Random (but not really)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tuesday Flower Pr0n

My day lilies are blooming! Unfortunately they’re kinda beat up. But the balloon flower and hostas look nice!

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Written by Michelle at 7:03 pm      Comments (5)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,House & Garden,Photos  

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday Flower Pr0n

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Written by Michelle at 6:56 pm      Comments (4)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Photos  

Hiking WV: Coopers Rock

Location: Coopers Rock State Forest
Trails: Rhododendron, Mont Chateau, Clay Run, and Unofficial Trails
Distance: 4.6 miles
Elevation: 1510-2126 feet (800 feet elevation gain)
Temperature: 80-85 F

Last week’s rock sculpture was still there!

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So I added a new one, to a newly fallen tree.

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It’s just so lovely and peaceful.

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Written by Michelle at 5:46 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,West Virginia  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Hiking WV: North Bend State Park

Every other place I’ve been, a trail named “Nature Trail” is about a quarter of a mile long, extremely flat (if not paved) and frequently has interpretive signs.

This was not your average nature trail.

Location: North Bend State Park
Trail: Nature Trail
Distance: 4.3 miles
Elevation: 708-1183 feet (875 feet total ascent)
Temperature: 79-85 F

I’m not saying this was anything like last week’s trail with a 24% grade. Just that this was a 4 mile trail that had significant elevation gain (although with switchbacks, not straight up!). This trail went through the entire park, which means that most of it was quiet and peaceful, except for the bits that went through the campground, near the swimming pool, and along the picnic area. Those parts were loud and populated. But for a loop it was an easy price to pay.

At the top of the trail, we saw the remains of a very old fence.

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These original state park trail signs are getting rarer. I particularly like the descriptiveness of this one.

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Found an old cemetery.

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Very old, since these were the only grave markers we could find.

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We also took a brief stroll on the North Bend Rail trail.

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These little spaces were built every few feet into the tunnel. For someone to escape into if they were caught in a tunnel when the train came through.

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Written by Michelle at 8:58 pm      Comments (4)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Decay

I have long had a fascination with decay. If there is a decaying building, I want to go look at it.

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If there is a decaying machine, I want to examine all the parts.

Park of Decay

If there is a building being torn down, I want to examine the ruins and see the normally hidden bits exposed.

Sunnyside Deconstruction

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In cemeteries I’m drawn to the oldest tombstones, the ones that are broken or can no longer be read.

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When we hike, I am always delighted to come across some long abandoned sign of human habitation, lost in the forest.

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I love taking pictures of these things so I can look at them later, and see bits that aren’t always visible at a quick glance.

This means that I find West Virginia an endlessly fascinating place. As we drive along two lane back roads, full of switch backs and steep grades, we continually pass houses and barns and buildings that are falling down.

However, I also find this terribly heart-breaking. Because, you see, some of those houses I see falling apart are still being lived in. Or they are next to an old trailer that is obviously inhabited.

These buildings are not just the past coming into the future, but are the past that still remains someone’s present.

So I almost never stop and take pictures of these buildings, because it feels terribly rude–because I am looking not at the interesting structures but at someone’s poverty. No matter how much I want to explore, I keep in mind that my fascination is of someone’s struggle.

I sometimes wish I weren’t so awkward and afraid of approaching strangers, because I would love to hear the stories some of these people might have, and to photograph them with the things they love and what they have and hold dear. But here in WV, we’re had too many people making fun of us, of our poverty, of accusing us of being backwards. I wouldn’t know how to convince a stranger that I photograph WV because I love it, and I love the character to be found in things that are struggling to stay upright.

So instead I’ll just stare as we go past, wondering about the stories, and wondering how long until these places are taken back by the woods.

Written by Michelle at 9:08 pm      Comments (4)  Permalink
Categories: Photos,West Virginia  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Flower Pr0n, Part the Second: Around the House

I slacked on taking pictures of the spring flowers around my house, but here’s what’s blooming today!

My lavender is blooming like crazy this year! Anyone want some?

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Stella D’Oro daylily

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In addition to my herb garden, I’ve got planters of a few vegetables this year.

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For the first time in several years, my hydrangea bloomed! Yay!

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Written by Michelle at 7:21 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,House & Garden,Photos  

Flower Pr0n, Part the First: WV Botanic Garden

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(Not a flower)

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Written by Michelle at 2:33 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Photos  

Hiking WV: Holly River State Park

I’ll be honest. This is the first time in years that I seriously considered not completing our planned hike, because I didn’t think I could finish. The hike up the mountain was that steep. Luckily, Michael checked and saw we were almost to the top, so we persevered. I’m glad we finished what we had planned, but I’m sorry to say the Overlook was NOT worth the hike up the mountain.

