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Sunsets

I am going to apologize up front this week’s blog is going to be a little short.  Life has really thrown a wrench into my path these last few weeks.  I work for a company as a contractor for the Government.  Which means we are on contracts for so many years and then we rebid.  Being part of an 8A Small Business this is typical life.  However, the contract I was on was lost due to a lower bid from another company.  We found out last week that most of our last days would be 7/20, with the exception to a few of us working until the 28th.  Tuesday the new company came in for training and for the transition of the contract.  I found out Wednesday I had a job with the new company.  I would finish out my time till the 28th on the current contract and then move over to the new company, however, this changed and I started with my new company on Friday.  Thursday & Friday they meet with more of my co-workers, and slowly some of my family are coming back into the ranks with me.  It has been a hard week saying good bye to people who you have worked closely with for 1-4 years.  People who you look forward to seeing every day and do things with outside of work.    I look forward to the new chapter in my life getting to know my new co-workers from SparkSoft Corporation and growing my knowledge base and skills.  Like my mom says God closes doors for a reason.  Now off from this bit a news and on to today’s blog.

My favorite thing about the day is the starting and ending.  I love the colors of a sunrise in the morning bringing a fresh new day into my life.  The only down side is I am either driving or sleeping when during the sunrise.  🙂  So the next best part of the day is the colors of the day ending.  Showing us that there is still something to look forward to no matter how bad the day has been.  It is kind of like the day is telling you, thank you for being with me and showing its gratitude through the multiple colors of the celebration of you completing another day.  So here are some photos I took during one such sunset.  I hope you enjoy them.

 

Cranberry Glades

Hope everyone had a great week life gets hectic and overwhelming sometimes,  and I have to say my favorite feature of WordPress is the ability to schedule my blog posts so I can work on them during the week, and that is only if I remember to work on it ahead of time.    🙂

Today’s topic is going to be on the Cranberry Glades in West Virginia.  I have been to this area several times in my life over the years.  Typically, during the fall, we take a family drive over the Scenic Highway that ends at the Cranberry Glades.  Walking into this area you are transported into a different scene that is not the typical landscape of West Virginia.

The Cranberry Glades are in Richwood WV, and is the largest area of bog s, or acidic wetlands, in West Virginia.  The park is located on 750 acres and offers a unique and exotic ecosystem.  The park was established by the US Forest Service in 1965, to protect and preserve over 60 unique plant species that call this area home.   The blogs are like that found in the “Muskegs” of the Arctic Tundra.  In 1974, the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area was designated as a National Natural Landmark. Over the years this site has been the subject of many scientific studies especially during the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950.  Such studies were performed by Maurice Brooks, Strausbaugh, Darlington, and Earl L Core.

These bogs are home to two carnivorous or insect-eating plants the purple pitcher plant, and the sundew plant.  The bog is also home to the Cranberry plant hence the name of the site.   Many of these unique plants are descended from seeds that took root in this area over 10,000 years ago. The glades are also now the southern-most point in North America where some of these life forms are found.

You do not want to step off the platform while viewing the area as most of the bog is underlain with peat that is up to 10 feet thick.   The wilderness is home to 5 different bogs.  The “Big Glade” at 59 Acres, the Flag Glade at 28 Acres, Long Glade at 20 acres, Round Glade at 8 acres, and Little Glade 1 Acre.  Currently, the Little Glade has since grown over and is no longer recognizable.  The glades are also the headwaters for the Cranberry River which is a popular trout stream.  Our typical excursion has only been to the “Big Glade”.

Cranberry Glades serves as a major tourist stop along the Highland Scenic Highway corridor.  Along with the ½ mile board walk, there is also a Cowpasture Trail that is 6.0 miles long for hiking that serves as the border between the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area and the much larger Cranberry Wilderness (50,000) acres.  Due to the ecologically-sensitive nature of the area and plant life, visitors are not permitted to leave the developed paths within the Glades.

Valley Falls State Park and Rock Lake

Today finds me a little later than usual for posting to my blog.  This has been a very long week even with the Holiday on Tuesday.  I hope everyone had a safe Fourth of July during all the celebrations.  This morning I got up a little earlier than usual and decided that I wanted to take a drive out to one of the state parks not too far from me.  So, I packed up my camera, and my tripod and headed out to Valley Falls State Park which is maybe a 30-minute drive for me.  I was concerned that from the rains that we received this week the water would be brown from all the flooding.  However, I took a chance and that was not the case.

The drive on WV-310 is a very scenic route, one of small towns and farms with some twists and turns here and there.  A good drive to have the windows down and the music playing as one looks over everything that went on the week before.  Once you turn off the road you are a single lane road that takes you through even more farms.  You may think you are lost when you come to the end of the road and it splits around a small lake.  Rock Lake is a community surrounding a manmade lake, a very serene area that one day I would love to live there.   This community was established in 1932 and currently has over 132 homes around the lake.

