March 2005 Issue
Hot Spots in the Highlands
West Virginia's visitor favorites provide loads of summer fun.
West Virginia is mountains and much more, as these destinations and activities prove, year after year.
Hatfield-McCoy Trail System
Located in the Appalachian Mountains of southern West Virginia, the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System encompasses more than 500 miles of trails, and is becoming as popular with out-of-state visitors as the state's ski areas and whitewater resorts.
Depending on how adventuresome you are, the trails can be accessed by dirt bike, mountain bike, bicycle, horse or, the old-fashioned way, on foot. Many of the trails are located near such former coal-mining communities as Matewan, where the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud over a stolen hog ensued in 1882; and Williamson, where the chamber of commerce building was completed in 1933 from 65 tons of locally mined coal.
Events that attract more than 3,000 bikers each year include the Mountain State ATV & Dirtbike Jamboree, held in Boone County from April 28 through May 1 on the 75-mile Little Coal River Trail System that winds through forests teeming with wildlife; and Dirt Days in Logan County, June 22 through 26, featuring an ATV dragstrip and hill climb competition. The event also features activities for children, bonfires and a Casino Night.
Hatfield-McCoy Trails, P.O. Box 539, Lyburn; 800/592-2217. www.trailsheaven.com. Festival costs range from $88 to $100. Activity times: 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Where's the best place in the country to go for good mountain biking? Right here. Just ask the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Last year the association gave West Virginia its highest grade.
The North Bend Rail Trail near Parkersburg is a multi-use recreational trail operated by West Virginia State Parks. The route, part of the 5,500-mile coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail, stretches 72 miles from I-77 near Parkersburg in Wood County to Wolf Summit in Harrison County. Easily accessible from north/south Interstates 77 and 79, the trail parallels U.S. Rte. 50 east and west.
The North Bend Rail Trail passes through 13 tunnels and crosses 36 bridges. Wild and natural areas, farmland and a variety of small rural communities can be seen along it. Points of interest along the way include Pennsboro, home of the Old Stone House, a pre-1810 fieldstone inn once the only public lodging between Clarksburg, West Virginia, and Marietta, Ohio, that's now a museum; Davis Marbles, a family-owned business specializing in handcrafted glass marbles; and Cairo, home to a variety of arts-and-crafts galleries filled with exquisite pottery, paintings, jewelry and musical instruments.
Pocahontas County and the Potomac Highlands are also hot spots for mountain biking. Much of the county is within the 900,000 acres of the Monongahela National Forest, so hundreds of miles of trails and back roads can be explored. With the West Virginia State Park property and private areas, there are more than 800 miles of trails to enjoy. Be sure to do a little star-gazing at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank.
Bikers don't have to travel to British Columbia for a satisfying day on the trails. The newly constructed freeride park at Snowshoe Mountain Resort has been hailed by those in the know as the best in the East. Snowshoe will host a National Off-Road Bicycle Association race series August 18 through August 21, a competitive event for cross-country and downhill riders of all skill levels.
North Bend Rail Trail, St. Rte. 1, Box 221, Cairo, 304/ 643-2931. www.northbendrailtrailsp.com
Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 275, Marlinton, 800/336-7009. www.pocahontascountywv.com
Snowshoe Mountain Resort, 10 Snowshoe Dr., Snowshoe; 877/441-4FUN. www.snowshoemtn.com/summer04/mountain_biking
Cass Scenic Railroad
Hop aboard the Cass Scenic Railroad, and return to the days of the steam-driven locomotive. The town of Cass looks much as it did in the early 1900s, when the town's lumber mill cut 1.5 million feet of lumber per week, and the finished product was transported by rail to other parts of the state. The Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is home to the world's largest collection of antique-geared steam locomotives â€” seven in all. The park is well-known to train fanatics, but newcomers also will quickly become fans of the sights and sounds of the original steam-driven locomotives.
Today's Cass Scenic Railroad is the same line built in 1901 to haul wood to the mill in Cass. The Shay locomotives are the same ones used in Cass and in the rain forests of British Columbia for more than half a century. Riders have several destinations to choose from: Whittaker Station, located four miles up the track from Cass, features scenic views of the surrounding countryside and a tour of a re-created logging camp of the 1940s. Choose the five-hour roundtrip to Bald Knob, 11 miles from Cass, and you'll wind up 4,842 feet above ground, at the second-highest point in West Virginia.
The Birding and Wildflowers Special, a part of Cass' Whistles and Wildflower weekend, taking place June 4, features a train ride and guided hike along a stretch of the Greenbrier River Trail, an 80-mile path known for its lush forests and rural landscapes.
Other special excursions throughout the summer include "Fiddles and Vittles" with dinner and live bluegrass music and "Murder Mystery Trains" with dinner and a whodunit. Harvest Day on October 1 features fun and games, live entertainment, a costume contest and a train trip to Whittaker Station to admire the fall foliage along the way.
Available overnight accommodations range from remodeled turn-of-the-century, two-story cottages - once home to logging families - that sleep six, eight or 10 and are equipped with kitchen utensils and linens; to a Cass Railroad caboose; to a one-room, no-frills cabin atop Bald Mountain.
