West Virginia conjures up many different images, but one fact that I’ve found to be consistently true regardless of your political affiliations or coal mining opinions- the mountains of West Virginia are gorgeous and teeming with wild beauty. This site was so far the longest drive I have done in a single day (10 hours of driving)- but it was worth it. I first stopped in at the National Park office headquarters to meet with the ranger in charge of my permit. To find out more about the park visit: http://www.nps.gov/gari/index.htm
While in the area I also visited the Carnifex Ferry State Park, a civil war battlefield. It was slightly off the beaten path, but upon arriving at the park I was impressed with the system of trails and the picnic area had a great overlook of the New River Gorge with breathtaking views. It was beautiful weather for sampling, and I was able to find some fairly healthy hemlocks as well as some areas where the hemlocks were declining pretty steadily. There were hardly, if any, pesky mosquitoes at the site- but I did manage to get a lovely spider bite which made my ankle swell up to twice it size… but on the whole a glorious day to be out in the field counting plants, and collecting ants and soil. This trip left me with a greater appreciation of West Virginia’s natural beauty, even though I only spent 8 hours outside of my car that day.