Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on May 23, 1976 · Page 89
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 89

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 23, 1976
Page 89
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2tV -- Mav 23, 1976 -- ' Ctaflesfeft W«l Virgin* ---Seneca Rocks Make Old Legend Sound Possible By Terry Kent In a state known for its mountains, Seneca Rockii towers above all others in popularity. While scores of other mountains are higher, wider and longer, none has ever impressed West Virginians as much as this jagged peak of Medina sandstone. Pobably more photographers have aimed their cameras at Seneca Rocks than any other natural wonder in the state with the exception of Blackwater Falls. Located about 18 miles southwest of Petersburg, West Virginia, on State Route 28, Seneca Rocks overlooks a narrow valley formed by the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River. The rocks rise almost perpendicular to the riverbed, towering more than 900 feet above the valley floor. Unlike most mountains in the state that have tree-covered summits, Seneca Rocks dominates the skyline with its naked stone cliffs. The sheerness of the northwest face of the cliffs is the basis of an Indian legend that has been told by residents of the area since the first whiteman arrived in the valley. According to legend, Snowbird, the daughter of a Seneca chief, learned to climb the face of the cliff. When it was time for Snowbird to marry, she scaled the rocks, saying that she would marry the first brave to follow her to the top. Seven young men attempted the perilous climb, but only one survived to claim ahd hand of the Indian maiden. Nature has left a monument to the legendary Snowbird, a tall, narrow slab of sandstone stands alone in a cleft in the rocks near the summit. From the valley, it is easy to imagine the stone being Snowbird waiting for her suitors to reach the top. Several years ago, a wedding party reenaceted the legend. The bride, her future husband, the minister and members of the wedding party scaled the face of the cliff for a marriage ceremony on the summit. the cliffs that Snowbird supposedly climbed are literally older than the hills. Geologists estimate that the Medina sandstone was formed in the Silurian period more than 400-million years ago. At that time an ancient sea covered West Virginia and most of present-day North America. The deepest portion of that sea was an elongated trough that stretched along the site of the present Appalachian mountain range. Sand and other minerals were eroded from a land mass located to the east in what is now the Atlantic Ocean, the eroded materials drifted into the trough, settled in layers and disappeared beneath new deposits brought by the sea. As the deposits sank, they were compacted and compressed, forming some of the stone that we know today. About 250-million years ago, the stone that forms Seneca Rocks and other layers were lifted above the sea. The layers were pushed higher and higher, as much as 30,000 feet above sea level, were twisted, bent and turned on end by tremendous pressures inside the earth. During the next 100-million years, the vast mountain range was eroded until only a plain just above sea level remained. Before theland could sink beneath the waters again, however, the stone was lifted once more. As the Rocky Mountains were being formed, the area that now includes West Virginia was gently uplifted with the land of the eastern section of the state rising higher than that in the west. As a result, layers of stone broke, and were tilted at angles almost perpendicular to the horizontal plane in which they were formed. In the millions of years that followed, the wind and water gnawed at the stone, carving out the mountains and valleys we know today. The softer layers of stone gave way first, forming the valleys while harder stone, including that of Seneca Rocks, wore away more slowly. Today, the naked cliffs of Seneca Rocks dominate the valley as if the maker of these mountains had cast the giant slabs of sandstone down among the tree-covered hills as a lasting