaleidoscope of beauty. Spring brings sprigs of delicate green unsure as to whether they will survive a late freeze. Summer features the mature forest green that seems to block the sun. Fall offers a frenzy of variations on yellow, orange, and red. And winter brings blankets of white. In the case of our last visit, an October snow scattered fall leaves on the surface of the snow like jewels on a carpet. It was an unexpected treat to the senses.The main "trail" to Blackwater Falls offers two viewing platforms, one about halfway down and the other more-or-less on eye-level with the cascade. From parking lot to the lower viewing platform, this trail descends 320 vertical feet, in which one is almost always climbing or ascending. Still, the steps are in good condition, with reasonable treads and rises, and they can be used easily by most visitors with no serious mobility issues. We also appreciated the sturdy handrails, which we rarely needed but often found helpful. For hale and hardy hikers, there is also a steep trail leading down to the basin under the falls. Finally, there is a so-called "gentle trail" on the south side of the canyon. This path is wheelchair accessible. It is fully paved, and visitors are able to enjoy a view of the falls from a high-level overlook. This viewpoint is by no means close-up, but it shows off the majesty of the falls and their surroundings quite clearly. The trails are the north side of the canyon are served by a sizable parking area and by a small "trading post" offering park souvenirs, a snack bar and picnic tables, and toilets. The accessible path has a roadside parking area that is large enough to accommodate a bus and several cars. Himself and Yours Truly are moderately fit seniors, and we took in the views from both the accessible trail and wooden stairway. It’s tempting to say that we avoided the steeper path to the falls’ base because the recent snow or (on other occasions) mud made it more hazardous, but in truth neither us are inclined to risk ourselves or our beloved SLR cameras but attempting such a strenuous trail. (I’m pretty sure the park’s emergency team would appreciate such a decision!)There is no charge for visiting Blackwater Falls and enjoying its beauty. The only costs are in terms of time, energy, nearby lodging, and transportation. For this investment, visitors get an eyeful of beauty, the sights and sounds of nature, and exertion to match his/her abilities and inclinations. By any accounting, it’s a deal! For more information on Blackwater Falls State Park in general or Blackwater Falls in particular, reference the park’s Web page (http://www.blackwaterfalls.com/) or visit the onsite Nature Center. Close
Written by Idler on 27 Jun, 2004
Summer’s here and so are the groundhogs. A friend has "dibs" on any rotten tomatoes in my garden. He’s got a severe groundhog infestation on his property and it seems that the only thing that will lure the canny critters into a humane…Read More
Summer’s here and so are the groundhogs. A friend has "dibs" on any rotten tomatoes in my garden. He’s got a severe groundhog infestation on his property and it seems that the only thing that will lure the canny critters into a humane trap is the stench of a putrid tomato (his wife has vetoed the ‘shotgun solution,’ much to his chagrin).
Now, I’m not all the fond of groundhogs, but I’ll say one thing for them: at least they don’t keep me awake at night. Like any good camper, I have my share of stories to tell about the animals I’ve encountered in the woods or around the campsite. In Vermont, on my first solo camping trip, I set my tent up in a wooden sleeping shelter, safely off the forest floor, only to be kept awake for hours by some rodent persistently gnawing under the floorboards.
Then there was the time in Rhode Island we heard what sounded like a large animal stomping around just outside our tent. Aiming a flashlight through the tent flap, we immediately saw our noisy intruder: a skunk. Needless to say, we stayed right where we were and turned off the light. The skunk, meanwhile, happily rummaged through the campsite before settling down to demolish a sturdy, zipped fabric-covered cooler, tearing into the packet of Chips Ahoy inside. (Stupid of us to have left out the cooler, I know, but this campground was so far from anything resembling bear country that we’d been lax.)
The following morning, surveying the scattered remnants of Mr. Skunk's all-night cookie binge, I vowed not to leave a thing out that would interest him the following night. Trouble was, when he showed up again, the absence of Chips Ahoy seemed to piss him off. He stomped persistently around making irritated, threatening sounds that no doubt meant "Where the hell have you hidden the cookies?"
Living in the country, I’ve developed a live-and-let-live philosophy to undomesticated animals. Note that I don’t say "wild," but "undomesticated." To my mind, truly wild animals stay as far away from humans as possible. Mountain lions, wolves, and eagles are what I’d call wild, whereas coyotes, squirrels, Canadian geese, and other species that can stand being anywhere near us are not. Truly wild animals go into decline as soon as mankind enters the equation. The ‘undomesticated’ ones, on the other hand, sometimes thrive. Deer are a case in point.
