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Watoga Trail Report

The scale of time that marks the life of the mountains of Watoga State Park takes little note of the human animal, yet humans, like the tectonic plate shifts and erosion, have changed and molded these hills and valleys to their own needs. K. Springer photo

What the mountain saw

From the flanks of the mountain that Monongaseneka Trail ascends are superb views of Seebert – its church, many of the village homes and Horner’s Corner. Looking in the other direction one sees the Greenbrier River beginning another of its many sweeping bends. The river is bordered part of the way by the park entrance road until it turns sharply left at Cabin #1 to make the gentle uphill grade to Watoga Lake and the Park Office.

Indulging in a moment of anthropomorphic speculation, one can imagine the many changes seen by this mountain over the eons of its existence. From the perspective of the mountain and by the clock that it keeps – Seebert, the roads, the buildings, and even Watoga State Park are but brand new fixtures upon the scene.

The six-mile-long asteroid that impacted the Earth some 65 million years ago cast its shadow briefly upon these mountains, and they registered the shock of its impact. Our mountains saw the great dinosaurs die in its wake, and they bore witness to the rise of the mammals, starting with the very least of these creatures. The mountains looked down upon a seemingly endless parade of beasts – they crawled, walked, swam and took flight among the rivers, valleys and heights, some, like the Wooly Mammoth, never to return. They were always replaced by new shapes, new forms and strategies, new color schemes and sounds.

Born of violent tectonic plate collisions some 400 to 500 million years ago, even the first humans to set foot upon these mountains that we call Appalachia, some 11,000 to 15,000 years ago, were rank newcomers.

The scale of time that marks the life of the mountains of Watoga State Park takes little note of the human animal, yet humans, like the tectonic plate shifts and erosion, have changed and molded these hills and valleys to their own needs.

Many of the trails of Watoga State Park were built more than 80 years ago, and even in that relatively short span of time, these mountains have heard the sound of the cross-cut saw and ax replaced by the high-pitched scream of the chainsaw. Over the last millennia, they have heard the whoosh and thud of the spear point replaced by the loud retort of the gun. Later the roar and clatter of locomotives and vehicles reverberated through the valleys and steep sides of the mountains that once knew only silence punctuated with the harsh caw of the raven.

At one time mountains were considered inviolate, yet we have seen that, in the hands of man, mountains can be reduced to rubble in just a matter of a few years. For now, anyway, the mountains of Watoga are safe and can continue their role as sentinels over the long-term erosion by rain and river, and the activities of man that work at another scale of time altogether.

The mountain has seen and heard much. We may do well to listen to its stories.

Trail News and Such

Apparently, it was a slow news week up in Mudwallow, Ohio, perhaps the 10 inches of new snow kept most of the town’s residents holed up at home drinking more coffee than usual and occasionally checking the weather in Panama City, Florida, on their smartphones. Most have never been to Panama City, nor will they ever go there, but just reading about the sunny, warm weather adds to their self-imposed state of winter melancholy. Mudwallowans take a dim and suspicious view of unusually chipper people, particularly those with a tan in February.

I read my way through the latest issue of the Leber County Inquirer to see if there were any updates on Delbert Dinkle’s efforts to create hiking trails at the old mud wallow. On page two I found a Letter to the Editor by Gertrude Lisk complaining about schoolboys peeing in the snow in front of her house on Beatty Avenue. She said she knew who they were because they had made attempts to spell out their names; and evidently, some had enough steam left over to melt out a few curse words, as well. She went on to say that this is what happens when they close school over a little bit of snow; why in her day… Well, you can guess where it goes from there.

But sure enough there at the bottom of page two, following Gertrude’s weekly rant, was detailed coverage of the latest antics of Delbert and his so-called crack team of trail workers. It seems that after their debacle regarding the need to actually “start” a chainsaw before it will cut efficiently, it was decided that the crew should take a class in chainsaw safety and maintenance. Robyn, down at RF and Sons Hardware, agreed to run the crew through a one-day class.

I decided to give Robyn a call just to see how it went – I feel somewhat invested in this venture since Delbert’s vision is wholly based upon adopting the system in place for maintaining Watoga’s trails. She started off by lamenting: “That one-day class was the longest week of my life.” She told me that Delbert had read a book on team-building and decided to create an exclusive committee that would use and maintain the chainsaw.

She said that she reminded Delbert that “A camel is a horse designed by a committee.” Thinking Robyn had come around to seeing things his way, Delbert replied illogically; “Yeah, see what I mean? And a camel can even go a long way in the desert without water.” At that, Robyn knew that Delbert had completely missed her point so she just shook her head and said; “Just see that you don’t kill yourself, or the whole committee for that matter.”

As the crew/committee left with their chainsaw she reminded them not to cut concrete, metal, deer carcasses or anything other than wood with that saw, something she had never had to say to another customer in her 40 years of running a hardware store. She said that she felt as though she had just handed a loaded gun to a bunch of chimpanzees.

We’ll check back on Delbert’s progress in getting hiking trails established around the old buffalo wallow from time to time. In the meantime, I invite you to sit back, and enjoy the concept of time from a rock’s perspective in this short, award-winning film. Das Rad is German for The Wheel.

Happy Hiking,
Ken Springer

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