When we got to Blackwater Falls Lodge, our room wasn't ready, so we hopped back in the truck and made the short drive over to Cathedral State Park. This is the last remaining patch of virgin hemlock forest in the entire state of West Virginia. One thing that I can say about West Virginia is that it is packed with some tree-cuttin' sons o' bitches. At the turn of the century the whole state was pretty much denuded of tree cover from north to south, side to side. Every peak and hollow and canyon had been scoured clean of anything woody. One hundred years since that ecological genocide and the forests have somewhat recovered only to be knocked over in the same fashion yet again. Every time we go to the state we are horrified at the endless truckloads of giant hardwood logs we see barreling down the highway headed for sawmills and pulping facilities. Humans never fucking learn.
However, this single 133-acre patch of virgin forest was spared due to the efforts of a single man who purchased the plot and saved it from logging. This has pretty much been the case of most virgin forests in the eastern USA. Foresighted men who decided to do what they could to preserve one small bit of wilderness amidst the rape of industry.
The most amazing thing to me, living here in North Carolina where you can no longer find a healthy grove of hemlocks at all, much less a virgin stand, is that the trees appear to be free of the hemlock wooly adelgid. I assume the pest has not made it this far west for some reason, and even though I'm sure one of my learned friends will apprise me otherwise, I can hope that the plague may have run its westward course and these trees will be spared.
At any rate, it was refreshing to be able to walk through such a stand of hemlock trees (and hardwoods!). All of my favorite groves here in North Carolina and in Virginia and eastern Tennessee have been laid low. It was sweet and wonderful.
Although the snow had been melting for a few days, the heavy snowfalls of previous weeks was obvious. This bridge had about three feet of snow covering it.
Just a shot through the forest, with dozens of new hemlocks popping up through the snow.
There was deer poop everywhere. We didn't see any deer, but the signs of their passing were almost everywhere you looked.
Order THE LIVING END at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!