Friday, September 30, 2016

Mountwood Park

Yes, that's rain blurring my picture of the entrance sign.  Yes, we pick crazy days to go explore... But we were all restless and feeling in need of some away from the cabin (or McDonald's doing my homework) time and so we went.  On the way out I messaged my friend and asked him to choose a direction for us.  He picked west.  So we hopped on Highway 50 headed toward Parkersburg looking for something interesting to go explore.  Mountwood Park was the first brown sign I saw, so we turned off toward a place named Volcano and drove along a nice little lake.

Boat rentals and launch site.
I was kind of excited to see the boat rentals!  One of these days health and bravery and adventure are going to coincide and I will go kayaking.  Keeping the possibility close is a good reminder of that goal for me.  I stopped to read all the historic markers (yes, I'm a geek like that) around the parking lot and learned a little more about the early days of the gas and oil industry in West Virginia. We all had to go to the bathroom but first we had to herd geese for a good ways.  They were healthy looking Canadian Geese who didn't seem afraid of the car or even of my maniac barking dogs, but they were cautious enough to stay ahead of us as I slowly drove to where the public restrooms were located.

Actually, they stayed with us for most of the rest of our visit and acted like a welcoming committee!

This marker, at the park's first parking lot entrance, talks about the early oil wells in the area.  Volcano, which is a couple of miles up the canyon was the first oil town in the area.

At the next marker, I learned more about some of the early technology of transporting oil and gas down the canyon.  By today's standards pumping 100 barrels might not seem like much, but then it was a lot.  William Cooper Stiles, Jr., who developed the area designed an endless cable system modeled after the mechanics of Philadelphia street cars to pump oil through a pipeline down to where it could be transported to refineries about 15 miles away.  Interesting perspective on progress and technology.

If you can't quite picture how that works, take a look at one of the pulleys that's been saved.  Imagine a series of them rotating as a heavy steel cable pulls around the edges and moves pump parts pushing crude down a pipeline to the mouth of the canyon.  It seems like quite an engineering feat!

A pulley for the original endless cable
system used to move oil and gas down
the canyon from Volcano to transport to
refineries in other locations. 

Next, we drove up the other side of the lake past the fishing pier and found a trailhead for a short hike up to Thornhill.  Thornhill is the mansion Mr. Stiles built for his family on a ridge overlooking the lake. (It was too wet to try that 3/4 mile yesterday and my guys are too maniac for me to handle on that kind of trip anyway so it's on the list for a future adventure!)
The fishing pier at Mountwood Park.

Finally, we ventured a little farther up the canyon and through most of the rest of the park.  At the Administration Building, we learned more about Mr. Stiles from this marker.  It says, "William Cooper Stiles, Jr. born in Philadelphia on July 27, 1839, was one of the earliest operators of the West Virginia and Ohio oil fields.  Mr. Stiles traveled to the White Oak region of WV in 1864 where he purchased several thousand acres and began drilling. After an ominous start, Mr. Stiles made a major strike and later revolutionized the oil industry through the introduction of the endless cable pumping system, an application conceived from the cable system powering the street cars in Philadelphia.  Mr. Stiles built the Volcanic Oil and Coal company into a major force in the local oil industry.  In 1866 at a cost of $160,000 he was the driving force in the building of the Laurel Fork and Sand Hill Railroad, a standard gauge rail system for transporting oil to refineries in Parkersburg. For his major contributions to Volcano, Mr. Stiles was known as the "father of Volcano." He also served as a county commissioner from 1881 to 1885.  W.C. Stiles, Jr. died at his beloved Thornhill on December 17, 1896."

I'd seen a couple of signs for a dog park and we had just a little break in the rain so we kept going and...

The patron saint of city dogs (if there's not one designated, there should be!) smiled down on my pretend country boys!! We found a near perfect match for their old dog park in Georgia. The rain started back up but they still took a deliriously happy romp!  It's far enough to require a little thought about going but not so far that it's going to be impossible as an occasional treat.  I'm happy there's something available that makes them so happy!

Lightning and Gizmo paused at the same
tree during their first dog park visit
in a month!
By this point, I'd seen so many references to Volcano that I was thinking it must surely still be a town... And I was curious.  Once the dogs were thoroughly soaked and willing to give up on running in their park, we drove on for probably another 5 miles.  I guess Volcano today is 3-4 houses close enough to throw rocks into each others' yards.  Kind of a sad discovery after all the build up.  But one of them did have a mailbox that I am now coveting like a mad woman!

With the addition of front wheels..
My farmer fetish is wailing

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