The Hunter (part one)

The crisp breeze gently shakes the trees. Brightly coloured leaves rain softly from the canopy. The rustic boardwalk welcomed me foreword and with the first step the outside world disappeared. The rock cap ferns form a thick mat in the leaf litter atop each crag. The rocks at Beartown State Park form a Labyrinth with tunnels and canyons that wind their way through the forest. I imagine that Millenia ago this was a large cave system. Perhaps some prehistoric hunters took shelter here while tracking a primeval beast. In my mind’s eye I can see him unroll a bundle pelts with all of his treasures tucked away safely inside. Wrapped up in the leather pouch at center is the dried meats and wild roots that sustained him on this journey. His fire kit is bound in a separate pouch. Not just any dry sticks will start the fire. The twigs were selected with great care. This was magic and must be treated with the utmost respect. With ritual precision he places a stick in the notch and begins to sing the fire song and spin the evening fire. Soon the smell of smoke rises up from the joining of the wood. He knows not to quit yet and keeps his efforts in time with the fire song. Once the last verse has ended he shakes free the ember from notch and places on a dry mushroom. He remembered the words of his father when the magic was passed down to him. “The fire is a living thing and like all living things it must breath”. The hunter kindles the ember by passing on the breath of life. Again his father’s wisdom speaks to his memories, “living things must be fed slowly so that they do not choke “. The hunter starts to feed the fire fluffed leaves and then small twigs. He progresses from step to step when the fire was strong enough he began to cook his meal. He doesn’t require much. Just a thin stew from his provisions. After the meal he thanked the creator by playing his flute. He had a lot to be thankful for. Good shelter, a warm meal and a rich heritage to keep him strong. As he played something stirs in the back of the cave. Something that is not happy about the noisy music in the cave. The hunter whirls around and comes to one knee. Deep within the shadows of cave the greenishglow of eyes in the firefight glare back at him.

To be continued…

The Hunter (part 2)

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Looking Forward to Bridge Day 2018

Rising up from the New River Gorge is in my opinion one of greatest feats of engineering in the modern world. The New River Gorge Bridge. To give the outside world an idea of scale there’s a four lane highway at the top. The height of the bridge allows for base jumping. And in just a few short weeks that’s what will happen here. A crowd will be gathered at the top and tourists will hike across. I have not been able to make it out for Bridge Day for several years now but I’m hoping to get a chance to photograph something special. I was there several years ago when a parachute malfunctioned and the jumper executed a successful cutaway and redeployment of her spare chute close enough to the bottom that she said she could see her own face in the water. ( and the high dive at the swimming pool gives the rest of us the willies). I think that the experience of jumping into the canyon has to be the closest thing to living flight that human could feel. I can imagine the wind pressure on my face as I descend into the river and then touching down gracefully on the flat rocks at bottom. I was able to find a short video of the human catapult launching the jumpers off of the bridge Here. (The video is not mine) The spectacle itself is a full fledged carnival. There are vendors set up offering everything from trinkets to Gourmet Foods. This happens to coincide with the peak color of Fall most years which makes it one of the most beautiful occurrences in my mountains. The competition for a premium spot to shoot from will be pretty fierce and I expect that those who are already connected have a claim staked out. But I’m crossing my fingers.

If you’re a person who likes the outdoors, festivals or extreme sports and if you think that you might want to attend then here’s a official Bridge Day Website. The Event is Saturday, October 20, 2018!

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A Refreshing Stop At Cathedral Falls.

The clean smell of the rain hangs in the air as I pull into the little parking lot. Just crossing the threshold of foot bridge transports me to another world. A primal place with gigantic trees and a thick mat of ferns where the small things live. A tree frog drones out it’s high pitched song calling for his love.

Tread carefully on the muddy pathway to the base of the falls. The trail shows that someone who passed through earlier left their mark on the pathway. A mark that leads to an unexpected bath in the knee deep stream below. Near the base of the falls large flat rocks catch only a fraction of an inch of the water flowing through the mountains. Butterflies play in the air as the cascade fills this natural cathedral with a light mist. Small fish dart around in the highly oxygenated water. Most of the small stones are blown out by the force of the water but the ones caught in crevices are smooth and clean. I could really spend all day here just breathing in the charged air.

