I wonder from time to time if my girls realize how lucky they are to have “nature” all around them with such easy access. And I don’t mean jaw-dropping examples of nature like the New River Gorge. Or Snowshoe and Canaan. Or Dolly Sods or…well, you get the picture. West Virginia is full of places like that. People travel hundreds of miles to experience them.
But the great thing about living here is you can find places to get away from civilization for a few hours just down the road. Call it backyard nature for want of a better term.
Last week my dad suggested we take a day and go fishing. He had stumbled on an example of backyard nature that would be a perfect place. We agreed to meet at Wine Cellar Park Lake in Dunbar. I hate to admit it, but I didn’t know this lake existed and I grew up less than 10 minutes away from it.
When we parked I still wasn’t sure where the lake was. It was that well-hidden. Much to my surprise there was an asphalt trail leading almost all the way to the water. The trail sloped gently upward as it followed along a small creek with light dappling through the trees overhead. A number of small bridges crossed back and forth over the water as we worked our way up. At the top of the dam, there were benches, a gazebo and a dock out over the water to make it incredibly easy to cast a line in the water. And we were totally alone there. Just the four of us. Well, okay, there were some frogs laughing at us and a few fish that were more interested in nibbling than biting, but that was it.
A light, occasional breeze stirred the surface of the lake and pushed cattails around while fluffy clouds cruised overhead. The temperature had finally dropped off after last week’s triple-digit heat making it a perfect day to be out by the water. My older daughter was more interested in fishing on this day, but they both enjoy it from time to time. And it was a lot of fun to see the three of them (my daughters and my dad) standing shoulder-to-shoulder with lines in the water. We all talked back and forth, not really worrying about being “quiet” like hardcore anglers. The day was partly about fishing and partly about being outside together.
My daughters are no different than most kids today and a lot of people in general. It’s easier to stay inside. We have every sort of entertainment imaginable. Video games, television and DVR, and the internet—not to mention old-fashioned games and books. It’s cool and comfy, especially when the weather seems to be getting hotter and more unsettled (Call it global warming or climate change or whatever, but these aren’t the summers and winters I remember as a kid.) In the interest of complete disclosure, I wrote this sitting outside on the patio, with a computer tablet on my lap. At least I was outside…
When we stay inside and watch television, we miss so much. Backyard nature is one of the real upsides to living in West Virginia and, for me, it’s something to rediscover. Unfortunately for some people, maybe that familiarity really does breed contempt. It wasn’t bad, but there was some litter on the ground around this pretty little lake as well. My dad and I made a point of telling the girls we were going to take away everything we brought in and a little more, too. I always try to do that wherever I go; whether it is a coral reef or from the bottom of lake or some litter on the street. I’m not fanatical about it, but I try to pick up a little litter and throw it away when I can. I’d much rather not find any in the first place, of course.
Nature is everywhere around us in West Virginia. Second to the people, it is our greatest resource. You can argue about coal or natural gas or other resources from under the ground, and they are all very important, but I want to keep, preserve and continue to share the natural resources of nature around us with my girls.
I can definitely see going back to this little lake for a few hours in the not-too-distant future to have some fun and enjoy time outdoors. If not there, then you’ll definitely find me outside somewhere..