Friday, July 20, 2012

The Last Day of an Outstanding Experience

Our stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Lewisburg, WV was pleasant as always.  After an excellent breakfast at the hotel, we left for the Greenbrier River at 8 am.
The first stop was across the Greenbrier River from the Greenbrier Military Academy’s summer camp, also known as Camp Shaw-Mi-Del-Eca.  Assessment of the water quality shows it to be consistent with measures taken at other locations along the river throughout the week. 
From there, we drove to the C & O Historical Society Museum in Clifton Forge, Virginia.  The helpful staff gave us an informative tour of the museum and the historic railroad artifacts there.  Of particular interest to many in the group was the antique steam locomotive (C & O Engine 614) that has been restored for the Greenbrier Resort.  When in use, this locomotive was documented to exceed 100 miles per hour in ideal track conditions. We enjoyed lunch in the restored historic club car when diners once enjoyed elegant meals in the golden age of rail travel.
We left Clifton Forge a little before 2 pm and traveled toward Cabell County.  With everyone pitching in, the vans were quickly cleaned out and prepared for return to the Enterprise rental agency.  We were all very tired and happy to be home but anxious to put the newly acquired knowledge into place in classrooms. 

Many in our group have already submitted lesson plans that incorporate the timber and rail industries in the state.  As these lesson plans come in, they will be made available from links on the right side of this blog.

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Kellie digs through thick underbrush to find acid soil at Gaudineer Knob.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Another virgin forest, some water testing, and a train ride!

We started out bright and early Thursday morning with a trip to Gaudineer Knob, the second of the two "virgin forests" in West Virginia. Unlike the virgin hemlock forest we saw at Cathedral on Sunday, Gaudineer is recognized as a virgin spruce forest. The underbrush of this forest was somewhat different as well, with much greater biodiversity including the ever-loving mosses, an array of fungal species, and the home of our very own "Cheat Mountain Salamander", found only at this location in the whole world. This salamander was discovered and named by Marshall University's very own Dr. N. Bayard Green in 1938.
After a great picnic lunch, courtesy of Annette & Karen, we were off to Durbin, WV to ride the famous Durbin Rocket Train, but not before making another stop along the Greenbrier River for some more water testing (we will have thee samples of the river miles apart to compare when we are done). Take a look at our teacher blogs on the right side of this blog to see their results. At 2:30 we boarded the Durbin Rocket for a leisurely train ride along the beautiful Greenbrier River. The "ROCKET" is a Climax type train engine that was different from the Shay engine that we road yesterday at Cass. The Climax engine was built for power rather than speed and was gear-driven with a drive shaft similar to what you see on an automobile. Even now, at my age, I still get goose-bumps hearing that haunting train whistle echoing through the valley.
After another long, but productive day, we stoped for dinner at Bob Evans and then off to our rooms at the Holiday Inn Express in Lewisburg. Tomorrow we complete the last leg of our project.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cass Scenic Railroad

Wednesday started off well, checking out of our home for the past few days, the Elkins Hampton Inn.  We headed south on US 219 for Cass, stopping at the Greenbank Observatory for a break and visit to the displays.  We were at the Cass Scenic Railroad a little after 10 am, testing the water in the Greenbrier River.  We were surprised by the low dissolved oxygen content of the water which impacted the overall water quality assessment.  Although specific water quality measures varied from each group’s samples, the low dissolved oxygen was consistent across all groups’ data. 
By 11:30 we had our lunches on the train to Bald Knob, propelled by the Number 11 Shay engine.  The three hour ride over the 11 miles was beautiful and interesting.  We passed from the hemlock/hardwood forests around the town of Cass at 2450 feet above sea level, through the basswood, cherry and oak forests to the elevation of 4842 at Bald Knob where red spruce and mountain ash dominate the landscape.  Although the spruce forests at Bald Knob are likely tertiary growth, the dense forests crowd out underbrush and small herbaceous plants making a dark, open forest floor.  The stop at Bald Knob allowed our group to make comparisons to observations of Cathedral State Park and set up our visit on Thursday to the virgin spruce forest on Gaudineer Knob.

The ride back down the mountain was much faster, especially since there was no stop at Whitaker Station as in the trip up.  Our train was back in the station by 5 pm when we drove to our restaurant Foxfire Grill at the Snowshoe Resort.  After getting our fill of great food, we went down the mountain to our motel, the Snowshoe Resort.

