Random (but not really)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Traveling WV: Blackwater Falls & Canaan Valley

This weekend we did some hiking, but that was just a means to and end–to enjoy how beautiful Blackwater Falls and Canaan Valley were.

Blackwater Falls







Canaan Valley




Written by Michelle at 4:58 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Sunday, October 9, 2016

New Hiking Pages

I’ve finally gotten enough done on my Hiking WV pages, that I’ve made links to the site.

The State Parks section is pretty much done and will (hopefully) be updated. The National Parks section has yet to be started. (NOTE: The Coopers Rock pages is totally not done. We’ve hiked all the official trails, so I have a fair amount of data to parse.)

The pages have a single picture (when available) of that site, a link to my Flickr album (if there is one), a link to the state park website (if there is one), and the trails hiked as well as distances, elevations, and GPS maps (if there were any).

Please let me know what you think, and what recommendations you have for making it more usable.

Should there be a menu listing all the parks? Are there other categories that would be useful? Should I have a link to the official trail map for that park or is the map to park site sufficient?

The hiking trails are sometimes listed individually, sometimes as a group, depending upon how they were hiked. Does this make a difference to anyone?

I know I need a region map, because I don’t know of anyone who is aware of all those region designations, but the map I found isn’t very high quality.

Written by Michelle at 3:13 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,West Virginia  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Voting My Conscience

There are a lot of posts going around FB about how it is essentially immoral to vote for a third party candidate.

Mind you, most of those articles are directed towards the presidential election, but still the statements are broad and sweeping.

And I do understand these statements, for I’ve given friends a hard time for voting for Ralph Nader over Al Gore, and giving us W (something for which WV continues to suffer, as the recession hit us later and harder than the rest of the country, and never mind the lives lost in Iraq).

And so I understand these statements, for this presidential election is terrifying.

But still, it is their right to vote for whom they please, and to vote their conscience. And at least they’re voting, which is something many many people can’t be bothered to do. Which makes even less sense to me. Because when we vote in November, the presidential ticket is just one of the contests, many of which will have as much if not more influence on our day-to-day lives. (1) (2)

Which brings me the article that started off this rant.

The governor’s race in WV.

Billionaire Gubernatorial Candidate Owes $15 Million in Taxes and Fines

His mining companies owe $15 million in six states, including property and minerals taxes, state coal severance and withholding taxes, and federal income, excise and unemployment taxes, as well as mine safety penalties, according to county, state and federal records.

In the past 16 months, while fines and taxes went unpaid, Justice personally contributed nearly $2.9 million in interest-free loans and in-kind contributions to his gubernatorial campaign, according to state campaign finance reports.

I cannot in good conscience vote for either major party candidate.

I simply cannot. I don’t believe that either candidate truly has the good of West Virginians and the future of our state in mind. Not only do their words show a willful ignorance of what the future is going to hold, their past actions show that they haven’t held the good of the state and it’s people as most important.

Say what you will about the late Senator Byrd, but that man did everything–absolutely everything–to help the state. To make our lives better and give us a future. Not by putting his name on every building in the state, but by recognizing that without things other states take for granted, like roads that are capable of handling commercial truck traffic, we had no future.

We cannot base our future upon non-renewable resources.

We simply cannot.

We have so much to offer here, so much beauty and recreation and and so many marvels–marvels and beauty that will be destroyed if we refuse to acknowledge that our future does not and cannot lie with extractive industries.

A politician that refuses to acknowledge that truth cannot have the good of the state in mind, and cannot care about our future generations and what we are leaving them.

And that is why I won’t be voting for either of the major party candidates for governor. Because I love this state, and it doesn’t seem like the candidates even care.


(1) Every time we sit in horrible traffic on the Mileground, we’re sitting there because a decade ago people refused to approve the levy to widen the road. That’s hours and hours of time lost in the intervening years, as the situation got worse, and will be even more difficult and time-consuming and miserable to remedy now.

(2) And then there are the city-wide debates over land use and farming and keeping livestock within city limits. These are issues we are going to deal with the results of going forward for years. Should you have the right to grow your own food? Should you be forced to live next to a chicken coop that is both noisy and poorly cleaned? These decisions will affect our quality of life going forward, and whether you refuse to vote or not, you still have to live with the consequences.

Written by Michelle at 7:01 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics,West Virginia  

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Books of September

And it’s barely October!

