Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Getting Out in Motown

Morgantown has always been an important place to me, ever since my Dad took me as a kid to my first Mountaineer game at the old stadium. During my four years as a student there, and through countless visits ever since graduation, I have come to know the area quite well, and enjoy sharing its highlights with others. When giving a tour of the town, I always include the obvious choices related to the University, such as the original buildings at Woodburn Circle (and the nearby mast from the USS West Virginia, which sank at Pearl Harbor but was repaired and fought later in WWII), the Mountainlair, the Coliseum, the PRT system, and the new football stadium (which becomes the state’s largest city on gamedays).

However, the outdoorsman in me likes to get away from the city and enjoy nature’s wonders in the area as well. Fortunately, there are lots of places to do this within easy range of “Motown.” Although it was hard to narrow down, here is a list of my top five favorite scenic locations. When I was a student, I sometimes enjoyed taking my books to study in some of these locations. Feel free to share this list if you know a student at WVU who might benefit from some inspirational outdoor study halls.

1. Sky Rock at Dorsey’s Knob is a “must see” located along Route 119 just south of town. Park your car and make the hike up the hill to a huge rock at the pinnacle. A majestic 360 degree vista of the entire area awaits you there.

2. WVU’s Earl L. Core Arboretum covers the steep hillside adjacent to the Coliseum parking lot. Many of the trees in this old-growth forest have been labeled for identification. Various trails criss-cross the wooded slopes, all the way down to the rail-trail along the river. [By the way, the rail-trails in Morgantown are terrific for bicycling!]

3. The Cobun Creek Reservoir is located in White Park off Mississippi Street in the southern end of Morgantown. You can park near the ice skating rink to access the lakeside trails. I especially recommend checking out the “rapids” below the dam as the stream tumbles towards the Toyota dealership on Don Knotts Boulevard.

4. Driving a bit east on I-68 leads you to Coopers Rock State Forest. The main overlook provides a panoramic view of the Cheat River Gorge at the upper end of Cheat Lake (indeed, the lake itself is another good place to escape from the city). Besides the main overlook, I recommend taking one of the well maintained hiking trails there to check out the view from Raven Rock (further upstream from the main overlook) or the abandoned remains of the Henry Clay Iron Furnace, built in 1836.

5. Last but not least is Deckers Creek, which runs adjacent to Route 7 into Preston County. This mountain stream abounds with rapids and waterfalls on its downward journey to Morgantown. There are several pull-off areas along Route 7, but the best place to stop is just east of the Preston County boundary, where there is a small public picnic area. Trails lead down to the nearby creek, which has a number of scenic waterfalls in that vicinity.

Look close and you can see me standing to the left of this beautiful Deckers Creek waterfall, just below Rt. 7 near the Monongalia/Preston County line.

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