The resort got mixed reviews from our group.  While the location is accessible and convenient, there was no Internet in the room, no cell service due to Greenbank’s blackout, no television because of a small localized storm, the storm also resulted in closing the small indoor pool.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wood Manufacturing Industries in Historic Beverly, WV

After a breakfast of fresh fruit, bagel breakfast sandwiches and several cups of tea, our group left the Hampton Inn for the historic depot in Elkins.  The old structures have been nicely restored and make a great place to visit and learn about the railroad history of the area.
From there, we drove to Beverly and toured the Colonial Millworks factory.  They make a variety of milled wood products including many trim and specialty items for Bruce (Armstrong) Flooring.  We were impressed with the efficiency of the operation so that no wood or labor is wasted.  Colonial Millworks produces millwork from all manner of wood species including native West Virginia trees but also many exotic Asian, South American and African species.  The one thing that I found particularly impressive is that a stained board gets a two coats of finish with sanding between coats in 10 to 23 seconds!  At the end of that time, the finished board can be stacked and ready for distribution to retailers.  The high tech finish is dried with a ultraviolet light and makes a highly durable finish.

Milling at Colonial Millworks from Steve Beckelhimer on Vimeo.

Lunch was at the Beverly Historical Society Museum where the coordinator, Terry Hackney, gave us an interesting and informative tour of the displays.  We were also joined by the principal of Beverly Elementary School, Mr. Paul Zickefoose, who helped us make arrangements for our visits in Beverly.  The buildings in Beverly date back to the late 1700s and are well documented by signage throughout the town.
After lunch, we toured the manufacturing facilities at Bruce Hardwood Flooring (Armstrong) where we saw the production of solid hardwood flooring on a huge scale.  The tour took us through areas where the incoming wood is kiln dried then sawed, planed, milled, sanded, stained and finished.  Although the operation is highly efficient and mechanized, there is a great deal of human interaction with the product.  The measures in place to assure quality, productivity and safely were quite impressive.  As in other wood products facilities we have visited this week, there is a great deal of pride among employees in the West Virginia products being distributed across the country.  While the facility at Bruce was similar to other manufacturing sites in Randolph County, the difference is scale.  Bruce Hardwood Flooring has hundreds of employees and millions of annual board feet in production.  They are a huge operation.  We noted that much of the waste wood material is used at fuel the boilers for the kilns but the remaining waste wood is shipped to Hamer Pellet Fuel to be made into pellets for wood stoves.

On leaving Beverly, we came back to Elkins for dinner at Applebee’s then to the Hampton Inn for our guest speaker, Luanna Moore. Ms. Moore, West Virginia's 2012 Teacher of the Year, gave the timber and rail group lessons on the Appalachian dulcimer. While our team isn't the most musically talented, we made up for it with our enthusiasm.  We played many traditional favorites like Will the Circle be Unbroken, Wildwood Flower and You are My Sunshine.  It was great fun but by the time it was 10 pm, everyone was ready to turn in.
Several of us ran out afterward to stock up on provisions for the Wednesday trip to Cass Scenic Railroad and Thursday's drive up Gaudineer Knob.   It has been a long but productive and educational day.

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Hamer Pellets in 30 seconds!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Forest Products Industries in Elkins, WV

After arising at the Hampton Inn in Elkins, the group boarded the vans for Hamer Pellet Fuel to see wood waste being converted to pellets that are burned in wood heat stoves.  We were impressed that the WV based company took waste sawdust and chips from sawmills and wood manufacturing and converted into useful product.
Hamer mixes sawdust from a variety of hardwood species and sends it to a high BTU drier that is fueled by the very sawdust that it processes.  The dried sawdust gets heated with a small amount of vegetable oil and sent to an extruder where the pellets are formed.  These pellets are cooled and sent to an automated system that fills and seals bags before stacking on pallets with a robotic arm and wrapping with a protective plastic.
A nice lunch of Subway sandwiches at Riverbend Park in Elkins allowed everyone to get some tree identification practice in and to spend some time in the outdoors on a beautiful summer day.
After lunch, we went to Wilson Lumber Company where we saw rough sawn lumber get graded, kiln dried and planed in preparation for shipment to millwork shops.  We were impressed with the efficiency of the operation and the professionalism of the employees.  The kilns are fueled by sawdust, largely from the planers on the site.  We were shown how the moisture content of wood is determined and how the board footage is estimated quickly.
From there, we went to Wilson Quality Millwork where the kiln dried lumber is turned into molding and specialty products.  Wilson sells stock styles of molding or can make custom designs in quantities as large or small as the customer desires.
After a dinner at Bob Evans, we heard from our speaker, Mr. Robert Whitshell, a local historian.  His interesting talk reiterated many of the concepts from our spring course and made our group more aware of the history of forests in Randolph County as well as in Appalachia as a whole.

