West Virginia Wednesdays — Cathedral State Park

IMG_8718An hour north and west of Blackwater Falls State Park is Cathedral State Park. It is small by state park standards, only 133 acres, but it offers unique sights in West Virginia. It contains, as the official website reports, “the only stand of virgin hemlock” in the state. Some of those trees are around 500 years old.

IMG_8740My family spent about an hour walking the trails. I say “walking” because the park is relatively flat for West Virginia, so we didn’t feel we were hiking at all. The park has six miles of walking trails, and I think we could have covered them all in two to three hours, including stops for taking photos. There are picnic tables, so you could bring a meal and stay the afternoon.

The park was muddy, so keep that in mind when selecting footwear. My kids were very excited to find trees so wide that, even holding hands, they couldn’t reach around the entire trunk.

Because of the name, we expected to find soaring trees. We were surprised to find a wide variety of mushrooms. I have never seen so many different kinds in one area. I don’t know if it was the wet conditions or the time of year, August, which produced them, but my kids had fun looking for them. My favorite is this lavender one. I had never seen a lavender mushroom before.

IMG_8694Cathedral State Park is a great park for anyone who loves the nature of the Appalachia mountains, but it is especially suitable for anyone who can’t do strenuous hiking. The paths are dirt and can be uneven, but there are no difficult slopes.

If you are in the area of Aurora, West Virginia, on Rt. 50, stop at Cathedral State Park and explore. Maybe you will find a hot pink mushroom.

Writing Tip –Evoking Sound, Part II

singer-2119874_1280If you have any writing set in nature, describing the sounds of that setting is critical. Nature is never silent, so don’t pass up a chance to add sound imagery (that seems like an oxymoron) to your writing.

The setting for my novel is in the eastern mountains of West Virginia.  My main character lives miles from the nearest neighbors. Someone living that close to nature would notice its sounds.

If my plans don’t fall apart, I will revisit that location, so I can get first-hand observations.  Until then, I can do research with field guides and look up the songs and call of local birds and other animals.

Whether your setting is forest, fields, desert, mountains, or beach, here are some questions to ask yourself so you can describe the correct sounds.

What time of year is it?  If you are writing about a temperate climate, the season will affect the sounds. My novel takes place in July, so the animals actively making noises then may not be the same ones as in the spring.

What time of day is it? I have a scene where my main character is sneaking around his family’s property at night, checking for intruders.  I’m looking forward to hiking in the mountains at that time so I can make this scene accurate.

What are the weather conditions? My novel starts in a rain shower — lot of opportunity for sound descriptions. It’s also been very wet, so the wind blowing through a soaked forest would sound different from one that is suffering from drought.

And don’t forget the flip side of all that sound. If a natural scence suddenly gets quiet or even silent, it means something significant is happening or about to happen.

fog-2330095_1280Two weather conditions that can aid you in describing quiet are snow and fog.  Snow seems to soften everything, both visually and audibly, if fierce winds don’t accompany it.  Fog has a contradictory effect.  It muffles, but since fog can’t exist with wind, it also allows you to pinpoint the directions of sounds more easily.

Whatever your natural setting, be sure to explore it with your ears as well as your eyes.

 

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