The highest valley east of the Rocky Mountains is Canaan Valley, WV. This fascinating area is comprised of flora and fauna normally found much farther north. I had been here a few other times, but always in winter. Now, the snow had finally melted, the valley was green instead of white, and I was ready for some snakes instead of skis.
A few of my friends and I stayed at a beautiful house in the ski resort area of Timberline, which has a ski run named “The Salamander” after the Cheat Mountain salamander which is found in the area. (I didn’t find any while I was here.) It was the second weekend in July 2010, and it had been super hot all week – but luckily for us, the weather cooled off while we were there.
We started out our first day by hiking part way up The Salamander to gain access into the Dolly Sods Wilderness. Due to the high altitude and cooler weather, the Sods are home to plants not typically found this far south.
The summers in the Sods are also filled with blueberries. Yummy, delicious wild blueberries. What a treat!
We found plenty of cool plants, awesome views, delicious blueberries and beautiful bird songs – but we did not find any herps. We did, however, find some amazing ants and some angry yellow jackets.
The next day – we decided to explore a large wilderness area owned by the Canaan Valley Institute. It was apparent that this area was home to bears and possibly bobcats due to the tracks and scat we saw on the trails.
Eastern red-spotted newts, green frogs, and tons of tadpoles were all found in the ponds and wetlands on the property. And we found 8 red-bellied snakes under various logs and rocks.
When we turned over another log, we discovered a snake I had a little trouble identifying. It took me a few seconds, but I realized it was an anerythristic garter snake! This garter snake lacked all of his yellow pigment, so it did not have the typical yellow stripe on his back. He was COOL!
The Dolly Sods and the Canaan Valley of West Virginia are an amazing place to explore. I plan on going back to uncover more secrets of Sods!