A Picnic Visitor

Earlier this month we went to a church picnic at Valley Falls State Park near Fairmont, West Virginia.

Great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

Great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

We were sitting in the picnic shelter when this friendly Great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele) decided to check us out, possibly wondering if we had any butterfly food handy. After flitting about, settling from time to time on the table, it decided to sit on Lisa’s hand. It sat there for quite a while, briefly flew away, then returned to sit a while longer. I’m not sure whether it wanted us to give it something or if it was just saying “Hello”. In any case, it enchanted us by its presence.

Great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele) showing wing underside

Great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele) showing wing underside

Note: any entomologist, professional or amateur, who knows more than I do is welcome to correct my identification of this butterfly. Just leave a comment. On the other hand, I have complete confidence in my identification of Lisa.

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Messing About in Boats

“This has been a wonderful day!” said he, as the Rat shoved off and took to the sculls again. “Do you know, I’ve never been in a boat before in all my life.”

“What?” cried the Rat, open-mouthed: “Never been in a — you never — well I — what have you been doing, then?”

“Is it so nice as all that?” asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

Kayaking at North Bend

Lisa Kayaking on North Bend Lake in North Bend State Park, 3 May 2018.

“Nice? It’s the only thing,” said the Water Rat solemnly as he leant forward for his stroke. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolute nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,” he went on dreamily: “messing — about — in — boats; messing —”

“Look ahead, Rat!” cried the Mole suddenly.

It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.

“— about in boats — or with boats,” the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. “In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.”

— Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

North Bend Lake formed when the North Fork of the Hughes River was dammed in 2003. It’s a near ideal place for a beginning kayaker — the water is flat and easy to navigate, with a gentle current, and there seem to be few motor boats. The lake is dotted with the trunks of dead trees, a “ghost forest” as the West Virginia Gazette described it in 2015, killed by the rising water, and it has become the home of a colony of red-headed woodpeckers. We saw a number of them, usually as they moved quickly from tree to tree, and some even fleeter tree swallows dashing across the water.

Kayaking at North Bend State Park, Cairo, WV

Lisa Kayaking on North Bend Lake in North Bend State Park, 3 May 2018.

The Flatwoods Monster

#FreeBraxxie — The Flatwoods Monster first appeared to residents of Flatwoods, West Virginia, on 12 September 1952. We visited him while questing for a cemetery in the area on 17 August 2017.

Flatwoods Monster

Flatwoods Monster

Above is a representation of the monster, also known as The Braxton County Monster, or “Braxxie” to his friends, in the form of a ten-foot-tall chair. The seat part is on the other side of the monster. As described in the placard reproduced below, there are five of these chairs distributed along the Flatwoods Monster Chair Trail. The one pictured above is in Flatwoods itself, near the original sighting, indicated by the letter A on the map below.

Flatwoods Monster History

Flatwoods Monster History

You can read a summary history of “Braxxie” and the chairs by clicking on the image above (ignore the strange people who appear to be trapped in the sign — they’re just a mirage). Or you can visit the official web site at BraxtonWV.org/Braxxie.

Artwork and information are attributed to Braxton County CVB.