West Virginia Your Way

Things to do in West Virginia!

Sleeping in a Barn

As a kid growing up in West Virginia, two of my favorite games to play were played in a barn.  Hide and Go Seek was fun because there were so many places to hide.  Playing tag in a barn was almost like a maze with things to dodge, climb and swing over.   Once I found the perfect hiding place, which was a barrel where the farmer would put all his garden tools like shovels, hoes and rakes.  Since they had long handles, all I had to do was push them aside and sit in the bottom of the barrel where the tools angled on one side at the base and acted as a covering where the handles leaned against the rim on the opposite side at the top.

Beyond the couch are the stairs leading to the loft.

The other fun game to play in a barn was tag.  One time I ran out of the barn, jumped  a  fence, and ended up spending the next fifteen minutes trying to pull my shoes out of the knee-deep mud where they had been sucked off my feet.  The good news was that I didn’t get “tagged”, ’cause no one would come in after me.  (If you’re a country kid, then you know that stuff I sunk knee-deep in wasn’t really mud.)

Recently I was in Berkeley Springs which is located far into the eastern panhandle.  This time I got to stay in a barn that had been converted into lodging.   The fun part was that this place was so unique that I felt like I had gone back in time.  The place had been a working barn, until Ed George, decided to convert it into one big open place for visitors to stay.  The barn is chocked full of antiques and curios that had me wandering around in a process of discovery.  If there hadn’t been a satellite TV available, I would have felt like I was in an old black and white movie set in a foreign land where people lived as best they could. 

Even thought the place had all the modern conveniences, it had so many older things, like old wood stoves and antique farming tools, to old books and a bathroom that has to be seen to believe.  Taking a shower the next morning was like climbing down into a cellar.  Not that it was cold and damp, but more because it was big, concrete and deep.

If you have a big family, or want to visit the place with a few families, then this place is ideal.  Everyone in the family should like it, provided you’re not looking for luxury and glamour.  You can find it on www.WVyourWay.com by clicking on the Lodging heading and then checking the keywords Cabins, Pet-Friendly or Vacation Home Rental.  You can also find it under the Tourism heading and Tennis Courts keyword.

If you want you can play Hide and Seek, don’t worry, there is no “mud” to contend with.

July 18, 2011 Posted by | Lodging, Tourism | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Creature at Lost World Caverns?

Nearly 25 years ago I saw Lost World Caverns on a highway map for West Virginia and decided to stop and check it out.  In the days before the internet all I knew about the place was that a cavern was involved.  Even now, to find the place using an old-fashioned search engine, like Google, you still have to type something about caverns.  Thankfully, www.WVyourWay.com let me find the place without even thinking about caverns or typing anything in.  That way, when I searched for Dinosaurs and Natural History, I was able to find just what I was looking for.

 So off I went and I took a date with me.  We got there early so there wasn’t a crowd to deal with, but the owner suggested we take the tour first since a few busloads of elementary kids was on the way.  My date was from the city, so I knew my chance of scaring her was pretty good.  This was my second date with her, but would I get a third?

 We walked down the tunnel which was a much easier way in than the original entrance, which was a straight drop somewhere around two or three hundred feet.  Actually, you can still see a tiny chain ladder that was used.  I call it tiny ‘cause it appeared less than a foot wide.

 Keep in mind that the temperature drops as you enter the cavern, so bring along a light jacket if you want to keep from shivering.  If I recall, the cavern stays at a cool 55 degrees year ‘round.

 The fact that these tours are self-guided played right into my hands as I thought of what I was going to do to scare my date.  As we walked along the path and viewed the myriad of formations, I came up with an idea.  I wanted to wait until we were deeper into the cavern, though.  One of the good things about Lost World Caverns is that so much is packed into the place that you can pretty much see everything caverns have to offer in one giant room.  It’s almost like someone collected all the different formations and placed them there for safe keeping.

A WV man set a world record by sitting on top of this for way too many days.

 As we reached the lowest depth of the cavern, I said to my date, very matter of a fact, “They say there’s something that lives deeper in these caverns, but I don’t believe it myself.”

 The city girl looked at me wide-eyed and asked, “What are you talking about?!”

 So I told her how there was some kind of creature that was alleged to have been spotted down here several times.  When she said I was just trying to scare her, I simply asked, “Why do you think we’re on a self-guided tour?  They can’t get tour guides to come down here ‘cause the locals know all about it!”

