Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Exploring Wild and Wonderful

West Virginia. ‘Wild and wonderful’ – not the state motto (which is: Mountaineers are always free) - but a tourism slogan.

Hub and I ventured west with friends, one of whom lived for years in West Virginia. The trip was a reunion with Sharon’s state of youth.

It is a challenge timing a trip to witness the glory of fall foliage. Our son lives in Vermont, and an autumn trip is usually on the agenda. Too often however we arrive too late or too early, or weather conditions preclude vibrant colors in favor of pales and browns.

 Our weekend in the mountains of West Virginia offered a feast for the eyes. Mountains of trees boasted vibrant bands of color. Reds, yellows, golds and oranges along with greens dotted the landscape as we drove narrow two-lane roads up and down mountains, switchbacks causing slight queasiness. We observed run-down cabins and well-kept farmhouses, small thriving towns and others struggling to survive.

Rolling mountains stretched to the horizon. The state’s modern history dates to 1609 when it became part of Virginia. Hunters, trappers, explorers and adventurous settlers crossed the territory, a few lingering. Today much of the state remains rural thanks to the rugged terrain.

Following a long morning ride we eagerly piled out of the car at Coopers Rock State Forest. Sharon and I

ventured down a marked path, at some point losing trail markers posted for hikers. We realized we were off course when the narrow path disintegrated to rocky, untrod ground. But the downward trek and upward climb made us ravenous. After numerous pictures on to our next stop – lunch!

Lunch transformed into dinner. Muriale’s Italian Kitchen in Fairmount opened in 1968, expanded and redecorated several times over the years. I know because Sharon told me. She remembers the place from the restaurant’s opening, a major town event. Apparently there were not many restaurants in the area at the time. 

The second day of our journey dawned foggy and rainy. Our first stop should have been the New River Gorge Bridge. Driving into the Visitor’s Center, we did not park or get out of the car. We did drive across the bridge, the longest steel arch bridge and the third highest in the country. Unfortunately we could not see the river below because of fog.

Finally mealtime again - lunch! The place, chosen by hub, proved underwhelming. We journeyed on to Blackwater Falls State Park. A wide, level path and boardwalk leads to viewing platforms overlooking the falls. No rain, but we were not taking chances. No longer young and adventurous, a long hike in the forest with the possibility of being stranded in a downpour was not on our itinerary. More pictures, then on the road again.
 
On the path to the water falls. 

Due to too much coffee and advanced age we visited Sheetz – a regional convenience store chain - more than once. Or twice. We kept moving, but the considerable number of trucks along with constant car traffic made the final portion of the drive a bit tense, although I admit the three passengers dozed off. Luckily our driver stayed awake.

Reunion weekend over, four travelers slowly exited the car and stretched bodies bent over from the lengthy ride, tired but happy following a foray into wild and wonderful.