I read 14 books this month, which puts me at 133 books for the year, which means I’ve read more books by October than I read in all of 2008, 2010, and 2011.

For what that’s worth.

Which isn’t much.

The best books were the Owen Archer series by Candace Robb (I believe this historical mystery series is completed),
Blood of the Earth
the new start of a new series by Faith Hunter set in Jane Yellowrock’s world, and the second Rivers of London comic series, Rivers of London: Night Witch by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Lee Sullivan, Luis Guerrero. Plus I enjoyed Thor Volume 1: Goddess of Thunder. That was fun, even if there was a crap of subtext I totally missed.

Mystery, Historical

Owen Archer
The King’s Bishop (1996) Candace Robb (8/10)
The Riddle of St. Leonard’s (1997) Candace Robb (8/10)
A Gift of Sanctuary (1998) Candace Robb (7.5/10)
A Spy for the Redeemer (2002) Candace Robb (8/10)
The Cross-Legged Knight (2006) Candace Robb (8/10)
The Guilt of Innocents (2006) Candace Robb (8.5/10)
A Vigil of Spies (2008) Candace Robb (8/10)
Charles Lennox
The Fleet Street Murders (2009) Charles Finch (6/10)
The September Society (2008) Charles Finch (6/10)

Fantasy, Supernatural

Blood of the Earth
(2016) Faith Hunter (8/10)

Graphic Novel

Rivers of London: Night Witch (2016) by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Lee Sullivan, Luis Guerrero (9/10)
Thor Volume 1: Goddess of Thunder (2015) Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman (8/10)
Hellboy in Mexico (2016) Mike Mignola, Richard Corben, Mick Mahon, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba
She-Hulk Volume 2: Disorderly Conduct (2015) Charles Soule and Javier Pulido (6/10)

You might find this hard to believe, but I actually read four paper books this month!

They were all comics, but still! Paper!

And only two re-reads in September. Mostly because I was busy devouring the Owen Archer series.

Genre-wise, it was predominantly mysteries this month, plus the comics.

Fantasy : 2
Mystery : 9
Comic : 4

As far as authors go, men were almost even this month, but female authors are still way ahead for the year. (And will likely stay ahead, since the series I just started, I discovered was written under a male pseudonym.)

Male : 6
Female : 8

And that’s this month’s reading wrap-up!

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sunday Flower Pr0n

Today needed something relaxingly active, so we took a trip to the WV Botanic Garden







Happy Fall!

Written by Michelle at 2:21 pm      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Morgantown,Photos,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Cranberry Backcountry

We’d discussed hiking in the Cranberry Wilderness, but I’d wanted to visit the Nature Center, since it closes mid-October. To get to the trails we’d considered, we’d have had to either back-track to Richwood, or take the Highland Scenic Highway all the way around the wilderness, so we instead decided to walk on the forest road past the boardwalk and see where that took us.

We took the North Fork trail up to the Kennison Mountain trail and then turned around and came back down.

Location: Cranberry Backcountry
Trail: North Fork Trail
Distance: 5.0 miles
Elevation: 3380-4113 feet (Average 5.6% grade)

There were a couple of steepish sections, but mostly it was a (relatively) gradual uphill hike (gradual for WV mind you).





The lower portion of the trail meandered across several creeks, most of which were flowing from the previous night’s rain.

It was really really pretty.


If you’re looking to hike in more solitude than you’ll find in busier parks and forests (like our local forest, Coopers Rock) then I cannot recommend highly enough visiting the Cranberry Wilderness.

Written by Michelle at 10:02 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Cranberry Glades

Cranberry Glades Botanical area is a short boardwalk that allows you to see a variety of plants, some of which are found only in this area.

Location: Cranberry Glades Botanical Area
Trail: Cranberry Glades Boardwalk
Distance: 0.6 mile
Elevation: 3383-3419 feet

Unlike the Falls of Hills Creek, the boardwalk here is flat and handicapped accessible.


Pitcher plant


The start of the boardwalk is is along the open area, but it quicly turns into the bog, where the vegetation is more closed in, and you cross Yew creek multiple times. (This is cause for multiple repetitions of “Yew again!” because we are horrible people.)



