West Virginia's Canaan Valley
Though not all that far from my location in central north Carolina, a trip to West Virginia's Canaan Valley and the highlands of nearby Dolly Sods Wilderness can make you feel you've traveled much further north. Sphagnum-filled mountain bogs, stands of aspen and wind-sculpted red spruce, valleys of heath and cranberry, and even northern animal species like snowshoe hares and fishers -- one can find these and more on a visit to this fascinating region.
Up at Dolly Sods, with elevations over 4,000 feet, the weather is often harsh and wet. The almost constant winds combined with winter snows and ice make for a rugged landscape of exposed rock and picturesque gnarled trees.
Down below, in the Canaan Valley, the weather is milder but the landscape no less compelling with several beautiful waterfalls, two state parks and a wildlife refuge, and picturesque old towns and scenic rural roads to explore.
The weather can be challenging, even in spring and fall. But when the winds die down, the precipitation slows a bit, and the fog begins to lift, a photographic wonderland is revealed.