ARTS & CULTURE
RIDE THE RAILS
Explore Theater and the arts abound in Elkins.
Elkins is home base for a plethora of outdoor recreation options.
Experience yesteryear aboard scenic train tours.
OFFICIAL GUIDE TO
ELKINS Gateway to the Potomac Highlands
at a comfortable inn, hotel or B&B
~.-..- aboard the train or explore our rivers or forests lllllif!!~Y!:" comes alive at the Battle of Rich Mountain
festivals, fairs and celebrations dot our calendar all year
VALLEY FALLS STATE PARK
Discover! West Virginia State Parks
CATHEDRAL STATE PARK
TAY LO R
WATTERS SMITH MEMORIAL STATE PARK
BLACKWATER FALLS STATE PARK
TETER CREEK WMA
JACKSON’S MILL STATE 4H CAMP
AUDRA STATE PARK
STONEWALL RESORT STATE PARK BURNSVILLE LAKE WMA
AIRFA STATE PAR
GAR AKE STATE PARK
CANAAN VAL RESORT STA
FERNOW EXPERIMENTAL FOREST
WV STATE WILDLIFE CENTER
UPSHUR MONONGAHELA NATIONAL FOREST
KUMBRABOW STATE FOREST
ELK R VER WMA
HOLLY RIVER STATE PARK
P E N D L E TO
WEBSTER P O C A H O N TA S
MONONGAHELA NATIONAL FOREST
SENECA STATE FOREST
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
GREENBRIER RIVER TRAIL
CASS SCENIC RAILROAD STATE PARK
at 44 more state parks and forests. Find a park at wvstateparks.com.
Blackwater Falls State Park • Davis A world-class waterfall 54-room lodge • 39 vacation cabins campground • restaurant • nature center hiking trails • more Less than an hour from Elkins 304-259-5216 • blackwaterfalls.com
Canaan Valley Resort State Park • Davis Worth the drive — Four-season appeal! 160-room lodge • 23 vacation cabins campground • restaurants • downhill skiing tubing park • championship golf course Less than an 45 minutes from Elkins 304-855-6100 • canaanresort.com Cass Scenic Railroad State Park • Cass Only 55 miles from Elkins World’s foremost roster of working steam-driven, geared locomotives. Day trips mid-May through October Plus special evening runs and events 20 company houses for four-season rental 304-456-4300 • cassrailroad.com Kumbrabow State Forest • Huttonsville Quiet wooded seclusion log cabins • fishing • camping mid-April through October Less than 20 WV miles from Elkins 304-335-2219 • kumbrabow.com Watoga State Park • Marlinton West Virginia’s largest state park! South on 219 — you’ll find us year-round cabins • seasonal camping hiking • lake • fishing • more Less than 2 hours from Elkins 304-799-4087 • watoga.com
Blackwater FallsState Park
Canaan Valley Resort State Park
Kumbrabow State Forest
Watoga State Park
features 10 At Home in Elkins
Welcome Greetings from the Mayor of Elkins.
Top Ten Things You Must Do Don’t miss
out on these great memories.
How to Get Here Find your way to Elkins.
The amazing American Mountain Theater stuns audiences with its Bransonstyle theater right here in West Virginia.
Ten Treasures to Take Home Don’t leave home without these reminders of your trip.
42 Davis & Elkins
This small liberal arts campus is packed with culture and history.
Scott Hill Explore the history of one of Elkins’ oldest families.
52 Train of Thought
Shop Whether you want to find clothes for
A long and colorful railroad history chugs back to life with the many scenic train rides offered in Elkins.
the kids, art for your home, or gear for your next big adventure, these shops have you covered.
60 Day Trippin’
Eat Fill up on everything from comfort food to authentic Venezuelan dishes.
Stay Rest awhile in one of these great
Arts & Culture Experience live shows, discover ancient art, and more.
Creative people and places are everywhere you turn in this gateway to the Monongahela National Forest in Randolph County.
32 Theater in the Mountains
Easily access the wonders of West Virginia. Make quick trips to Buckhannon, Thomas, Weston, and Hillsboro or discover the beauty of attractions like Seneca Rocks and Blackwater Falls.
98 Reading the Water
There’s a reason why people come from all over the country to fish in the many rivers in and around Elkins. 2 explore • elkins 2014
W 102 Outdoor Recreation Elkins is bursting with
activities like mountain biking, hiking, and fishing.
104 A Playground For Adults Retire from work but
not from activity in Elkins.
106 Winter Fun From skiing to snowmobiling,
West Virginia has winter wonderlands that will have you seeing the state in a new light.
ARTS & CULTURE
OUTDOOR EXP OR NG
R DE THE RAILS
elcome to the city of elkins! I am very proud to represent the City of Elkins as mayor. We are located in the heart of central West Virginia close to the Monongahela National Forest. We are very fortunate to be the home of Davis & Elkins College, the Mountain State Forest Festival, Augusta Heritage Festival, Riverside Blues Fest, American Mountain Theater, Gandy Dancer Theatre, the Randolph Community Arts Center, and the Old Brick Playhouse. The Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroads trains have regular runs and pickups through the City of Elkins at the Depot Welcome Center. There are many local shops that sell specialty items in addition to local artisans that sell their crafts. Elkins is also an On Trac/Main Street City and there are many promotions, including street fairs, parades, and concerts. Elkins is a small city with a lot of history and a lot of culture. Davis & Elkins College and the Elkins City Park are important parts of the history of our town. We are located close to the Rich Mountain Battlefield and a few miles from the small town of historic Beverly. In addition, we are close to Snowshoe Mountain Resort, Canaan Valley, Cass Scenic Railroad, Seneca Rocks, and Blackwater Falls State Park. Elkins has very nice city parks that include walking paths, youth soccer, and baseball fields, and there is also a bicycle path that is nearing completion that will go from Elkins to Parsons. We hope you enjoy your stay and come back and visit us again real soon! Remember, Elkins is a great place to call home and our door is always open to you.
OFFICIAL GUIDE TO
ELKINS Gateway to the Potomac Highlands
On the Cover The â€œIron Horseâ€? bronze equestrian statue honors Elkins benefactor Senator Henry Gassaway Davis. Photographed by Carla Witt Ford
van t. broughton Mayor
Elkins PUBLISHED BY
New South Media, Inc. 709 Beechurst Avenue, Suite 14A | Morgantown, WV 26505 1116 Smith Street, Suite 211 | Charleston, WV 25301 304.413.0104 • wvliving.com PUBLISHER & EDITOR
Nikki Bowman, firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGNER
Carla Witt Ford, email@example.com MANAGING EDITOR
Laura Wilcox Rote, firstname.lastname@example.org ASSISTANT EDITOR
Pam Kasey, email@example.com STAFF WRITERS
Katie Griffith, firstname.lastname@example.org Shay Maunz, email@example.com Mikenna Pierotti, firstname.lastname@example.org WEB MANAGER
Take a tour of historic downtown,visit museums or the boyhood home of General “Stonewall” Jackson. Relax at a winery, play golf, fish in a quiet cove or boat on one of our beautiful lakes. Visit a historic and haunted Asylum or enjoy one of our award winning restaurants . Shop in our locally~owned shops, watch glass blowing demonstrations or attend a local fair or festival. There’s something foreveryone past meets r ryo to enjoy e y here...where e . e t the h present. p se
Elizabeth Roth, email@example.com OFFICE & CIRCULATION MANAGER
Sarah Shaffer, firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING
Season Martin, email@example.com ADVERTISING ASSISTANT
Bekah Call, firstname.lastname@example.org PHOTOGRAPHERS
Amberlee Christey Photography, Nikki Bowman, Kirsten Boehmer Photography, Carla Witt Ford, Katie Hanlon, Michael Mills, Aly Prince, Rebecca Devono Photography, Elizabeth Roth, Connie Rowe, Olivia Santee, Sam Santilli, Heidi Solomon, Darin Vance
Lewis County, WV
Jack Baronner, Courtney DePottey, Bethany Dzielski, Shawnee Moran EDITORIAL INQUIRIES
Please send a query to email@example.com EXPLORE is published by New South Media, Inc. Copyright: New South Media, Inc. Reproduction in part or whole is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of the publisher.