monument to his skill and power. In the early morning hours, Seneca Rocks rise from the fog like some mountainous island jutting up from a sea of rolling gray. Other nearby mountains are much higher, but it is the imposing stone- face of Seneca Rocks that holds one's attention. Mountain climbers rate Seneca Rocks as the most challenging climb in the East. As one stands at the base of the mountain and contemplates scaling the cliffs above, be finds it easy to believe that tbelegend of Snowbird is more fact than fiction. The face of the cliff offers a challenge that can be scaled only by a properly-trained mountain climber. The challenge posed by the cliffs account for Seneca Rocks' playing a vital role in World War II. As American involvement in the war increased, it became obvious to military strategists that an invasion of Europe would be necessary sooner or later. Since many of the possible invasion sites had mountainous regions, the army sought a place to train an invasion force that would include mountain climbers. They selected Seneca Rocks. According to Buck Harper, a lifelong resident of mouth of Seneca, the army moved into the area during the middle years of the war and leased 25 acres in the valley. They built their own barracks and began training approximately 300 soldiers at a time on the face of the cliffs. The training later came in handy for the soldiers, many of whom played a vital part in the Italian campaign. Pitons left behind by the soldiers can still be found on the face of the cliff. In fact, so many persons have climbed the rocks that it is oftten called the "face of 1,000 pitons." Today, students in the Army ROTC program at West Virginia University attend a mountain-climbing school at Seneca Rocks in late May as part of their required study program. Fortunately for those who lack the courage or skill to challenge a high stone cliff, Seneca Rocks offers other ways to reach its summit. Hikers can reach the top by following a trail that winds its way up the backside of the mountain. The trail poses no dangers other than the sore muscles and aching lungs associated with any steep climb. One of the most enjoyable, and certainly' the easiest, ways to reach the top is by horseback. Horses may be rested at Yokum's Motel, a mile east of the rocks, from early spring until late fall The horses are surefooted steeds, used to making the trip to the top dozens of times each year. They cross the North Fork of the Potomac, the cold, clear water swimming above their knees, and disappear into the second- growth oak forest that covers the mountainside. The horseback trail winds and twists through the forest. The steep, tree-covered slope is so much like others in the state that it is almost impossible to imagine that the bare cliffs of Seneca Rocks wait at the top. After more than an hour's ride and several breaks to rest the horses, however, the forest suddenly opens and the cliffs appear. The stone has eroded between some of the layers that are standing on end, leaving walking paths with vertical walls of sandstone on either-side. There is no soil, only stone and licens. The view is awe-inspiring. The cliffs drop away abruptly before disappearing into the forests far below. The patchwork quilt of the valley, bright-green meadows and rich-brown ploughed earth dotted with patches of trees, unfolds to the northwest. Beyond the valley, stately mountain ridges higher than Seneca Rocks fade away into the blue haze in the distance. As one gazes out over this vast panorama, he cannot help stand in awe of the unseen forces that created these mountains beneath an ancient sea and then hurled them skyward. Certainly, Seneca Rocks is a worthy monument to the maker of these hills. SEASON IS HfRE! It's A Time For "Living NOT LAUNCHING! Superior's Dry Cleaning Service . . . will keep your family's clothes -- and you -- looking and feeling fresh, clean and unruffled all summer long. Make this summer Vacation Time. .. all summer long. Give yourself, and your family, more leisure time to enjoy, and still look your best. Your summer suits, dresses, slacks, etc. (especially those made of the new miracle