Fog swirls around the tops of the red spruce and eastern hemlock surrounding the trailhead and I’m beginning to understand why Cranberry Glades Botanical Area is referred to as a “natural refrigerator.”
About an hour ago I was in sunny Lewisburg in a t-shirt, but now it’s obvious I’m going to want a little more than that. Sitting at around 3,400 feet, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn I’d driven into Canada, between the abundant muskeg, scraggly pines and cool, damp air. The area is a spongy bog sitting atop 20 feet of decayed plant material called peat, carpeted in sphagnum moss, milkweed, purple pitcher plants, Canada mayflower, yellow birch and of course generous cranberry bushes (ripening in the fall). All of it seems like it would be more at home in the boreal regions of the continent, more than 1,000 miles north.
The Botanical Area is dissected by a half-mile loop trail along an easy boardwalk through the glades themselves and patches of forest that separate them. Kids will love walking the loop in search of colorful (and rare) Jacob’s Ladder, marsh marigold and even several species of orchids. Among the flora, it’s not uncommon to spot crayfish in Yew Creek, a plethora of birds including hawks, and even larger wildlife like whitetail deer and blackbear! Pick out beaver dams during the daytime then come back after dark to listen to them work.
After your hike, stop by the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center, right next door, for exhibits about the Glades and surrounding region, as well as views south over Stamping Creek and further into Virginia.
While Cranberry Glades is both a taste of the high mountains accessible to everyone, and a breathtakingly unique ecological spectacle, for anyone interested in really getting to know the Monongahela, full immersion is only right up the road.
Learn more about wild, wonderful West Virginia here