Moon Rises

Taken near Seneca Rock in West Virginia, this photograph shows the changing leaves below a high, bald ridge. The moon rises behind, appearing like a ball bouncing on the horizon. While camping in Gandy Run, we discovered a truly wild and wonderful landscape. This area is known as the Spruce Knob Seneca Rocks Recreational Area.



The nearby Secena Rocks formation is a spectacular sight to see. A tall jagged rock formation plunges skyward against the backdrop of a wide river. Tiny climbers can be seen scaling the rock face, dwarfed by it's enormous size. On this visit, the fall leaves were exploding with fall color.

This rural area of West Virginia is truly beautiful. Spotted with family owned farms, the wide vistas exhibit rolling hillsides contrasted with high, sheer cliffs. Being that the nearest town, Elkins, is 40 miles away, one must rely upon the local stores. These often are former homes decorated with stuff animals, a wide selection of bait and typical soda and candy offerings. We were welcomed in like neighbors, even with out of state plates.


A steel framed walk bridge spanning a flowing river.


This is part of the charm of West Virginia. Just a couple of hours outside of the northern Virginia area is a life that is slower, more personable and without typical suburban stress. Inside of the Spruce Knob area lies something known as dispersed camping. Made available by the national Forest Service, strings basic campsites can be found along Gandy Run in Tucker, WV. These unserviced camping sites are set in thick forest are adjacent to a wide river. Finding this place was a stroke of luck, as we never found our intended destination.



Waking in a camper without heat with temperatures in the low 20's was not the best part of the trip. Hiking the area and eating by the fire was. There's nothing like a rustic weekend with friends and photography.

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Holly River Camping

Camping in West Virginia is a wholly underrated experience. The state has a bad reputation for a number of reasons that I won't cover in this post. However, over the last number of years I've camped in locations all over the state. It has become apparent that the state is indeed Wild and Wonderful.

While there are many terrific campgrounds in Virginia, Maryland and in the surrounding mid-Atlantic region, they can be over managed and encumbered with rules meant to keep strict order. I've found that camp sites in West Virginia maintain a high regard for the natural setting while encouraging full enjoyment of the environment. Sometimes this can be in the form of relaxed rules or simply friendly park staff. There never seems to be a lack of genuine smiles and helpful pointers. This extends to many of the campers and citizens I've encountered as well. It never ceases to amaze me that the local folks offer a friendly wave and a smile, even with out of state plates on the car.

Of the dozen or so campsites I've visited, the natural surroundings are often managed in a way that does not impede upon the experience. There are never too many obnoxious signs, aggressive camp hosts or rules suggesting that one stay on the path. Exploration is always encouraged. These things make camping, and photography, a much more pleasant experience.

The Holly River State Park is beautiful. Encompassing more than 8000 square acres, it is one of the largest parks in the state. The Holly River Campground has an unusual layout. While most campgrounds are somewhat circular in design, this one is linear. Composed of four camping areas, they are arranged along the river itself. In doing so, it maximizes access to the river from as many sites as possible.

The park also features a wide range of natural hiking trails. Ranging in length and difficulty, there is something to offer every type of hiker, and photographer. During this trip, I chose a moderate trail that wend its way along rivers. The brilliant green ground cover glowed making the hike seem like a visit to an enchanted forest. Fallen trees were left in their natural states, other than where they crossed the actual path.

More about this particular campground can be found at this Wiki site:

The photograph above was taken next to the campsite where I stayed for two nights. The tripod supported a long exposure of more than half a second. The large boulder in the foreground, combined with the flowing river and arching distant trees, caught my eye. A palette of ocher browns and lime green leaves easily reveal the true feeling of this place. Layer slow moving water blended by time and you can almost hear the birds chirping and the frogs peeping. Need I go on?

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Camping at Big Bend in West Virginia

This weekend I went camping with a neighbor in West Virginia. The Big Bend Campground is located inside of a huge river loop, and is surrounded by a 2200 foot high ridge. This ridge wrapped around the campground nearly 270 degrees. As part of the Spruce Knob – Seneca Rocks Recreational Area, this site offers a wide surrounding river with a looping hiking trail. The caretakers were splendid people and they lived on-site, year round, for the past eight years.

Being that the mid-Atlantic region has received more rain than normal, the river was high and filled with debris that  washed down from the mountains. Many parts of the river had long stretched islands, often covered with trees blanketed by colorful spring flowers. Recent high water revealed down-washed debris that could be seen stacked against trees, sometimes five feet high. The campsite offers canoeing and kayaking for campers.

The rock faces, integral to this particular ridge, were mighty. Located within the Smoke Hole Canyon, the ominous and meandering mountain featured walls of the earth's crust crumpled by time and geological pressure. Constant streams of rocks and boulders fallen over time could be seen at every turn. This is no ridge at rest.





























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