Location: Holly River State Park
Trail: Potato Knob Trail (partial)
Distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation: 1855-2677 feet (822 foot gain)
Percent Grade for Steepest Part: 24.1 % for 0.4 miles

First, the hike up the mountain. It was 24.1 % for 0.4 miles. Part of the reason I almost gave up was because we’d only hiked a third of a mile when I stopped to rest. I thought the mountain portion of the hike was about a mile, and if we were less than halfway there was no way I wanted to continue. Luckily, Michael looked at his map app, and realized we were close to the top of the mountain.

Note that there are almost no switch backs, it was just straight up, over fallen trees and rocky ground.

Here is the elevation graph of the hike.

As I said, the overlook was not impressive. Here we are at the overlook.

Very Disappointing Overlook. (Look! Trees!)

Here is what you were actually seeing from the overlook.

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(Michael likes to point at random things when posed in front of signs)

The lower portion of the trail was gorgeous, which made up for the lack of an overlook. However, it is not anything you can manage if there has been a recent heavy rain, as it runs right beside the creek, occasionally stepping into the empty creek bed.

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But as for that hike along (and in) the Holly River, it was gorgeous. I took about a zillion pictures, half of which I put up on Flickr. I’m only going to put a few pictures here.

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So here are my thoughts: if you want to hike the Potato Knob trail at Holly River. Hike the lower portion to the road, but prepared to get your feet wet. If you want to see the overlook, hike to it from the Ridge Road trail, which is a much easier grade. The hike up the mountain? Leave that for masochists and people I don’t like.

Written by Michelle at 9:07 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The BOOKS of MAY

Yup, the weather definitely changed this month so we were able to get out and go hiking. That’s not a bad thing, because I love to hike. Just means I read fewer books this month.

So, I can’t say that I read a lot of excellent books this month. I’ve been trying to finish the Elvis Cole series, but the later books are often Joe Pike books, and the last book I read just… it wasn’t what I wanted out of an Elvis Cole book.

I re-read Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love by Dava Sobel which was excellent. I believe there is a fair amount of misunderstanding about Galilelo’s Catholic faith. This book–which contains letters his daughter wrote to him–makes it clear that despite his treatment by the Catholic hierarchy, he never lost his faith in God, or even in the Catholic church as an institution. Which is what makes the story so fascinating.

Mystery

Elvis Cole & Joe Pike
The Forgotten Man (2005) Robert Crais
The Watchman (2007) Robert Crais
Chasing Darkness (2008) Robert Crais
The First Rule (2010) Robert Crais
The Sentry (2011) Robert Crais
Taken (2012) Robert Crais

Non-Fiction, History and Science

Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love (1999) Dava Sobel

Audio Books, Mystery

The Shape of Water, Audible Version (1994/2006) Andrea Camilleri narrated by Grover Gardner
Spenser
Looking for Rachel Wallace, Audio Version (1980/1987) Robert B. Parker narrated by Michael Prichard
A Savage Place, Audio Version (1981/1987) Robert B. Parker narrated by Michael Prichard
Early Autumn, Audio Edition (1981/1992) Robert B. Parker narrated by Michael Prichard

Stats wise, as I said, we were finally able to really go hiking this month, so I read only (HA!) eleven books this month. And four of them are audio books that I listen to while we travel or while I walk.

As far as genre, except for Dava Sobel’s book, everything else was mystery.

And male authors caught up more this month, with only that single book by a female author. That puts male authors ahead 52 to 40 so far this year. However, I think I am done trying to finish Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole series, so we’ll see how that changes things in the coming months.

Thus closes May’s reading.

Written by Michelle at 9:00 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Hiking WV: Coopers Rock

Last year they started putting up maps at the heads of the various trails, showing you the elevation etc. This year they seem to be replacing the signs at trail heads and intersections, which is how we learned that the Reservoir Ski trail is now the Headwaters Trail. Curious to see if any other signage in the park has been added/changed. (The official park maps still have the old names. Which doesn’t surprise me. If the forest service had to lay off fire fighters, I’d hope they’d lay off web designers first.)

Location: Coopers Rock State Forest
Trails: Roadside, Headwater, Scotts Run Trails
Distance: 4.5 miles
Elevation: 2297-2017 feet
Temperature: 70-79 F

Written by Michelle at 3:20 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs  

Hiking WV: Tea Creek Wilderness

We hadn’t been back to the Cranberry area but once since last year’s flooding, so it was beyond time we went back.

We now have a new place we need to spend more time hiking.

Location: Tea Creek Wilderness
Trail: Tea Creek Trail (partial)
Distance: 6.4 miles
Elevation: 3579-3022 feet (557 feet)
Temperature: 70-72 F

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Remains of the old railbed.

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We are definitely coming back here to hike.

The only downside is that the restaurant we usually stopped back coming back from Cranberry was destroyed in the flooding. Any restaurant recommendations in the Richwood area? (Or between Richwood and Summersville?)

