The Ravens Rock Trail is probably tired of seeing me.
I hadn't really noticed until recently, but this particular piece of Coopers Rock State Forest has drawn me back more times in the past year than any other bit of trail. Why is that?
It's not necessarily a hidden gem either; while it definitely gets less traffic than the official Coopers overlook, it still gets its fair share of visitors...
While I mull this over, here is a small selection of the pictures (and experiences) from my trips down this trail.
In spring it can be downright creepy.
Prior to a dreary rain, I had the trail to myself and was thoroughly spooked by this fog for the last half mile or so as the trail climbed up to Ravens Rock proper.
Normally somewhat of a eyesore, these power lines that plunge into Cheat Canyon were actually kind of lovely with the fog.
I really wasn't sure what to expect with such a low visibility day, but I wasn't disappointed. The fog and wind and solitude made for a hike that is pretty unique in my book.
And that's just one facet.
In summer, the area is in it's full, leafy glory. On a few different occasions I made it a point to explore the areas to either side of the trail.
As with most of the Coopers Rock area, there are some wonderful rock formations usually covered with some combination of rhododendron, moss, and often substantial trees growing squarely on top of the rocks.
At the bend of the trail, before it climbs toward the overlook, there's a stream (unnamed as far as I can gather) that gets some beautiful light that time of year. I'm pretty sure this was a lunch spot during this particular hike.
Along the way, there are always some unexpected surprises.
Still not exactly sure what type of animal this skull once belonged to.
Of course, the view from Ravens Rock itself is equally stunning in summer.
On my most recent trip down Ravens Rock Trail, I decided to try and catch the sunrise one morning in October -- one of the best decisions I've made in a while.
I made it just in time. Not five minutes after I sat down, the sun began to sneak up over the Preston County hills.
The view from Ravens Rock speaks for itself.
Again, this time I had the trail to myself and was able to quietly take in the last of this fall's color (the warm sun on that morning was a much needed bonus).
So, what is it that keeps me coming back to this one trail? I'm leaning towards the sheer variety. The stream, the rhododendron, the rocks, the wildlife (beyond my smartphone camera's ability to capture most of the time), the wonderful views from the overlook -- the list goes on.
This trail is a bite-sized portion of the natural beauty West Virginia has to offer, yes, but it's even more than that. Every time I see a pileated woodpecker silhouetted on the trunk of a tree, I'm nine years old again: the first time I saw one of those red-crested creatures outside our kitchen window. Every time I walk through a rhododendron thicket, for a second -- even in mid-June -- I'm back in the November woods listening for sounds of deer. This trail is a source of inspiration, of quiet, of calm.
And, in it's own reflective way, this stretch of woods is home, too.