First Trips into Cheat Canyon

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As much as I daydream about traveling the world, it is still wonderful how the places close to home can continually amaze.

The Cheat River truly is a treat. Whether it is whitewater rafting or a slow Sunday drive along WV-72, the river and the canyon in particular offers the caliber of views that one often associates with the mountains of West Virginia.
So, when news came around last year that, through the efforts of The Nature Conservancy and the Conservation Fund along with the estate of Charlotte Ryde and numerous other organizations, over 3,800 acres of the Cheat River Canyon between Albright and Coopers Rock were now open to the public I was eager to explore.

It is heartening to see the effort taken by all the groups that made the preservation of this section of Cheat River possible. Hopefully this preserve is only one in a growing list of places that will not only set aside parts of our state for future relaxation and recreation but that will also work to reverse the unfortunate practices that have threatened the diversity and the beauty that West Virginia has to offer.

Okay. On to the experience:

The southern trailhead is located just off Route 26: a little bit north of Albright.

I made my first two trips to the canyon in December 2014 and early January 2015. It was chilly as the high rim of the surrounding hills blocks the sun quite early on these winter days. But, even before I got into the heart of the new wildlife management area, the views of the hills, river, and sky were well worth the chill.

The trail is, for the most part, a graded gravel road, so the going is pretty easy.

But, if your are *slow and cautious*, venturing down to the rocky riverside offers some impressive, and noisy, views of the rapids.

And, from this vantage, you can also take in the sometimes sheer sides of the canyon which, during the January trek, were sheeted with ice in places.

On top of a large riverside boulder I came across some rather odd ice patterns.

Unfortunately, a common sight along the banks was trash. Tires, barrels, rusted shopping carts... even the odd VHS tape.

Despite the trash, or perhaps I have simply seen it all too often on this and other streams and roadsides around the area, the trips into the canyon were still very worthwhile. I was startled by a grouse, watched raccoon scurry across the trail, and ate lunch along the river while a pair of bald eagles flew from rim to rim. Yes, there is work to do. But, this is a wonderful start.

So, here's to reflection and preservation...

and here's to exploration.

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