Random (but not really)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Hiking WV: Dolly Sods Wilderness

Dolly Sods is a fascinating place with a fascinating history. Despite the high elevation, it was initially farmed, until a fire wiped everything out. Then, during WWII, it was used as a test bombing range (nearby Seneca Rocks was used to train soldiers who might be fighting in the Alps).

Then it was allowed to go wild, and was eventually designated a national wilderness area.

And yes, there are signs about possible UXO at Dolly Sods.

When you hike there, you’d never know it was ever anything except a wilderness.

It’s an amazing and beautiful place.

Location: Dolly Sods Wilderness
Trail: Rocky Ridge Trail
Distance: 3.7 miles
Elevation: 3987-4192 feet

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Written by Michelle at 8:07 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Hiking WV: Blackwater Falls to Canaan Valley

Saturday we did the “Walk Between the Parks” which is an 8+ mile hike between Blackwater Falls State Park and Canaan Valley State Park.

It’s not advertised well enough, so you should look into it yourself. There are two more over the summer, and one October 1st, that I think we may do ourselves. They drive you from one park to the other, and provide a picnic lunch halfway

We’d been keeping an eye on the weather all week, and the forecast not only remained suspect, but it rained every day prior to Saturday.

But we were GOING to do this hike, rain or not, so we went down the night before, and packed for rain and mud.

Mud and water we go, rain, we did NOT. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful hike.

There were 28 of us, and two guides–one to lead and one at the back of the line, to look for stragglers and anyone in need (other than blisters, there were no problems).

The hike is supposedly 8 miles, by my GPS said 9.0 (and my cell phone GPS said 9.3) but we did avoid a super muddy area, which may well have added an extra mile.

Location: Blackwater Falls State Park, Canaan Valley State Park, and Canaan Mountain Backcountry
Trails: Davis, Plantation, Fire Trail #6 (Allegheny Trail), Allegheny Trail, Middle Grade Trails
Distance: 9.0 miles
Elevation: 3135- 3694 feet

No pictures, because as nice as a hike as it was, there weren’t breath-taking views. Just the beauty of being in the wilderness.

Written by Michelle at 9:10 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Books of April

It’s been a rainy weekend, so I took a break from organizing and gardening (since it was only sprinkling, it seemed silly not to garden) and decided to write up the books of April.

Unfortunately, Bad Things (too much death this year) have continued to happen, so I’ve been drowning my sorrows in books. Which is definitely healthier than drowning my sorrows in alcohol.

The best books of the month were Half-Resurrection Blues, Audible version by Daniel José Older, read by Daniel José Older (8.5/10) and Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs (8/10). I do enjoy the Mercy Thompson series very much, and since was another good addition to the series. I’d already read Half-Resurrection Blues, but we needed something to listen to while in the car, and we devoured the story in just a few listens. Which is pretty good for us.

I read a couple of new mystery series, once of which is fine, since it’s inexpensive, the other I definitely recommend, because it’s a time period I haven’t much read, and that’s the Susanna Horenbout and John Parker. In retrospect, I should have rated them higher than I did, but I’ll probably re-read them some time in the future, and will amend that then.

I read 15 books this month, which is pretty good considering that we went hiking most weekends.

Supernatural Fantasy

Alpha & Omega
Alpha & Omega (2007) Patricia Briggs (8/10)
Cry Wolf (2008) Patricia Briggs (8/10)

Mercy Thompson
Fire Touched (2016) Patricia Briggs (8/10)

Baba Yaga
Wickedly Ever After (2016) Deborah Blake (7/10)

Jane Yellowrock
Blood in Her Veins (2016) Faith Hunter (8/10)

Jinn and Juice (2014) Nicole Peeler (5/10)

Historical Fantasy

The Far West (2012) Patricia C. Wrede (8.5/10)

Audio Book (Supernatural Fantasy)

Bone Street Rumba
Half-Resurrection Blues, Audible version (2015) Daniel José Older, read by Daniel José Older (8.5/10)

