When spring arrives in the Allegheny Highlands of Tucker County, the feeling of a spring chicken overcomes, an extra hop in the step is welcome after a long winter. The first sight of daffodils is enough to make one forget the infinitely grey forest landscape; it too is yearning to stretch out new tree limbs to bask the sun.
There is an underappreciated value found in the stark hardwoods and underbrush found in some of the densest forest known to man. And what is that value? The fact that I can see far and wide. The roar of streams and rivers echo like no other time; snow and leaves both muffle the sweet sounds of Mother Nature. Living in Davis, WV makes Blackwater Falls State Park my backyard, and yes, a lot of time is spent there. In early Spring I catch myself exclaiming sights and views never seen before on Pase Point Trail due to the dense nature of the forest encasing the old railroad grade turned hiking and biking trail.
Pase Point Trail is unique in the fact that it parallels the canyon rim of the Blackwater River from Pendleton Lake to the confluence of the North Fork of the Blackwater River, 1,000 feet above raging whitewater. The incessant thundering sound from one of West Virginias most rugged and unforgiving rivers becomes melodic as the trail unfolds beneath my feet.
Peering through the trees over the Blackwater Canyon reveals a rarely seen southern canyon wall, top to bottom and side to side. Monstrous cliff outcropping’s stand out like tombstones, sporadically peppered throughout the canyon. In the heart of late spring and summer, here in West Vietnam, one may not even realize they are hiking along a canyon rim because the forest and thickets are so dense along Pase Point Trail.
Approximately 1.5 miles from the trail head at Pendleton Falls is a limestone outcrop that makes Pace Point. The well-worn path to Pace Point overlook will be on your left, flanked by mature Rhododendron and 2 large rock cairns. A rock cairn is a pile of rocks systematically piled on top of each other, identifying trail junctions where signs are not present. The view is panoramic as buzzards circle below; a steady breeze is barely heard or seen when there are no leaves to flutter and rustle in early spring. Just a uniquely strange setting, defying my logical natural senses; during a time of year few are in beautiful Tucker County exploring.
On a grand September evening a text comes in rousing any two wheeled junkies for a North Fork Mountain adventure, on a Wednesday work day. The weather forecast was 70 degrees and Bluebird, sounds like a perfect day for chucking a sickie, it’s worth it, I’m in. We are joined at the North Fork Mountain trail head by a dense fog bank, which is an understatement, we were in a stinkin’ cloud. All is good, by the time we are behind Seneca Rocks it will have burned off, not so much. The views are by far some of the most remarkable in the whole state! Not for us. That feeling of “I’ve been cheated”, especially after taking a day off work for a 10 hour epic expedition, crosses our posse’s mind.
I quickly reflect, or redirect my deflated expectations to you, the Tucker County Tourist. So innocent, visions of grandeur, Bald Eagles, feet of snow, ferry diddles abound, a perfect sunset every night. We market ourselves very well. Your commitment is incredible, taking valuable vacation days knowing astounding experiences wait for you in TC. The week of September 20, 2015 was perfect for all intents and purposes, but there were some big lemons found, including my own on North Fork Mountain.
There are two expectations that time of the year, Blackwater Falls and fall foliage. Mother Nature is perfect, just not all the time. Waterfalls, big or small, were at best a trickle. No rain = no waterfall or does it = dry hiking trails where normally wet marshy bottom land is present, becomes perfect terra firma, for once. River bed navigation becomes a breeze on Red Creek, or incredible rock formations become apparent on Pendleton Run. Perhaps your expectations for a roaring Blackwater Falls leads you to an unexpected Lions Head adventure in Dolly Sods. See what is happening to that lemon. Now that is some tasty Lemonade.
While taking pictures to fit this BLOG, a double whammy reinforced the underlying theme I am trying to convey. These great folks came to Blackwater Falls State Park to view the beginning of the fall foliage, a 65’ tall tombstone accompanied by leprechaun green trees greeted their vision for an iconically inspired, ideal vacation. It was my pleasure to introduce them to the wild and wonderful world of Tucker County, they truly had no idea. Beardon Knob, Douglas Falls, Olsen Tower, Otter Creek, Pace Point, or Lollipop trail, to name a few unsung places. At the end of the week disappointed guests of Tucker County left filled with new, unexpected experiences that often supersede the loftiest expectations. Tucker County is great for that, and lemonade.
The morning was underway with cool, crisp, dry air that entices calling the day off of work. I utter the words “It doesn’t get better than this” to my co-worker Tina. An hour later I stand up to help a tourist in need, and then it hits…heavy eyes, sinus pressure, one ear pops, there is a feather in my throat. Alergies! Anyone have some Benadryl? "You didn’t follow the Ben-dryl." Say what?
Alisa Poling and Ben McKean both agree, a teaspoon of raw honey a day for three weeks before allergy season will alleviate the symptoms. And that’s what I have coined the ‘Ben-dryl’. Alisa and husband Paul own Mountain State Honey, Ben, Healthberry Farm, and both produce honey in its rawest form, making for the most delectable, unrefined flavor known to mankind. Stack on the legions of personal health benefits, factor in the delicate nature of the Honey Bee surviving modern environmental struggles, and an invigorating respect for a bees’ needs envelopes me.
I join Ben at Healthberry Farm on a day he is doing mite control in his active hives. Checking one off the bucket list, our bee keeper suits are on, smoke can is fired up, let’s dive into those hives. Ben’s mild manner and cool, calculated movements ease my concerns that I am wearing shorts and hundreds, probably thousands of honey bees are buzzing around. Ben and I have been skiing together for 20 years, when he says I’ll be fine, I trust him. “If the bees start ramming your face screen aggressively, walk away calmly.” 10-4 ol’ buddy. Healthberry Farm has a twist to its existence. In 1994 Ben met Ference Androczi in Buchannon, WV and learned of Old World Mead making. It was this process that so intrigued Ben to pursue his current operation as a bee keeper, honey producer, and Mead distiller.
Located in Parsons, WV, Mountain State Honey produces an array of different types of honey including Basswood, Tulip Poplar, Autumn Olive, and Goldenrod. Their reputation for producing an insatiable product combined with a face to face business model, has won them accolades from folks like the Tamarack in Beckley, WV. Fairs and Festivals like the Buckwheat, Harvest Moon, and Honey Festival have propelled demand for their product. The one gem at Mountain State I most favor is Honey Comb, in the raw, it is as incredible as it is illusive! Thankfully, several outlets in Tucker County carry their products.