I once tried to tame a feral cat by leaving out food for it. To my chagrin, all I ended up ‘taming’ was a cantankerous old possum. Each night he’d visit the food bowl on the stoop, making such a racket that I’d come out to drive him away. "Shoo," I’d say. "Go away." He’d look up with myopic indifference. I didn’t want to get too close as possums can deliver a nasty bite, so I’d grab a shovel and prod him with it. "Go on," I’d admonish, "back to the woods with you." No dice. He was too intent on scrounging Meow Mix. It took a fairly decent shove to send him on his way. It made me feel like nothing more than a lowdown, dirty possum abuser.
One animal that’s carved out a nice little man-tolerant niche for itself is the raccoon. Of course, you rarely see a raccoon during the day (and if you do, watch out, because it may be rabid), but at night they’re all over the place. When it comes to brazenness, raccoons take the cake.
Last year I was camping at Coopers Rock State Park not far from Morgantown, a lovely place that’s popular with hikers. I was on my own, my son at Scout camp and my husband at a conference. I’ve never worried about camping on my own in West Virginia, even at some of the remoter parks, and it seemed like popular Coopers Rock was a safe bet. Little did I know.
I’ve got this cheapie one-man tent that I’m strangely fond of. I think it cost all of twenty bucks but has the virtue of being so easy to erect that I never spend more than ten minutes setting up camp. Thing is, though, it’s tiny. I sleep with my head in one corner of the tent and my feet in the other. I think it may actually be a child’s tent.
No sooner had I set up camp at Coopers Rock than in chugged a big old Ford F-10 pulling the granddaddy of all pop-up campers. Of course, they set up right next to me, which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, as neighbors can be pleasant while camping. But not these folks. No, they firmly belonged to the "you can take it with you" school of camping.
Out came the grill, the portable stereo, the enormous camp stove, the deck chairs, the lanterns, the big coolers… every conceivable type of outdoor (as well as a lot of indoor) equipment.
The pièce de résistance, however, was the electric bug zapper they set up. Now, this I had trouble comprehending. In the vastness wilderness of West Virginia, these people expected to make a dent in the bug population or something? What a bug zapper does, actually, is draw every moth or June bug in the vicinity. The nonstop crackle of insect electrocution drowns out the very sound of the crickets.
Did I mention that these people had children? Two little girls who, true to form, had brought all their toys, not to mention "The Little Mermaid" to watch. That’s right, they had a TV. After dinner, while the parents were sitting in deck chairs beneath the bug zapper, the girls watched the entire nauseating movie. Lord, how I hate Disney. Truly, madly, deeply.
After the Disney torment ended, I managed to nod off to the sound of the bbbZZZZtt! bbbZZZZtt! of the bug zapper. Relative quiet descended on Coopers Rock campsite.
From a deep sleep, I was jolted awake by a metallic crash. It took but a millisecond to identify the sound, a lid banging against the side of a metal trashcan. Repeatedly. I unzipped the tent and there, visible in the purplish light of the bug zapper, were three raccoons raiding the ‘critter-proof’ trashcan the park had provided.
Now, normally, these trashcans are indeed pest-proof, as they’re suspended off the ground in a swinging metal hoop. A single raccoon would be foiled, but several raccoons working in tandem are more than a match for this ranger-devised stratagem. One raccoon tilts the can sideways in the hoop, while a second knocks off the lid and climbs in. The loose lid then clatters against the can it’s chained to as the second raccoon flings trash out to the third felon.
I had to emerge fully from the tent and brandish my trusty flashlight menacingly before the raccoons abandoned their smorgasbord. They loped off with that peculiarly soundless hunched gait, temporarily vanquished. No sooner was I back in my sleeping bag than I heard a distant crash as they plundered someone else’s trash. Then came a perfectly ghastly sound, like some hellish spawn of H.P. Lovecraft’s imagining, inhuman and fierce: a raccoon fight.
Apparently, there was more than one troop of raccoons working the camp, and the rival groups weren’t on friendly terms. This quiet corner of West Virginia was plagued by gang warfare. All up and down the camp the raccoon gangs ranged, pillaging trash, knocking over equipment, waking campers with their snarling and gibbering. Campers would chase them off, but they’d come right back. After they visited my trash a second time, I used a bungee cord to secure the lid of the trashcan.
From inside my tent, in the eerie light cast by the bug zapper, I watched the hunched shadows the raccoons cast onto the tent as they padded soundlessly nearby. They’d stop at my trashcan, rear onto their hind legs and scrabble ineffectually as they tilted the trashcan this way and that. It seemed to baffle then infuriate them that they could no longer plunder it.