Historical Mystery

Three Tales of Love and Murder (2012) I.J. Parker (7/10)

Susanna Horenbout and John Parker
Dangerous Sanctuary (2012) Michelle Diener (7/10)
Keeper of the King’s Secrets (2012) Michelle Diener (7.5/10)

Captain Lacey
A Regimental Murder (2004/2001) Ashley Gardner (7/10)
The Glass House (2004/2011) Ashley Gardner (7/10)
The Sudbury School Murders(2005/2011) Ashley Gardner (7/10)
A Body in Berkeley Square(2005/2011) Ashley Gardner (7/10)

Here’s how the stats came out:

I read 15 ebooks and listened to one audio books–no paper books at all this month.

Genre-wise it broke down into a split between fantasy and mystery. It’s possible I’m shifting out of the historical kick I’ve been on for months.

Fantasy: 8
Mystery: 7
Romance: 1
YA: 1

Gender-wise, I only read one male author, Daniel Jose Older. That’s 86% female authors for the year so far. I’m sure that percentage will eventually drop, but not any time soon if I continue this Patricia Briggs re-reading binge.

And that’s the books of April.

Written by Michelle at 4:47 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hiking WV: Cranberry Glades

Since it was on the way, we stopped at Cranberry Glades on our way home.





In addition to the boardwalk, we took a short hike along Charles Creek Trail.

I now need to go back and follow the entire trail, because there were random interpretive signs about a prison there prior to and during WWII.




Written by Michelle at 7:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hiking WV: Calvin Price State Forest

And the fifth place we checked off our list: Calvin Price State Forest.

For those who are familiar with Coopers Rock–Calvin Price is completely different. Aside from the Allegheny, there are no maintained trails in the forest.

It also is adjacent to Watoga State Park (WATOGA! WATOGA! WATOGA!), so although there aren’t trails, you can access some parts from Watoga.

Because we’d had a long hike the day before, and because we were heading home, we only hiked about a mile into the forest, along the Allegheny Trail.

This is as far as we hiked in.


And as proof, the forest sign!


Written by Michelle at 7:15 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Greenbrier State Forest

Our main hike for the trip was at Greenbrier State Forest, where we did the Kates Mountain Trail.

Location: Greenbrier State Forest
Trails: Old Road, Rocky Ridge, Holsapple, Youngs Nature, Mable Dowdy Nature Trails, and Kates Mountain Road
Distance: 10.2 miles
Elevation: 1689 – 3370 feet (1680 feet elevation gain)

Our hike started with two miles trail, that felt like it went straight up the mountain.

Pictures do not come close to showing precisely how steep this trail was, and I didn’t take many, because I was too tired to even pull out my cell phone for a quick snapshot.


Does this help? Probably not. Just take my word that it was REALLY steep, and I was very glad to be going UP that slope rather than down. (1)


Here is the view looking down towards the valley.


Look! Holsapple Trail!



Sadly, I can’t recommend hiking Holsapple trail, because it is being actively logged, which is not attractive, or pleasant to hike.

We found lots of random bits of wall, in the middle of the woods.


(1) Because of my ankle, I am very uncomfortable going down extremely steep slopes. It puts extra strain on my ankle and both hurts and makes me feel like I’m more likely to plummet down the hill.

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Lewisburg WV Cemeteries

I wander through cemeteries when I get a chance. I don’t quite know why, but they fascinate me, these markers of the dead, often fading quickly into illegibility.

This cemetery was particularly interesting, because Lewisburg is close to the VA border, and so families here might have been far more conflicted about the Civil War than those further north (or west).

I took a lot of pictures of the gravestones, but there were some that interested me the most.


This couple died within days of each other.


Thomas Creich Sr
Born in Another Country
January 1766
Died December 2nd 1847


Born at Lexington VA
April 23, 1800
Died at Greenbrier Bridge
West Va.
April 22, 1888


These were taken in the “black” cemetery, where there were a LOT fewer headstones, but at least the cemetery was maintained.