Written by Michelle at 9:43 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Falls of Hills Creek

Location: Falls of Hills Creek
Trail: Falls Trail
Distance: 1.1 miles
Elevation: 3235-3519 feet (9.1% grade)

Don’t walk this trail unless you like stairs. Lots of them. We got 31 flights of stairs coming back up from the lower falls. And if it’s at all wet, be cautious, because the boardwalk is slippery.


The Lower Falls


The Middle Falls


This is the first time we visited at (near) midday, where all the falls had some sunlight.

Written by Michelle at 9:29 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Finally! We found pawpaw!

The Arboretum is having pawpaw parties, where you can come and taste the fruit and–if you want–take seeds home to propagate.

Here are the fruits, plucked from trees in the Arboretum:


And here is what the insides look like. The pawpaw on the left is less ripe, the fruit on the right is more ripe.

Pawpaw innards (less ripe and more ripe)

The fruit really doesn’t taste like anything else grown in WV, and certainly not something growing wild.

If you have seeds, here is how to propagate pawpaw.

Written by Michelle at 6:22 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Food,Photos,West Virginia  

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hiking WV: Cranesville Swamp

Less of a hike and more of a wander, but it was well-worth the drive (despite our forgetting on the way home that the GPS is trying to kill us, and taking a road that was just barely passable for cars (the people on 4-wheelers and jeeps kinda gave us a funny look as we passed in our Corolla).

This area belongs to the Nature Conservancy, and is open year-round, during day-light hours. The brochure recommended wearing boots, but it hasn’t rained in awhile, so we kept our feet dry. But we still wore gaiters, because: ticks.

The flora is similar to Cranberry Glades, for similar reasons.

Location: Cranesville Swamp
Trails: Blue, Orange, Yellow, White
Distance: 1.8 miles
Elevation: 2358-2678 feet



And lots of berries, including some out-of-season ones.





Perhaps Viburnum:






I found a handful of blueberries and a single ripe blackberry. They were delicious.

Spiranthes cernua (Nodding ladies’ tresses orchid) (?)



The view of the swamp from the edge of the woods:


Written by Michelle at 8:39 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,West Virginia  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Small Rocks

At the playground the other evening, I made a small pile of flat pebbles. (I just had to look up the definition of pebble: “a rock fragment larger than a sand grain or granule and smaller than a cobble, which has been rounded by the action of water wind or glacial ice. It is therefore between 4 mm (~0.15 in) and 64 mm (~2.5 in)”. Pettijohn, F. J., 1949, Sedimentary rocks: New York, Harper and Brothers, 526 p)

I then became fascinated by how the small pile looked in the evening light.

Rocks at the playground

Rocks at the playground

Rocks at the playground

There is something pleasant about these pebbles–most small people I take to the playground want to take some home with them. I made an arbitrary determination of 2 pebbles per visit, lest we depebble the playground.

But they really are nice pebbles–and I love how they look different in different light.

Written by Michelle at 6:49 pm      Comments (3)  Permalink
Categories: Photos  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Hiking WV: New River Gorge

We had a visitor!

So since it fit into other things we wanted to do, we took her to New River Gorge and hiked out to Longpoint for the view!

Location: New River Gorge
Trail: Longpoint Trail
Distance: 3.0 miles
Elevation: 1776-2049 feet


This is a nice hike because it’s not long, it’s not especially steep, and it has a gorgeous view for minimal effort.

Written by Michelle at 8:03 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hiking WV: Panther State Forest / WMA

Panther State Forest / WMA is kind of in the middle of nowhere (though not quite the middle of nowhere as Cabwaylingo which had multiple one-lane bridges on the route in and out), and the drive was all on windy rural roads (which made for a pleasant drive), but there were a surprising number of people there–mostly family reunion groups, but there were some teenagers playing in the creek.

Location: Panther State Forest / Wildlife Management Area
Trail: Buzzards Roost Overlook Trail
Distance: 1.9 miles
Elevation: 1227-1631 feet

Yes, we did hike three “overlook” trails this weekend. And none of the three overlooks were very impressive, but that’s okay. (I had to climb up on a cement piling that was the remainder of a wooden overlook for this picture.)

Panther WMA

Like most parks, there were lots of playgrounds, but I can’t remember seeing swings like this in recent memory.


And the creek running through the park.


It was a lovely place to visit, despite the ridiculous heat. I think I’d like to visit again.

