In the last three weeks, I was able to visit an unusual and fascinating natural area in West Virginia three times – Cranberry Glades in the Monongahela National Forest. The swampy bogs in this area host a variety of wildflowers including native orchids.
The first visit involved an indoor slideshow of native orchids at the nearby Nature Center, followed by a guided tour through the bogs. There was only one problem – it rained so much that I didn’t dare take my camera along. The boardwalk was under water in some places. Still, it was quite magical walking through this area in the rain. Water all around us, gurgling, splashing, dripping…
Lush, green vegetation was sprinkled with lavender orchids, yellow swamp candle flowers, tall, delicate meadow rue, a profusion of white-creamy elderberry flowers, and bright red bee balm.
Since I couldn’t take any pictures, I returned by myself a few days later, during the first break in the rain. I arrived at 10 in the morning, the first car in the parking area. The half-mile long circular boardwalk was dry by now and made it easy to explore different sections of the bog – a wide open area and a bog forest. After a while, I could hear more cars arriving and other people on the boardwalk behind me. So I felt quite safe even though I was by myself.
My third visit happened just a few days ago. I was on my way home from a business trip and was so close to the bogs that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stop by, if only for a short visit. It was already after 5 pm when I arrived at the parking area. There were no other people around, no other cars. I knew the park office would be closed by now.
It occurred to me that being here all alone probably was not a good idea. What if my car got stolen (signs warned that there were “common thieves” around and to not leave any valuables in the car)? I had no cell phone reception and did not even have any hiking shoes with me, only my street shoes.
Putting my cautious mind on hold, I grabbed my camera and entered the bog forest. It was almost eerily quiet this time, very little bird song and just a few insect sounds. I noticed that all of my senses were immediately on high alert. Today was different.
I found a few turtlehead flowers
and an Ebony Jewelwing damselfly sporting delicate black wings and an iridescent green body:
The bog forest opened into a clearing
This was where I heard a loud snorting sound coming from behind some tall shrubs:
(The picture of this very area was taken on my previous visit as I had no more desire to take pictures in this tense moment).
I stopped to look wondering whether it was a deer. I heard movement from a large animal body behind those bushes. Then I saw a flash of black fur – definitely not a deer!
By now, I had turned around to get back to my car. I knew I shouldn’t run so I walked steady and fast, my heart beating even faster. I was strangely clear-headed, not panicked at all. That was a bear warning me to not come any closer. Was he coming after me? I kept looking over my shoulders keenly aware that I had nothing except my camera to defend myself with – hardly an effective weapon against a bear.
I was very relieved when I stepped out of that bog forest, saw my car, and found my keys in my pants pocket.
Sanctuary from the wild forces of nature!
I will be back – but not alone. I suppose I have to be grateful to that bear for teaching me an important lesson.
For more info on the Cranberry Glades area: http://www.pocahontascountywv.com/cranberry-glades-nature-center
The Weekly Photo Challenge is: Half and Half.