© NEW SOU TH MEDI A, INC. A LL R IGHTS R ESERV ED
4 explore • elkins 2014
Gateway to the Potomac Highlands
TOP TEN THINGS YOU MUST DO Don’t leave town without having these experiences.
RIDE THE RAILS Take a ride on the rails on the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad.
ATTEND A SHOW AT AMERICAN MOUNTAIN THEATER Enjoy Branson-style shows in the middle of the West Virginia mountains.
CINNAMON-Y GOODNESS Save room for scrumptious cinnamon rolls at 1863 Grill. These sweet treats have been famous for more than 50 years.
6 explore • elkins 2014
ATTEND THE FOREST FESTIVAL This festival is just plain fun and was voted as having the best parade by readers of WV Living.
7 TOUR DAVIS & ELKINS CAMPUS Explore the spectacular architecture and history of these special buildings.
EAT A CACHAPA Grab a table at El Gran Sabor for authentic Venezuelan food you won’t soon forget.
PHOTO OP WITH MINNEHAHA She stands in front of Hiawatha’s Country Store.
EXPLORE THE ARTS Shop and admire paintings, pottery, textiles, jewelry and more at Artists at Work.
FILL UP AT THE FORKS Satisfy your craving for fine dining at The Forks Restaurant & Inn. FLY-FISH Unwind with fly-fishing on the scenic Shavers Fork.
How to Get Here Morgantown WV
White Sulphur Springs
Lexington, VA Staffed Welcome Center
Turnpike Service Plaza
Rest Stop Area
2–2.5 hours explore • elkins 2014 7
Pottery from Artists at Work Everyone loves Tygart River Pottery items like these locally made red Shino glazed jars. Artists at Work, artistsatwork.us, Tall jar $90, Medium jar $40
Engineer Hat and Pin Hats off to train lovers! The Rail & Trail Store, mountainrailwv.com/rail-trail-store, Hat $8.99, Pin $0.75
Mug from Sand Rocks Studio This chocolate brown mug by Scottie Roberts Wiest is inspired by local forests. Delmonte Market, Tammy’s Flower Shop, $24
Treasures to Take Home Craft Beer from Big Timber Brewing Company Don’t leave without trying a local brew. Sample a pint or go for a growler. bigtimberbrewing. com, Pint $3–5, Growler $8
Hiking Guide from Main Line Books Discover the best Mon National Forest hikes. mainlinebooks.com, $12.95
Art by Brett Kerns This artist’s whimsical ceramic creations resemble balloon art. Order direct from the artist at his studio at Davis & Elkins. Large stegosaurus, $800 8 explore • elkins 2014
Arrowheads from Hiawatha’s Tell the kids you found them on the trail. Hiawatha’s Country Store, hiawathascountrystore.com, $1 each
Lure from Wheeler’s Catch the big one with this Blue Dun lure. Wheeler’s, $1.99 Child’s Vase by Ron Hinkle Glass Claim a small piece of this legendary Buckhannon artist’s work. Artistry on Main, Buckhannon, ronhinkle.com, $19.50
Honey Bear Stop by Good Energy Foods and grab a natural sweet treat from Mountain State Honey Company. Large $4.59, Small $2.09
Start Your Engines Did You Know? ➼ THOMAS EDISON, Henry
Ford, and Harvey Firestone once visited Cheat Mountain Club, an exclusive hunting club right outside of Elkins in Durbin. Read more in The Cheat Mountain Club: A Historical Recollection by Carl F. Frischkorn, available at blurb.com.
Don’t miss the excitement of vintage vehicles in Elkins every Fourth of July.
➼ IF YOU LIKE EXTRAVAGANT RARE automobiles, you’ll be right at home at the annual Mountain State Street Machines Auto Extravaganza held every July 4th weekend. Cars old and new start to roll in on Friday, traveling through downtown Elkins for the main event. Nearly 600 participants slowly drive by eager onlookers to showcase their special cars. As night approaches, there’s even more fun to be had, as classic rock music stirs things up along with a fireworks show that will dazzle the kids. On Saturday and Sunday, the automobile owners get down to business as the show officially begins. People scrutinize every nook and cranny on the cars out of awe and admiration for the classic automobiles. “People as far as North Carolina come out,” says Jess Arbogast, executive director of the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce. The whole affair is about having a good time, and the setting is nothing short of perfect. “It’s a beautiful city park and comfortable. Come out for a fun time,” Jess says. facebook.com/mountainstatestreetmachines
The area around Elkins is filled with dirt mounds—some estimate as many as 40 in Randolph County—built by Native Americans for ceremonial burials. They are thought to have been built by the Adena people who existed from 1000 to 200 BC and were the first to build ceremonial mounds in North America. Native Americans are generally thought to have used West Virginia as a hunting ground. “They were very active in the region,” says Mark Lanham, coordinator of special collections at The Stirrup Gallery at Davis & Elkins College. “Native Americans had a vast trade network that stretched through Elkins and Randolph.” Lanham grew up in Elkins and spent his boyhood looking through old Native American village sites for artifacts. He recommends the Darby Collection at The Stirrup Gallery, with more than 800 items of original Native American pottery, plus baskets and peace pipes, dating from 100 BC to 1900. explore • elkins 2014 9
At Home in Elkins Experience art, culture, and thousands of years of history in this beautiful oasis in the mountains of Randolph County.
ELK INS | history
above Step back in time with a visit to the majestic Graceland Inn on the grounds of Davis & Elkins College.
n July 17, 1889, a reporter from the Cumberland Daily Times called what soon came to be known as Elkins “the wild heart” of West Virginia. But by then the community that had sprung up in the wake of the coal and railroad industries carving a swath through Appalachia already knew they had found a hidden gem along this bend in the Tygart River—they didn’t need a reporter to tell them it was home. “At the time it was just a small settlement. The county seat was in Beverly and the area was famous for the Civil War Battle of Rich Mountain in 1861,” says David Turner, professor and historian at Davis & Elkins College. “But it was tiny.” A gem, but a well hidden one—that must have been the thought when Senator Henry Gassaway Davis and future senator Stephen Benton Elkins first took stock of this
12 explore • elkins 2014
sparsely populated corner of Randolph County some years before. Back then the area was still called Leadsville. Tiny in population but big in potential—the senators knew right away they’d hit on a vein of rich resources that could further develop into a thriving city. As soon as they lit the spark with timber, coal, and rail industries, the area ignited into a commercial success. “Elkins was incorporated in 1890 and kind of sprang up overnight,” David says. Together the pair of senators opened business after business, including the Davis Coal and Coke Company. They effectively opened the floodgates on industrial development for an entire portion of the newly minted state. It was only a few years later, in the early part of the 20th century, that the Randolph County Courthouse and Davis & Elkins College officially threw open their doors, turning Elkins into a cultural center amidst relative wilderness. “Elkins,
history | ELK INS clockwise Fill
up at Kissel Stop Cafe. History is everywhere, including this cornerstone of Wilson’s Fort. The statue of Senator Henry G. Davis at Sycamore Street and Randolph Avenue. On campus, you’ll find beautiful facilities like those at the Myles Center for the Arts.
