Almost Heaven: Life On the Forest Floor

Magnificent vistas and majestic trees abound in West Virginia. Down every country road lie mountains, farms and forests that fill the eye and viewfinder with grand lush life. Raptors soar overhead, while bears, bobcats and foxes lurk around every bend.

But no more than a bear can pass up a blueberry bush could I ignore the small treasures encountered on the trails. It’s just who I am, a champion of the small and overlooked.

There’s a lot of life on the forest floor. Continue reading

Almost Heaven: A Spruce Knob Point of View

“Always leave them wanting more.”

I have yet to take a trip where I got enough of the place in one visit, where I didn’t immediately want to go back. For many places, like the Smoky Mountains and the Adirondacks, once may have to be enough. Other locales, a little closer to home, can be visited again and again.

Like Blackwater Falls State Park. You may recall the last trip my friends and I took to the Potomac Highlands region three summers ago. Seneca Rocks & Cavern. Lindy Point. Dolly Sods.

The list of things we didn’t see during that trip was even longer: Spruce Knob. Cathedral State Park. Canaan Valley NWR. Bears. More of Dolly Sods. (One can never get enough of Dolly Sods.)

Clearly, a return trip was in order. And so, on Labor Day weekend 2018, we went home to the mountains of the West Virginia. Continue reading

A Sleeping Bear Sundae

Dozens of flavors of ice cream, and each one more delicious than the last. How does anyone choose? That’s the way I feel at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan. There are so many great trails. How do I choose?

Too hot on an August day for the wide-open trails through the dunes. Too crowded for the Cottonwood Trail. The Empire Bluffs Trail? My favorite, but I’ve done it before. Maybe something new? Maybe something with a meadow, and cool woods that open onto Lake Michigan. A triple-scoop Sleeping Bear Sundae, as it were. Maybe the Pyramid Point Trail? Continue reading

Lady Autumn Smiles

Once upon a time, feeling neglected, Lady Autumn wept.

And the Court of the Seasons’ calendar pages turned. It wasn’t long before the Court Photographer awoke to see the calendar had turned to an entirely new year. Startled to find herself deep in the Winter Queen’s leafless territory, she wondered where the Autumn Lady had gone.

“How can it be that I have missed my Lady’s appearance?” she cried. “Surely it was just yesterday that the Summer Queen and I were hunting for mushrooms. What happened to Autumn?” Continue reading

Fall Smells Like…

Fall smells like grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken noodle soup.

Fall smells like the muffled thunk-thunk-thunk of the liquid-smooth piano keys. Like the tick-tick-tick of the practice timer until it rings freedom and the promise of Outdoors.
Like the soft and cozy fleece inside an Eagles sweatshirt, white with kelly-green sleeves, over brown Toughskins and leather boondockers. Like the refreshing shock of the crisp cool air, the fleeting sting of wind-whipped hair. Continue reading

Batty About Bats (Part 2) Chatty Batties

Bat Week continues… In Part 1, we talked a little about bats, and their importance to the environment. We then followed the intrepid Heinz Refuge Bat Team into the field to search for these important critters by recording their high-pitched echolocation calls.

We left the team with lots of memory cards filled by chatty batties… Continue reading