Collecting Walks As A Hobby

There’s a reason it’s called Cathedral State Park. I’ve been in some beautiful places of worship, but I’ve never felt nearer to God than among Cathedral’s giant hemlocks. With the sun low in the sky, beams of light pass through their centuries-old branches to create a beauty beyond anything we humans can manage.

Getting into the middle of the stand of virgin hemlocks at Cathedral requires a walk of only about five minutes. The parking lot is adjacent too U.S. 50 in Preston County, if you’re interested in going there.

Cathedral is part of my collection. Some people collect stamps. Others go for rare coins. I do walks.

With mid-summer upon us, time to add to the collection grows short. Here are some ideas, if you want to take up the hobby:

– Another easy one, not far from Morgantown, is Cooper’s Rock State Forest. Again, get out of the car inthe parking lot and, within five minutes, you’ll be in a rock maze where, if you’re not careful, you can get lost. Exploring the deep crevices can provide a fleeting feeling of having been where no one has before.

– If you’re in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, try Laurel Falls Trail. I’ve never seen so many black bears in one place in my life. There were more than a dozen of them when I was there some years ago. And, oh, there’s an 80-foot waterfall.

– For waterfalls, nothing compares to White Oak Canyon in Shenandoah National Park. There are six of them, ranging in height from 35-86 feet. Native brook trout can be seen in the stream. Bear sightings are not uncommon, if you keep your eyes open.

– Closer to home, try the Red Creek Trail in Monongalia National Forest, at the foot of the mountain leading up to Dolly Sods. It’s a short walk, maybe 10 minutes along a beautiful stream that features rocks like nothing I’d ever seen before. They have both aqua and deep red coloring in them.

– Keep going up the mountain and walk around Dolly Sods. It’s like a northern landscape; low bushes and small evergreen trees with most of their branches on one side, because of the wind. Worry less about the unexploded mortar shells from when Dolly Sods was used as a World War II practice range than about the rocks. It is twisted-ankle country.

– For a more remote and more taxing walk, try Smoke Hole Canyon. Go in from the southern end, near Petersburg. You will see native cactus (really) and, if you climb the right mountain, you’ll be standing on several plants classed as “globally rare.” By the way, on the climb up that mountain, you’ll encounter the densest concentration of black widow spiders I’ve ever seen. It’s steep — but don’t put your hands down to help you climb.

– Switch gears from nature to history at Gettysburg National Military Park, where the famous, doomed Pickett’s charge by about 12,000 Confederate soldiers occurred. Start in the woods where they did, then walk three-quarters of a mile through an open field to where, on July 3, 1863, Union soldiers were waiting behind a low stone wall. As you walk, imagine men with rifles and cannons are trying to kill you.

I have lots more in my collection. And here’s the thing: Stamps and rare coins can get expensive.

Shoe leather isn’t.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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