HERE ARE THE FACTS ➻ Elkins became the county seat of Randolph County after a long, countywide dispute in the 1890s dubbed the Courthouse Wars.
for a small town, had a great foundation for a rich culture. It had a hospital, a college, a newspaper, and a public school—and that was fairly early in the community’s history,” David says. But like many small towns that relied so heavily on industry, when timber and coal moved on, the community was forced to tie anchor to a new resource—and they found it in their people. “Davis was a democrat and Elkins was a republican but they never found any real reason to disagree. Elkins actually married Davis’s daughter, Hallie. That sense of tolerance and respect is even stronger today,” David says. “We tend to honor our eccentricities.” Honor, preserve, and progress—that seems to be the theme of today’s Elkins, now the county seat. It’s a place where pristine historic sites and eclectic art hubs are friendly neighbors. The railcars might not be bursting with coal and timber these days, but they’re still crisscrossing the landscape
as part of the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad, headquartered in a historic depot. The railroad offers visitors a unique look back in time as they climb to 4,000 feet, pass through recreated logging camps, and experience untamed mountain country. Like all the heritage sites in Elkins, the railroad has been transformed to fit a new era, and it now works hand-in-hand with local businesses steadily moving into and preserving the older buildings around it. “We’ve had a slow transition to the tourism side, but it’s been a real lifesaver. It’s just getting started, and it’s a very deliberate, gradual push,” David says. Yet the rich traditions of the region are still acutely celebrated. You can feel it in the hushed reverence of visitors walking down the grand staircase at Graceland Inn or standing in the shade of Halliehurst mansion—both of which were once in poor shape but are now fully restored. These
➻ Randolph County is the largest county in the state, with an area of 1,040 square miles—nearly the size of Rhode Island. ➻ Stephen B. Elkins, for whom Elkins is named, built Halliehurst Mansion (now part of Davis & Elkins College), in 1890 for his wife, Hallie, who admired a castle she saw in Germany. ➻ The 140 beehive ovens at the Elkins Coal and Coke Company were the last operating coke ovens in the U.S., built in the early 20th century.
explore • elkins 2014 13
ELK INS | history
14 explore â€˘ elkins 2014
history | ELK INS
homes—built by Davis and Elkins, respectively—represent a renewed emphasis on preservation and restoration even in the midst of a gradual shift from industry to tourism. Artists, professors, city officials—they’re coming together more often in the form of cohesive organizations like the Historic Landmarks Commission, of which David is a part. “We are trying to encourage local people to take care of their own and protect those buildings that might be threatened,” he says. Elkins is currently home to more than 370 structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places, but the air here is hardly eau de musty antique shop. Unlike many larger cities, with clear demarcation between past and present, traditional and modern, Elkins proudly mixes it up. Take El Gran Sabor, an authentic Venezuelan restaurant and live music venue just around the corner from the centuryold depot. It found a home amidst treasured historical sites and is currently casting a warm, funky glow near the town’s iconic bronze statue of Henry G. Davis. The senator looks decidedly pleased with the view of this ever-evolving community. “We have all sorts of backgrounds and perspectives. Here people gather in coffee shops and talk about everything. Some were activists in the 1960s, some are conservative, but it’s
all a very harmonious, interesting mix. There’s no acrimony here,” David says. The professor himself is a transplant hailing from North Carolina. He spent years working at the National Archives, living in Maryland, Kentucky, and Ohio, but he didn’t find his way to Davis & Elkins College until 1985. He was chasing a dream of teaching and fell in love with what he was surprised to learn was a vibrant, artistic community. “My first few weeks here were eye-opening. I thought it would be dull until I started looking around and found out how colorful and active it is. It’s the people—they’re a rare mix. I think that’s one reason we are beginning to attract some notice.” David, currently the college historian, credits the formation of the Augusta Heritage Center (page 48) in the 1970s as the turning point from industry to artistry for Elkins. Part of Davis & Elkins, the center exists to promote a greater appreciation and celebration of heritage arts. It brings in people of all kinds for world-renowned workshops with master artists, musicians, dancers, craftspeople, and enthusiasts. And it also conducts yearround folk life research and documentation. On and off campus, the old and the new are mingling beautifully. The county’s only farmers’ market began in Elkins in 1975 and still meets regularly behind the First Baptist Church. Even a gluten-free bakery has come to town. Yet nothing seems
the Randolph County Community
aRts CenteR Art & Music for All Ages
ConCeRts | exhibits | Classes | Fun
speCial events jun. 29 – AuG. 9, 2014
smiThsOniAn insTiTuTiOn exhiBiT: “hOmeTOWn TeAms”
this special exhibit examines the role of sports in american culture. Sponsored by the WV Humanities Council. Exhibit hours: tuesday - Sunday, 10 am - 4 pm.
2014-2015 ConCeRts TiCkeTs:
nOV. 8Th, 2014 7:30 Pm
sePT. 13Th, 2014 7:30 Pm
a four-piece acoustic jazz ensemble
a dynamic bluegrass & Gospel band
deC. 13Th, 2014 3:00 Pm
mAr. 14Th, 2015 7:30 Pm
adults $15, Seniors $12, Students $10
Grammy-nominated guitarist, singer and songwriter
OCT. 18Th, 2014 7:30 Pm
jAn. 17Th, 2015 7:30 Pm
Free ChrisTmAs OrGAn COnCerT
The murPhy Beds irish folk music with Eamon o’leary
a special showcase of local organists and singers
APr. 18Th, 2015 7:30 Pm
West Virginia’s premier mountain string band
an original hybrid of town & Country music
Our concerts are possible through the donations of these generous sponsors:
Sept. 15th • 6-10 pm
13Th AnnuAl GAlA eVeninG!
the evening will consist of a four-course dinner, cocktails, and dancingelebrating the music of the Beatles. Sponsored by Elkins rehabilitation & Care Center.
randolphcountywv com 800 422 3304
The ArTs CenTer | Corner of Park st. & randolph Ave., elkins, WV | www.randolpharts.org | (304) 637-2355 explore • elkins 2014 15
ELK INS | history
Walk the beautiful tree-lined streets in Elkins in any season and youâ€™ll find natural beauty surrounding historic homes.
