I grew up in a house full of timepieces. They were the types of clocks needing wound, and they graced every surface and wall space of our family home. Maybe this is why I like to use the twenty-four hour analogy: If summer were a clock, by July 1st, we West Virginians are at “12 Noon.” We’re at peak. Though there are nearly three months of summer still on the calendar, an early autumn will likely make its appearance by “5:00.” We mountaineers will savor these next few “hours”, preferring the time slow down to a snail’s pace. Maybe, if we don’t bother to wind it, our summer clock will run down on its own.
From her very first signals, summer invites an outdoor mindset, and the glory of each lengthening day exhibits wondrous beauty. Once the sunshine begins to linger and the hummingbirds arrive thirsty at the feeders, I love to watch nature unfold:
- Long shadows splay themselves across the earth.
- Shades of gold and coral cast their splendor each evening, just above the hills.
- Neighborhood children’s squeals of delight are amplified along the water’s surface of their swimming pool.
- Glistening fireflies momentarily flash the backyard.
- Distant thunder rumbles a warning of a cool front on its way to break the heat.
Those of us situated in this latitude and longitude experience four distinct seasons. With autumn, winter and spring in our rear-view mirrors, June becomes a stark contrast from the confusion wrought by April and May–like when one of Dad’s clocks struck thirteen. It happens! Our spring can seldom make up her mind. By June and July, we are prompted by the warm air to plan and spend as many daylight hours outdoors as possible. On weekends especially, from early morning, we like to hike in the highlands or bike by the river, and stop to point out a bald eagle, some blooming rhododendrons and other fleeting sights. When on the local Caperton Trail, by lunchtime we might leisurely stroll to one of the welcoming outdoor cafes along the waterfront, along the Monongahela River.
In West Virginia, our closest overlook is the breathtaking view of Cheat River, found at Cooper’s Rock State Forest
https://www.tourmorgantown.com/coopers-rock-visitors-guide/ (see trail photo).
Snowshoe, Fayetteville, and all of our WV state parks offer more nature hikes than we can manage to take in one season.
Some very fine, relatively flat paths with gorgeous vistas await within an hour’s driving time. Ohiopyle State Park located near Farmington, PA is our favorite, and from our current position on the map, both Pennsylvania and Maryland are just across the border.
No matter which direction we choose, getting there can be a challenge. If the interstates cannot be avoided, the hazards of over-sized semis on the highway are a common encounter. Massive, wider-than-the-lane, unworthy-of-the-road-contraptions take up the space of two tractor trailers and always make me slow down. If it looks too big and heavy for the tractor trailer it’s on, maybe it IS too big and heavy. Gas drilling is a huge boon for the tri-state region, requiring all manner of heavy equipment to be transferred between drilling sites. It’s not uncommon to skirt (hug your side of the road) past ten or more over-sized loads in an hour’s commute in any direction. I hold my breath as I pass them, trying to concentrate, but I’m imagining they might collapse any second from all that weight!
Once we are back home, we become as laid-back as a summer hammock. Extended daylight hours find us out on the back deck in the season of t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops. Grandchildren visiting from Texas fill every last inch of the backyard playing kick-ball, badminton, and trying their acrobatics on the jungle gym. Our hearts fill with joy as the share their summer energy (see pic from Father’s Day weekend.) They’ll soon be busy at day-camp, and the eldest, her first over-night. (see pic of our 8 1/2 year old on her camp’s obstacle course.)
Our summer meals are simpler, too. Fresh tomatoes from the Farmer’s Market (somebody’s garden); open-faced tuna fish salad sandwiches on toast; sliced, juicy watermelon and tall glasses of iced tea or lemonade. And since Cooper’s Rock’s new summer schedule includes Food Truck Sundays, you might want to join us:
Mark your calendar for the next one: July 28th. No flip-flops that day. We’ll be wearing our hiking shoes.