fabrics] will all look more crisp, neat fresh when drydeaned the Superior way. We offer complete laundry drycleaning service.. right to your door. Why not give us a call, soon, and learn the easy, inexpensive way to make your clothes look their best. Decidedly Setter for Over 70 Yeon. SUPER/OR LAUNDRY OUT CLEANtKS 304 Kanawha Blvd., la: PHONE 347-6115 October Events Colored by Autumn : 2-3 Milton: Milton Garden Club Arts Crafts Show; Milton Elementary School. Contact: Mrs. Jonathan Lowe, Box 267, Milton, W.Va. 25541. Phone 743-3909. - 3-Nov. 28. - Charleston; West Virginia Memorabilia -- Costumes and Furniture; Charleston Art Gallery, Contact: Mary Black, 755 Myrtle Rd., Charleston, W. Va. 25314. Phone: 344-3035 6-11 Point Pleasant: "Rivers of Destiny--Historical Drama; Fort Randolph- Krodel City Park Contact: Jack C. Burdett, Box 134, Point Pleasant, W.Va. 25550. Phone 675-4273. ; 6-11 Elkins: Mountain State Forest Festival; Contact: Mrsi Jean Talbott, P.O. Box 369, Elkins, W.Va. 26241. Phone: 636-1824. 7-10 Fairmont: Apple Festival; Prick- etts Fort State Park. Contact: Pricketts Fort Memorial Foundation, Box 8, Fairmont, W.Va. 26554. Phone: 363-3030. 8-10.Clay: Golden Delicious Apple Fesit- val. Contact: R.T. Sizemore, Jr., Clay, W.Va. 25043. Phone: 587-9273. 2 South Charleston: Kanawha Valley Soap Box Derby Fall Rally, Little Creek Park, South Charleston. Contact: Bill Kelly, Box 2053, Charleston, W.Va. 25327. Phone: 722-2993. 8-11 Harpers Ferry: Mountain Heritage Arts Crafts Festival. Harpers Ferry Cavern Grounds. Contact: Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 430, .Charles Town, W.Va. 254H. Phone: 725-5514. You can take it with you. TV-520 Sony Black White 5"screen measured diagonally What is black and white and transportable all over?AlittleSony:designedwith 100%sdid state circuitry for solid durability and smooth, dependable operation; and engineered for bright, crisp, hi-contrast clarity that brings real life into every picture Come in today; pick one up, and take it from there TV-115 Sony Black White Features · 100% 'solid state · AC/DC operation (with optional battery pack or auto/boat adaptor) · Weight: 14 Ibs. 12 oz. (22 Ibs. w/optional Battery Pack) f Glare-free screen for indoor/outdoor viewing · 70 detent UHF channel selection · Black cabinet w/chrome trim · Black cabinet w/chrome trim · Earphone included for personal viewing. TTSASOire 9 Richwood: Richwood Autumn Nature Tour; Gauley Ranger Station, Rt. #39, East. Contact: Wm. J. Butler, Jr., Box 587, Richwood, W.Va. 26261. Phone; 846-6790. 10-11 Kermit: Fall Festival, Kermit High School. Contact: Ruth Thornton, Box 166, Kermit, W.Va. 25674. Phone 393-3346. 11 Philippi: Alderson-Broaddus College Art Craft Fair. Contact: Carl Hatfield, A-B College, Philippi, W.Va. 26416. Phone: Home 457-4297 or Office 457-1700, Ext. 235. 11-12 Bluefield: Arts Crafts Festival, Top of East River Mountain U.S. 52. Contact: Robert Conner, Box 1178, Bluefield, W.Va. 24701. Phone: 327-8009. 14-16 Spencer: West Virginia Black Walnut Festival. Contact: Evelyn L. Zinn, Rt #1, Box 85B, Spencer, W.Va. 25276. Phone: 9274630. · . ' 16-17 Cairo: Ritchie County Heritage Weekend; North Bend State Park. Con : tact: Bob Rogers, North. Bend State Park, Cairo, W.Va. 26337. Phone: 643-2931. 16-17 Berkeley Springs:.Apple Butter , Fesitval (Bicentennial Event). Contact: John Rankin, Berkeley Springs, W.Va. 25411. Phone: 258-2448. 17-Nov. 28 Huntington: "Exhibition 280" Huntington Galleries. Contact: Barbara Krumholtz, Park Hills, Huntington, W.Va. 25701. Phone: 529-2705. 19-21 Mullens: Mullens Arts Crafts Festival, American Legion Building. Contact: Mrs. Gerald W. Snyder, 627 Church, Mullens W.Va. 25882. Phone: 294-5166. 23 Mathias: West Virginia Turkey Festival Shooting, Mathias High School. Contact: Wendell Mathias, Mathias; W.Va. 26812 Phone: 897-5076. 23-24 Fairmont: Candle Seminar; Prick- etts Fort State Park. Contact: Pricketts Fort Memorial Foundation, Box 8, Fairmont, W.Va. 26554. Phone: 363-3030. 28-30 Cross Roads: Cross Roads 4-H Club Bazaar; Cross Roads 4-H Club Community Center. 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