A visit to Cranberry Glades Botanical Area was the field trip I was most looking forward to in West Virginia. Part of the Monongahela National Forest, these wetlands hold plants more typically found much further north; ones I know from the Pine Barrens here in NJ and from my visits to the bogs of the Adirondacks. The landscape is unexpected and especially beautiful for its peculiarity here.
A half-mile boardwalk through the glades and surrounding bog forest protects the fragile environment while allowing close looks at False Hellebore and Marsh Marigold growing among Red Spruce, Hemlock and Yellow Birch trees, all of which can live shallow-rooted in such a wet area. Late summer will have the glades stippled with Orchids and Cotton Grass under a bluer than blue sky. Sundews and Pitcher Plants will be devouring insects under the hot sun.
The views are dramatic: rimmed by mountain ridges and pines, made even more primordial steeped in fog, garnet-colored Cranberries leftover from last fall lie hidden among the tiny vines covering the peat and Bog Rosemary and Serviceberry were in bloom. You can see winter there, still, up on the ridge. Cranberry Glades is nestled in a bowl among the mountains at 3400 feet.
As is my habit, I fell back from the group at every opportunity, preferring instead the tranquility of Hemlocks and Rhododendrons bathed in sunlight. Louisiana Waterthrushes and Blackburnian Warblers sang insistently with the Spring Peepers as I tried to appreciate the lack of human noise in this otherwordly place. Ravens called to one another above me.
Moments of grace and beauty were plentiful on this trip. My camera captured only a few of them, but being out there to experience them fully is what makes the day for me. I struggled for pics of the Canada Warbler that taunted and sang just out of view, but once I gave up on that, this little guy popped up and posed as pretty as could be.
a return Visit
9 months ago