By Rita Cook / The Ellis County Press
I am a fan of West Virginia. I can say that now since I visited earlier this year and I fell deeply in love. The story goes that West Virginia is the northernmost southern state and the southernmost northern state. Whatever the case, there was one thing I noticed when visiting, anyone who lives there loves it. And that’s a fact.
The state lays claim to the NBA logo, bet you didn’t know that. It is the birthplace of the first American woman to win the All-Around Gold Medal in women’s gymnastics in the Olympic Games and, there are more trees than people in the state too.
So, you see, how can a visitor not become a bit of fan?
My fondest memory while there was in Canaan Valley where I headed to the snow park for tubing in a t-shirt because it was so warm outside. That was in February and it was just good fun. Well, that and the fact that West Virginia is not as well-known of a destination around the country so there are no long lines at every stop, but that is where I come in now to tell you all about why you have to visit.
There are so many reasons to be a fan.
I started my quest in Canaan Valley at the Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center, which is part of the state’s park system.
With welcome drinks in the Laurel Lounge and dinner in the Hickory Dining Room, anywhere you looked from the resort’s windows you had a good view.
I was given a Gold Pass while there, so I had access to all the goodies the resort offered. That with the caveat I could try the goodies that were available since even though it was February the snow was more melting than falling, unseasonably.
Activities at Canaan Resort include skiing, which is very reasonably priced and has a summit elevation of 4,280 and more than 40 trails, snow tubing and there is an ice skating rink. You can also take ski lessons at the resort, which I think is a wonderful way for unsteady skiers to begin. There is a spa and a children’s program, so you really don’t even have to leave the resort area unless you just want to for a look at the small towns nearby.
If you hit the area at the right time you can also get some golfing in with the prime season being end of May to the first day of October. When thinking about the timing of your trip also consider the beautiful foliage that is prominent in this area surrounding the resort on all sides.
On the second night I did decide to head into the town of Davis to have dinner at Barrels Brewhouse, drinks at Stumptown Ales and then on to hear some music at the Purple Fiddle – indeed, we had our night cut out for us.
At Barrels Brewhouse try a flight of the Blackwater beers including one of your choice and, did I mention the truffle tots that were to die for? Drizzled with white truffle oil, parmesan cheese and roasted garlic aioli you really can’t go wrong as you wash it down with your beer selection.
Route 32 is the drive you will take in and out of Canaan Valley. It is a 20-mile from Harman to Thomas along twisting roads that rise in elevation amid forest lands with wildlife, waterfalls and great views.
Canaan Valley was designated a national landmark in 1974 and a portion was designated as a national wildlife refuge. It became the 500th refuge of its kind in the 90s and today has about 17,000 under its umbrella,
After a few nights at the Canaan Valley Resort the next stop was a long drive to Adventures on the Gorge where we spent a few nights in a quaint little cabin overlooking more of West Virginia’s finest scenery.
One of the highlights of the second part of the trip were the people we met at this location. Some of the investors of the property were there while we were visiting and to say they were hospitable is an understatement. We even had the pleasure of enjoying a Creole Night dinner with them while there at the Adventures on the Gorge restaurant.
While I drove around and looked at the amazing properties in the area – all with a view by the way – my colleague did the Tree Tops Canopy Tour and the Bridge Walk. Both are not for those with height issues, but if you want to get your adrenaline pumping this is your thing.
The Bridge Walk gives those interested the chance to walk on the catwalk underneath the New River Gorge Bridge. The tour is guided and takes place on a two-foot wide catwalk that is 25-feet beneath the top of the bridge and 851-feet above the New River. A factoid worth mentioning is that this river is the second oldest River in the world.
While on the bridge, which opened in 1977, one of the highlights is catching a glimpse of the mating pair of Peregrine Falcons living there since 2011. The falcons live on the bridge and can reach speeds of up to 260 miles per hour when necessary and, both are obviously not afraid of heights.
The Bridge itself is the longest single arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere and the fourth longest in the world. It also gets the honor of being the third highest vehicular bridge in the United States and the 13th highest bridge in the world. Now doesn’t that entice you?
Overall, the New River Gorge is lined with mines, railroads, bridges and ghost towns giving guests a real taste of the history of the area. It was one of West Virginia’s greatest producers of coal and it is all about the outdoors when visiting this area so bring your walking shoes.
While Adventures in the Gorge sounds like an adventure park, and there is lots of adventure to be found there, you can also stay overnight since there are cabins, a gourmet restaurant and a variety of people to meet as your West Virginia adventure unfolds.