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Rick Sharpe testing pH at Cathedral State Park


Good Start to a Great Week

We got off to a great start yesterday on the first leg of our project with our stop to Cathedral Forest, one of the few truly virgin forests left to visit. Our teachers have done an excellent job depicting the area and assessing the environment. Take a look at their posts and pictures of the forest by clicking on the links to their individual sites to the right of this blog.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Great start to the timber and rail project trip

Our group departed the Cabell County Schools Central Office promptly as scheduled at 9 am on July 15 stopping at Go-Mart to fill the rental vans with fossil fuel.  Our drive took us to Bridgeport for lunch at several of the many fast food locations there.  We got back in the road an hour after stopping, anxious to get to our first destination, Cathedral State Park                       . 
We arrived at Cathedral at 2 pm, surprised to find the parking lot full.  On previous visits to the area, I have been the only car in the parking lot.  Turns out that a church group was having a picnic at one of the shelters there. 

Walking around the area allowed us to observe a virgin hemlock forest like it would have been before settlers entered the area.  The soil was typical of a hemlock forest being spongy and damp with a thick litter of needles.  In measuring the pH of the soil, it was determined to range from 3.5 to 4.5 depending on location.  Many groups found that tests done lower in the valley were higher pH which they found surprising.  They speculated that the low pH is due to the tannic acid in the soil from the hemlock trees.  In addition, the stream in the area was dark from the tannin seeping in from the soil.  These tannins in the hemlock trees are the reason why hemlock was called “leatherwood” in past generations since hemlock bark was used in the tanning process.

Measures of some of the larger hemlock trees showed trunk diameter of 4 to 5 feet.  Determining the height and girth of the trees allowed the volume of lumber to be estimated and the potential market value of the tree to be determined.  Some large hemlock trees had potential values in the thousands of dollars!

We left Cathedral State Park at 4:30 for the hour-long drive along curvy roads to Elkins were we checked in at the Hampton Inn before going to dinner at the Western Steer. 

After dinner, everyone spent time in the motel lobby preparing blogs for their students describing the educational impact of their day.  A torrential rain blew in as we were finished the blogs.  We were happy to not be in the forest when the rain came up or perhaps worse, driving on the mountain roads.  Everyone is looking forward to the visits at forest products manufacturing facilities in the Elkins area this week.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Waypoints for stops on next week's trip

If you have a GPS unit, whether a car mount Garmin Nuvi or a handheld GPS receiver, you can download the GPX file with the locations of our stops and save them to your GPS with a common USB cable.
If you have Google Earth on your Samsung Galaxy Tab, you should be able to access this file on the tablet as well.
This GPX file has the coordinates for most of the places we will be stopping on the trip.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The time for departure is nearly upon us

On Sunday morning we will be pulling out of the Cabell County Central Office parking lot a little after 8:30 am on our way to the first stop of the trip, Cathedral State Park.

The itinerary has been updated, hopefully for the last time.  A link to the final itinerary is in the links section of this blog.

By noon on Saturday, I hope to have a gpx file available from this blog that has the locations of stops on the trip.  If you have a GPS unit, you can download this file to the GPS as waypoints and can find your way to all of the places we visit.

Please note some important announcements in previous blog entries that some of the places we will visit require long trousers and closed toe shoes.  Also, please note that our first meal on Sunday afternoon will be on your own in the Bridgeport area.  We will be picking up most meals directly but in this instance we will be breaking up to speed lunch to get us to Cathedral State Park more quickly giving us more time to observe the virgin forest there.

Don't forget how many paces you need to take to measure 66 feet.  We calibrated ourselves when we were in Ritter Park on April 21.  To do the tree estimates and board feet calculations, you will need to pace off 66 feet from the base of the tree.  For me, that distance is 29 paces at a brisk natural gait.  Your pace will certainly be different.