Gloating over my small victory, I fell asleep once again only to be awaken almost immediately by a pitched raccoon battle taking place inches away just out the tent. As the raccoons fought, they buffeted and careened into the side of the tiny tent. It was like being caught in the middle of a dogfight, only much worse with the otherworldly, insane noises the raccoons made. Terrified, I sat up (I couldn’t actually stand in the tiny tent) and grabbed my flashlight, using it to wallop at the raccoon shadows, mostly missing the raccoons themselves.
I got in a couple of good whacks before they finally dispersed, but they didn’t go far. No, then they discovered all the stuff my bug-zappin’ neighbors had left out. The cooler. The toys. The pots. The pans. The dishes. The leftovers.
With a weary sigh, I laid back down. "Go for it, raccoons."
Beguiled on the Cheat
It’s either feast or famine as far as rain is concerned around here. A few years back, there was a prolonged drought, but these past two years we’ve been inundated. The first time we paddled the Cheat River was during…Read More
Beguiled on the Cheat
It’s either feast or famine as far as rain is concerned around here. A few years back, there was a prolonged drought, but these past two years we’ve been inundated. The first time we paddled the Cheat River was during the drought. We spent a lazy day paddling in ‘duckies’ (inflatable kayaks), and although there was little whitewater, we were happy to have the river basically to ourselves.
Two guides took us through the Cheat Narrows, showing us their favorite spots. We indulged in oar-splashing battles, paddling races, and lazy swims alongside our duckies. One stop at a deep spot by a giant boulder was a big hit with our son, who repeatedly leapt from the rock into the river. Although it wasn’t an exciting trip by any means, we did go through some modest whitewater at a place called Calamity Rapids. It didn’t look that challenging, but I somehow ended up going backwards through it.
During the last few years, we’ve made several whitewater trips out West, the most memorable along the Snake River in Wyoming. Those trips, mostly through Class III rapids, only whetted our appetite for whitewater adventure. It seemed inconceivable that we lived just hours away from some of the finest whitewater rivers in the world and hadn’t yet taken a full-blown whitewater trip there. Not wanting to let another whitewater season pass, we booked a trip on the Cheat again, this time opting for a Cheat Canyon trip.
When we called to make reservations at Cheat River Outfitters, we were told the river was running so high that no rafts were running that day, but they were probably going to run the next day. This was Father’s Day, and we were delighted at the prospect of high water and a whitewater action for our Father’s Day family outing.
Gearing up, paddling down
It was downright chilly the morning we assembled at the rafting center. Many of the rafters wisely chose to rent wet suits. Not being particularly susceptible to the cold, I opted just for quick-drying synthetic clothing and a nylon jacket. After signing waivers, we were given a safety spiel, during which it was repeatedly emphasized that the river was going to be rough that day. It was so convincing, in fact, that one couple decided to bail. The rest of us were issued life jackets, helmets and paddles. Then we were divided into four groups, six or seven to a raft along with a guide, and given further instructions.
Six outdoorsy German students made up one group, while another group consisted of a group of four French tourists and two nervous-looking middle-aged women. The third boat had a mother-daughter team and two couples. Our boat consisted a very game and fit family of four from Philadelphia and us. Hoisting our rafts, we made the short trek to the river.
Having been on several rafting trips, we pretty much knew the drill, but it’s always interesting to see how each river guide manages his group. Our leader, Mike Wohleber, was the head guide and a seasoned pro. He quickly sorted us out and had us paddling together as a team. It helped, too, that everyone in the boat had been rafting before.
The river was a roiling, frothing muddy brown, quite unlike the clear dark teal beauty I remembered. The strong current carried us along, so we paddled only to maneuver. The first few rapids were purely warm-ups, Class III and fairly exciting but not threatening.
Commercial rafting companies generally don’t take customers through anything high than Class V rapids. Class VI is for experts only, while Class VII rapids are completely unrunable. During high water, the Cheat River Canyon's normal Class III-IV rapids—Decision, Big Nasty, Even Nastier, Fist, Tear Drop, High Falls, Maze, and Coliseum—become very challenging Class IV-V rapids
"Stay in the boat"
As we approached our first Class IV rapid, dubbed "Big Nasty," Mike gave us a final word of advice: "Stay in the boat." This was delivered half in jest, half in earnest. He’d already instructed us on what to do when (not if but when) we fell out or capsized.
Through the rapids, the most important thing, we were told, was to keep paddling, no matter what. Some folks, awestruck by the daunting rapids, simply stop paddling and start looking for something to hold on to. They forget that they’re not mere passengers. Trouble is, in order to get through serious rapids, you have to paddle like hell. Otherwise, the boat can be pinned to a rock, swept into a "hole" (a swirling mass of water that entraps or flips a raft), or left to the mercy of the river.