On my drive through I spotted some Water Lilies blooming in the lake and pulled over to get some shots of them.  If anyone was looking out their windows they probably were laughing.  As they watched me lay down on the ground that was wet and muddy to get a few pictures.  But as a photographer, you must be willing to do what you have to do to get the perfect shot.

Then I was one my way to Valley Falls which was maybe another 2 miles up the road.  Pulling into the main parking lot I was only greeted by one other vehicle parked there.  As I unpacked my camera, and tripod the only other person in the area was leaving.  I would have the whole area to myself which is what I was hoping for being it was early in the morning.  No one to mess up my photos by standing on the rocks to view them.  Okay so maybe this was also my introverted nature.  LOL.  I made my way down to the falls there are two viewing areas made from the very sandstone the falls are made of.  Of course, you need to watch out as there are no railings and some of the rocks are 10-15 feet above the river with other rocks below.  I wanted to try out some new shots with the camera since I had the tripod with me.  I tried setting the shutter speed to ½ second to help blur the water as it was spilling over.  However, due to all the sunlight it kind of blew out the white of the water and even in post editing, I was not able to completely correct it.  I should have stuck with my ¼ second, I normally use.  Oh, well lesson learned right.  😀

A little bit of background on the park.  Valley Falls was once the site of a lumber and grist mill community in the 1800’s.  It was a thriving community with its own Railroad Depot Station, grist mill, post office, sawmills, shops and even a ferry.   Between 1886 and 1888 the community was destroyed by a fire and a flood that swept through the community.  The town tried to repair the damages but never fully recovered from the damage.  In 1964, the state park system of West Virginia acquired the falls and surround landed and named the area Valley Falls State Park.  The park is 1,145 acres and is used for fishing, picnicking, kayaking, and has over 18 miles of hiking and mounting biking trails.

The falls are located on the Tygart Valley River with prevalent rock formations made from Connoquenessing Sandstone, which forms the cap of the falls as the river plunges over the rocks.  The rocks have also formed giant boulders as the river makes it way down the canyon floor for the next mile after the falls.

While walking through the park you can not only see the falls but the ruminates of the sawmill and gristmill that once proudly stood in the area and helped support a thriving community.  The railroad still runs through the area today although it is no longer a stop for passengers and is mainly used for hauling coal and lumber from other communities in the state.

Feel free to view the Facebook Album found here: Valley Falls State Park July 2017

Independence Day and Fireworks

It is so hard to believe we find ourselves in the month of July.  However, sad it is to see that summer is rushing right past us, it is also an exciting time.  In two days, it will be one of my favorite Holidays.  The Fourth of July is right up there with Christmas for me.  I love to see all the decorations, and the Firework displays have always fascinated me.  I can remember going to my Aunts and sitting along the pool watching my Dad and Uncles set off the fireworks.   Then once I moved to Morgantown I started watching the show the city set off.

Fireworks have long been part of our world culture for over 2,000 years, and have been part of festivals and celebrations ever since they were discovered.  When fireworks were first created in China the people of that time believed that fireworks could expel evil spirits and bring happiness and luck.  I know they have the happiness part right because I could not be any happier than I am watching the colors burst in the sky.  When the America’s settlers came to North America, they brought with them their love and enthusiasm for fireworks way before America celebrated Independence Day.   In 1777, was the very first celebration of Independence Day, this was six years before Americans knew if the new nation would survive the ongoing war.  Fireworks works were part of all the festivities that year and have been ever since.  When most Americans think of fireworks they associate it to the Fourth of July celebrations.  However, this is not the only time of year they are used in America.  We typically will see them at festivals, celebrations at the State and Town levels, Sporting Events, and New Years.

