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Rip & Go: Cranberry Loop – Monongahela National Forest, WV

Circle an upland swamp rich with views, solitude, and wild edibles.

Key Skill

Photograph fall colors

Most hikers agree: When it comes to visual beauty, fall is tops. So then why do so many come away with one-dimensional, less-than-satisfying images? Use this quick guide to keep your photo album dynamic—and elevate your pictures to posterworthy, no matter where you turn your lens.

Wide-angle scenic
Set the scene and establish a sense of place
Ideal conditions
Clear to partly cloudy sky
Keep the sun at your side and slightly behind you to show more depth. Use a polarizer to reduce midday glare and make the sky appear bluer.

Show texture, nuance, and detail
Ideal conditions
Overcast skies for soft and even light, and to reduce shadows
If conditions aren’t ideal, have a friend cast a shadow over a small area of the ground while you photograph within it.

Add energy and motion, and frame the trip as a story
Ideal conditions
Overcast skies help even out the light if you’re taking photos in the forest. Technique Step slightly off-trail, squat low, and shoot your partner walking toward you so the trail comes in from the side.

See This
Cranberry Glades
The Cranberry Glades Botanical Area comprises five small peat bogs created during the last glacial period, about 10,000 years ago. These damp areas contain acidic soil that supports plants typically only seen at higher latitudes in Canada. Ground-creeping cranberry vines (bright red and ripe in the fall) grow in the sphagnum moss which covers most of the glades. Identify these wild edibles by their fingernail-size oval leaves, but wait until after the first frost (typically mid- to late-October) for the sweetest berries. Respect LNT rules when foraging: Pick a few berries here and there, but avoid denuding an entire vine; you’ll help minimize the impact and leave the area looking pristine.

Locals Know
Ruins of the old Mill Point Federal Prison, a work camp that was built without walls, fences, or boundaries, sit along the Cowpasture Trail, about one mile before the boardwalk. The prison opened in the early 1930s and housed more than 6,000 inmates in its heyday. Prison officials thought the remote location was enough to prevent escapes—and they were right for the most park. But in one juxtaposition of criminal behavior and gentlemanly integrity, a group of inmates assigned to drive the garbage truck to nearby Richwood promised a guard they would return. They kept their word and parked the truck at the prison—then made a break for it. The prison closed in 1959 and only a small strip of pavement and a few informational placards remain.

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