16 explore â€˘ elkins 2014
CONNIE ROWE, NIKKI BOWMAN, CARLA WITT FORD
out of place. Elkins is as comfortable as any corner clockwise American Mountain of small town America but as open-minded as Theater delights metropolitan centers many times its size. It’s a crowds. Rich Mountain respite from a fast-paced world, yet there’s always is a Civil War battle site. Randolph County something new to explore—whether it be a Community Arts bluegrass concert offered by the Augusta Heritage Center is a top arts spot. Center, a show at the Branson-style American Mountain Theater, live music at the Icehouse pub, or a performance at the Gandy Dancer Theatre. But what that Maryland reporter didn’t know when he penned “wild heart” was that the area wouldn’t always be just a dot of civilization in the wilderness—it would soon become known as the gateway to the Monongahela National Forest and subsequently every flavor of outdoor recreation imaginable. That’s what keeps visitors like Curtis Fleming, the fly-fishing talent and executive producer behind the Outdoor Channel’s Fly Rod Chronicles, coming back year after year. “The Elkins region offers not only incredible trout fishing, but almost anything for the outdoor enthusiast— biking, rock climbing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, caving, skiing, hunting, trapping, camping, and zip-lining,” he says. “There are even excursions available to those interested in getting the full spectrum experience. In combination with a fly-fishing day on the explore • elkins 2014 17
ELK INS | history
High Falls of the Cheat is only accessible by train or hiking.
river, you can find ATV tours, paintball battles, RV sites, luxury and rustic cabins, reenactments of the Civil War, golfing, and train rides—these are just a few of the many activities that can be enjoyed on a weekend visit.” With elevations averaging 2,000 feet above sea level, Elkins offers a break from extreme summer heat, and vibrant fall colors appear come autumn. If it’s your first time to the area, Curtis recommends trekking out to Seneca Rocks in summer or fall—less than 45 minutes from town—and spending a day exploring. “The high elevation and rugged mountains can challenge all types of outdoor enthusiasts, but the rock formations are incredible.” From exquisitely preserved National Historic Landmarks to cultural hubs like the Randolph County Community
18 explore • elkins 2014
Arts Center (page 36)—there’s more than enough to inspire great minds within city limits. And with seemingly limitless recreational potential attracting visitors in every season, this is a city where anyone can find their niche. “Elkins has an incredible diversity of talent,” David says. “You have great musicians, skilled writers, and educated scholars. It’s that mélange that brings in people from all over the country who end up staying. Some are West Virginians returning home. Some are from far away who find a home. I’ve lived here a good bit of my life, and I can say with some authority that if you come down, you’ll find something unique. No one’s version of Elkins will be exactly alike—and all of that is because of this diversity of opinion, outlook, and background. It’s a very rare community.”
DISCOVER D&E. Whether selecting a quality college or wishing to experience the creative arts and regional history, come visit our beautiful campus! Davis & Elkins College takes a personal approach to HIGHER EDUCATION . It's an intimate, safe place to foster your creativity and engage your deeper perspectives. Our extensive ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT offerings bring an exciting variety of live music, dance, theatre and lectures to the region. Our campus includes six NATIONAL REGISTER HISTORIC LANDMARKS and is the home of THE DARBY COLLECTION of over 10,000 American, European, Inuit, Native American and Central American relics dating back to the Stone Age.
~ui/t ekvt:Vt~~. 1/i~~ ~. ~ic4 11-wt:o~. www.dewv.edu • 100 Campus Drive, Elkins, WV 26241 • 304-637-1243
The 19th and 20th centuries come to life inside this well-preserved residence and event venue. This home in South Elkins has been in the same family since it was built in the 1890s.
erched on the top of the hills overlooking Elkins you’ll see majestic homes. There’s Graceland and Halliehurst, Pinecrest, and, in South Elkins, Scott Hill. This house is historic and grand to say the least. It was built in the 1890s—8,300 square feet and three glorious stories, plus a basement and an attic. And it’s always been in Logan Smith’s family. “We’ve never sold it,” says Logan, who today owns the house with his four sisters and lives upstairs. The Queen Anne Victorian was built by Logan’s greatgreat-grandfather, Cyrus Hall Scott. A farmer’s son born before the Civil War, his path to become a prosecuting attorney, mayor, and state senator was an unlikely one. Logan says Cyrus watched his father’s farm get taken advantage of and used by Union troops during the war before he went off to get his law degree and sued the army. Then the Beverly native
20 explore • elkins 2014
bought property in Elkins just as the railroad was coming to town. Logan says his ancestor picked a hill in Elkins and even consulted railroad employees to find out where the tracks would be laid, knowing that’s where the town— then just a small village—would soon develop. Today the beautiful home still overlooks Elkins, and the property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. “We’re our own historic district because we have several of the old buildings—the original carriage house, smokehouse, corncrib, and bank barn,” Logan says. As president of Scott Hill Occasions, Logan says the historic building has undergone significant improvements in the last several years—including work to the porch, roof, ceilings, and first two floors of the house. In 2010 it was renovated as a place to host weddings and other special events, and it’s easy to understand how popular it’s become when you see the elegant old rooms and 11-foot ceilings. The house sits on 12 acres, originally part of a 150-acre farm. It has four functional bedrooms but could eventually have 10, as Logan hopes to start a bed-andbreakfast in the coming years. Scott Hill is decorated in period décor, including some of the family’s original furniture—from chairs to beds to the 1910 Steinway piano in the parlor. “When you come in the
COURTESY OF LOGAN SMITH, CARLA WITT FORD
ELK INS | history
history | ELK INS Scott Hill is decorated in period décor—including the family’s 1910 Steinway piano in
house it looks early 20th century,” Logan says. Each room on the first floor also has its own dedicated wood. The library is all mahogany—from the floor to the trim to the shelves. The parlor is cherry. The main hall is oak, the dining room is walnut, and so on. “It’s very well done, and they are all regionally produced woods. I’d say probably 70 or 80 percent of the building materials for this house came from this area,” Logan says. The house also boasts 10 fireplaces with elaborate, eight-foot high mantels. Logan even found their original receipts—installed in 1897 by Hagan Mantel Company. The most expensive one is in the parlor; it cost $87. Logan says he especially loves the kitchen as well as the rounded tower rooms. The kitchen still has its original 1926 Magic Chef oven. “I cook on it every day. It’s still the best stove I’ve ever worked with,” he says. Restoring the kitchen was a big project, as it was a “victim of the ’70s” prior to Logan moving in, he says. He removed bad wallpaper and pulled up linoleum, among other efforts. “We were amazed to find these intricate hardwood floors with beautiful patterns,” he says. Logan also marvels over how—the former servants’ areas differ greatly from the more ornate family spaces. While one room is formal, the room behind it is very often not. “When you’re out in the main hall the trim is all very intricate with a
the parlor. Special touches like stained glass and intricate hardwood floors complete the look.
lot of embellishments. Once you step through the door into what they would consider the common part of the house, it’s very plain,” Logan says. “You can move from the basement all the way to the attic without ever coming out into the family part of the house. They did that for a reason—so the servants could get anywhere they needed without walking through the house.” At one time you’d also find bells throughout the house where the owners could summon help. While those are gone, the switches remain. But it’s not just the inside of the house that shows traces of a past life. Outside, Logan and his family also continue to keep the sense of the place alive, just as it would have felt when people lived there more than a century ago. On warm evenings you might find Logan picking herbs from his garden, while all around him the rose garden and lawns appear neatly trimmed. “It’s very calm and relaxing to live here,” he says. While most evenings are quiet, weekends at Scott Hill Occasions are busy, with weddings and other private events scheduled often. Logan hopes the house will also play host to its own events like high teas and dinner theater in the future. Short tours of Scott Hill can be scheduled by appointment by calling Logan at 304.636.0005. 2000 Livingston Avenue, scotthillwv.com explore • elkins 2014 21
You won’t find buys like these anywhere else.