I can remember when I started taking Photographs of Fireworks.  My friend Rose asked if I wanted to join her and her son to watch them in Morgantown.  Her favorite spot was the parking garage in downtown.  I wasn’t too sure about this but it ended up being a great location for watching and photography.  At that time, I did not have a tripod so the edges of the parking garage made a great stable area for me to put my camera on.  I started several days before researching on the internet what settings I should use for my camera.  My old Point and Shoot camera had a Fireworks setting but my DSLR did not.  This was the first time I attempted to go manual on my camera from the settings to the focusing of the camera.  One thing I learned is the autofocus on as the camera will just keep searching for objects when it is dark and not allowing you to take any shots until it finds something to focus on.  It is best to focus it in before the show and just leave it.  During the show, I try not to zoom in on the fireworks, if you do you need to make sure you refocus the lens.  Play around with your F stops and find the best one for your camera.  Typically, it should be between and f/8.0 – f/16.0.  Another setting you will want to set is your ISO setting.  With having an older camera my photos do not turn out well if the ISO is above 1,000, I set mine from Auto to 100 which is the lowest setting my camera has, make sure you are using RAW format for your images.   You have more ability to remove defects such as noise in Post editing due to the image capturing more information than a JPEG.  The next area you will need to adjust is your shutter speed.  Your shutter speed will affect the type of firework images you take, the less time the shutter is open will shorten the length of the firework trails, and longer the shutter is open will extend them, however, this also tends to lighten up the surrounding area as the camera is receiving more light to the sensor.  I tend to play around with the shutter speed during the show, using the 1 second and 3-second speeds the camera has built in, however, your best option is the bulb setting which allows you to hold do the button and then release it when you want to.  This brings us to our next suggestion, get a shutter remote, this way when you push the button you are not touching the camera which helps with better shots and you can enjoy the show instead of constantly paying attention to the camera.  Although I would suggest from time to time to look through the viewfinder or look at the images as they pop up on the camera to make sure everything is okay.  There is nothing worse getting home only to realize that something happened to the focus and everything is blurry.  To help even more with stability bring a tripod with you unless you have a flat area for your camera to rest that is the perfect angle your photos are going to come out blurry.  The tripod and shutter remote should help you achieve the best shots you can capture.  On a side note it is also suggested that when using a tripod, you should turn off your cameras stabilization.  Once the show is over try to remember or write down your settings, when you only take firework photos a couple times a year it is easy to forget them and you do not want to waste your time trying to figure them out during the show.  Another good suggestion is to get to your location when there is still some daylight.  If you know the general area the fireworks will be let off this helps you frame in your scene.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe Fourth of July.   I am always interested in suggestions when taking photos so if you have any additional suggestions on taking Firework Photography please feel free to leave me a note.

Kumbrabow State Forest

Wow this week we celebrated Father’s Day on Sunday and the first day of summer on Tuesday.  The first day of summer is a day I look forward to but also dread at the same time.  I love summer and everything that comes along with it the longer days the warmer weather and getting out in nature and enjoying all the greenery.  However, with the first day of summer also means the days are slowly getting shorter and leading us up to the winter months when things are miserable and cold and the places I love to visit are shut down for the year.  Anyways today’s topic is about a little state forest that is near my parents that we would always go visit for a little picnic on hot days because it always seemed so much cooler there.  I have a lot of memories from camping, playing in the creek, having a picnic with my dad, mom, and brother, or family gets together with my mom’s side of the family.

Kumbrabow State Forest is located outside of the town of Huttonsville, WV.  The Forest itself is not the biggest Forest in WV, however, it is 9,474 acres of forest.  The Forest elevation ranges from 3,000 feet above sea level at the lowest point and 3,930 feet above sea level at the highest point.  This gives the forest the title of the state’s highest forest.   The forest was acquired in 1934 with the help of three prominent families the Kumps, the Bradys and the Bowers, which is where the forest got it the unusual name.

The forest is managed by the multiple-use concept which helps provide recreation and watershed protection while allowing the state to practice the principles of forestry and wildlife management.  The forest has a diverse habitat of black bear, turkey, deer, grouse, and even bobcat sightings.  The State Forest facilities include fully equipped pioneer cottage and cabins, campsites, bathhouse, and picnic areas.

The cabins located in the forest were built in the late 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and feature stone fireplaces, wood burning kitchen stoves, gas lights, and refrigerators.  The cabins no running water and like the other facilities in the forest make use of pit toilets (also known as outhouses) and hand pump wells for water.  The cabins come equipped with cooking utensils, dishes, flatware, bed linens, towels and outdoor charcoal grills.  You can rent the cabins from the second Friday in April to the first week of December.

Camping is available at the Mill Creek Campground there are 13 sites available for use for camping.  The sites are rented on first come first serve basis and only one tent or trailer is allowed per site.  However, families may have one or two small tents in addition to the main unit.  Please note though that if you have a trailer larger than 20 feet you may have trouble finding a suitable site.  The sites feature picnic tables, fireplace, pit toilets facilities, hand pump well for drinking water

The picnic area features picnic tables, fireplaces, hand pump wells for drinking water pit toilets, playground equipment, and pavilions that are available for daily rental.

The forest also features 8 different trails ranging from a ½ mile long to 3 ½ miles long and a small waterfall below the cabins called Mill Creek Falls.

 

 

 

Blackwater Falls State Park

Hope everyone had a wonderful week last week.  This heat is really starting to get to me but my favorite things about this time of year are the Lightning Bugs (aka Fireflies) and the Thunderstorms.  I have always loved thunderstorms and some of my best memories are sitting on our front porch back home with my parents watching them.  Oh, the good old days when I had no responsibilities but school.  😦

Before we start today’s topic I would like to wish all the Fathers, men who have stepped in to be Fathers a Happy Fathers Day.

