Posts Tagged ‘WV’

West Virginia Day Tripper

I’ve started a new blog about my jaunts around the mountain state for those who enjoy armchair traveling. I thought I would keep it separate from my blogs here.  I have a lot of  photos of my travels and plan on doing more, so I thought it would be good to house them all in one place. I hope you will visit  West Virginia Day Tripper. Thanks!

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West Virginia Barns

As you can tell by my lack of  blog posts lately, I have become preoccupied with photography. I should be working on my third book or writing here more often, but it seems to have taken a back seat to what has become my passion: pretending to be a photographer.

My father was a photographer when he wasn’t working as owner and broker of his real estate company. He used a press camera which I wish to God I had in my possession. He loved taking pictures and vacationing through West Virginia meant getting out of the station wagon at each hairpin turn so he could get a photo of the “beautiful view.” There were at least 150 “beautiful views” per vacation. I didn’t mind because I was little and a ham for the camera. He has since passed, but I honestly feel him beside me when I frame a shot.

I love photography more than writing.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy receiving a royalty check each month from Amazon for my 2 ebooks.  It’s not much, but it still pays a bill or two, so that is nice. But, I’ve decided to concentrate on writing after I retire in a few years. My summer writing time has been replaced by day tripping and photography.

When you focus your camera, it is interesting to find out what your interests are. I had no idea when I started taking pictures that my eye would find old barns appealing. Old stuff. Maybe that’s why I like to haunt antique shops.

But, I credit my love of old barns to my grandfather.  He didn’t actually live on a farm, but purchased one to house his prized palomino horses. He named it Cherry Farm and I loved going there.  I believe he rented the house  to a family who took care of the horses. There was an old barn full of pigs. And I was sold. A couple of years later that barn and the pigs inside burned to the ground, but my love of barns lived on.

So, the first time I decided to take a drive, I was surprised what caught my eye. I seem to like old bridges, barns, and abandoned buildings. Who knew I would take back roads in hope of finding a wonderful farm to photograph. Here are just a few of the barns I have photographed in the past few weeks.

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Old Route 250 on the Marion/Taylor County line. It’s a goat farm and I love driving by it.

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Dean Drive. This is on the road behind my former home. I’ve driven by it hundreds of times…funny how it is now a

focus.IMG_2972Near Seneca Rocks, WV

The rest are from my little jaunt yesterday.

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I took about ten photos of this “truck graveyard.” Of course, that’s not really what it is.

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Near Watter Smith State Park

Near Watter Smith State Park

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Had to put the dead tree in this shot.

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This is the best I could do. It was on a winding road with no place to pull off. I rolled down my window, and aimed.

This is what happens when we finally get a break from the snow and the sun is shining on a Saturday afternoon. For those readers who are barn lovers, I drove from Fairmont south on I-79 and took the Lost Creek Exit. I drove on Route 270 from Lost Creek to West Milford and took Duck Creek Road (love the name) to Watters Smith State Park, which was CLOSED…bummer. I doubled back to get some photos I missed on the way and then took I-79 to the Jane Lew Exit in Lewis County and took Route 19 to Clarksburg. I had never been on either road before, so I had fun.

When I was young I told my grandma I had been on every road in West Virginia. She laughed at me and I got mad at her. In my defense, it seemed like I had. My dad couldn’t be away from his real estate business for too long (although I know now he really didn’t want to be in the car with my mom for very long), so our vacations were traveling around West Virginia.

I still love traveling around this state. The barns are becoming old and decrepit. Pretty soon a  new Walmart  or housing development will spring up on old farmland and  yet another barn will be just a memory. I hope to photograph a lot of them before time, or perhaps another derecho takes one down.

Blackwater Falls

I am ready to move to a warmer climate. I am tired of snow, spinning tires, and 2 hour school delays. But, despite this long snap of frigid weather and mounting snow drifts, I still find inspiration to get in my car and snap some photos. It would be much easier to snap pictures during the other three seasons, when I actually want to get out of my car for different angles, but right now I am basically a “shoot from the car window”  kind of pretend photographer.

When my son was in for Christmas, we decided to drive to Blackwater Falls right after a frigid couple of days. We wanted to see if the falls were frozen. What was I thinking?

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We stopped to take photos of this lovely old house.

