Monday, April 14, 2008

Bergoo, Whitaker Falls, and Ramps

This morning our pal, Sharon Phares, picked us up and we traveled to Flatwoods to have breakfast at Shoney's. This was the day Sharon had planned for us to venture into the wilds of Webster County. The day was cloudy and a little rain appeared, but that did not stop these able explorers.

After a fine breakfast buffet, we drove along the mountain ridges from Flatwoods, and in a little over an hour descended the mountains into the town of Addison or Webster Springs.

Webster Springs, WV is the county seat of Webster County. Interesting is that the name of the town, is Addison and the name of the post office is Webster Springs. The town was incorporated in 1892 as Addison and named for Addison McLaughlin, upon whose land the town was originally laid out. The post office name, Webster Springs, is a combination of the name of the county with the various sulphur springs found here.

We had to show Judy the famous salt sulphur spring located on the site of the Webster County courthouse. We also pointed out to the good wife where the famous Webster Springs Hotel was located. In 1897, Sen. Johnson N. Camden built a 300-room resort hotel, the Webster Springs Hotel, complete with Russian and Turkish baths, where visitors could enjoy the "medicinal" qualities of its salt sulphur waters. The first elevator in West Virginia was installed in this hotel. In 1926, the hotel was destroyed by fire, and never rebuilt.

Leaving Addison (Webster Springs) we turned onto the Bergoo road. The road is certainly not a four lane (or two lane), since it is located directly beside the Elk River. After we left the hamlet of Bergoo, Sharon took us to Whitaker Falls.

Whitaker Falls are really lovely! The 16-foot high horseshoe-shaped waterfall is a special sight.

The girls opened the car's hatch and appeared to be preparing for a quest. Look at that expression on Sharon's face as she grasps her special hoe. It could only mean one thing! We were off to dig ramps for supper.

The abandoned railroad track going up the Elk River was our path. This is a great walk. As you see the ladies were successful in their ramp digging adventure.

I, on the other hand, could not help in the actual digging as I was documenting the collecting team's efforts and photographing the plants that were emerging from their winter sleep - plants such as the hobblebush below. The hobblebush is an unusual flowering shrub with two kinds of flowers: an inner circle of small flowers surrounded by larger flowers. The hobblebush is a member of the Honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae.

It is always great to see Dutchman's Breeches and trilliums in the woods.

Dutchman's Breeches is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants, a process called myrmecochory. The seeds have a fleshy organ called an elaiosome that attracts ants. The ants take the seeds to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes, and put the seeds in their nest debris, where they are protected until they germinate. They also get the added bonus of growing in a medium made richer by the ant nest debris.

Most folks see the white trillums along the roads in the spring. The red trillum below is not so easily seen. The root was traditionally used as an aid in childbirth, hence the name “Bethroot” (a corruption of “birth root”). Native Americans used root tea for menstrual disorders, to induce childbirth, and to aid in labor. The whole plant was made into a poultice used to treat tumors, inflammation, and ulcers. The red trillum is really a beautiful plant.

Many scenic waterfalls flow into the Elk River.

It seems that these waterfalls are perfect spots for cuddling.

Sharon is seen below walking down the railroad with her prize of ramps. She is one expert ramper!

As we were leaving the Elk River area, Sharon said, "I have to show you guys the headwaters of the Elk." We traveled several miles from Whitaker Falls and, there beneath a hill, emerged the waters of what would quickly become the majestic Elk River. Waters flow from the rocks around the base of the hill to create the first deep pool of water which will become the Elk River.

Another showy plant was blooming in this area. It was tucked in between populations of skunk cabbage. The Marsh Marigolds were in full bloom. The marsh marigold has been used for medicinal purposes throughout history and has appeared in literature as far back as the time of Shakespeare. The complete plant is edible but bitter in taste if eaten raw. Most often, the leaves are cooked and eaten like spinach.

We returned to Webster Springs driving over Point Mountain. Yes, the conditions in the woods changed. We went from a spring-like day in the valley to winter conditions on the mountain.

What a great time! As we traveled back into Webster Springs (I mean Addison!), we had supper at the legendary gourmet establishment known as "The Custard Stand".
One has two choices when eating at this stand – either enjoying the food on an outside picnic table or in your car. We opted for the car since it was cold.


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