It has been close to 50° all week, and the snow was almost all gone, except where it had been plowed or shoveled into piles.  There was a bit of sun. It was laundry day, and when Robert finished hanging it, we decided to go find Cranesville Swamp, a Nature Conservancy preserve over in Preston County. It is a peat bog in a frost pocket, cooler than even the surrounding mountaintops.  It is also along the Maryland border, in an area where I suspect some of my “missing” ancestors, first settlers of West Virginia, may have been before the Revolution, an area I haven’t visited much.

The farther east, and higher, we got, the more snow remained in the woods.  Terra Alta is indeed high land, a town on the mountaintop.  Most of Preston County, Garrett County, Maryland, east of it, and Tucker County, just south, is high plateau, broad flats turned into high meadows and fields by German pioneer farmers starting just before the Revolution.  It is very different from the narrow parallel ridges and valleys of the Allegheny Front farther south and east, and the even narrower and broken ridges and valleys of the Allegheny Plateau which is most of western and southern West Virginia.

We found the turnoff to the preserve, marked only with a brown wildlife viewing sign, and soon discovered that the road was covered with ice and snow in the shady spots, and going downhill.  I wussed out, envisioning us sitting in some deserted spot at the bottom of an icy slope, miles from a cell-phone tower, and unable to get up the hill.  We really should have picked up a set of chains for the Jetta, but I keep putting it off, thinking we will get a Jeep, so we can visit my brother and traverse other backroads in all weather. There were houses all along the road, and Cranesville is less than 15 miles from I-68, so I really was being wussy.Terra Alta

This view is looking southwest in Garrett County, just over the Maryland line.  There was an ice storm this week, and the snow had an ice glaze. We drove south to Oakland, passing a swamp at Lake Ford.  Had we been sensible and read the brochure and map, we would have known that was the swamp, we had been only a mile or so from the trail head when we turned around, and it is even more accessible from the Maryland side.  Ah, well – we had not been to Terra Alta before, and it was a lovely drive.

Had we known there was still so much snow, we would have taken our new sled to the slope at Blackwater Falls State Park.  As it was, we stopped at Mountain Made‘s Country Store on the riverfront in Thomas, and then drove down the Canaan Valley and back across Route 72 through Red Creek, after which it follows the Dry Fork down to Hendricks, where the Blackwater comes in, to Parsons, Elkins, and back home on the four-lane, since by then it was dark.Dry Fork You can see that the Dry Fork was anything but.  There were a number of mountain farms up above Red Creek – some of the fields had horses or goats; others had herds of deer grazing.  We need to go back and ride the Allegheny Highlands Trail, which starts in Elkins and currently ends at Hendricks, or hike in the Otter Creek Wilderness.

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