Blackwater State Park is located in the Allegheny Mountains of Tucker County, West Virginia near the town of Davis. The park is about 1 1/2 hours away from my home.  It is named for the cascading falls of the Blackwater River, whose amber-colored waters plunge 62 feet and then tumble through the Blackwater Canyon, which is roughly an eight mile long gorge. The so-called “black” water is from tannic acid from the nearby fallen hemlock along with red spruce needles.

According to wvencyclopedia.org

“The river enters Blackwater Falls State Park at an elevation of 3,040 feet. For the next 2.2 miles it is a wild river, dropping 57 feet at the main falls and then descending another 560 feet, before leaving the park. The river, geologically young, has carved the spectacular, deep, and almost vertical walls of Blackwater Canyon, which cuts through the surrounding plateau. Blackwater Lodge opened in 1956 on the south rim of the canyon, and a 65-site campground was opened in 1961. The state park, consisting of 1,688 acres, was established in 1937.”

I have never been to the falls in the winter. Summer is a beautiful time to visit the whole area, but we wanted to see what it looked like after a few days of frigid temperatures. I was not too smart and wore tennis shoes and my gloves might as well have been made of thin cotton. But, I had my camera and it was great having my son along with me.

We arrived at the falls parking lot and were surprised to see so many cars. I thought we would be all alone, seeing that it was so cold. I noticed license plates from Virginia, New York, Delaware, and Ohio among the many from West Virginia.

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Did I mention there were 214 steps to get down to the falls? I hadn’t been there in years and hoped the slipping and sliding would be worth it.

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It was a beautiful walk and I was so happy the wind was calm. I am not a fan of cold, but I trudged on, hoping the falls would not disappoint.

They didn’t There were parts that were frozen, but a majority of the falls were plunging, business as usual. I was taken back by the surrounding beauty. This was a winter wonderland, no doubt about it.

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Trees in the canyon below showed the beauty of winter.

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My son is a great photographer. His photos look a lot better than mine.

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Blackwater Falls, one of the most photographed areas in the state.

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So, if you go down, you must go back up. In all honesty, the stairs that snaked their way down to the falls had many platforms along the wall. There were benches and different viewing areas for those who did not want to take the whole journey. It was not bad, and I am a complainer.

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My son was able to make this snowman while he waited for me at the top of the stairs..just kidding. I did fine. But, we felt we deserved a break, so we stopped at the Mountain State Brewing Co. for a beer.

 

IMG_3945All in all, I was glad we ventured into the mountains to visit Blackwater Falls. The best part, though, was spending the day with my son.

 

Our Disappearing Roadside Rest Areas

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

Robert Frost

Years ago, there were no interstates. We had two lane roads and that’s about it. Sometime during the summer we would hop into our family car and travel around West Virginia. My dad was a realtor and land developer and said he could not be away from the business for too long at a time. I’m thinking that he just didn’t want to be cooped up in a car with my mom, who was so much more than a co-pilot; she was a drill sergeant  driving instructor and a callous wife. That combination was not fun if you were sitting in the front seat…which I was not.

No, I was sitting in the backseat…with a bucket between my feet and my face out the window. The hairpin turns on these West Virginia roads did not make me a happy traveler. My dad would also make us get out at almost every scenic vista to pose for a picture. He had one of those huge press cameras, and also took home movies. So, it took us a while to travel 60 miles through the mountains.

The great thing about traveling on a two lane road back then was the fact that there were numerous places to pull over and take a break. You could tell  because there was a place to pull over and the three main requirements:

1) shade

2) a great view

3) a picnic table right by the road.

Many people would pack a lunch before their little jaunts as  restaurants and gas stations were just here and there. Nowadays, there are interstate rest stops along the way where you can buy food and drink out of vending machines. Just writing this makes me feel sorry for the youth in 2013, as this way of traveling in the 50’s and 60’s was ideal now that I think about it. Well, except for the fact that most of the pull-off picnic rest areas did not have a bathroom. But, for the most part, they were a welcome break from traveling with three fighting young children in the back seat and one continuously perturbed woman in the passenger seat. My dad would always say the same thing:

“Look at this beautiful view. We need to get a picture.” We would then get out of the car and strike a pose.

If you lived in West Virginia back then, there were certain places your family would travel.  I will never forget stopping by the smallest church in the lower 48 states.   Right alongside Route 219 in Thomas sits Our Lady of the Pines. My dad even let me sign our name in the guest book located right inside. This cute 24×12 foot church has only six pews and seats twelve people. Peter Milkint, a Lithuanian immigrant, built Our Lady of the Pines in 1938. You know, I’m thinking that since Hawaii and Alaska did not join the United States until 1959,  perhaps Peter billed the church the smallest before those states had their statehood. I may have stepped into the smallest church in all the 50 states.