But there’s a set of sad eyes and wagging tail who needs to be walked soon. As so, fully refreshed from the rich environment beneath Cathedral Falls I began to pick my path back to my big blue truck and head home.

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The Battle Of Carnifex Ferry

The long awaited pictures from the reenactment of the Battle Of Carnifex Ferry are finally done! Tonight’s post is going to be more about the pictures themselves than the history. However, I do want to encourage you to Read more the battle here. I also want to encourage everyone to get involved with keeping history alive. If we forget the history then we are in danger of forgetting the hard lessons learned. Too much blood has been shed for us to forget so soon. This goes for my international friends as well. You have your own history that you should be proud of and that should not be allowed to be forgotten.

With that said, let’s get started on the pictures. The turnout was very small. Only fourteen reenactors came out to memorialize the history. When I was a kid you couldn’t find a place to stand and watch the living history.

Above is the Southern camp. The reenactment group has went to great lengths to keep everything period accurate. Canvas tents and breakfast being made on an open fire.

The lady in the picture has to be one of the hardest working people on the face of this earth. She chopped firewood for hours on end. Her clothes are wool. The temperature was in the 80s ( Fahrenheit) and the humidity is very high. I never really saw her take a break.

I imagine that the commanding officer wouldn’t be to happy to have an unmanned weapon in his camp. But, I really liked the Aesthetics of the musket and pistol belt on the wooden table. I began to think about the calm before the storm.

If it weren’t for modern truck in the background I would have thought that I had fallen into a time slip and been transported back to 1861. With the bayonet fixed the musket is a very intimidating weapon indeed.

Another view of the Southern camp and their hard working camp caretaker.

It’s time to inspect and drill the troops. I don’t think that the commanding officer is to easily impressed.

This young man is obviously the camp sniper. All of people involved with the reenactment were very accommodating and ready to give me a great pose.

More close order drill in the Southern camp.

It was about that time I noticed the Yankee spies on the road. Those sneaky devils!

While on my way to check out the Northern camp I encountered a ghost on patrol. I hope my paperwork is order otherwise my accent is going to land me in hot water.

I had actually asked him if I could get view looking down the weapon. He quickly explained that even though the group takes all precautions that it was strictly taboo to point a weapon at an observer. The musket is real and on days when there’s a battle the actors do fire powder charges at each other. (No projectiles ). He did agree to pose as if he was ready to level the weapon.

I was also fortunate enough to encourage a person that I believe is the Yankee General.

On approach to the Northern camp I discovered that they have their own sniper. He’s a dead-eye for sure!

I imagine that in real life the soldiers had this look often. I’m not sure what the actor had on his mind but the image made me think of a young man contemplating his role in previous battles. God be with the “men of conscious”.

The young man here also seems to have that “one thousand meter stare”. I was so pleased with the way the image turned out. He looks like he just stepped out of a tin type.

This is the wall. In the days before tanks these barricades were a mainstay of trench warfare. The logs did a pretty good job of catching bullets.

The cannon seen here is actually part of the park.

I found out a day too late that they wouldn’t be demonstrating the large brass cannon that they brought until the next day. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend due obligations with my day job. As I said before in years past it was standing room only and the reenactment had hundreds of actors and a full scale battle. This year only fourteen soldiers turned out. If you’re a person in the United States and care at all about the history that brought us this far please consider becoming involved with keeping history alive.

September 22nd 2018. The First Day Of Fall

As I stepped out of the house today the signs of Fall were everywhere. The Box Elder tree in the yard is really dropping it’s leaves. The air is cooler and less humid than yesterday. Soon the green leaves will turn golden yellow, red and orange. Early Fall is a great time to be outdoors. The oppressive heat of mid to late summer gives way to the cool dry winds from the North. This the time of year that we would start putting up firewood for the winter. The smell of the fresh cut oak mixed with coffee from a thermos during a work break will forever be one of my most cherished memories. I can remember sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck and watching the squirrels play as I ate my lunch. The mottled light pours in from the broken forest canopy and in the distance the sound of footfalls in the dry leaves let’s me know that I’m not alone. I hop off the tailgate and peek through the bushes to see a buck looking back at me. His antlers are still in velvet. His nostrils flare as he tries to catch my scent. I make one move forward and he snorts fiercely then disappears into the shadows of the closest thicket.

