Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for March, 2015

Coopers Rock Beckons Nature Lovers

Cooper Rock Picnic Shelter

Coopers Rock Picnic Shelter

“The Rock with a View” describes a visit to Coopers Rock between Morgantown and Bruceton Mills in West Virginia, bordering Pennsylvania. The crowded park grounds gave a festival like appearance with beautiful American chestnut and stone picnic shelters welcoming families and groups to spend the day. Fifty miles of hiking trails provide an outlet for exercise surrounded by nature. During the winter months, these trails are used for cross-country skiing.

But the picnic area and hiking trails weren’t the attraction here. After walking down a short scenic path, you arrived at an immense rock, which serves as a scenic overlook for miles around. Caution must be used on this very steep and slippery rock.

Climb cautiously on Cooper Rock.

Climb cautiously on Coopers Rock.

Legend has it that Coopers Rock received its name from a barrel maker, also called a cooper. The story goes that a fugitive hid away from the law for several years under the shelter of the rocks in this vicinity. In his new mountain hideaway, the cooper made barrels, which he sold to people in the nearby communities.

The early history of the area centers around the iron ore industry, with many iron furnaces located nearby as early as 1798. With the discovery of iron ore and limestone, the abundance of hardwood trees for fuel made this the perfect spot for Henry Clay Iron Furnace, which produced pig iron.

View from Cooper Rock

View of Cheat River Gorge from Coopers Rock

Standing on the Main Overlook, Cheat River Gorge appears in panoramic view. Fall is the perfect time to enjoy the scenic gorge and river surrounded by autumn colors. Enormous boulders and cliffs encourage rock climbers and hikers to explore.

Cooper Rock Overlook

Stone Bridge to Coopers Rock Overlook

An astounding piece of work is the stone bridge which connects the overlook to the main ridge. The steps were carved out of the mountain during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The view from the bridge is quite spectacular as well.

Eco Turtle

Eco-sculpture of Coopers Rock Turtle by Gazsi

During the last few years on Earth Day, Benjamin Gazsi of West Virginia University made eco-sculptures near the parking lot of Coopers Rock to create another reason for people to visit. The Sleeping Giant, Standing Bear and Coopers Rock Turtle are the first three structures to be completed using products of the forest. These characters made of tree branches, mud, grass, leaves, and moss will be enjoyed by visitors until nature returns them to the forest floor.

Access to the park is closed during December until March 31 for motor vehicles, but you can still park at the first lot and walk in. There is no charge for visiting and hiking this fantastic forest. Being in a peaceful spot surrounded by nature clears the mind and relaxes the body.

 Coopers Rock State Forest has easy access just east of Morgantown, WV from I-68 off Exit 15. I-68 actually bisects the State Forest into two areas.



Polar Frontier at Columbus Zoo – A Cool Place to Visit

Polar Frontier Entrance

Polar Frontier Entrance

Perhaps the “coolest” spot at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium occurs in North America’s Polar Frontier. On a recent visit to the zoo, howling winds and cold temperatures seemed the perfect time to check out the Polar Bears. They certainly weren’t bothered by the cold.

Set in what appears to be an abandoned mine camp in the Arctic Circle, Polar Frontier is home to four Arctic foxes, two brown bears, and two polar bears. Snow, ice and cold help create the atmosphere for their favorite time of the year. A sign near the entrance states:

An Arctic without ice would be like a garden without soil.

Polar Bear statues

Statues of Mother Polar Bear and two cubs

Polar bear statues of mother and two cubs welcome visitors to the Polar Frontier. Since North High School in Columbus, Ohio had as their mascot a Polar Bear, their alumni organizations funded the statues. Local artist, Mathew Palmer, created these delightful bronze figures covered with a white patina. Statues of animals frequently appear throughout the zoo and are perfect places for a close up picture with the animals.

Two brown bears sleep inside their glass cave.

Two brown bears sleep inside their glass cave.

Two Alaskan brown bears, brother Brutus and Buckeye – from Ohio of course, sleep soundly as they huddle against a heavy glass wall. They appear to believe in hibernation even at the zoo. Usually, they can be found swimming in their own small pool or having a bear wrestling match.

Polar bears play in the snow.

Polar bears play in the snow.

Polar bears, Aurora and Anana, have a playful time in the new fallen snow. Both rolled around on their backs taking a snow bath or perhaps just relaxing . Today they seemed happy to play in the snow and didn’t venture into either of their two pools for a dip

Salt water tunnel where  polar bears often swim overhead.

Salt water tunnel where polar bears often swim overhead.

The polar bears have a 167,000 gallon pool of salt water in which to swim and catch lunch. You can observe the bears diving in for a swim from eye-level, or underneath through a 5″ thick acrylic tunnel. There is an ample supply of fresh trout available when the polar bears decide they might like a snack. Two underground geothermal tanks keep the water in their pools at the perfect temperature for polar bears to enjoy.

Compare the size of various bears.

Compare the size of various bears.

Inside the Battelle Ice Bear Outpost, you can find videos regarding the life of the bears. This interpretive center provides many activities that focus on polar bears and climate changes. It shares ways to practice conservation at home to save the polar bears. They have pictures to compare the sizes of various bears and even an animated Polar Bear Band at Ice Bear Mining Camp.

Bear Band

Bear Band at Ice Bear Mining Camp

A fantastic playground for the youngsters is right outside the Polar Bear Exhibit where children can build an igloo, ride an ice teeter-totter, or slide down a snow bank. Parents can grab a snack at the Polar Grille and chill out while the children have a cool time.

This corner of the zoo is one of the favorite stops for most visitors. A winter visit also has the benefit of being able to see the animals more easily as the zoo isn’t crowded. Make sure you save time for the Polar Frontier…any time of the year!

To visit Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, take I-270 around Columbus, Ohio and use Exit 20. From there you will see signs directing you to the zoo. You’re sure to have a great day!

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