This tiny sanctuary receives about 30,000 visitors a year.

There were other places we would venture on our yearly 2-3 day “jaunts” around West Virginia and stopping by the roadside rest areas were always part of the plan. We would visit Senaca Rocks, Smoke Hole Caverns, Spruce Knob, and come to think about it, we never went anywhere else except for the Monongahela State Forest area. Naturally, they had many pull over rest areas with added concrete fireplaces. But,the  one place I remember most vividly, and that was Cool Springs Park.

Cool Springs was not a destination, but a stop along the journey. It was what our interstate rest stops are today, minus the animals and rusty tractors. It was such a surprise the first time we came down a 3 mile hill and saw this great rest stop/souvenir shop/petting zoo and I was thrilled to death. Kids love souvenirs and this place had everything. This was roadside kitsch galore.

I’m pretty sure my brother bought a tomahawk and I liked the penny in a small bottle with the words Cool Springs Park written across the front. Parents are more than obliged to purchase these souvenirs because it may mean some quiet time once the kids climb back into the car. Well, not when there is a tomahawk involved. But, regardless, it was a vacation pressed in my memory and I decided last week to travel to Cool Springs once again on my way to nowhere in particular.

Now, this isn’t my first trip back to Cool Springs since I was little and was continually tomahawked in the back seat of the car. No, we traveled along Route 50 when I had my own children. But, it had changed since the early 60’s. In the early 90’s, it was, well, more rusty. The owners of cool springs had many displays of train cabooses and other mechanical devices showcased around the acreage beside the gas station/ souvenir shop.  You could walk through the park like grounds over bridges and see the large water wheel in action. But, the tractors had a lot of rust on them and I didn’t want my children to touch anything. The animals weren’t around that day, but there were a couple of peacocks walking around.

Inside, the kids picked out a souvenir or two. The tomahawks were still there. Thank goodness my kids walked right by those. I smiled when I saw the penny in a jar and I believe I had a thimble to add to my printer’s tray.

Cool Springs was the ultimate roadside park. So, fast forward to 2013, and I decided to stop there once again, this time with camera in tow. Earlier in the morning I decided to do something spontaneous and hurriedly packed an overnight bag and I was on my way. The only certain plan I had was to travel east on Route 50. I was going to get to visit Cool Springs again.

Since I was looking out for photo opportunities on my drive, I noticed numerous abandoned buildings along the way. Once an interstate is built, a lot of restaurants, motels, and small businesses had to close due to a decrease in people stopping. Roadside parks had decreased also. People weren’t really stopping to stretch their legs or check out their map. Afterall, that’s what a GPS is for. Coolers are kept in a car for longer jaunts, and people wanted to stretch their legs where ever there were also restroom facilities. But, Cool Springs Park was still open, after all these years.

Ah,nostalgia.

The sign was still the same.

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I smiled as I got out of my car and decided to walk left through the park and save the store and restaurant for later.

I immediately noticed the neglect of the once magnificent park.

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The collection box was quite rusted. I think they quit checking for donations years ago 

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There was a very pretty covered bridge, but what you didn’t see is that it was jammed with old pieces of machinery and cars so there is no way anyone could cross the bridge any more.

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I’m thinking this is where all the old steam engines and mechanical devices go to die.

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There were a couple of birds in a very muddy pen. With the amount of rain the area had earlier, the whole park looked as if the creek bed washed up over its banks and covered the whole park. It was a very muddy walk.

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The more I walked around, the more I realized that this park will probably not be here in twenty years. Fences were down, the water wheel was no longer working, and the shelters had fallen down.

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I remember climbing into this caboose when I was little.

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The water wheel is no longer working. It was such a wonderful thing to see.

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I have no idea why this wishing well is enclosed by a chain link fence and is now full of water. I stared at this for a while, trying to figure it out. I should have asked someone.

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Sit at your own risk.

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And then I walked into a swarm of about 25,000 gnats. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, but they went up my nose, in my eyes and ears and all through my hair. There were so many shallow pockets of water throughout the park, I immediately thought that this could be a prime breeding ground for the West Nile virus as the bugs and mosquitoes were plentiful. Since there were a couple confirmed cases of West Nile Virus elsewhere in West Virginia, don’t think that wasn’t on my mind.

