West Virginia is covered by hardwood forest more than any other state. That's a recreation asset, because woodland provides soul-enriching charm for hikers, campers, picnickers and other nature-lovers.
Being engulfed in woods brings spiritual contentment. The forest -- "lovely, dark and deep," as Robert Frost put it -- fosters inner peace. I often feel that it's my personal church.
Washington Irving wrote: "There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations." Henry David Thoreau said: "I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees."
One of my favorite woodsy retreats is a trail starting behind the Kanawha-Charleston Animal Shelter and winding to the top of Oakridge Drive, not far from Yeager Airport. I took my sister there last week and, to our surprise, a young doe actually approached us, seeming curious about the two-legged visitors. The deer wouldn't run away, but kept skirting alongside us. My sister snapped it with her cellphone. It was wonderful.
West Virginians are lucky, because woodland is everywhere near at hand, and it's open to all. Unless property is cultivated, fenced or posted with keep-out signs, the state's trespassing law allows free access to visitors.
It's healthy to get out and hike amid shady groves and deep ravines. I recommend it for almost everyone.
"The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness," naturalist John Muir wrote. He also said of piney woods: "The majestic crowns approaching one another make a glorious canopy, through the feathery arches of which the sunbeams pour, silvering the needles and gilding the stately columns and the ground into a scene of enchantment."
Since West Virginia is the most forested place, residents should enjoy the treasure that nature provides.