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, P.O. Box 107, Cass, 304/456-4300. www.cassrailroad.com. Train trips $13-$21, children age 13 and under $8. Accommodations: cottages $69-$113; caboose $80 first night, $35 additional nights; cabin $35 per night. Call for additional rates and train schedules.
Fenton Art Glass
Known worldwide for its intricate, handmade glass creations, Fenton Art Glass company in Williamstown is celebrating 100 years of success.
The three-generation, 400-employee company, the largest manufacturer of handmade colored glass in the United States, offers a comprehensive 40-minute factory tour (it's rated among the Top 10 factory tours nationwide by USA Today). The free tour features an up-close view of the glass-making process, including a visit to the Decorating Department, where finishing flourishes are added.
The Fenton Museum showcases more than 1,000 pieces covering 1907 to 1980, from exotic reds and mosaic inlays from the 1910s and '20s, to opalescent Hobnail, always a favorite since it was introduced in the 1940s.
The gift shop includes an impressive selection of limited-edition and retired pieces, as well as preferred seconds. Decorate your own 2005 Fenton ornament at regularly scheduled Saturday morning workshops. Cost is $25, including materials.
Celebrate Fenton's centennial July 29 through August 2, when the company hosts an arts and crafts fair featuring celebrated West Virginia artisans, and seminars on new products, company history and the art of collecting.
Fenton Art Glass, 700 Elizabeth Street, Williamstown, 304/375-6122. www.fentonartglass.com. Factory tours Mon.-Fri. 8:15 a.m., 9 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon, 12:45 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:15 p.m., 3 p.m. Free admission. Gift shop and museum hours: Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers in the states of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is a fascinating mix of history and scenic beauty.
History lessons abound: abolitionist John Brown's attack on slavery took place here, as did the largest surrender of Federal troops during the Civil War (the town changed hands between Union and Confederate troops eight times between 1861 and 1865).
Visitors to the park will trod the same paths that Thomas Jefferson did in 1783 when he proclaimed Harpers Ferry to have "one of the most stupendous scenes in nature." George Washington traveled here in 1785 to plan the placement of bypass canals and sluices on the Potomac.
Special events and living-history programs throughout the year bring the past to life. On May 28 and 29, "Defend and Protect: Arming the American Soldier" will focus on how soldiers have used weapons for national defense, with the Indiana Brass Band presenting a musical interpretation of the industrial age. Actor Fred Morsell will portray abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass on June 18 at
1 p.m. The nation's birthday will be celebrated July 2 and 3 with living history programs that include a band concert of Civil War patriotic tunes performed by the Wildcat Regiment Band of the 105th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. On August 13 and 14, "A Soldier's City: Harpers Ferry 1864" will explore the Union occupation of the town, and feature drill and firing demonstrations. "The Capture of Harpers Ferry 1862" on September 10 and 11 spotlights the surrender of the Union garrison to southern forces under General "Stonewall" Jackson. The Stonewall Brigade, a volunteer living-history group, will depict the soldiers who captured the garrison.
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, U.S. Rte. 340, Harpers Ferry, 304/535-6029. www.nps.gov/hafe. June-August 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily; September-May 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Entrance fees: $6 per vehicle, $4 per person for those traveling on foot, bicycle or motorcycle ($5 per immediate family).
Pipestem Resort State Park
Located in the southeastern section of the state, Pipestem Resort State Park is a sports enthusiast's haven. The 4,024-acre park, overlooking the scenic 1,000-foot-deep Bluestone River Gorge canyon, features two challenging golf courses, an 18-hole par 72 championship course designed by Geoffrey Cornish, open year-round, and a 9-hole par 3 course, open April through October. A resident PGA golf pro is available for lessons and both courses have rental carts, pro shops and driving ranges.
Horseback riding is also a popular recreational option here. Guided rides are available year-round, ranging from half-hour lessons to overnight trips across the Bluestone River. Hayrides and wiener roasts add to the ambiance. A variety of other activities are available, including fishing, paddle boating, canoeing, hiking on more than 20 miles of trails, bicycling, horseshoes, archery, picnicking and hunting at the nearby Bluestone Wildlife Management area.
The resort's recreation center sports an Olympic-size outdoor pool, miniature golf, lighted tennis courts and a par 3 golf course. A heated indoor pool, sauna, exercise room and game room are located in the McKeever Lodge, a seven-story hotel featuring rooms with gorge views and suites with wet bars and Jacuzzi tubs. Pipestem also offers deluxe cottages equipped with linens and cooking utensils and microwaves. The resort's Mountain Creek Lodge, accessible only by a 3,600-foot aerial tramway, and featuring spectacular views of the Bluestone River, is the ultimate getaway.
During the summer, the park's outdoor amphitheater, nestled in the natural bowl of the forested hills surrounding it, sets the stage for a variety of entertainment. Upcoming shows include" bluegrass and gospel concerts (June 17 and 18), the Van-Dells performing hits from the 1960s (July 16) and an antique-car show (August 27).
Open year-round, the resort's Nature Center features a wide variety of displays of indigenous plant and animal life of the state. While there, tour the Harris Homestead, a reconstructed 1900s log house, complete with smokehouse, barn and tools that were used at the turn of the century.
Pipestem Resort State Park, St. Rte. 20, P.O. Box 150, Pipestem, 304/466-1800. www.pipestemresort.com. Admission to the park is free. Accommodations range from $55 to $140 per night.