Since this was a three day weekend for me, I got to go hiking twice: 4 1/2 hours in Putnam County Park on Friday and almost 4 this morning in Trace Fork Canyon. Nestled between the twin cities of Charleston and South Charleston, Trace Fork Canyon is an urban oasis of hundreds of acres. Even when you’re enjoying the solitude deep in the bottom of the canyon, the roads winding along the canyon rim are only 1/2 mile or so away – if you could climb the steep terrain, that is. It’s much safer to find one of the trails that lead out of the canyon!
Putnam County Park is the opposite. The park is very rural, and instead of descending into a deep ravine, you have to climb some wickedly steep trails to reach the top of the ridge line. Once there, the trails lead out into the middle of nowhere. Yesterday, I decided to follow a gas company right-of-way in a direction I’d never gone. After a long walk, I came upon a rusty old metal gate with fence stretching to either side, and a large open field surrounded by woods on all sides. Beyond the trees, I could hear the sound of a garden tractor and chickens. It was cool and kind of surreal stumbling on a farm nestled deep in the woods. I’m sure there is a road leading to it from somewhere, but I have no idea where.
I always look for trees that are unfamiliar to me, and this weekend I found Carya ovalis (Red Hickory) and Populus grandidentata (Bigtooth Aspen). I was previously under the impression Aspens only grew in WV’s higher altitudes, rather than the western foothills where I live and play.
I also came upon a small Yellow Buckeye that had been recently crushed by a much larger falling tree, and collected a sample to make into a walking stick after it dries.
Finally, no backwoods adventure is complete without a reptilian encounter – or two, since this is “Twice the Fun” weekend. The turtle in the first photo was scooping something into its mouth when I first saw it. If you look closely, you’ll see the earthworm that was still wiggling as I took the photo.