shop | ELK INS
lkins is home to a leading liberal arts college, a plethora of nearby outdoor activities, and a substantial arts community within its perimeters, but its downtown district is an attraction in its own right. The many shops and boutiques along these downtown streets will keep you busy for hours on end. Davis Avenue and Third Street are the main thoroughfares through town and are dotted with eclectic shops. Artists at Work Gallery (329 Davis Avenue, 304.637.6309), is a cooperative gallery of artists and craftspeople living in the Elkins area. The co-op sells locally made baskets, prints, textiles, jewelry, pottery, and soap and is a perfect stop for anyone looking to take a bit of Elkins home. Further down, Main Line Books (301 Davis Avenue, 304.636.6770) is a charming independent bookstore housing a treasure trove of bestsellers and regional interest books. There’s a comfy couch in the back where you can grab a book and settle in. For hands-on folk, Elkins Sewing Center (300 Davis Avenue, 304.636.9480) down the street is a bustling, high-quality shop that sells fabrics, sewing machines, and quilting supplies. The store has been an Elkins staple for more than 30 years, known for its attentive staff. With a wide range of classes for all ages and skill levels, parties like baby shower parties where you make a gift, and national Husqvarna Viking educators leading classes, it has become a destination for experienced sewers and novices alike. Want another option to make your own gift? Visit Ceramics with Class (203 Davis Avenue, 304.636.2903), get set up with your choice of ceramic items, and paint until your heart’s content. But there’s even more shopping to do in Elkins. Around the corner sits Hopscotch (117 Third Street, 304.637.0089), a darling children’s store with an assortment of clothing, toys, accessories, and gift ideas that will bring out the kid in anyone. Hopscotch always has something new with plenty of seasonal gifts and toys to help you with holiday shopping. Next door, Third Street Trading Company (115 Third Street,
Hopscotch has a wide assortment of children’s clothing and toys. Joey’s Bike Shop is a haven for
304.637.8900) is the go-to place for Vera Bradley, unique gifts, and quality housewares. The design and décor items here will have you itching to redecorate. Nearby, Talbott Frame Shop (220 Third Street, 304.636.7691) and Good Energy Foods (214 Third Street Elkins, 304.636.5169) are also popular stops. Feeling fancy? On Randolph Avenue skirting the town, the upscale Che’Bella Boutique (310 Randolph Avenue, 304.636.0053) stocks everything from designer jeans to pageant and prom dresses. Given Elkins’ designation as a hub for outdoor recreation, shops like Joey’s Bike Shop (19 Third Street, 304.636.0219), also on Third Street, are a perfect way to pass time. Joey’s offers bike sales, rentals, repairs, and local trail information. Staffed and owned by avid bike enthusiasts with a love for the community, you’re
rentals, repairs, and trail info. Elkins Sewing Center sells all the supplies you need and offers classes.
sure to hear sage advice for a sweet jaunt around town or the best mountain trail for the season. Wheeler’s Guns and Ammo (196 Route 33 East, 304.636.3430) is the place to go for any outdoor equipment needs—from hunting paraphernalia to camping, fishing, and hiking. The family-owned store has a long, flourishing history in Elkins as a mecca for all outdoor hobbies. Next door, Marlea’s (198 Route 33 East, 304.636.2930) is run by the same family and offers a wide selection of ladies’ apparel, stocked with brand names like Picadilly, Brighton, Woolrich, and Tribal. If you are looking for train paraphernalia, visit the Elkins location of the Rail & Trail Store in the Railyard Restaurant (200 Depot Street, 304.635.0108). Here you’ll find a number of train-themed gifts, including T-shirts, hats, and one-of-a-kind souvenirs. The store is explore • elkins 2014 23
ELK INS | shop
open Wednesday to Sunday April through December, but another location at the train depot opens an hour before train departures and when trains arrive back at the station. One of the town’s newest additions is The Delmonte Market (316 Railroad Avenue, 304.636.4400), an artisan co-op on Railroad Avenue in the historic Delmonte Hotel. The store sells a little of everything, including home décor, vintage-style toys, West Virginia food products, handmade jewelry, art, local pottery, and outdoor gear. Manager Tammy Dolly, famous in Elkins as the owner of Tammy’s Floral and Bridal boutique, says the store functions as a co-op, focusing on West Virginia- and American-made products, including local artisans like Scottie Roberts Wiest pottery, Spruce Knob Wood Products, and Cool Hollow Maple Farm syrup. “We wanted to capture some of the tourism coming into the center of town and show people what Elkins is about,” Tammy says. Main Line Books in downtown Elkins is the perfect way to unwind.
24 explore • elkins 2014
After 17 years on South Randolph Avenue, Tammy moved her store to The Delmonte and sent invitations to local artisans to join her. “We felt as though we could offer more to our community if we could partner with some local artists and give those artists a venue to sell in,” she says. “I rent the building and I invited anyone who has beautiful products. We have business owners from across the state who rent space from us, but we display everyone’s items as one big cohesive store.”
Eat ď °
Savor the diverse cuisine of creative, budding Elkins.
El Gran Saborâ€™s most popular dish is the Cachapa with shrimp served with Latin rice and black beans.
ELK INS | eat Vintage Restaurant and Wine Bar is a new Elkins favorite. 1863 Grill has been serving scrumptious
cinnamon rolls for more than 50 years. El Gran Sabor cooks up authentic Venezuelan fare in town.
here’s a level of culinary sophistication here you would expect to find in larger metropolitan areas. From Venezuelan delicacies to New York-style bagels to what may actually be the country’s best cinnamon rolls—Elkins has it. El Gran Sabor (413 Kerens Avenue, 304.636.8200), an authentic Venezuelan restaurant, offers an incredible menu of tostonés, cachapa, arepas, and fajitas. Live bands play weekly making it a favorite among locals. Kissel Stop Café (23 Third Street, 304.636.8810) is a charming spot for everything from scones to panini to frappes and is conveniently situated near the train station. The Elkins location of CJ Maggie’s (309 Davis Avenue, 304.636.1730) and Elkins original Beander’s Bar (314 Davis Avenue, 304.636.6000) are local hot spots known for good food and even better spirits. Visit for great hospitality and fun menu twists, whether it’s cake in a jar or sushi at the bar. For a great breakfast or a slice of cake, check out Mee Mee’z Café and Cakes (213 Henry 26 explore • elkins 2014
Avenue, 304.636.3390), a catering bakeshop providing a small walk-in menu for breakfast and lunch. An Elkins institution known for its hamburgers and breakfast is Scottie’s of Elkins (800 Seventh Street, 304.636.7500). It recently moved into a building across from the Davis Memorial Hospital. 1863 Grill (830 Harrison Avenue, 304.637.1863) has been serving up mouthwatering cinnamon rolls, alongside savory steaks, barbeque, and other family favorites, for more than 50 years. The restaurant recently reopened after undergoing extensive renovations, and the expanded menu has already found many new fans. Bagels N Bites (121 Third Street, 304.636.2483) on Third Street is relatively new to town but a fan favorite for fresh pastries and a morning cup of joe. The store boasts authentic New York bagels in a beautifully refurbished space. After a day of seeing the sights in and around Elkins, head to the new Vintage Restaurant and Wine Bar (25 Randolph Avenue, 304.636.0808) for happy hour food specials and drinks. You
might like it so much you come back on Sunday for the restaurant’s renowned brunch. For a taste of home cooking, the RailYard Restaurant (200 Depot Street, 304.635.0108) is the only eatery in Elkins that offers a balcony overlooking the railroad depot. Enjoy a satisfying meal while watching the trains depart on scheduled days. Open Wednesdays through Sundays, the RailYard caters to travelers and groups, and offers seasonal events and free WiFi. A dining destination in its own right, The Forks Restaurant & Inn (1 Kelly Mountain Road, 304.637.0932) offers upscale food in a relaxed atmosphere. The restaurant and inn is located on the outskirts of town, meaning you can take full advantage of the seasonal scenery. Enjoy seasonal menu items outside on the deck before spending the night in one of the luxury cabins or lodge rooms. Since spring of 2014 Elkins has proudly boasted its very own brewery in Big Timber Brewing (bigtimberbrewing.com). Business owners Matt Kwasniewski and Sam Mauzy, along with
eat | ELK INS
two other family co-owners, spent two years building up to Big Timber’s opening, picking out a perfect space, developing recipes, ordering equipment, and getting paperwork in order. Matt grew up in Elkins and moved to Montana to work in the craft beer industry there. By 2010 he knew he wanted to come home and launch a craft brew production in Elkins. Now his beers are making a name for themselves across the state, from Morgantown to Huntington. “We’d like to become a well-known brand in the state and make Elkins a destination for beer,” Matt says. “It will really help out once we have a taproom and people can come here and get tours. Now we’re just manufacturing. Eventually when we get our pub open we’ll do tours.” In Elkins, Big Timber’s blonde ale, porter, and pale ale can be found in restaurants including Beander’s, Vintage Restaurant and Wine Bar, El Gran Sabor, and The Forks Restaurant & Inn. Big Timber Brewing Company is new in 2014. Start off with
a phenomenal salad from The Forks Restaurant & Inn.