Charlot Robeson (?)
May 1, 1899
Aged 85 Yrs
At Rest




This one made me especially sad.


I took a lot more pictures, some of which I posted at Flickr (which you can see if you click through).

Written by Michelle at 2:43 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Photos,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Greenbrier River Trail

For the sake of completeness, I’ll mention that we also stopped and walked (about a mile and a half) on the Greenbrier Rail Trail at its southern terminus.

We plan to go back at a later point in time and bike–I especially would like to visit the Droop Mountain Tunnel–but for now, here’s another crossed off our list!


Written by Michelle at 2:05 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Moncove Lake State Park

The second location we checked off our list was Moncove Lake State Park.

The skies cleared on our way there, so no dramatic fog on the water pictures. But it was still pretty. (But not much in the way of hiking.)

Location: Moncove Lake State Park
Trails: Devil’s Creek Trail
Distance: 1.72 miles
Elevation: 2470 – 2550 feet




Written by Michelle at 2:01 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Plum Orchard WMA

Another checked off the list!

Plum Orchard Lake Wildlife Management Area is a lake, and so didn’t have much in the way of hiking.

Although it didn’t feel so on the drive, we were lucky to go when it was overcast and foggy. There might not have been any hiking, but it was gorgeous.




Written by Michelle at 1:55 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sunday Flower Pr0n

Busy day!

We went to the WV Botanic Garden this morning, and then this afternoon, we biked along the Mon River Rail Trail





Written by Michelle at 7:52 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Photos,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Kumbrabow State Park

Taking advantage of the gorgeous weather, we went back to Kumbrabow State Forest. It was a lovely day for a hike, and (for the most part) a lovely location for a hike.

Location: Kumbrabow State Park
Trails: Mill Creek Falls, Potato Hole Trail, Clay Run
Distance: 0.5, 3.3, 2.0 miles
Elevation: 2287-2795, 3187-3881, 3273-3621 feet

We hiked to the top of the mountain, up Potato Hole trail (which follows Potato Hole creek). The trail was interesting, going through several types of land, ending with a disconcertingly barren mountaintop.

Here’s the view from the top.


Here’s the tower you can climb for a better view.


The rustic cabins (as in, outhouses) are near the Mill Falls creek.



The Clay Run Trail itself was nice, but it emptied onto the Fire Road Trail, which you took to an overlook.

Which is being–logged? widened? uglified?


Here’s the view from the overlook. Feel free to skip the fire trail now you’ve seen the view.


But the trail itself was quite lovely


And had a marvelous bridge over the creek.


GPS Maps of the Hike

Written by Michelle at 10:23 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Tyranny of Clothing

I have several bathrobes, which I wear all the time.

This is partially because I like bathrobes (I have three–a heavy terrycloth robe for winter, and two waffle cotton robes for summer) and partially because we shower in the basement, and it’s a trek to make in the winter.

The softest robe has been causing problems for the past couple months–the overlap has been getting smaller and smaller, and it’s a bit to small to contain… me.

This, of course, made me feel badly about myself.

Until I realized that the loops for the tie were no longer at my waist, but are now just underneath my armpits.

The damned thing has been slowly shrinking, but I was convinced that the change was in me.

Nevermind that all my other clothes fit fine, and I’m still wearing the smaller jeans (I have jeans in two sizes; 10 and 12. I’ve been wearing the 10s) but I was somehow convinced that I was getting bigger.

Brains are stupid.

Also, I’m totally getting another robe to replace this one.

Written by Michelle at 9:54 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Depression,Science, Health & Nature  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sunday Flower Pr0n: Berkeley Springs

Berkeley Springs was cool and sunny on Saturday, which is quite nice for our quick stroll.

The root tree of the graft broke through, so this tree and white and pink flowers, both of which were pretty.





