Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm
I'm Faith Lapidus. This week on our program, we tell you about a popular area
for outdoor activities in the state of West Virginia.
(MUSIC: "Country Roads")
The song "Country Roads" was very popular
when John Denver first recorded it in nineteen seventy-one. It still is popular
with people who live in West Virginia and visitors who have fallen in love with
what is known as the Mountain State.
Virginia is a small state. But it has many different areas of interest to
visitors who like to hike, camp, climb rocks, raft in rivers, fish and hunt.
One area that offers many kinds of outdoor activities is called the Potomac
Highlands. It is in the eastern part of the state, not far from the border with
the state of Virginia.
Allegheny Mountains divide the area from north to south. Rivers on the east
side of the Potomac Highlands flow into the Potomac River and continue on
toward the Atlantic Ocean.
National Forest is in this area. It covers more than three hundred fifty
thousand hectares of West Virginia, mostly in the Potomac Highlands.
good place to begin a visit to West Virginia is at Spruce Knob. It is about one
thousand five hundred meters high, the highest mountain in the state. You can
drive your car slowly up a rough road to the top.
There are places to stop along the road to look at the
fields and forests down below and far in the distance. At the top, you follow a
short path to a stone-and-steel observation tower. On either side of the path
are what look like river beds of big rocks. Wildflowers of different colors
brighten the rocky land. From the tower, you see wilderness in all directions.
Spruce Trail follows a circular path around the observation tower. The path
leads past an open field covered with huge rocks, through a group of tall
spruce trees, and past a field of blueberry bushes. Off in the distance you see
a valley way below and lines of bluish gray mountains that seem to reach
Knob has more than one hundred kilometers of hiking trails. Some of them are
paths made in the early nineteen hundreds by men who climbed the mountain to
cut trees. It also has a lake for fishing and a campground where people can
Spruce Knob is one of the best-known places in West Virginia -- Seneca Rocks.
This rock formation is made of white-gray quartzite, a kind of sandstone. It is
about three hundred meters above the river that flows below. When the sun
shines on the almost straight-sided rocks, they look like bright shining wings
rising out of a mountain of green trees.
rock climbers love Seneca Rocks. The rocks are very difficult to climb. Not
many people were known to have climbed them until the Second World War began.
Then the Army used the rocks to train troops for action in the mountains of
Europe. Now there are almost four hundred mapped ways to climb Seneca Rocks.
who are not experienced rock climbers can follow a steep man-made path that
takes them to the top. The path begins at Seneca Rocks Discovery Center at the
base of the rocks. The Discovery Center has exhibits about the earliest
American Indians who lived in the area. The center also has information about
the wildlife and plants of the area.
Virginia is a state divided by mountains. But the area has also been divided in
other ways during its history.
the early years of the United States, it was the western part of the state of
Virginia. It was part of Virginia until eighteen sixty-one. Then, as the
American Civil War began, the Virginia state government voted to rebel against
the United States. Virginia joined other southern states in forming the
Confederate States of America.
But representatives from the western counties opposed
the decision to leave the Union. So the area separated from Virginia. In June
of eighteen sixty-three, West Virginia became the thirty-fifth state.
Many Civil War battles were fought in West Virginia.
Even though West Virginia had remained in the Union, about half of the people
in the state supported the South. Many families were divided. Sometimes
brothers fought on opposite sides. After the North won the war, divisions in
the state slowly healed.
of the people in the state were farmers in the eighteen hundreds. Then two
natural resources -- coal and trees -- became important. Mining of coal and
logging of the forests became major industries as transportation improved on
the rivers and railroads were built. Coal and wood continue to be important to
the state's economy.
the end of the twentieth century, tourism became an important industry. The
number of visitors to West Virginia continues to increase every year.
The Potomac Highlands area of West Virginia has a lot
of sandstone. Sandstone is a soft rock. The action of wind and water can form
cave openings like natural rooms within the rock.
major caves are open to the public near Smoke Hole and Seneca Rocks. Seneca
Caverns and Smoke Hole Caverns have been used through the ages. Native
Americans used them to build fires to dry their food. During the Civil War,
soldiers from both sides used them at different times to store weapons. Now
these caves provide underground experiences for visitors.
lead groups on lighted paths down into the ground and through the caves.
Visitors see wonderful formations hanging from the ceiling and growing up from
the floor. It takes centuries for water dripping through the rock to make these
Breathtaking. Wonderful. A treasure. These are words
that visitors use to describe Dolly Sods, a large wild area in the Potomac
Highlands of West Virginia. About one hundred fifty years ago, a magazine
described this same area as very dangerous. It said the forests and undergrowth
were so dense, no one could get through them. Bears and panthers lived there
but no people.
the eighteen hundreds, a German family named Dahle raised sheep on wet, grassy
open places called sods. Local people changed the spelling of the name and the
area became known as Dolly Sods.
Dolly Sods once was covered with a dense ancient forest
of red spruce and hemlock trees. By the late eighteen hundreds, railroads
reached the area. Loggers cut down the huge trees and trains carried the wood
to fast-growing cities in nearby states.
years, fires from lightening and logger's campfires burned through the areas
where the forest had been cut down. The constant fires burned everything down
to the bare rock base.
nineteen twenty, Congress created the Monongahela National Forest. The United
States Forest Service soon had trees planted in some areas and a rough road
nineteen seventy-five, much of the Dolly Sods area became part of the National
Wilderness Preservation System. The Forest Service is protecting the area from
too much human activity so it will return to its natural wild condition. Native
plants and animals are returning.
Sods is up high, almost one thousand meters. So plants and animals there are
more like those found in northern Canada than in the rest of West Virginia.
northern part of Dolly Sods is called the scenic area. You can walk among the
large rocks known as Bear Rocks and pick blueberries and huckleberries from
low-growing bushes. You can spend quiet time looking at the mountains off to
the east. You are up high, so even in the summer the air usually is cool.
come to Dolly Sods to get away from the noise and crowds of city life. They
camp in the wilderness far from other people. They pick wild blueberries
growing on the rocky fields and red cranberries growing in wet bogs. They hunt
deer, turkey and rabbits. They fish in rivers that flow through the area. And
they walk on rough, rocky paths, many of which follow old railroad tracks and
roads used by loggers long ago.
along roads entering the state welcome you to "wild, wonderful West
Virginia." Visitors to the Potomac Highlands have a chance to experience
some of those wild, wonderful places.
(MUSIC: "COUNTRY ROADS")
program was written by Marilyn Christiano and directed by Caty Weaver. To see
pictures of West Virginia, and to download transcripts and MP3 files of our
shows, go to voaspecialenglish. I'm Faith Lapidus.
And I'm Steve Ember. Listen again next week for THIS IS
AMERICA in VOA Special English.