explore • elkins 2014 27
Stay ď °
Rest awhile in one of Elkinsâ€™ most special places.
Spend the night in historic luxury at Graceland Inn & Conference Center.
lkins is growing, but it’s maintaining the quaintness and charm that makes it so endearing. Nineteenth century mansions have been reborn into luxurious bed-andbreakfasts, while new businesses are popping up and adding a modern twist to the timeless draw of this West Virginia mountain town. In addition to the handful of bed-and-breakfasts and country inns scattered about town, the national chains of Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn have brought much needed room capacity. Whether your visit celebrates a milestone anniversary or you’re looking for options for your next business retreat, you’ll find the lodging to guarantee a relaxing visit. Graceland Inn (100 Campus Drive, 304.637.1600, gracelandinn.com, rooms from $105, conference center rooms from $85) Built in 1892 the exquisitely furnished Graceland Inn is an elegant retreat with 11 bedrooms and private baths. The mansion was once the summer home of Henry Gassaway Davis, a U.S. senator and vice presidential candidate. The guest rooms boast Victorian antiques and reproductions, and an adjacent conference center building has room for another 26 guests. The Forks Restaurant & Inn (1 Kelly Mountain Road, 304.637.0932, attheforks.com, rooms from $110, cabins from $185) A short drive from downtown is another fine dining and lodging option—The Forks Restaurant & Inn. The newly renovated hotel and restaurant space is the pet project of Trevor, Drew, and Eric Stalnaker, West Virginia brothers and uncle, with more than 40 years’ experience in the hospitality industry. Lodging options include five explore • elkins 2014 29
ELK INS | stay Warfield House Bed and Breakfast dates back to 1901.
Warfield House Bed and Breakfast (318 Buffalo Street, 703.628.4043, warfieldhousebedandbreakfast. com, rooms from $95)
comfortable inn rooms refurbished with new flooring, décor, fixtures, and bedding. The Forks also offers up a phenomenal view of the nearby mountains. Guests may also choose from one of the inn’s luxury cabins, which can house one to four people.
30 explore • elkins 2014
This Victorian home was built in 1901 and boasts decadent woodwork, a stained glass window, and terra-cotta fireplace—all original to the house. The home has been restored with reproductions of turn-of-the-century carpets, wallpaper, and antique furniture. A wraparound porch offers a relaxing atmosphere to kick back and relax after a day visiting the many restaurants, shops, and sites in and around Elkins. The four guest rooms each have a bathroom.
Isaac Jackson Hotel (830 Harrison Avenue, 304.636.1400, isaacjacksonhotel.com, rooms from $105) This upscale boutique hotel in downtown Elkins has an elegant lobby and rooms outfitted with top amenities, including free WiFi, mini refrigerators, and DirecTV. The hotel is completing an expansion to include more rooms equipped with king rooms and deluxe suites. Breakfast is included in the attached restaurant, the 1863 Grill—a dining draw on its own. Holiday Inn Express & Suites (50 Martin Street, 304.630.2266, ihg.com/ holidayinnexpress, rooms from $109) Located in downtown Elkins, a stay at this Holiday Inn Express & Suites includes a complimentary continental breakfast and access to the hotel’s indoor pool, Jacuzzi, and exercise room. The hotel also offers free transportation to and from the airport if you call ahead to schedule the trip.
Arts & Culture
A little-known gallery boasts 3,500 years of priceless artifacts.
Beauty and creativity are everywhere you turn in Elkins.
This flattened powder horn of Scottish origin, circa 1700, is part of the extensive Darby Collection at The Stirrup Gallery.
or 25 years Mark Lanham was a wanderer. “As a marine, I’ve been to 27 countries,” he says. But when he retired, he returned home to Elkins—a colorful community of artists, academics, and families perched on a bend in the Tygart Valley River between the monolithic Seneca Rocks and miles of protected forests and world-class trout streams. Despite its small size, this county seat attracts a mix of people to live, work, and play here. Elkins offers Ozark Mountain-style musical theater, a thriving arts scene, and popular festivals—but just passing through, you might miss what makes this city tick. “It just has that hometown feel,” Mark says. “It’s the hub for all the activity you’d want to do in the mountains.” Mark didn’t just come home. He returned to school, received a degree in sustainability from Davis & Elkins College, and took over as coordinator of special collections at The Stirrup Gallery on campus—home to eclectic showpieces like the Darby Collection, bequeathed to the college by Preston County native and successful Elkins architect and builder Hosea M. Darby. This 1943 donation includes more than 10,000 pieces ranging from engraved Revolutionary War-era powder horns to effigy pots dating back to 1000 A.D. It joins many other impressive collections—some from Elkins natives, others from generous families who simply fell in love with the community. Mark is like many who call this historic yet forward-thinking town home—100 percent passionate. On any given day you might find him decked out in full period attire showing a group of fourth graders how to grind corn with an ancient Native American mortar and pestle, poring over a Revolutionary War rifle or cataloging a mysterious human vertebra pierced with an arrowhead. He took the helm at Stirrup in 2013. He says he has big plans for how to make this little-known gallery into a true attraction. Once every item is properly cataloged and photographed, he wants to open the collections up for the world to see and interact with via the Internet. He hopes this will entice even more visitors to make The Stirrup—and Elkins’ incredible art and culture scene—part of their vacations. Although Mark hadn’t planned on becoming a local advocate after retirement, preserving and promoting area culture and people was important to him. Thanks in part to the efforts of citizens like Mark, The Stirrup is attracting attention. Experts from the Smithsonian and Colonial Williamsburg have toured the 4,000-square-foot facility and are impressed with what the gallery has to offer—3,500 years of everything from Lincoln memorabilia to artifacts from an indigenous Amazonian tribe. But that’s typical of Elkins—a small community that continually surprises visitors with its extensive mash-up of art, history, and passionate people. But Elkins isn’t so tight-knit visitors, art lovers, and craftspeople from all over can’t find inspiration here. In fact, you might say Elkins has a history of welcoming all types—from Venezuelan restaurateurs to world-class dancers. “I believe once word gets out that we’re here, this is going to become a destination,” Mark says. explore • elkins 2014 31
ELK INS | arts & culture
The family-owned American Mountain Theater delights audiences with its castâ€™s music mastery and performance prowess.
