Jan and I got a new trailer in January. We didn’t get rid of our old one, but when we took our 2006 18-foot Micro-light to have the roof re-caulked, we decided to look at even smaller trailers on the lot. There happened to be a 2015 15-foot Whitewater Retro on consignment. It is light enough to be pulled by our mini-van. We got a great bargain, and all-of-a-sudden we had two trailers! We usually travel a lot each year, especially from mid-April until the end of June, leading workshops, guiding hikes and teaching. We plan to use the smaller trailer for short stays away from home. The “big” one is more like a cabin for longer stays.
But Covid happened and everything was cancelled, so our maiden voyage with the new trailer didn’t happen until 10 months later in October. We had to attend a meeting at Canaan Valley State Park. We could have gotten up really early that day and made a very long day of it, but decided instead to take the “little one” on her maiden voyage, arriving the day before, and staying for some hiking.
What turned out to be the best part of a great trip was that our wonderful friend Cindy was camped about 20 yards away for the first 2 days. There was even a trail between our two camp sites! The first thing Cindy asked was, “Can we go to see the Fringed Gentian?” Soon we were on our way.
There is only one known site for the Fringed Gentian (Gentianopsis crinita) in West Virginia, and it is a spectacular wildflower. When we have seen them before, it was about 1 week earlier in the season and they were already in full bloom. Luckily, this year the season was later and we were fortunate to see the Fringed Gentian in various stages of flowering — from flower bud to full flower.
At this same location we found some beautiful Nodding Ladies’ Tresses Orchids (Spiranthes cernua).
Cindy wanted to make supper for us. Absolutely! We had a lovely supper of delicious Chicken Romano and a table full of side dishes.
Later we sat around a campfire and had fun reminiscing.
Cindy had to leave the next day, but we enjoyed a bit more time together before our meeting started. Due to renovations happening at the Blackwater State Park Lodge next spring, the West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage will be held at nearby Canaan Valley State Park in 2021. Since I am in charge of the birding aspect of the Pilgrimage and Jan is one of my bird leaders, we decided after our meeting to hike areas near the Canaan Lodge to see where the early morning bird walks would go. The fall colors were beautiful.
On our walk we discovered a hole where a turtle had laid her eggs. Unfortunately, a predator had found the nest and destroyed it, eating the eggs.
Deer were easy to see and approach — they are used to people in the park.
From Canaan Valley we could look up to the ridge that is the western edge of the Dolly Sods Wilderness area where we had been just a few days before. (See our posts: https://wvbirder.wordpress.com/2020/10/03/a-different-dolly-sods-adventure-2020-style/ AND https://wvbirder.wordpress.com/2020/10/14/just-us-hiking-on-dolly-sods/ )
On our last full day at Canaan we began with a leisurely, hearty breakfast.
Jan and I decided to hike the 6-mile Promised Land Trail loop. Since we often stop, explore and take photos…
…we knew there wouldn’t be enough time to do the whole loop. Fortunately, there are several trails that intersect and they made it possible to get back to where we parked well before dinner time.
I appreciate BIG trees. To put things into perspective, a BIG Sassafras tree isn’t nearly as big as a BIG Tuliptree. I determine a BIG tree as being big compared to others of the same kind/species. What impressed me most about the Promised Land Trail was that, early on, we went through a woods with some BIG Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) trees.
Jan saw some unusual patterns to photograph, like these holes made by a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker…
…and other interesting shapes and designs.
At one point, the trail skirted the woods with views of large, open wetlands on our right. Soon we noticed a beaver dam on Club Run.
We decided to explore. I went down and stood on the beaver dam while Jan walked to the other end of the pond where Club Run flows in.
After exploring areas surrounding the beaver dam we continued on Promised Land Trail and discovered more interesting things.
A tangle of dead trees and branches —
Beech Drops (Epifagus virginiana), an obligate parasitic plant which grows and subsists on the roots of American Beech trees —
Fall-colored Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum) leaf with brilliant color —
American Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) in bloom —
American Basswood (Tilia americana) tree cluster —
Fall-colored Red Maple (Acer rubrum) leaves everywhere —
A tiny Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) —
Thanks to Cindy, we had lots of delicious leftovers to add to our planned supper on the last evening: clam chowder with extra clams and rice, vege slices with dip, Greek olives and homemade applesauce.
After dinner we enjoyed a campfire and made some new friends (also West Virginians) from the campsite next to ours.
Although Jan did come home with a couple dozen things to get or to do to the new trailer, we were pleased with how things worked on our first trip.
Even after we left Canaan Valley, we continued to enjoy the fall color that helps make West Virginia… Almost Heaven.