 At that her eyes grew as big as saucers and she inched closer.  My plan was working to perfection.  I had forgotten about the cave bear sign, but when my date saw it, my story gained even more credence when I suggested they had to call it a cave bear since the description of the creature matched nothing else anyone had ever seen.  By this time she wanted me to stay very close to her the rest of the tour.

 Once you leave the cavern take the time to tour the little museum and the expansive gift shop.  If you like dinosaurs, you’ll love seeing the fossils and giant bones.  The gift shop has something for everyone, including fun things for the kids.  You can even do some gem stone mining while you’re there.

 And fella’s, if you want to have a fun date, take your girl to Lost World Caverns.  Not only did I get a third date, but it looks like I just might end up marrying that city girl!

June 13, 2011 Posted by | Tourism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On The Way to Ski Snowshoe

So you’re heading to Snowshoe in the mountains of West Virginia to do some skiing.  You can speed up and speed back and miss all the points in between, or you can take a few minutes to enjoy some things along the way which will offer some variety from what you will see, and pay, on the mountain.

There are different routes to Snowshoe, so I’ll cover more routes in other blogs.  Let’s start with US 219 between getting off I-64 at Lewisburg and heading north to the mountain.  There are plenty of shopping venues in Lewisburg, so let me just highlight a few.  Downtown there is the Old Hardware Gallery (China, Gift Shop, Jewelry), which has nothing really to do with hardware.  It is mainly a gift shop with a wide variety of unique items to choose from.  They also carry FiestaWare, which seems to be very popular.  I liked it because the staff was very friendly and you can even get a free cup of coffee or glass of lemonade.

The Hardware Gallery in Lewisburg

Bella’s The Corner Gourmet is another place downtown right on the corner of US 219 and US 60 which offers gourmet cheeses and unique gift items.  They even have a very nice suites if you need a place to stay (Cheese Shop, Shopping, Wine Store).  Discount Decorating, which is located between the interstate and downtown offers some very decorating items and gifts for the home.  Plus, the ladies are very friendly and helpful to answer questions (Arts & Crafts, Gift Shop, Primitives).

I love books, and so does Plaid Eagle Antiques located in the downtown area.  They have many rare books dealing with history, and especially West Virginia, that you will drool over.  They have more quality items than most antique shops, so they’re definitely worth taking a look at (Antiques, Books, Collectibles, Primitives, Prints, Quilts, Vintage Clothes).

Now, head north on US 219 and 3.2 miles north of the I-64 you will find the Ruby Rooster Antique Mall.  They have 25 dealers specializing in furniture, glassware, pottery, books, decorative items, primitives and various collectibles.  It’s under a large roof, so be prepared to do some browsing.  There’s also a small bakery and cheese shop located next door (Antiques, Collectibles, Shopping).

Nine miles north of Lewisburg in Frankford is Lowell’s Bakery.  This place has some good eatin’!  If you like hot dogs with chili, you have to try their’s, ’cause they have a smoke flavoring that is making me hungry right now just thinking of it!  Check out their listing on www.WVyourWay.com which has even more information about  this nice little place.  Oh yeah, and they also have some nice memorabilia from the area on the wall (Bakery, Desserts, Pizza).

Continue driving north and you will reach the top of Droop Mountain and enter Pocahontas County.  On this mountain is the biggest Civil War battlefield in the state.  It also has a very nice overlook with a grand view of the Little Levels and Hillsboro.  Once you drive down into Hillsboro you may want to try the Pretty Penny Cafe.  It’s a nice restaurant that utilizes locally grown produce and organic fare to create a familiar but jazzed up version of your favorites (Casual-Fine/Dining, Catering, Family, Wireless Internet, Music).

After leaving Hillsboro and not far after passing US 55 heading toward Richwood, you’ll come across Grandpa’s Pantry on the left.  It’s a little off the road, but there are good signs to guide you.  The small store sits on a knoll and it has some very good cheese and deli products you’ll want to stop and enjoy.  They have Amish selections, sweets, WV made food products and many other tasty items (Amish Goods, Cheese Shop, Country Store).

Right after you pass by Marlinton you’ll go up a hill and sitting on the right is Gunter’s General Store.  They have a slew of WV made crafts, jewelry, candles, wind chimes and other collectibles.  They also have a nice selection of antiques (Antiques, Arts & Crafts, Gift Shop).