32 explore â€˘ elkins 2014
Theater in the Mountains
arts & culture | ELK INS left Catch one of
the more than 200 delightful Bransonstyle shows a year at the popular American Mountain Theater.
wo families. Eleven performers. An auditorium of 525. More than 200 performances and 30,000 visitors a year. One captivating, masterful show. That’s American Mountain Theater, where Branson-style music meets a family dynamic that would impress the von Trapp clan. And it all happens in a cultural gem of a theater: a $2 million, 13,000-square-foot brick facility in Elkins’ historic rail yard. Each one of these variety shows is packed with musical tributes to acts from a variety of genres—some are serious, others are comedic, but they all dazzle with the talent of the American Mountain Theater cast. The theater is run by Kenny Sexton, his wife, Beverly, her sister, Susie, and their adult children. Beverly and Susie were born and raised in Elkins, and have been in show business since they were young girls and regular cast members of the Wheeling Jamboree. “Bev and Susie have been playing and singing music since they could talk,” says Kenny, a musician himself who has been playing piano for gospel quartets since he was 12. Years ago the sisters left West Virginia for Nashville as part of The Heckels music group and eventually moved on to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, just 40 miles from Branson, Missouri, where the musical variety show format American Mountain Theater uses was popularized. That’s where they crossed paths with Kenny who, after working as an accountant for many years, had finally found his way into the music business by purchasing a show similar to AMT’s. Kenny ran that show for a few years, retired for a while, got back into accounting, did a
little farming and, somewhere in there, he and Beverly got married. In the meantime, Susie moved home to Elkins. Then one day a little more than a decade ago, Kenny and Beverly got a call from West Virginia. “Susie called us and said she was going to start a music show,” Kenny says. “She had a vision of being the only theater in West Virginia that featured Branson-style music.” She scraped together a cast and as much money as she could, and, by 2003, was operating the theater on a very small scale out of an old armory building in Elkins. Little by little, Kenny and Beverly got involved in the project from Arkansas, and pretty soon they couldn’t resist the urge to go all in. They took on full ownership of the theater—Susie is still a cast member—and started building a new facility in the Elkins rail yard. “At first my parents weren’t going to explore • elkins 2014 33
Performances at American Mountain Theater are jampacked with live music and laughs.
move to Elkins and run the theater, they were going to just be owners,” says Meggan Sexton, Kenny and Beverly’s daughter, who now works with them at the theater along with her siblings. “My dad’s an accountant, so he was just going to come visit to do the books and things. He packed a suitcase for two weeks—and he never came home. Little by little the rest of us relocated here, too.” Don’t let their family relations fool you, though—this is no cast of amateurs. “They are absolutely top-notch entertainers, some of the best in the business,” Kenny says. “What we do in this one show is Branson quality. The only difference is that Branson, Missouri, is an established tourist town and there’s 100 different competing shows. Here we have an inexpensive mountain getaway that is unique to West Virginia.” By all accounts, audience members agree the production value is an entertaining combination of folksy charm, fabulous music, and comic relief. “The shows are incredible,” says Ellen Spears, who has attended several productions. “One minute you are
34 explore • elkins 2014
laughing your head off, and then the next minute everyone is crying. You experience a wide range of emotions and then you leave with a smile on your face.” Meggan says the hardest part of her job is persuading people who haven’t seen the show to see how sincere she is when she promotes it. “I can sit here and tell you all day how great it is—that’s my job,” she says. “But you aren’t going to believe it until you come see it. And after they’ve seen it, people are always so blown away.” For backup, she turns to statistics: American Mountain Theater has been reviewed more than 100 times on TripAdvisor and has a five-star average rating. Most audience members at American Mountain Theater are tourists coming into the area to visit the town, take a train ride on the scenic Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad, and see a live show, a fact that has made the crew at the theater some of the greatest ambassadors for the local tourism industry. “The best way to get people here is to promote Elkins,” Kenny says. The theater
ELK INS | arts & culture
offers all-inclusive tourism packages, and Meggan says they account for more than half of the theater’s business. A two-night package includes a ticket to the show, two nights’ lodging, two hotel breakfasts, two dinners, and a ticket to ride the New Tygart Flyer with lunch included— all for $260 per person. “People love it,” she says. “They can come here to do all that, and everything is taken care of for them.” American Mountain Theater hosts more than 200 shows a year, nearly all of them with its in-house cast for the signature two-hour variety show, the History of American Music Show, and the ever-popular Christmas Spectacular. The only time the theater hosts outside performers is for the Southern Gospel & Bluegrass Concert Series—about nine shows a year featuring national gospel and bluegrass recording artists. The season runs from April through December. 49 Martin Street, Elkins, WV 26241, 304.630.3040, 800.943.3670, firstname.lastname@example.org, americanmountaintheater.com explore • elkins 2014 35
ELK INS | arts & culture Randolph County Community Arts Center
Community Arts Abound in Elkins
100 arts and music classes each year, according to the center’s executive director, Kurt Barkley. “We like to be at the forefront of the arts scene here,” Kurt says. “We provide a lot of facilities for the cultural and artistic groups and societies in the area.” The group’s three main functions are art The Randolph County exhibits, concerts, and arts education classes. While Elkins is already known as a bastion of Community Arts Center heritage arts with the famed summer-annual draws thousands from Augusta Festival, the center has made an effort around the state each year. to offer an abundance of programs year-round that locals might not otherwise have access to. “We’re always looking for newer and more ighlighting arts in Randolph cutting-edge programs,” Kurt says. “We fold County, the Randolph County perennial favorites back into our schedule, but Community Arts Center (RCwe give our teachers a great deal of latitude. CAC) has been educating and We’re always trying different things.” Classes, entertaining the greater Elkins area for more summer camps, and music programs feature than a decade. From annual concert series to an eclectic mix of genres. Music opportunities traveling Smithsonian Institution art exhibits to music and arts classes, the nonprofit program span blues, polka, and jazz, as well as traditional and old-time music. Classes are continues to grow. On average the arts center for ages ranging from toddlers to seniors, and hosts 16 exhibits, 24 concerts, and more than
36 explore • elkins 2014
overflows with exhibits, classes, and concerts.