I was miserable. It is not fun having bugs up your nose or in the corner of your eyeballs. And then I stepped in donkey poop.

Yes, I didn’t see them, but I knew there were two donkeys on the property. And there was donkey poop everywhere.

So, now I was just a mess. I decided to make my way into the store so I could clean the donkey poop from my sandals and splash water on my face, you know, to drown the gnats.

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Once inside, a flower arrangement sits in one of the sinks in the bathroom that no longer works.

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A souvenir store on one side and a restaurant/hardware store on the other. I could not find a penny in a bottle.

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Darn, a blurry picture and I only took one of the crowd that was sitting for lunch. The place was crowded with tourists wanting a tomahawk, locals, and those just stopping for gas. There were three people in front of me at the cash register, so I knew this was still a hit with those passing by.

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As I left to continue on my trip on the scenic byways of West Virginia, I pulled over to take one last photo of Cool Springs Park. I then just sat and looked over the whole place. I remember such a manicured place with a water wheel and people sitting under shelters eating food they brought in their cars. This is the ultimate roadside park. And unless something is done, the shelters will be on the ground, the fences that are still up will have fallen, and the rusty tractors and train engines will be a further rusty mess. There’s no going back unless the decay is stopped.

I would so prefer driving the back roads. Interstates are rushed, impersonal, and agitating. Back roads offer scenery, a meandering pace, and a greeting from a roadside picnic table for stretching your legs and taking in the beauty that surrounds you.

I hope Cool Springs Park survives for future generations of tomahawk buying children. It was a West Virginia treasure, and still is, despite being so very rough around the edges. Luckily, it is a major route for those enjoying a ride on their motorcycles and short cuts across our state.

I hope you stop if you are ever in the area.

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What The Hell, Seagull?

I saw a seagull today. I realize that is not an unusual observation for many. People always see them at the beach. After all, that’s where they belong. So, why the hell are they flying around my local Walmart’s parking lot? In West Virginia.

I came to Fairmont to go to college in 1974 and there were a few seagulls in the Middletown Mall parking lot. I was confused then and I am confused now. They have no business being in the mountains of West Virginia. That is against the laws of nature. Why, that would be like seeing a polar bear on a Miami beach, a rattle snake crawling along in the Arctic, or a moose hanging out in Central Park. So, after going through more “animals out of their element” scenarios, I decided I needed to learn more about seagulls and why they are in Fairmont, West Virginia. We only have streams and rivers. And they aren’t even cool rivers, like the Columbia…..or the mighty Mississippi. No, my seagulls are near the Tygart and the West Fork Rivers. There is no sand, no waves, no crabs to peck at. Why, oh why, are they flying above me in the freaking Walmart parking lot? The search was on.

Many people are perplexed as well. A woman wrote from Iowa about seeing seagulls in her Kmart parking lot. Many other land-locked puzzled people were wondering the same thing. Is it a migration route? And if so, where the hell are they coming from or going to in Iowa? That makes no sense at all. Iowa is too far away. And a blogging friend informed me that the seagull is the state bird of Utah. Utah!  Seems that years and years ago locusts were eating a lot of crops and all of a sudden seagulls appeared and ate the locust. The Mormons saw that as a sign and the next thing you know, they’ve got a state bird. Apparently, the seagulls in that state like the brine in the Great Salt Lake.

Maybe the seagulls think West Virginia is part of Virginia. They, afterall, have Virginia Beach, seagull capital of a small stretch of beach. There are a lot of geographically challenged people out there who think West Virginia is western Virginia. Maybe the seagulls think the same.

Years ago, near Point Pleasant, West Virginia, people thought they saw a strange flying “thing” that was dubbed Mothman. Hysteria reigned in that small Ohio River town for many years afterwards. Mothman supposedly had red eyes, a large wingspan and could pick up a German Shephard and carry it off. There is even a statue to Mothman and a Mothman festival. But, a wildlife biologist said all along it was a sandhill crane,  a large American crane almost as high as a man with a seven foot wingspan featuring red circles around its eyes. He said  the bird may have wandered out of its migration route.

I guess not all birds know what the hell they are doing. Sure, Canadian geese flaunt their knowledge of their ABC’s by flying in a V formation. They fly south for the winter. Well, they used to until they decided that since these silly Americans are  feeding them, they’d just stay all year long. We can’t get rid of them or their trail of slimy algae green poop.