Today’s topic is about one of the state parks in the great state of West Virginia that I love to visit.   Blackwater Falls State Park is in Davis, WV in Tucker County.  The main fall stands 62 feet and is the largest fall in the state of West Virginia.  The name of the parks is for the falls of the Black Water River.  The water has an amber color to it and after plunging five stories from the main fall travels through an 8-mile-long gorge.  The amber water color the park is known and named after comes from the tannic acids from fallen hemlock and red spruce needles.  The park itself protects 2,358 acres of forest.  There is a trail to this fall along with a boardwalk and steps down to several landings near the falls.

The park features many nature trails along with wheelchair-accessible trails.  One of the main overlooks in the park is Lindy Point located near the park lodge.  The park also features several other smaller falls on Falls Run which is a multi-ledge 30-foot drop.  Shay Run which features the Elakala Falls which drop 40 feet and are also located near the lodge.  The Pendleton Run Falls have a 20-foot drop plus cascades above and below.  These falls are accessible by trail.  As many times, as I have been to this wonderful park I have only been to the Elakala Falls and the Blackwater Falls.

The park began in the early 1930s with various leases and donations to the state from the West Virginia Power and Transmission Company, which owned most of, the canyon.  The first lease began in 1934 and established 446 acres overlook at the head of the canyon which featured the mains falls itself.    In 1937 the park was formally established as a State Park, and the rest of the 1, 912 acres were donated in 1953 and 1955 by the power company, the US Forest Services donated 744 acres in 1957 and the last donation of 100 acres from Allegheny Wood Products was received in 2000.  The rest of the property was purchased by two state Governors 2000 the West Virginia Governor Cecil Underwood purchases 25 acres and added it to the state park along the second governor Bob Wise buying an additional 500 acres to add to the park in 2002.

Up until the mid-1950s the park was day-use only and in 1955-56 25 cabins were constructed, a fishing/skating lake was built.  In 1957 the park lodge which features 55 rooms was opened.  By 1960 the park was seeing annual visitor numbers around 240,000 with 18,000 staying overnight.  The lodge is still in service today along with 39 cabins, 65 campsites, a restaurant, picnic areas, pavilions, and a Nature Center.  Other activities found in the park are mountain biking, cross-country skiing, Hiking, and Fishing in Pendleton Lake and Blackwater River.

The park is a perfect place to capture your fall photos, and if I am ever brave enough I would love to get out to the park in the winter for some snow photos.  In the spring you can capture the Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron blooming.

Hope you enjoyed this little history lesson on this state park.  I know I enjoyed learning a lot about the park in my research.  You never realize what went in to make such a wonderful place to visit and take things for granted.  I know I do.  Hope you have a wonderful day and would love to hear from you.

Swallow Falls State Park

Hope everyone is having a fantastic weekend.  The weather here has been wonderful the past few days.  Although it is starting to get a little too hot for my liking.  If I could live some place that was 75 degrees year round I would.  😊

For this week’s blog post we are going to be traveling outside the wonderful state of West Virginia and we will be traveling to Garrett County in Maryland.    There is a state park that is not too far from the West Virginia Stateline called Swallow Falls State Park.  The park is located around 9 miles north of Oakland MD.  The drive from West Virginia to the park is a very lovely drive especially once you hit the Deep Creek area and drive past the lake.

The park was donated in 1906 by John and Robert Garrett of Baltimore and is 1, 917 acres, and includes the areas that became Swallow Falls and Herrington Manor state parks.  Both parks were developed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  I have yet to visit the Herrington Manor state park.

 

The Muddy Creek fall located in the park is the highest free-falling waterfall in the state standing at 53 feet.  The Muddy Creek Falls are similar to the falls at Blackwater Falls State Park in WV so much so that sometimes I must look at the dates to figure out which park they are from.  The few times I have visited it is not unusual to see people swimming near or under the various falls in the park.  The Muddy Creek Falls are accessible at the top and people do walk across it when the water levels are not too high.  The park features three other falls, the Upper and Lower Swallow Falls, and the Toliver Falls. This park is also noted for its stand of old hemlock trees, some more than 300, years old and are considered the last stand of its kind in Maryland.  I would recommend you visiting this park to see these wonderful trees before they are killed out from the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid which is wrecking havoc on the Hemlock trees in the surrounding states.  The park also contains campsites, a picnic area, as well as a mile-long hiking trail around the falls, and a 5.5-mile trail for hiking and mountain biking.

 

I love going to this park and walking the trail, the beauty of nature, the relaxing atmosphere and the wonderful sound of water running.  Make this the perfect place to go and unwind from a stressful week, and become one with nature again.  Spending time at each falls gives a person time to reflect and think about things in life.

 

I have only been there during the spring and I would love to get out there this fall and winter to see what kind of photos I can capture.  I love being out in nature and I love waterfalls and this place ticks off both of those for me.  So if you are ever in the area stop by and visit the park.