French Creek Freddy awaits in Upshur County
Pennsylvania has Phil, Ohio has Chuck, and in Kentucky, while there’s no groundhog to do the forecasting, folks just see if University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari sees his shadow and then they know it’s only six more weeks until another national championship.
OK, cheap late winter and where the heck is March Madness joke but it is a fact that this weekend, believe it or not, is Groundhog Day.
Since the mountains are packed with great skiing snow, and with Groundhog Day on a Sunday this year, it’s the perfect time to roll over into the heart of West Virginia where all eyes — and maybe rifle scopes depending on the forecast — will be aimed at French Creek Freddie whose home is the West Virginia Wildlife Center at French Creek in Upshur County.
Each Groundhog Day for the past 36 years, Wildlife Center staff awakens the grumpy beast and brings him out of his winter hibernation hole to allow him to look for his shadow and predict the severity of the remaining six weeks of winter.
Luckily for folks going to check out Freddie, it appears even he is on a two-hour delay as he doesn’t get a wake-up call until 10 a.m.
Festivities begin at the amphitheater at 9:30 a.m. with special guest Appalachian storytellers “Granny Sue” and Judi Tarowsky.
The second annual Woodchuckin’ Contest will start at 10:30 a.m. A number of exhibitors will be in the Gift Shop including a potter, The Sheepherders Association and a blacksmith. Guests can enjoy hot chocolate and cookies.
Operated by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Section, the Wildlife Center is dedicated to presenting visitors a realistic and factual understanding of West Virginia’s wildlife. Woodland wildlife can be viewed along a wheelchair-accessible, 1.25-mile-long interpretive trail through a mature hardwood forest. Species at the facility include whitetail deer, black bear, wild turkey, and formerly native species that no longer live in the state, including elk, bison and mountain lions.
The West Virginia Wildlife Center is located in Upshur County in north-central West Virginia, 12 miles south of Buckhannon on State Route 20.
From the north, take exit 99 off Interstate 79 and follow State Route 33 east approximately 12 miles to Buckhannon and turn south on State Route 20. Coming from the south, take exit 67 off Interstate 79 at Flatwoods and follow State Routes 19 and 4 north approximately 30 miles to Rock Cave. Follow State Route 20 North for 2 miles to the center. Visiting the Wildlife Center is a convenient side trip for travelers on I-79.
Call 304-924-6211 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or visit online at www.wvdnr.gov/wildlife/wildlifecenter.shtm.
Dave Lavender is the author of “Dave Trippin: A Daytripper’s Guide to the Appalachian Galaxy of Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.” He covers regional travel. Follow the H-D reporter on Facebook or Twitter @DaveLavenderHD.
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