Golden Glow

Our 50th Anniversary celebration was a success!

I was up in the pre-dawn of the day after; racing to type what I remember of a great weekend for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.  Hang on for a free-flowing account!

Only a few scattered showers appeared as we unpacked and set up on Friday at the big stone lodge in Canaan Valley State Park.  Display tables were assembled and soon we saw colorful booths by diverse group including the Tucker Community Foundation, Friends of the 500th, Friends of Blackwater, OVEC, WV Rivers Coalition and Heart of the Highlands trails.  We slapped on nametags and chatted with friends old and new, and tucked into yummy hors d’oeuvres plus.

The planning committee deserves a heartfelt thank you.  The team of Cindy Rank, Dave Saville, Jackie Burns, and Marilyn Shoenfeld assembled a weekend jammed with activities for body and brain.  They got us started at the registration table, assisted ably by Beth Little and Jim Stout.

David Ellis helped me scout out a bird walk trail, one recommended by Jackie.

Back at the lodge, I heard about enviro lawyer Mike Becher’s Costa Rica trip.  And babies were there!  Keena Mullins, with OVEC, brought her family, including 3- month old Denver and his sisters.  Raina Rippel brought her kiddos, and Ben Luckett and wife brought little Leo, age 1.

Founder Rupert Cutler and I discovered a mutual interest in living history and worked on ways to get Mary Ingles back to Virginia…re-enactor style, that is.

That evening our first panels had us learning lots.  One tidbit was that Canaan refuge superintendent Ron Hollis battles Spirea, when he and Dave Elkinton, Chip Chase, and Ed Michael addressed the refuge issue.   The Mon Forest folks, included Rupert and Dave S., with Clyde Thompson, resplendent in a cranberry shirt and black “braces,” and Mary Wimmer, evidently ageless, and bubbly as ever.

We thought about Frank Slider, who volunteered to lead us on a Stars and Salamanders tour, but subsequently found himself in Florida helping restore electricity to victims of Hurricane Irma.

Some of us had to miss the rock n’ reggae music; we just couldn’t do it all!

Saturday began early for a small group, with an amble down to the sewer pond and along an old orchard for the 7 o’clock bird walk.  We heard Rose-breasted Grosbeak and got good looks at a Common Yellowthroat.

The trip folks were happily assembling early too; just after breakfast groups lit out for paddling on the Blackwater River and headed for Dolly Sods to the Allegheny Front Migration Observatory to see the bird banding operation.  Editor John came back especially impressed with the chance to see songbirds in the hand as data was carefully recorded and the little flyers then sent on their way south.

Those of us who had opted to stay behind were spellbound by the presentation of poetry and song by WV poet laureate Marc Harshman and poet/fiddler Doug Van Gundy.  The words and music started out darkly [“they are stealing our future one minute at a time”] but appropriate for a struggling environment, then became light and tumbling, into optimism and cheer.

Next we turned to updates on those dark challenges, as we heard from activists and lawyers about gas and mining…but with a silver lining as we heard from the WV Land Trust.

A scrumptious dinner was followed by a moment to thank everyone in Highlands for all their assorted helps, and to acknowledge some special thanks in memory of Joe and Mary Moore Rieffenberger.  Their estate left us a very generous bequest recently and we sincerely look forward to applying it in a way that will honor their own service.

Kent Mason wowed us with photos.

Then the Margarets— Janes and Palmer— and Angie Rosser, Mike Becher and Ken Ward Jr. gave us a thoughtful panel on aspects of litigation.  Ken said these are dark times.  It is true that he, and we, have much to be serious about.  But, I did see that rare sight…I saw Ken Ward Jr. smile.

And then the fiddle music spun out again and the square dancing commenced.

The Silent Auction action was hot and the bidding flourished.

The Sunday bird walk, led by LeJay Graffious, found a Merlin!

Tree planting and more field trips lured some of us.

Then we wound up with a future look by John Christensen, Evan Hansen, and Tom Rodd.  Tom tossed us tennis ball molecule models and pop bottle climate demos and he strummed a banjo to give zest to his pitch for climate activism.

Bag lunches were grabbed again as folks grouped up for Perry Bryant’s  hike and the adventure through the Sinks of Gandy.  The foliage was gorgeous and the sun shone.

Whew!  It was Golden indeed!  We glowed.