Written by Michelle at 9:24 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Almost One Year Out from the Flooding

We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of the devastating flooding that his a good portion of WV. One of the areas that was badly hit was Richwood, which was flooded by the Cherry River.

As we drive through yesterday, there are still condemned buildings standing waiting to be torn down. There are still homes that are lived in that remain in serious disrepair (some of that existed before the flooding). I didn’t take any pictures of this, because it felt like gawking, and invading the privacy of an area that has already suffered enough.

That said, there was also obvious evidence of rebuilding, and the road was in good repair, but still it’s heart-rending to see the continued struggle of the people in this area.

We hiked above the Cranberry Wilderness which is upstream of Richwood. Please keep that in mind for these pictures one year out of the flooding.

Here is how part of the trail looked–I took this picture because you can see the old railroad ties–much of this trail is on an old logging track. Other areas were a more narrow path with high vegetation on either side of the trail.

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Here are parts of the trail that were flooded / washed out:

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Take a close look at the debris in the above picture. Notice anything? It wasn’t until we were coming back down the mountain that I realized I saw no human trash–just tumbled trees and stones and branches.

That was the one nice thing I took out of the flood damage. That in the woods, those who hike and use the paths keep the area clean of trash and human debris.

You could hardly tell there had one been a bridge here. And we saw no signs of the bridge or human-hewn boards in the area.

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Another washed out bridge. This is at the head of where several different trails branch out. You had to ford the stream to cross here, which might not be doable after a heavy rain.

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So that’s how things looked in the Richwood / Cranberry Wilderness area just under a year out from the flooding.

Something to consider.

Written by Michelle at 9:06 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

We’re Goin’ to the Zoo Zoo Zoo

I was trying to remember the last time I’d been to a zoo, and figured it must have been before my cousin Liz was born. Which is fine, because I find zoos distressing. Not quite as distressing as they used to be, but as someone who doesn’t eat mammals because of cruelty issues, zoos are complicated.

But Jules’ birthday party was at the zoo, and I wasn’t going to miss that for anything, so I went.

It wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered–the Pittsburgh Zoo has had major renovations since the last time I was there as a kid. In fact, you can actually see some of the old outdoor pens–one of which has been converted to a sort of beer garden, which was amusing.

There were also signs, such as that outside of the polar bears, that seemed to be saying the polar bears had ended up in the zoo because they kept getting into human garbage and other parts of human settlements. I’d much rather an animal be in a zoo than shot because humans have taken over it’s space.

But I still was made very uncomfortable with the primate area. It wasn’t too bad initially–after all, the sloth seemed super happy with his surroundings, and there was a one-armed primate who obviously wouldn’t have survived in the wild. But the large primates? I didn’t see signs insinuating or detailing how they ended up at the zoo, and although their area was large with trees and a stream and plenty of entertainment, it was still disturbing seeing an animal so like us, behind the plexiglass. So I wandered off quickly and looked at other things while everyone else finished with the primates.

I only took one picture of a large mammal, and that was because I was zooming in with my camera to see if there was something wrong with this lion’s eye (there wasn’t) but I ended up liking the picture that came out, so here it is.

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Pittsburgh Zoo has an aquarium, but I found it… unimpressive. Also hot and insanely crowded, which didn’t help.

But there were interesting aquatic creatures, many of which were explicitly rescued (including the sea turtle with the paralyzed rear fins and “bubble butt”. (I didn’t get a picture of him, because that window was insanely crowded.))

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The window of the single tank of jellies was very crowded, so I got almost no decent pictures. But I did enjoy watching them.

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Also:

NO SWIMMING IN THE GRASS!

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I know, those are daylilies and not grass, but it still amused me.

Another plus was that instead of lawns and such, most of the areas between sections were of wild grasses and wild flowers, which I did like very much.

In the end, I won’t be going back to this or any other zoo, but it was not as bad as I was fearing it would be.

Oh! One last picture–this abandoned stairwell was behind a fence.

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Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs,Photos  

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Flower Pr0n

I came across a few flowers yesterday while we were out for Jules’ birthday party, and today we took a relaxing stroll at the WV Botanic Garden.

No poppies, but it was a nice reflective walk (except for the occasional bursts of gunfire (because there is a gun club less than a mile away (no, I’m not kidding, this IS West-by-God Virginia))).

Despite the name, I’m fond of spiderwort.

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I really do love Mountain Laurel flowers

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Written by Michelle at 7:07 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Photos,West Virginia  

Memorial Day

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Day is done, gone the sun,
From the hills, from the lake,
From the sky.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor,
God keep.
On the land or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night, Must thou go,
When the day, And the night
Need thee so?
All is well. Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light; And afar
Goeth day, And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well; Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise, For our days,
‘Neath the sun, Neath the stars,
‘Neath the sky,
As we go, This we know,
God is nigh.

