boulder gardens

The Allegheny Front that forms the eastern edge of the plateau is a ridge that catches and holds storms. I’ve witnessed this on several different occasions. In the high spots you can see how the trees have been sculpted by the wind – strong winds blowing continuously from the west have caused some trees to have branches only on the east side (they are “flagged”). Boulders that have been sculpted by time, and the elements, adorn the unique landscape. If one lets his mind wander these stones take on shapes of animals. I have seen whales, turtles, sharks and many other creatures within them.

Just imagine.

A little bit of Dolly Sods history- via Wikipedia

The 17,371 acre Dolly Sods Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. It is located in Grant, Randolph and Tucker Counties, West Virginia. The Dolly Sods Wilderness contains much of the Red Creek drainage and contains bog and heath eco-types, more commonly typical to southern Canada. Elevations range from 2,500 to over 4,700 feet.

The extensive high areas in Dolly Sods and Flatrock-Roaring Plains were once mostly covered by dense, ancient Red Spruce and hemlock forest. The trees were 60 to 90 feet tall  and some measured at least 12 feet  in diameter. The greatest stand of red spruce in the world, in terms of size and quality, could be found along the upper Red Creek. The largest recorded tree ever cut in West Virginia was a white oak, harvested in this region. Nearly as large as a Giant Sequoia, it was probably well over 1,000 years old and measured 13 feet  in diameter at a height of 16 feet , and 10 feet  in diameter 31 feet above the base. We will probably never know how large the biggest trees in West Virginia were because the cuttings were not documented. Centuries of accumulated needles from these trees created a blanket of humus (soil) seven to nine feet deep.

Railroad logging made the spruce and hemlocks accessible in the late 1880s and the huge trees were cut down. Shay locomotives climbed the mountain and logging camps sprang up throughout Dolly Sods, clearing away the virgin forest to feed hungry mills. The humus dried up when the protective tree cover was removed. Sparks from railroad locomotives, saw mills and logger’s warming fires easily ignited this humus layer and the extensive slash (wood too small to be marketable, such as branches and tree crowns) left behind by loggers. Fires repeatedly ravaged the area in the 1910s, scorching everything right down to the underlying rocks. All insects, worms, salamanders, mice and other burrowing forms of life perished and the area became a desert. The destruction was extraordinary. More than one-tenth of the area of West Virginia state was burned over, including one-fifth of the forest area. The complete clearcut of this ecologically fragile area, followed by extensive wildfires and overgrazing, as well as the ecological stresses of the elevation, have prevented quick regeneration of the forest.

The name Dolly Sods derives from the family name Dahle, a German family who homestead the logged areas, clearing and farming them. Burning the logged areas produced good grass cover for grazing sheep, and these open fields were known as “sods“. Locals changed the spelling to “Dolly” and thus the area became known as the Dolly Sods. Repeated burning killed the grass and left only bracken fern, which was useless as fodder. The Dahle family eventually moved on, leaving behind only the Americanized version of their name.

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~ by Teresa Stover on 03/18/2010.

2 Responses to “boulder gardens”

  1. I understand Dear Friend…it is a wonderful place where one can let go, to open the mind and enjoy the natural and never-ending beautiful show.

  2. Indeed it is.

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