It had been over a month since my last hike and a friend recommended Ice Mountain Preserve in Hampshire County, WV.
As we began the hike, we met a geologist who said the temperature in the caves are usually between 39 and 49 degrees Fahrenheit. We split up at the intersection and went down to the caves as the geologist followed the upper trail to the overlook.
The caves are actually only a few feet deep, but as we talked in front of one we could clearly see our breaths. The area is called a Algafic or “cold producing” talus slope. (A talus slope is a collection of broken rocks at the base of a slope.)
Soon, we headed back to the upper trail. The summit sits at just above 1,500 feet and is comprised of the Ridgeley sandstone and Marcellus shale.(Yes, the same type of shale that holds natural gas.)
The southern overlook named Raven Rocks, look like large chimneys and was named after the ravens that live here. A few could be seen as we made our way up. Plants unique to the area can be seen here as well. The dwarf dogwood and Canada mayflower thrive because of the cool temperature.
Once at the top, you can see an amazing view of the surrounding area and skyline. A plaque is set up describing the different landmarks from Short Mountain to Sidling Hill. (SW to NE.)
The history of Ice Mountain dates back as far as when the Native Americans and early settlers used the vents to store food, earning it the name “Natures Ice Box.” During the Civil War it was used as a lookout point. More recently, locals would gather the ice from the vents and make ice cream and other cold beverages.
A joint effort is taking place to preserve the rare species and study the effects of climate change. The Nature Conservancy, U. S. Forest Service, WVU geologist and volunteers have all put forth an effort to preserve the area. To lower the risk of damage to the fragile ecosystem, tour reservations are required. Groups are limited to 15 people and are open most of the year. (Usually held on Saturdays.)
If you happen to be in the area, I recommend this preserve. It’s such a great view and unique structure with a hike that won’t take up your entire day.