Taps, by Gen. Daniel Butterfield

Grandpop_and_Bumpa

Ben Klishis WWII

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: History,Holidays  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday Flower Pr0n: Seneca Rocks & Seneca Creek Backcountry

You can see the climate differences between the Canaan Valley area and further north where I am,by the fact there were still violets blooming.

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Mountain Laurel are hardy shrubs that can tenaciously hold on into the cracks of rocks.

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Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Photos  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Traveling WV: Spruce Knob

Spruce Knob is the highest point in WV. We generally wander up here after visiting Seneca Rocks. Sometimes there is snow, but yesterday it was just windy and chilly.

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Written by Michelle at 9:26 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Seneca Creek Backcountry

Since I had two different maps, we decided to tempt fate (and ignore the murderous GPS) and take a different way down from Spruce Knob.

We did NOT get lost, and we found a gorgeous trail to hike.

Location: Seneca Creek Backcountry
Trail: Elza Trail
Distance: 2.9 miles (out and back)
Elevation: 3169-3982 feet (813 feet)
Uphill Grade: 10.6%

We didn’t hike the whole trail, because I decided I was done with uphill for the day. So we reached the point of being tired (and hungry) and then turned around and hiked back down.

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It was one of the nicest hikes we’ve taken in months, despite being all uphill. We crossed one creek, and then hiked up the mountain beside another. Despite being the Friday for memorial day (and seeing zillions of tents and campers setting up for the weekend) we didn’t pass anyone along the trail, and all we heard was the wind and the creek.

It was a restful, lovely, hike.

Written by Michelle at 9:22 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Traveling WV: Sites Homestead below Seneca Rocks

This is the first time I have ever gone to Seneca Rocks and found the Sites Homestead house open.

The home is very (very) slowly being restored, and most of the upstairs is unsafe to walk on, but that didn’t stop me from being fascinated.

It was fascinating.

First thing you notice is that there is only natural light–exactly how it would have been at the time (they most likely would not have wasted candles during the day).

This is the only non-flash picture I took that turned out well.

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Pie safe against the wall.

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This is where I became really interested. I (of course) looked more closely at the walls, and the scraps and remains left on the walls.

Wallpaper!

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Here is the kitchen.

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Then I went up stairs and looked closely at the wallpaper up there.

The walls and ceiling had been covered in newspaper and then painted, creating their own wallpaper (I can only imagine what a splurge the actual wallpaper downstairs must have been) that would have helped insulate in the winter, and probably lightened the rooms.

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I could have stared for ages and taken as many pictures as I could, but Michael is not nearly as fascinated by these things as I am, so I left after snapping a few pictures. Hopefully it’ll be open again in the future.

Of course being an historical building, they had furniture, and upstairs, small tableaus of how the rooms would have looked. I loved this.

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Written by Michelle at 8:03 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Photos,West Virginia  

Hiking WV (and Maintaining the Light): Seneca Rocks

As we have done for the past four years, we again hiked up Seneca Rocks to remember my cousin Ben on his birthday. And because we’re remembering Ben, we do the hike up without stopping, going as fast as we are able. Because that is how Ben would do it.

Location: Seneca Rocks
Trail: Seneca Rocks Trail
Distance: 4.2 miles
Elevation: 2484-1582 feet (902)
Temperature: 58 F

Hike up (starting from the sign @ bridge)
Distance: 1.4 miles
Elevation: 1587-2446 feet (859 feet)
Grade: 11.7 %
Time: 35 minutes

Last year, starting from Roy Gap Road (which was impassible this year) we took 40 minutes.

At the top, wearing my Maintain the Light shirt. (Which I took off right after, because it is heavy 100% cotton and HOT to hike in. I am only willing to suffer so much.) The crag is up and behind me. Because of the rain, we were more cautious than normal scrambling up there.

Happy Birthday Ben.   Once again we hiked straight up without stopping in your memory.

I do mean impassible. We have had a lot of rain this year, and a lot of rain leading up to our hike yesterday. (It even drizzled a bit on us at the top.)

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Seneca Rocks was used by the 13th Corps Mountaineers for Combat Assault training during WWII. I wonder if this is left from that time? (The rest of the WWII combat training done in the area was less benign, leaving UXO in many areas that eventually became Wilderness areas.)

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The view across the top of the crag looking south. The weather had cleared just a bit while we were up there.

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The rocks at the top of the crag.

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Looking SSW past some of the rhododendron growing along the wider edge of the crag.

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Here is part of the view, looking SSW, from as far up the crag as I was willing to scramble. (I’m not proud. I mostly butt-scootch up there. I know myself.)

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Written by Michelle at 7:36 pm      Comments (3)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  
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