Written by Michelle at 5:39 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Beech Fork State Park

Beech Fork State Park is for boaters and fishermen, which is one of the reasons we weren’t in a rush to visit. It’s primarily a lake (like Bluestone and Moncove Lake) so there was little hiking, which is perfectly fine, because our state park system should be for all West Virginians–hunters, fishermen, kayakers, and hikers alike.

But it wasn’t any place I’m eager to revisit, since there wasn’t much hiking.

Location: Beech Fork State Park
Trail: Overlook Trail
Distance: 2.5 miles
Elevation: 601-920 feet

Here’s the view from the Overlook Trail.


It’s easy to overlook. (HA!)

There is a cemetery within Beech Fork, so as is my wont, we wandered around, considering the impermanence of life and memory.


There were a lot of WWI vets buried there–more WWI than WWII from a cursory wander. At some point, I’ll put all these cemetery photos up on Flickr.

Here’s the lake itself.


Written by Michelle at 5:22 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Kanawha State Forest

This weekend we finished up visiting all the major state parks, forests, and wildlife management areas in WV! HOORAH!

Location: Kanawha State Forest
Trail: Overlook Rock Trail
Distance: 1.7 miles
Elevation: 800-1360 feet

The view from overlook rock.


If you don’t want to zoom in, the view is power lines on the far mountain ridge.


Written by Michelle at 5:00 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day

Textile Mills









Triangle Shirtwaist Factory



Chimney Sweeps



Come all of you good workers,
Good news to you I’ll tell
Of how the good old union
Has come in here to dwell.


My daddy was a miner
And I’m a miner’s son,
And I’ll stick with the union
‘Til every battle’s won.

Breaker boys working in Ewen Breaker Mine in South Pittston, Pennsylvania, 10 January 1911, from a 1908-1912 series on...

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there;
You’ll either be a union man,
Or a thug for J. H. Blair.


Oh workers can you stand it?
Oh tell me how you can.
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?




Upper Big Branch

child labor today 1

child labor today 2

child labor today 3


child labor today 4




Just a reminder what we’re celebrating today.

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Holidays,Politics  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Books of August

This was a month for reading historical mysteries, with a dash of urban fantasy.

I re-read Salsa Nocturna: Stories by Daniel José Older and still love it. You should really read Daniel José Older.

Otherwise, nothing awesome stood out last month.

Historical Mystery

Owen Archer
The Apothecary Rose (1993) Candace Robb (7/10)
The Lady Chapel (1994) Candace Robb (8/10)
The Nun’s Tale (1995) Candace Robb (7.5/10)

Black Arrow (2006) I.J. Parker (7.5/10)
Island of Exiles (2007) I.J. Parker (6/10)
The Hell Screen (2003) I.J. Parker (8/10)
The Masuda Affair (2011) I.J. Parker (7/10)
The Fires of the Gods (2011) I.J. Parker (7/10)
Death on an Autumn River (2011) I.J. Parker (7/10)
The Emperor’s Woman (2012) I.J. Parker (7/10)
The Crane Pavilion (2014) I.J. Parker (6.5/10)

Urban Fantasy

Salsa Nocturna: Stories (2012) Daniel José Older (8.5/10)
Jack the Giant-Killer (1987) Charles de Lint (7.5/10)

I read all eBooks this month. Except for cookbooks, which I REALLY need to review Any Time Now.

Genre breakdown is mostly mystery. As I said.

Fantasy : 2
Mystery : 11
Anthology : 1

Gender breakdown is overwhelmingly female, as the initials belong to a female author.

Male : 2
Female : 3
Initials : 8

That makes only 18% of the books I read this year by male authors, but I will note that the Akitada books had a male protaganist, while the Owen Archer series series splits the story between multiple characters, but primarily the male and female leads.

And that’s it for the books of August. As temperatures FINALLY drop, I’m hoping for more hiking and less reading in the coming months.

We’ll see.

Written by Michelle at 2:50 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Traveling WV: Jackson’s Mill

My favorite part of Jackson’s Mill is Bleaker’s Mill. If you go during the Jubilee, you’ll get to see corn being ground, and if you’re lucky, hear an explanation both of how the mill works, and how Bleaker’s Mill was moved to Jackson’s Mill–as well as random tidbits, such as that the mill stones were brought over from France as ballast, and after being dumped, ended up becoming mill stones, because the quartz was so tough.