Written by Michelle at 4:11 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Photos  

The Books of March

We had a fair amount of yucky weather, and the plant fornication is bothering my sinuses, so I did quite a bit of reading in March.

My favorite book of the month was probably Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older. He’s now on my must-buy list. I also very much liked Banquet of Lies by Michelle Dienr, which caused me to make brioche and apple galette after reading about them being made. And I read When Falcons Fall by C.S. Harris within almost days of it being released, which is usual for her, but in generally I tend to get around to new releases.

So here’s what I read:

Historical Fantasy, YA
Thirteenth Child (2009) Patricia C. Wrede (9/10)
Across the Great Barrier (2011) Patricia C. Wrede (8.5/10)

Urban Fantasy, YA
Shadowshaper (2015) Daniel José Older (9.5/10)

Historical Mystery
When Falcons Fall (2016) C.S. Harris (8.5/10)
The Emperor’s Conspiracy (2012) Michelle Diener (7/10)
Banquet of Lies (2013) Michelle Diener (9/10)
A Dangerous Madness (2014) Michelle Diener (8.5/10)
A Soupçon of Poison (2015) Ashley Gardener (8.5/10)
In a Treacherous Court (2011) Michelle Diener (8/10)
Dark Angel (1994) Tracy Grant (8.5/10)

Historical Romance
Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand (2012) Carla Kelly (7/10)
Unraveled (2011) Courtney Milan (8.5/10)
Unclaimed (2011) Courtney Milan (8/10)
Unlocked (2011) Courtney Milan (unrated)
Unveiled (2011) Courtney Milan (8/10)
Talk Sweetly to Me (2014) Courtney Milan (7/10)
Proof by Seduction (2010) Courtney Milan (unrated)

Blood Trade Audible version (2013) Faith Hunter narrated by Khristine Hvam (8/10)

The Waters of Eternal Youth (2016) Donna Leon (7/10)

And here’s how the stats came out:

Out of 19 books, 18 were ebooks and one was an audible book.I have five re-reads (one of which was, of course, the audible book; I have to read a book the first time–the audio version is too slow. But I love listening because it forces me to slow down, and catch things I missed the first time around).

Genre-wise, I read a lot of historical romances, and almost as many historical mysteries.

Fantasy : 4
Mystery : 8
Romance : 11
YA : 3

And gender-wise, I read 18 female authors and one single male author.

Now that the weather has changed? Don’t expect me to read nearly as much.

Written by Michelle at 3:49 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Hiking WV: Cacapon State Park

Saturday we went to Berkeley Springs to check out the flowers, and then on to Cacapon. The hike we choose is rather strenuous, but it was lovely all the same.

Location: Cacapon State Park
Trails: Ziler Loop, Central, Laurel Trails
Distance: 6.5 miles
Elevation: 975 – 2260 feet

There is no clearing or tower from which you can see the whole valley clearly, but you can often see the trees (perhaps not as well once the trees leaf out).



The back down was at time quite exciting.



There were several areas with a lot of downed trees.


Elevation Chart:

cacapon hike


Written by Michelle at 12:13 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sunday Flower Pr0n

The cherry blossoms are from Thursday, when we walked down to the wharf district. The rest of the flowers are from Sunday, and our visit to the WV Botanic Garden.







Written by Michelle at 7:28 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Photos  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

On Showing Weakness

I had a very interesting (and quite lovely) conversation with an faculty member today. He’s older, and he’s not originally from the US (or the West, for that matter), which has bearing upon how the conversation progressed.

I interrupted him on the phone to ask if I could update his computer, and as he finished up, his voice changed and it became quite clear he was talking to a child. (He wasn’t speaking English, and I was able to start on what needed to be done, so I didn’t feel awkward about being there as he ended a private conversation.) (1)

I asked him if he was talking to a grandkid, and his face lit up and said yes, and I asked him how many grandkids he had, their ages, how far away they lived, etc. This brought the conversation quite naturally around to me, and I told him I didn’t have any kids.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because I’d make a terrible mother,” I said, giving him my standard reply.

