MORGANTOWN — Dr. Ellen Hrabovsky made her first acquaintance with Morgantown in 1976, when she came here to serve as the state’s first pediatric surgeon at the former WVU Medical Center.
These days, she does regular house calls at the West Virginia Botanic Garden, and Sunday was no exception.
In fact, the 29-degree afternoon, with its covering of some 5 inches of snow from the day before, couldn’t have been better.
The retired physician who is now a master naturalist was leading the garden’s Winter Botany Walk, a trek through the woods that even happens on winter days when it’s raining and the temperature is in the 50s.
Snow crunched from the boots of winter joggers on this afternoon.
And the suddenly seasonal air carried the whoops of far-off kids, who laughed and romped with their moms and dads in tow.
Shutter-clicks from a camera, also: A photographer was capturing a couple who chose the environs for their engagement photos.
Almost 40 years ago, a group of kindred spirits, including Hrabovsky, chose to repurpose this space as a wooded sanctuary.
The garden and its 82 acres just off Tyrone Road take in the site of the former Tibbs Run Reservoir, which supplied water to the city of Morgantown until 1969.
It’s been around a lot longer than that.
The Tibbs family had owned the property since at least the late 1700s.
Save for the man-made reservoir and the infrastructure that followed to pump the water, the land has pretty much existed in its original, Thoreau-state ever since.
Hrabovsky took 25 people down the garden’s labyrinth of trails, one of which was marked by a footbridge over a stream.
Water has pooled in low areas over the years to form natural wetlands within the valley’s confines.
Visual markers were prescribed the whole way.
After pointing out deer tracks in the snow, it was doctor’s orders that the group collectively look up: Just because.
The calligraphy reach of an old-growth hemlock, Hrabovsky said, is even more dramatic with a gray, winter sky as a backdrop.
“I love being out here in the winter,” she said.
“You can see all the contours and features. You can look right into the whole space. You can see all this nature that is still going on.”
An average visitor wouldn’t be able to tell, but she can even spy the trees that carry the hammocks in the summer.
Yes, hammocks, said Bill Mills, the garden’s executive director.
They go up every season for the garden-goers who like hibernation in low doses.
“We close at dusk, and if we notice cars left in the lot then, we check the hammocks first,” he said. “And we do find snoozers.”
In the meantime, a now-wintry January will stay that way, AccuWeather said.
At least for now, and to varying degrees, the forecaster said.
Look for a mix of clouds and sun with temperatures in the 30s through mid-week. After that comes the weekend — and another possibility of snow.