Is it weird to bid farewell to my West Virginia adventures by saying, "Hello?" This final installment of the series is meant to recognize the bounteous beauty found along all of West Virginia's country roads.
My first thoughts upon seeing West Virginia from the vantage of the airplane's window seat strayed to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Yes, I know West Virginia and Mark Twain's Missouri are hundreds of miles apart (geographically and culturally), but film contrivances and my imagination are all I have to go on and that's where I went. Just look at that river!
Before my travels, it never occurred to me that Southern California was such an arid clime. I live in a neighborhood full of lawns and trees and growing things but, to pose it West Virginia parlance, we ain't got nothin' on Appalachia. The depth and variety of green made me feel like I could see color for the very first time. The air hangs heavy with a humidity for which I have never held a great affinity but somehow felt oddly comforting. Honestly, the humidity explains both the verdant landscape and the slower pace at which West Virginians tend to operate because every motion is met with resistance; walking down the street is like wading through a pool.
New River Gorge National River Lookout
Everywhere we went we saw rivers, lakes, streams, hills, waterfalls, forests, and wildlife. It all felt so strange and inviting that we were tempted to dive headlong into serious exploration. Seeing our enthusiasm, locals felt obligated to give us one piece of advice, "Stay out of them hollers!"
Hollows (pronounced "hollers"): n. the sloping valley areas between hills that can be dangerous
as they are often home to an unsavory populous pursuing less-than-lawful activities.
|This naturally-occurring, roadside waterfall sits right alongside the two-lane highway.|
The hose/spout contraption allows local residents to exploit the falls as a fresh water resource.
Not wanting to end up like the victims of a "Wrong turn" movie, we stuck mostly to paved roads and the numerous national and state parks that abound throughout West Virginia's countryside. Speaking of country, this city slicker had, of course, heard the term "Country mile" before, but it took flying a few thousand miles to understand exactly what that term meant.
|West Virginia's state flower is the Rhododendron. Is it any wonder?|
|The New River Gorge National River Bridge|
|Mr. Tiny at Cathedral Falls|
These dolls have very little to do with nature and country roads but I
saw them in almost every second-hand/thrift/antique store that I entered.
Their primitive, soft-bodied forms and plastic faces (I already have a few
in the stash) make them the perfect wacky tacky craft project; stay tuned!
|The caboose of a coal train as it cuts around hills|
|Anybody with a camera could have captured the beauty here. Nevertheless, I was pretty proud of this shot.|
|Normally, I get pretty excited over taxidermy but this was a real, live deer!|
Often times I silently refuse to step out of my comfort zone. Going to West Virginia (a huge leap outside of California comfort) emboldened me. Embracing small town mentality didn't always feel comfortable but it felt necessary and exciting.
|What better way to celebrate small-town living |
than by going to the VFW for a hot dog sale?
|Forget the hot dog sale, I could just eat this kid up!|
|Milligan Creek Covered Bridge|
|My sister thought it was weird that I was kind of hoping our drive through this historic,|
covered bridge would culminate in a full-blown Beetlejuice extravaganza. Maybe I just
wanted to read the Handbook for the Recently Deceased.
|The aerial tram at Pipestem National Park|
|Mr. Tiny goes back to nature|
|Rowing at Plum Orchard State Park|
|It wouldn't be West Virginia unless somebody was burning trash on the lawn.|
This is something that the southwestern United States, a veritable tinder box, could never fathom.
|I found the mouse in the swiss cheese at West Virginia's famed folk art/primitives showcase, Tamarack.|
|The Tamarack's iconic roofline|
|Glade Creek Grist Mill|
|Dusk at Lake Stephens|
Watch out for them skeeters!!!
The best part about traversing the country roads of West Virginia was the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong fantasy. Normally, I am extremely grateful that Southern California is lacking so many of the insect species that make their homes in more humid climes. On this occasion, I was beyond excited to encounter BUGS!
|More specifically, Lightning Bugs|
We caught fireflies and it was a dream come true!
"Take Me Home, Country Roads" - John Denver
I will freely admit that I sang the refrain to this song at least three times a day while I was within state lines.
A HUGE thank you to my sister, brother-in-law, and the cutest nephew in the entire world for hosting me so graciously and making it an unforgettable trip. I miss you guys!!
I can't tell you how much I love, love, love traveling and finding the beauty and the wacky tacky that the world has to offer. I'm already itching to go on the next adventure and so I'll pose the question to you. Where should I go next? Do you have any recommendations for a "wild and wonderful" adventure to satiate my wacky tacky wanderlust?
Until next time, West Virginia!