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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