This obviously didn’t make any sense to him, and so as we continued, I decided he really was curious (no need to tell me he was being a jerk, it was none of his business, etc. He really wasn’t–he was honestly curious, and believed that I would make a marvelous mother). (2)

So I told him that I suffer from depression, and there was a distinct possibility that I would have serious problems with postpartum depression if I got pregnant.

He was taken aback. “But you’re always so happy! So cheerful!” (He repeated this several times, he was so shocked.)

“When I feel bad, it makes me feel a little better if I can make people happy,” I told him. (It was a longer and more complicated than that, but you get the gist of it. (We also clarified depression and dementia and Alzheimer’s, just so he was certain about his “D” illnesses.))

After some consideration, he said that perhaps he understood. That he’d often met men who were friendly and outgoing and great guys, but as (I think) an elder of his church, sometimes the wives of these men would ask him for help/advice, because at home these men were not so wonderful.

“The outside doesn’t match the inside.”

“Yes,” I said, “except that the horribleness is turned inward to me.”

We talked a little bit longer about how long I’d dealt with this, and medicines and such, and as I finished what I was working on and got up to leave, he gave me a huge hug (and no, not a creepy hug–I think he was afraid he had upset me, asking about depression (he hadn’t)).

And here’s the thing: There are many things about that conversation that probably shouldn’t have happened (seeing as how it was at work) but it was a good conversation, and more importantly, a useful one, because I got to share with someone that depression happens to everyone–even the people who seem cheerful and happy on the outside.

Could anyone do this? Most likely not.

I’ve discovered over the years that something about me makes people willing to ask questions to which they really want to know the answers (3). Probably because I try to make people comfortable and put them at ease. (4)

But even if this exact scenario isn’t something everyone can do, I believe it helps to remember that anyone can share their weaknesses. That in this age of constant horribleness in the news, it helps to remind people that depression and mental illness aren’t the providence of monsters, but something that anyone can suffer from.

And a reminder to us, that we aren’t monsters, and that what we feel on the inside often has little bearing to what people see on the outside.


(1) I actually love listening to conversations in other languages, because usually there is some random English word dropped into a sentence of what is otherwise incomprehensible to me. My favorite was “blah blah blah blah school bus blah blah.”

(2) It would probably also confuse anyone who follows my Flickr feed, in which a variety of kids make regular appearances.

(3) One of my favorites from years ago: “In traffic, this guy waved at me with one finger. What did it mean?”

(4) Let me tell you, this, combined with a sense of humor, is an invaluable asset in face-to-face tech support, and has led to many spontaneous hugs, as I fix what had seemed like an insurmountable problem.

Written by Michelle at 11:06 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Depression  

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Hiking WV: Coopers Rock

Our plan for the day had been to go to Cacapon and Berkeley Springs, but I just didn’t feel like spending that much time in the car, so we instead went and hiked the other side of Coopers Rock.

I’ll note that I did NOT get us lost, hiking the Hemlock Trail. :)

Location: Coopers Rock State Forest
Trails: Hemlock Trail, Glade Run Trail
Distance: 2.2 miles, 3.3 miles
Elevation: 1664-1927 feet, 2117-2405 feet

The Hemlock Trail is gorgeous, and I took several pictures. The Glade Run Trail was nice, but not particularly photogenic.






Written by Michelle at 7:48 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Friday, March 4, 2016

Hiking WV: Coopers Rock

Tuesday, since we got home early and it was a beautiful day, we decided to hike some trails we hadn’t before (there aren’t many) and my rule for the day was no backtracking.

Location: Coopers Rock State Forest
Trails: Advanced Ski Trail, Reservoir Ski Trail, Roadside Trail, Overlook, McCollum Trail, Unofficial Trails
Distance: 6.8 miles
Elevation: 2153 – 2426 feet




Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest  
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