Right before you turn up Snowshoe Mountain you’ll see a strip of stores on your right.  From about the middle of that building to the far left you’ll find the Route 60 Why Not Shop.  This is a must stop store with all kinds of gifts.  And I do mean all kinds.  They also have a delicious deli where they serve some of the best sandwiches I’ve had in the state.  It’s also a place you can rent ski equipment.  So stop and tell them you saw them on www.WVyourWay.com! Oh, and spend some time reading all the interesting signs.  You’ll get a good laugh (Biking, Canoeing, Gift Shop, Shuttle Service, Skiing, Tubing)

Bella's

January 11, 2011 Posted by | Restaurants, Tourism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

No Diving for Weenies!

Bill Johnson standing next to his sign.

“Which eye do I look in?”  That was my first thought as I began talking to Bill Johnson, proprietor of the Johnson Family Campground in Braxton County.  I settled on the left eye finally, but soon thereafter it began to wonder off so I switched to the right eye.  I asked Bill about which eye was the one I should be looking in and he laughed and proceeded to tell me a few stories about his eyes and some of the comments he has heard over the years.  Such as when one of his hunting buddies didn’t think it was fair hunting with him since he could see around trees and look both ways at the same time!

Bill, a Christian man with high morals, tells of his difficulty talking to women wearing low-cut tops.  “They keep pulling up their tops ’cause they don’t know which eye I’m looking out of.”  As I laughed he assured me he was looking into their eyes.

We then took a tour of his campground as he gave me the history of the place.  His Dad bought the property, located on the banks of the Birch River where Long Run empties its waters into the rock strewn river, way back in 1946. 

When I first drove up to Bill’s House, which you come to first, I was first struck by the size of the huge rocks to the left of the house.  Bill pointed out one rock and said, “A 17 year old boy climbed to the top of that rock and it took 4 grown men to get him down!”  The road to the campground goes between those rocks which seems to stand as towering walls protecting the campground.

Rock Walls

Bill and I walked along that road and he showed me his unique picnicking spot on top of one of the rocks.  He also told me about the miles of ATV trails which he could ride for two weeks without crossing the same trail.

As we walked down the road his 40X80 foot pavilion came into sight.  As with many other things at the campground, Bill had built the pavilion using trees he cut as pillars.  He tells me of how they used to have over a thousand people at Gospel sings.  “Once I built the pavilion; though, people quit coming.”  He said they had a sing last year, but it only drew 18 people.

He showed me a sign hanging on the wall near the stage that said Gospel singers had to be fully dressed if they wanted to sing.  I thought that was odd and so asked him about the sign.  He said, “Some people made that sign for me ’cause some of the singers would get up here wearing shorts or bikini’s.  They needed to have more respect for God than that.”

I agreed and we moved on to what I came to realize was the centerpiece attraction of the campground.  In the middle of the river was one of those huge rocks with a deep pool between the rock and the shore.  Shelly, who lives at the campground, told me earlier that Bill, who is 66 years old, dives off that rock and he thinks anyone that won’t dive off the rock like he does, is a “weenie.”  I asked Bill about that and all he would say is he’s been diving off that rock for 60 years and he never jumps.  I took that as confirmation of Shelly’s claim.

No Diving for Weenies!

On the way back he showed me the petrified stump he found and an old millstone that used to grind grain in a nearby mill.  He told me of the bridge over the river seen from his yard that his Dad helped build back in the 20’s, which is now named after his Dad.  He showed me where the horses had cut a trail down the river bank before the bridge was built, and the fording place up the river where wagons used to cross.

If you like talking to men who love their land and care for it like a child, then you need to go camping at the Johnson Family Campground.  You will find it on www.WVyourWay.com listed under the “Lodging” heading and Campgrounds RV’s/tents, or the “Tourism” heading under Fishing and ATV Trails.

As I was about to leave he invited me in the house for a bowl of beans.  I told him how tempting that was, since I could smell them cooking from the kitchen, and asked him if he had a ham bone  in them.  He  replied, “Hickory smoked ham.”  I knew; however, that if I went in for a bowl of beans, I’d still be sitting there listening to Bill tell his intriguing stories.

January 7, 2011 Posted by | Tourism | , , , , , , | 3 Comments