From my position in the middle of the raft, I couldn’t see what was up ahead as well as my husband and son perched in the bow, but I could sure hear it, a raucous roar that left little doubt about what was in store. Mike had us paddle a few strokes to position the raft, and then as soon as we hit the rapids, he yelled for us to paddle for all we were worth. It seemed like mere seconds, but it was probably longer, before we emerged from Big Nasty, jubilant. We "high fived" our paddles, then made our way to an eddy to watch the other three rafts successfully negotiate the rapids.
It was still early innings, though, and next up was "Even Nastier." "If we’re going to flip on the river today, this will be the place," Mike predicted. "If that happens, make for the shore immediately or you’ll be swept right into another set of rapids."
Even Nastier was true to its name, but by paddling all out, we made it through. No sooner had we done so, though, than the two rafts behind us came to grief. The first was pulled into a churning, whirling, whitewater ‘hole’ and spun about madly before finally capsizing. At that moment the third raft swept in right on top of the hapless rafters still trapped in the whirlpool. Chaos ensued.
A group of onlookers on rocks jutting out into the river quickly helped out, tossing rescue lines and shouting encouragement to those swimming for the shore. We struck out to intercept people being swept downstream, pulling one, two, three, four sputtering, gasping rafters from the water. The people we’d rescued were shivering and blue-lipped from the combined effects cold and shock. It took a while for everyone to regroup on the riverbank downstream; incredibly, all the equipment had been recovered and no one had been seriously hurt, though there were a number of cuts and bruises.
Rescue at "Even Nastier
Trouble ahead, trouble behind
Ahead lay "The Big Five": Fist, Teardrop, High Falls, Maze, and Coliseum. Fist sent me sprawling, and for a moment I was sure I was going overboard, but at the last split second I grabbed onto the guy behind me and managed to stay in the boat. Teardrop shook loose the petite woman seated next to Mike, but he fished her from the water with a practised, seemingly effortless, scoop. At High Falls, the raft bucked so violently that I was thrown backwards, my torso and head nearly in the water before Bob, the man behind me, once again saved the day and grabbed the arm I’d flung up. Amazingly, we all held onto our paddles.
Some weren’t so lucky, however. What we’d begun to call "the unlucky boat" flipped again, this time rather spectacularly in a treacherous spot offering little chance for a rescue. One man was momentarily trapped under the raft, while several others were swept through a relentless set of rapids. One woman managed to pull herself onto a large boulder, but she was the luckiest. When we pulled one of the victims out of the water, he said he’d broken his leg. We paddled to shore where Mike examined the leg, which, indeed, seemed to be broken. After the leg was in a split and the injured man made as comfortable as possible in the center of the raft, though, there was nothing for it. The only way off the river at that point was through one more set of rapids.
When we finally emerged from Coliseum Rapids, I glanced at my watch and was surprised to find it was nearly four in the afternoon. I’d been so intent I hadn’t noticed the hours slipping by. A rescue squad had been called and was waiting at the take-out point for the man with the broken leg. Soaking wet, bone weary, and giddy with relief, we hauled our raft up onto the riverbank. I realized I’d been lucky that day, having emerged with only a few calluses.
Perhaps it was foolhardy, but I was certain of one thing: I’d be back someday to do it all over again.
Written by DonnaTed on 08 Jun, 2003
The primary reason to go to Blackwater Falls State Park is of course to see the Blackwater Falls. You drive around to the other side of the gorge from the lodge and take a trail that ends up being quite a few steps down over…Read More
The primary reason to go to Blackwater Falls State Park is of course to see the Blackwater Falls. You drive around to the other side of the gorge from the lodge and take a trail that ends up being quite a few steps down over the edge of the gorge. The steps are wide and as easy to navigate as steps can be. There are multiple levels of side platforms where tired persons can catch their breath.
To gain perspective on what you see and experience, there are a number of interesting historical books for sale in the lodge gift shop that offer a great insight into the first explorers and settlers of the area. At a spot like this you understand the phrase "Wild and Wonderful West Virginia"!
We were there the first weekend in May; crowds nearly nonexistant with recent snow melt water flowing everywhere. Hiking was pleasant in the sixty degree temperatures. We wonder when the mountain laurel will be blooming, it is everywhere and would, at that time, be spectacular.
Nearby the little historic mining town of Thomas, WV, has a wonderful wine/coffee house called "The Purple Fiddle" and on Saturday night it rocks with live indigenous bluegrass music.