Saturday, March 9, 2013

Changing My Point of View

With our natural terrain, the Mountain State is blessed with a number of incredible vantage points for sweeping views of our beautiful countryside. One of the most iconic (and most frequented) is Coopers Rock near Morgantown, just off I-68.

I had first visited the overlook at Coopers Rock State Forest as a youth traveling with my parents. Later, as a student at WVU, I sometimes took my books there to study. The expansive vista looking down into the Cheat River Gorge is wonderful, plus you can make out some landmarks of Morgantown in the distance. At one end, the Cheat is still a free flowing wild river, but below the overlook it joins the beginning of Cheat Lake, formed by a hydro-electric dam located just barely on the Pennsylvania side of the Mason-Dixon line.

The Coopers Rock overlook was recently featured (along with the Mountaineer mascot) in a WVU television advertisement.

Besides its panorama, another reason for the popularity of Coopers Rock is its ease of access, with parking available less than a hundred yards away. However, there is another rocky outcropping known as Raven Rock within the same state forest that offers a similar majestic view, but requires a three-mile round trip hike. If you’ve been to Coopers Rock, you may have noticed Raven Rock in the distance on the left side of the canyon.

This past summer, we made the hike out the trail to Ravens Rock for the first time. It was a pleasant jaunt through the woods. One reason why Ravens Rock is not as photogenic is because the point where it juts out into the canyon made for a closer crossing of major power transmission lines years ago. So there is a huge tower which allows three wires to droop gracefully in a catenary curve across the canyon. For me, it was interesting to look downriver towards the Coopers Rock Overlook for the first time, where often I had stood gazing at this incredible landscape. [If you go, be aware that unlike Coopers Rock, Ravens Rock is undeveloped and does not have protective railing to prevent you from falling.]

Notice the cables at Ravens Rocks beginning their long crossing of the Cheat River gorge.

However, that is not the only chance I got last year to see Coopers Rock from a completely different angle. On a warm late summer day, I took my kayak to Cheat Lake and paddled upstream, to finally visit a spot I had always dreamed about when looking down from Coopers Rock. It was fun watching the rocks (and the fish) on the bottom become visible, as I eventually made my way from the deep impounded waters of Cheat Lake to the unrestrained flow of the Cheat River. I pulled off at the curve—which is the farthest point one can see the river from Coopers Rock—to take in the scenery from that unique angle, while listening to the sounds of the water flowing over and around the rocks. I enjoyed the view from the river level looking up towards the visitors high atop Coopers Rock—some of whom may have been looking through the old, coin-operated binocular devices at me and my orange kayak down on the bank by the rapids.

Look close and you can see Coopers Rocks on the far hillside.

Now, whenever I see those typical images from the Coopers Rock vantage point, I think of the gorgeous day that I was down there looking up. Changing one’s point of view can sometimes be advantageous.

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