Please check back with this blog frequently for updates.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

JUNE 29th DERECHO and it's Effect on Timber. 

The recent storms in our area have really got me thinking about the forest industry. The storm is being called a Derecho defined as “a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that this Derecho  “formed in northwest Indiana and began carving a path of destruction over 600 miles long. Winds approaching 100 miles per hour were reported during the most intense part of the event (between Fort Wayne, IN and Columbus, OH.)” You can actually see the storm move across the eastern US in this 15 second timelase clip provided by NOAA.

This has me thinking about all the downed trees in our area. Im adding a video clip from WSAZ news below. It is kind of long but I want to point out a few important sections. Notice from 1:05 - 1:30, and again at 3:25, you can hear and see WSAZ’s Jessica Ralston and Bill Murray talk about some of the damage in the Huntington Tri-State area.  At around 1:25 you can see workers loading downed branches into a massive wood chipper similar to the one on the right.
WSAZ NewsChannel 3 
I can’t help but to think about what an enormous waist this is. I realize that restoring power is the first priority, and that may mean that some small trees and downed limbs must be quickly cleared. Im not even suggesting that things should have been done differently. But I also realize that this storm effected an extremely wide area, over 600 miles long. So what happens to these trees? Can they be harvested and used? I know in our area, three that are covering the road ways are normally cut and placed on the side of the road. Within an hour or so, someone will stop and gather the wood to burn in a wood burning stove, etc. But what about all the trees and limbs that are “off the beaten path?”  Does this simply begin the natural decomposition process for all the downed limbs and trees? We all realize that a storm such as this has an enormous economic impact. But is the forest industry also economically impacted?

If anyone has insight on this, please feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Preparing for the summer trip

We will soon be leaving for our week-long trip across the state to locations of importance to the timber and rail industries. There are couple of points that I need to remind you about:
·         Several of the manufacturing sites we will visit require long pants and closed toe shoes. Please don’t forget to pack these items.
·         Some sites require protective eyewear (safety glasses) and hearing protection (ear plugs). These will be provided for you. If you have the hardhat from last summer, please bring it with you. If you were not part of last summer’s trip, a loaner hardhat can be provided for you if needed.
·         If the past three weeks are any indication, we can expect hot weather for our trip. You may want to bring a water bottle and cool clothing for the days that we are not in a plant requiring long pants.
·         There is a list of things to bring in the “Expectations” document that you were given at our first class meeting last winter. Here are some things that you will want to make sure to not forget:

§  Samsung Galaxy Tab Computer
§  Vernier LabQuest Pro & water quality probes
§  Tree identification books
§  Tape Measure
§  Shorts and long pants
§  Sweatshirts, Columbia type shirts, changes of socks, hat or cap
§  Hiking shoes/boots for walking on trails and visiting manufacturing plants
§  Light rain jacket (Frog Toggs or Dry Ducks are great)
§  Windbreaker
§  Sunglasses
§  Hardhat
§  Refillable water bottle
§  Insect spray, sunscreen
§  Toiletries and medications
§  Phone card if you wish to call home
§  Cash for incidental meals and snacks or souvenirs
§  Chargers and connection cables for electronics
·         As in prior years, some of the places we will visit are in remote locations. Suitable bathroom facilities may be scarce. Please (as much as possible under the circumstances) be patient.
·         Please remember that there are four requirements you need to complete before I can process your stipend for the summer project:
1.       Local tree guide (including photos and descriptions of at least 12 tree species) that your students can use. This may be best done on a tab of your blog although you may have other ways as well.
2.       Narrative and photos on the determination of board feet from a standing tree
3.       Assessment of water quality on 4 Pole Creek including data tables
4.      Three professional quality lesson plans using the provided lesson plan format or another comparable layout. Lesson plans should be in Microsoft Word format and sent to Steve via email. They should also be provided on a link from your blog page and available to visitors to your blog. You may find that it is convenient to upload your lesson plans to Dropbox, SugarSync, Amazon Cloud Storage,, or ShareSend.

 Please take time to review the itinerary in our shared Dropbox space. Especially note that we are meeting in the parking lot of the Cabell County Central Office at 8:30 am on Sunday, July 15. We will depart promptly as scheduled.

I can’t wait to get started on our culminating experience from the Forestry and Rail Transport project. Seeing many of the things that we have discussed in class will give you the tools to make your lessons come to life for your students.