It may sound a little eerie, but in my search for intense fall colors, I found some of the brightest leaves on the trees at Montgomery Memorial Park in London, West Virginia.
It was a drizzly day, so the brilliance of the surrounding trees was tempered by the clouds and surrounding tombstones, some dating back as
far as the late 1800’s.
This hillside cemetery is trimmed around the edges by oak, maple and tulip popular trees, along with a scattering of evergreens. This mix creates a palette of yellow, orange and red leaves that might earn the admiration of the dead, assuming they cared about earth’s version of heavenly beauty.
While, we’re talking about death and fabulous fall colors, Hawks Nest State Park, has amazing foliage at the location of the worst industrial disaster in U-S history. During the Great Depression, desperate workers, many poor Southern blacks, took jobs digging a 3-mile tunnel through Gauley Mountain where more than 750 laborers died from lung disease, caused by breathing silica dust.
Gauley Bridge has its own deadly history from a time when it was a hotly contested transportation route during the Civil War. Union and Confederate soldiers swapped control of the town three times and a wooden bridge located there was burned, rebuilt and burned again. Abutments of the old bridge are still visible near the abandoned train station.
It’s hard to drive through the town of Gauley Bridge without noticing an old Greyhound bus permanently parked on a rock in the middle of the river, with a large porch attached. Owner, 88-year old “Bruiser” Cole died in 2012, but someone must be maintaining the fishing camp because I often see smoke coming out of the chimney. The rock “next door” has a three crosses on top, thanks to Bernard Coffindaffer, a local entrepreneur who spent his fortune erecting a trio of crosses in every county of West Virginia, 25 additional states, and 2 foreign countries before he died of a heart attack in 1993.
On my way home, I made a quick stop at Cathedral Falls, which is tucked into a small roadside park near the railroad tracks. The water level was low which gave the falls a gentle, misty appearance, while the clifftop trees were covered with an amazing variety of brightly-colored leaves.