So, maybe my Walmart seagull got lost on his way to Bora Bora or Aruba or where ever they fly on their migration route. I had no idea there were so many varieties of gulls. All I know is that they can attack. I know this because I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Tippi Hedren got pecked in the forehead by one.

In the end, I guess I feel sorry for the seagull who is living at the Walmart parking lot. Where does he sleep at night? Sitting on a light pole can’t be fun. Doesn’t he miss the sound of the ocean waves lulling him to sleep?  And if he doesn’t leave, will the crows let him hang out with them? They are usually a tight group, not making friends easily.

I did just read that we may be confused by their name, as it implies the “sea.” Someone wrote there is no such thing as a “sea” gull.  Gulls can adapt inland. Well, then maybe their name should change. Canadian geese are no longer Canadian….. Hermit crabs are quite social……a teddy bear hamster is not a damn teddy bear……

and a jumbo shrimp is not a big little thing. Whoever is naming animals is on drugs.

Red Rover, Red Rover, Let’s Mow Vickie Over

Ever wake up and see a clown sitting on the edge of your bed?  Pretty scary, right?  Well, that’s how I felt when someone mentioned playing  Red Rover.  I hated when we played that game when I was little. I mean, who invented this horrible little game? I’m thinking some German woman weightlifter named Olga.  It was bad enough that I had to sing about the plague with “Ring a round the Rosie”,  now I had to get a knot in my stomach every time Red Rover was mentioned.

“Oh, Dear God, Bozo, they want to play Red Rover today. What would you do?”

First of all, no one wanted me on their team.  Remember, I was anorexic skinny.  The other team loved not having me on their team, because they knew I was the weakest link. They didn’t even need to whisper, “Run through Vickie”…..or… “See that girl, the one with the shaking knees and…wait, ok, she was standing sideways,..anyway, see that girl with just a little bit of skin on her bones?… Yeah, the one who is crying…. She will let go of  Lee Ann’s  hand every time. Run at her!”

Now,you have to understand, I wasn’t bad at outdoor games. I was awesome at kickball. I didn’t have much power in the kick, mind you, but I could run.  I ran like a deer. A graceful anorexic deer. We played kickball in my neighborhood all of the time. In the street beside my house. I played Duck Duck Goose. (I’m laughing out loud at that one right now)… Mother May-I?…Freeze Tag….Red Light, Green Light….Hopscotch…Colored Eggs…..Do I need to go on?  Ok, I will.  Drop the Hankerchief….Hot Potato…Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?….Chinese Jump Rope (made mine with a bunch of rubber bands)…Ok, done..Wait..I really liked singing The Farmer in the Dell, but damnit, never got to be the cheese, standing alone….I remember one time when it was getting late, we started playing  Hide and Go Seek, and had Monica be it. We told her to count to 100 so we could find a great place to hide, and then we all went home..Yeah, that was my idea.

We would play outside all day long. We had to. Our moms kicked us out of the house. If we stayed in the house, we had to fold towels and do chores. We had freedom outside. The only times we ran in the house was to pee and to get money for the ice cream man. When we were very little, the whole neighborhood was pissed off at my mom because she called the ice cream trucks company and told them that the truck came when “her children” were taking a nap. How dare that ice cream truck. So, they came after dinner until we got older and didn’t take naps. What kind of pull did that woman have to get them to adjust their arrival times..Wow, what a witch…Anyway, the ice cream man came later…sigh…not when you were playing and it was hot, but after dinner, which  was not as gratifying. Thank goodness I was fairly liked by my friends, or they would be doing much worse things to me than trying to break my arm with Red Rover.

For any of you who have been living  in a bubble and have never experienced the painful game of Red Rover, let me tell you the rules. You get two lines of kids that don’t have anything else to do but inflict pain on each other, make them hold hands  and then you take turns calling someone over. “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Vickie over”  That person runs like hell and tries to break all the bones in your arm as the person you are holding hands with has a death grip on your hand and won’t let go.  And you know damn well they will try to run off-center and concentrate on Brittle Girl.  Every time.

In the end, all games foster cooperation and teamwork, teach social skills and help develop coordination for those who walk funny.

But, call me crazy, but I think Red Rover was a game for losers…..Yeah, that’s right….. Future loser bullies. Because it was those loser bullies who were the first to also want to play Dodge Ball.

Don’t even get me started on that brain-damage-inducing game.

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