Another thing that I look forward to in fall is homemade stew. Often the firewood collected in fall would soon be put to good use just a few short weeks later. We heated the house with a Fisher wood burning stove. A large stock pot and a low flame kept the stew simmering for hours. The smell of cooked tomatoes and carrots and a beef roast filled the house. The stew was always thick and rich. We would come in from the crisp air and the aroma alone was enough to renew my vigor after a hard day’s work.

Fall has so much to look forward to that instead of mourning the loss of Summer I want to welcome Fall with open arms and my favorite denim jacket. I look forward to being able to share with you the bright colors of Fall and some the activities in my mountains as we move ever forward in the river of time.

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A Few thoughts On Summersville Dam

Driving cautiously down the winding road to the tail waters of Gauley River I think about my Grandfather. He was one of the many men who built Summerville Dam. In the days before the dam, the raging Gauley River destroyed small towns downstream. Near my home is Brown’s Service Station. The Owner once pointed out to me a watermark on the wall of his office from one of the pre-dam floods. I’m guessing that the water had to be 12 feet high in order to make the stain. When it was finally decided that something had to be done a monumental effort was made. There’s a great Video of the men building the Summerville Dam on YouTube. I know that my grandfather was one of the heavy equipment operators but I’ve not been able to recognize him in the video.

Today, the dam not only helps us to control flooding but it’s become a wealth generator to the local economy. The campers and boaters who spend summer on the lake also spend money in town. At the time of this writing, Gauley season is fully open and whitewater enthusiasts are enjoying the rapids as the Corps Of Engineers drain the lake to winter pool levels.

Rafters taking a break on pillow rock below Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park. Image was taken at the extreme range of my 300 mm lens.

The highly oxygenated water below the dam is popular among fisherman too. On any given morning the banks full of lines cast into the eddies in hopes that a trout will come to dinner.

As I stand at the foot of dam and look up I’m in awe of the accomplishment. The tunnel on the left is large enough for a train to pass through and a highway is on top of the dam. Just on the other side of this massive earthen dam is the sunken community of Gad,West Virginia. There is of course the local story of how close Government came to naming this are Gad Dam Lake which would have been a gold mine for memes and internet trolls.

I hope you’ve enjoyed tonight’s post but nothing beats coming to West Virginia for whitewater sports or just relaxing by the water. It’s all made possible by the flood control of Summersville Dam.

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The Tale Of The Twisted Tree

The darkened sky hangs ominously overhead as a chilled wind races across the ridges. I can already smell the rain in the damp air. I quicken my pace as the first few drops begin to change the color of the pavement. The old gnarly sweet gum tree seems to reach out to offer shelter for those who pass by it’s grounds. It has stood here on this windy ridge for hundreds of years and witnessed the passing of many generations. There was a time when it was not so tall and strong. A time when the Shawnee hunting parties passed silently by in moccasins. Then came the lumberjacks with axes and saws. But the gum tree was too twisted and crooked for their needs. Then came the farmers whose cattle rested under its boughs. Finally, a workman came with transits and plumbs and cement. With the skills of an architect and the heart of a poet. He fell in love with the knots and twists in the wood. This ancient and weathered tree would be a centerpiece of his creation in the park. As the people came and admired the old tree it felt a new sense of purpose and loved them back. Today it stands on the rim of the New River Gorge and welcomes all who pass down the trail. Including a photographer who sheltered from the rain a few days ago and imagined it’s story. In your travels through the heart of West Virginia take a few minutes to view and enjoy the New River Gorge Bridge at the little park just outside of Fayetteville and stretch your legs under the friendly old sweet gum tree in the park.

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