Also, because the light was good and it wasn’t a zillion degrees, I spent some time looking at the lower fireplace, where you can see precisely how the mill was taken down and rebuilt.


Here is a closer look (you might even want t go to Flickr and zoom in to see all the detail):


Every stone was labeled, and marked with the stones around it, the building was carefully dismantled, moved to Jackson’s Mill, and then using notes and the labels, carefully rebuilt.

This took as long as you’d imagine, if not longer.

And here’s a pioneer home:


Written by Michelle at 2:12 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: West Virginia  

Traveling WV: Mill Falls

We were meant to be hiking Saturday, and had planned on either Stonewall Lake State Park or Holly River State Park.

Once we were driving south, we remembered that this is the weekend of the Jackson’s Mill Jubilee, so we thought we’d do a hike a Stonewall Lake and then head back towards Jackson’s Mill. However, there was an entrance fee at Stonewall Lake, so we decided to pass, and take a drive instead.

We finally visited Burnsville Dam and Recreation Area, which was… fine.

But we discovered a small park, Mill Falls, which was beautiful.




No hiking, but we had a gorgeous wander.

Written by Michelle at 2:04 pm      Comments (3)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,West Virginia  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

On Swimwear and Modesty

I’ve been super confused by the recent news stories about bans in France on a certain kind of swimwear.

France’s highest administrative court is being asked to overturn beach bans imposed by 26 towns on women in full-body swimsuits known as “burkinis”.

Women are being fined for wearing modest swimwear.

Think about that for a few moments.

If you have any passing knowledge of history, you’ll be vaguely aware that less than 100 years ago, women were arrested or fined or removed from the beach for their swimsuits.

Because those suits didn’t cover enough of their skin.

Now we’re being arrested for covering too much of our skin?

Of course not. Not ALL women are being arrested, fined, or shamed for their swimwear!

Here’s a company that seems to be doing a good business selling modest swimwear to WASP women.

HydroChic’s core mission is to provide a stylish line of modest women’s swimsuits that at once combines the desire for chic expression on the beach and the consumer’s wish for modest swimwear coverage.

Here’s an article in the Wall Street Journal on the business of modest swimwear.

For years, Ms. Bolin, who is in her early 50s, searched for adequate bathing suits. Finally, she ventured out to her favorite Texas water park in a HydroChic outfit: Bermuda-length swim shorts and a three-quarter sleeve top.

Ms. Bolin said she still remembers admiring comments from lifeguards who loved her surfer look: “They thought I was the coolest.” She has never looked back

And that’s how it should be–a woman should be allowed to dress in a manner in which she is comfortable.

But yet women in France are being told that their manner of dress is not acceptable. That they don’t know their own minds and therefore cannot possibly have chosen to dress in such a manner, so therefore, they should not be allowed to dress in such a manner.

It’s 2016; how have we not reached the point where women can wear whatever the hell they want without some government stepping in to tell us they know what is best for us? That what we wear affects people OTHER than ourselves therefore we must toe the government line for how we clothe ourselves?

Why are more women around the world not ENRAGED by this?

Of course, some women are unhappy with these laws. Here’s a lovely image from France, of women who are standing up for their rights of their sisters to dress as they please:


Note that none of the women are the least bit upset by how the other women around them are dressed. In fact, they seem to be enjoying the company.

Because that’s the point. We should support the rights of others to dress as they please.

Mind you, I don’t particularly want to see half-nekkid people, and the thought of sitting in a chair after someone wearing short-shorts squicks me out a bit but that’s my problem to deal with (which is why all my shorts come down almost to my knees). It doesn’t give me the right to order other people to dress in a manner that makes me happy and comfortable.

To close, here is a picture of my in MY swimsuit (no one mocked me or tried to fine or arrest me for my clothes).


I don’t dress modestly because of some government or religious edict (in fact, I’m close to agnostic). I dress modestly because that is how I am comfortable dressing.

And that is and should remain MY choice and MY decision.


For the curious or interested, my top is a rash guard from Coolibar, which makes UPF 50 clothing and swimwear.

This does not mean I won’t mock creepy men who wear speedos and act like god’s gift to women. Because there’s dressing as you like, and then there’s being an asshole. The latter is always deserving of mockery.

Written by Michelle at 8:42 pm      Comments (3)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs,Politics,Religion & Philosophy  
Next Page »

Powered by WordPress

books main pictures cats e-mail