“Countless Perfect Days” on Public Lands in West Virginia
Cynthia Olson is the art director for Ranger Rick Magazines at the National Wildlife Federation.
I have been traveling to Canaan Valley, West Virginia, from the Washington DC area for more than 20 years. And when I say Canaan Valley, I really mean ALL the public lands in that area — the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Blackwater Falls State Park, and the Monongahela National Forest.
It’s been a getaway for peaceful solitude, epic adventures, and joyous get togethers. We’ve traveled there with more friends/family/children/dogs than I can count. And, the main reason I chose this public land is because I amazed at how much I continue to fall in love with it — even after visiting over and over and over.
Because my house in Thomas, West Virginia is jointly owned by four families — and visited by many more — the recollections of moments in nature merge with moments shared with some of my most loved people. My teenage daughter asked me recently what my “perfect day” would be. I replied that I wasn’t going to commit to anything specific but that it would definitely include the following ingredients: a small group of loved ones, an outdoor adventure, delicious food, and an evening of board games or music. If I go by this “recipe,” I have experienced countless perfect days in the Canaan Valley area.
The “outdoor adventures” have included cross country skiing past a print made in the snow by an owl catching its prey in the night, spending an hour on a bike path waiting for a black bear with two cubs to wander off into the woods, marveling at expanses of moss with my favorite hiking friends, fording a stream flooded by beavers with my teenage daughter, and walking with brainy naturalists who have introduced me to crazily weird plants (ergot! sundews!).
We’ve eaten blueberries, cranberries, and chanterelles. We’ve skied in negative temperatures, admiring amazing ice formations. We’ve climbed enormous rocks scrambles, lounged in grassy meadows, dipped in cool rivers, and gotten very, very muddy.
These public lands in West Virginia have introduced me to an amazing variety of places AND people. The shared experiences are the thing that makes public lands so special to me. And I’m happy to be part of an organization that is trying to make public lands and outdoor experiences accessible to ALL people.
We’d love to hear about the public lands you love! If you’re interested in writing a love note, please email us at OurPublicLands@nwf.org for guidelines. If you submit your entry before November 15th, you’ll be entered in a drawing to win one of two hoodies from Anetik.