One Friday morning, I played hooky from work, jumped in a friend’s car, and set off on an adventure. We headed to the West Virginia Botanic Garden at Tibbs Run Preserve in Morgantown.
We (when I say we, I really mean not me) packed a cooler with snacks and water, even a little chocolate, and we were on our way to hike trails and wander through gardens. I have heard of the Botanic Garden, but this would be my first visit.
We started our adventure on the Reservoir Loop. It was easy, and we met other early morning hikers, many with dogs. It was a fun way to stretch after being in the car and ease into the Garden hikes.
The crushed limestone path had large glazed ceramic pots scattered throughout. What fun to see potted arrangements along a wooded trail. The path took us around the pond; of course, we took the offshoot trail to get an up-close view of the pond. We looped the Event Lawn, where there is a full schedule of summer activities planned.
Now we were ready to journey onto the Forest Loop. The environment changed, and it felt like a forest. Rhododendrons were everywhere. The temperature was cooler.
As we came around a few trees, we noticed small teepee-like formations of branches. We saw one, then two, then a whole village. We were entering the Fairy Garden!
The sign gave us guidelines to not frighten the fairies, beware of ogres, and instructions for building houses. This was by far my favorite part of the trails. We gathered sticks and leaves, found the perfect construction site, and got busy building a fairy house. I felt like a kid and loved every minute.
Giddy from housing the fairies, we continued through the Wetland Loop Trail, walked the boardwalk, crossed bridges, and at one point, we veered off the trail and hopped rocks to cross a small creek. Yep, still feeling like a kid.
We continued onto the Tibbs Crossing Trail and the Farside Trail. We stumbled on the Meditation Garden at the perfect time, and it provided the ideal spot to rest and take in the forest scene.
Throughout the Garden, we heard birds, frogs, streams trickle — all the sounds of a forest; it was nice. The paths are well cared for, stone and wood boards were placed in muddy areas, and the grounds were clean, but I never saw a trash can or a spot for dog waste.
We walked through the Butterfly Garden, and shhh, don’t tell, we also found the Secret Garden. Be on the lookout for art as you travel the paths and gardens. Metal sculptures of a queen bee, a caterpillar, a butterfly, and a ladybug by West Virginia artist Michael Loop scatter the grounds. They are beautiful.
You might also see cairns, a rock formation used by hikers as navigational trail markers. It’s tempting to rearrange the rocks, but it is best to leave them be and save a hiker from getting lost.
As we were winding our way back to the car, we found the Hammock Haven, a shady spot filled with red hammocks hung among the trees. We did backtrack several trails, searching for the Old Man in the Tree, an art form by John Fichner carved into a tree with a chainsaw, but the Old Man was elusive on this visit. Finding him will be first on my list next time.
I could go on and on about the Book Trail, the Education and Event Center, and the many other trails and gardens. I had printed maps from the website, but they were available near the parking area, and the trails are clearly marked. What was not clearly marked were the public restrooms; they were spotless but hard to find (underneath the Education and Event Center).
This was my first adventure away from home in many months, and it was a good day. Time outdoors, time with a good friend, snacks, and discovering a new spot for lunch; yes, it was a good day.
The West Virginia Botanic Garden, our state’s only botanic garden, is a nonprofit organization with 85 acres and about five miles of trails. The land is leased from the City of Morgantown, and they receive some funding from the City of Morgantown and the Monongalia County Commission but rely heavily on public donations. For more information and a schedule of upcoming events, visit www.wvbg.org.