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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