hundreds of residents enroll in the center’s classes year-round. The number is only growing. Local artists are actively engaging in tourism through the center, which draws even larger crowds. “Some visitors may come here for the tourist train, but stay for one of our concerts at night,” Kurt says. “It’s now a focus of ours to capture the bus tours coming in for American Mountain Theater, the trains, Augusta, and people who are here for another reason.” With hundreds already benefiting from the center’s classes and summer camps, thousands more walk through for these local events and exhibitions. The RCCAC looks forward to hosting a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition this summer—an honor the center has enjoyed three times in the past. Smithsonian Institution is one of the world’s largest museum and research institutions, with 19 museums in the Washington, D.C., and New York City areas. This year’s traveling exhibit hosted in Elkins is titled “Hometown Teams” and depicts the history of local American sports. It opens June 19, 2014, and Kurt expects it to draw thousands of art and history admirers to the center. “We’re very happy to have the exhibition,” he says. “It’s a big deal in the exhibition world.” The center works at the forefront of the arts in Randolph County, but the RCCAC has teachers and students traveling to Elkins from surrounding counties as well. “We have a lot of resources here that other counties may not have access to,” Kurt says. “We have a full-time staff and a big volunteer base. People who are here value arts on a personal and commercial level.” 2 Park Street, Elkins, WV 26241, 304.637.2355, randolpharts.org
arts & culture | ELK INS
Artists at Work
one of 22 artists who show their work in the downtown storefront. For two decades this co-op has brought local Artists at Work artists together to share their work is a cornucopia with the community. of local arts and crafts. There’s everything from photography and textiles to hen jewelry maker Cynthia pottery and metalwork, all crafted by artisans Sandeno moved to Elkins from Randolph County or a neighboring six years ago, she immedicounty. “Elkins is such a stronghold for arts ately started investigating and has so many wonderful creative people,” the arts community there. “I knew I wanted Cynthia says. And a big part of the shop’s to be involved,” she says. She liked what she charm is that it lets the outside world brush saw all over the artsy little town, but when she shoulders with the arts community in Elkins walked into the Artists at Work cooperative every day—call the store and a local artist will downtown, something clicked. “The first time likely answer the phone, walk in the door and I walked in the door I saw all these amazing one will be sitting behind the counter. “You types of art, all of them different,” she says. come here because you want to see all these “And I knew right then I wanted to be a part of it.” Now Cynthia is the co-op’s president and wonderful products,” Cynthia says. “But then
above The Artists you come in, you meet at Work co-op houses these artists, and you get to the work of local hear their stories. It’s a very artists in a broad range of mediums— personal experience. You there’s everything make a connection.” from photography to Artists are always on hand textiles to pottery. “There’s no place because when an artist buys else around where into the co-op they commit you’re going to find a to working at the shop for a collection of artwork like this,” says day and a half each month. Cynthia Sandeno, That allows for a robust the co-op’s president. operating schedule—the store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day but Sunday, when it’s open from 1 to 5 p.m. “That’s important because we’ve also been very dedicated to making downtown Elkins a destination and making it vibrant,” Cynthia says. “We want the folks coming into the community to have something to do no matter what time it is.” 329 Davis Avenue, Elkins, WV 26294, 304.637.6309, email@example.com, artistsatwork.us explore • elkins 2014 37
Have a grand old time at Gandy Dancer Theatre in Elkins, and even meet Penny Merle.
they come here and love it.” At the Gandy Dancer, you can eat your dinner while you’re watching the show. And it’s not a movie—it’s an elaborate variety show with music, dance, and comedy, a smorgasbord of entertainment. The show winds through genres and artists— you never have time to get bored. “It’s just about everything you’d want to hear. Other than maybe Japanese and rap, we cover the gamut,” G’na says. “If you’re not a country fan, not a problem, wait for a song and then we’re going to have some rock. If you The Gandy Dancer Theatre serves up a want some gospel music—hang on, it’s classic variety show with every meal. coming. If you want inner and a movie—it’s a classic something patriotic, it’s right around the corner. combination, a time honored formula And with the funny bantering between the band for a night out. But there is a way to and back and forth between performers, it’s kick it up a notch. “If you want to get always interesting.” out of the house, have a great meal, and enjoy The Gandy Dancer has a cast of regular yourself, you come here,” says G’na Stephens, performers, with a band, vocalists, and a CEO of direct marketing and sales at Gandy dance troupe called The Gandy Dancers. Dancer Theatre and Conference Center in Aside from a few performers who drive in Elkins. “Even the person who is a homebody— from neighboring towns, the show is filled
38 explore • elkins 2014
with local professionals, including several dancers who are still in high school—it’s a rare opportunity to perform regularly in front of an audience. “And we are always looking for that next rising talent,” G’na says. There’s also a character performer at the center of the show named Penny Merle. Penny’s character is a play on Minnie Pearl, the country comedian who performed at the Grand Ole Opry for years beginning in the 1940s. Minnie was known for her self-deprecating humor, her inability to ever attract a “feller,” and the elaborate hats she wore with the price tag attached: $1.89. At Gandy Dancer, Penny’s known for her own showy hats, big sense of humor, and professing to be Minnie’s younger cousin. Penny’s not the only larger-than-life character who makes an appearance, though. Each show ends with a performance from a performer in character as a legendary musical artist. The likenesses of Elvis, Garth Brooks, and Johnny Cash have all graced the Gandy Dancer stage, plus dozens more. The theater’s lifeblood is in tour groups that bring in busloads of people just for the show—a testament, G’na says, to the wide appeal the show has. “You can bring your kids or come with your grandparents, sit next to them the entire time and not feel sorry they’re there,” she says. “We’re family-friendly.” That’s not to say they don’t attract locals, too. G’na says there’s even a crew of regulars. The theater comfortably seats 350 people, and since the audience is sitting at tables, there’s no pressure to be in the front row. “You can see the stage from everywhere in the room. It’s not like you’re blocked by the head of a person who’s sitting right in front of you,” G’na says. “You’ve got a great view even from the farthest possible seat.” Shows run every Friday and Saturday during the summer performance season and a holiday season that begins the Friday after Thanksgiving. You can also catch murder mystery shows four weekends a year. 59 Beverly Pike, Elkins, WV 26241, 304.636.4935, gandydancertheatre.com
ELK INS | arts & culture
The Old Brick Playhouse
This Elkins institution has brought theater and the arts to youth for a generation.
ow in its 22nd season, the Old Brick Playhouse on Davis Avenue in Elkins is a hotbed of young creativity and the arts. The nonprofit theater company opened in 1992 and offers after-school and summer programs to provide safe and educational arts opportunities for youth 5 to 18 years old. Through touring performances, afterschool literacy programs, week-long summer camps, and a local youth apprentice program, Old Brick Playhouse focuses on hands-on theater experiences, increasing students’ self-esteem and character development and promoting theater in Randolph County. Nearly 2,500 students have moved through the apprentice program over the years, attending weekly rehearsals and meetings to create an end-of-season production. Seventy students alone worked on 2014’s musical Pippin production, staged in May, says assistant director Phil Smith. Through the Old Brick Playhouse programs, Phil says he’s watched a number of students blossom from shy teenagers to success-ready adults. “I love that I’ve gotten to know so many kids who have gone on to become doctors and lawyers or work in the theater,” he says. “It keeps me young, and I find that no matter what public perception of youth is, there really are some wonderful kids here. As we say at Old Brick, everyone is different, but everyone is important.” 329 Davis Avenue, Elkins, WV 26241, 304.637.9090, theoldbrick.org
We’re more than a hospital... MEDICAL
Anesthesia Chemotherapy Emergency Medicine Family Medicine Gastroenterology Gynecology Hematology Hospitalist Obstetrics Opthamology Orthopedics Otolaryngology Pain Management Pediatrics Pulmonology Podiatry Radiation Oncology Surgery Urology
Allergy Cancer Center Cardiac Rehab Cardiopulmonary Hearing Pharmacy Respiratory Therapy
Speech & Swallowing Sleep Lab Surgery Telemedicine Urgent Care Vascular Center
Family Birthing Center Dietitian/Nutrition Intensive Care Observation Physical Therapy Progressive Care
CT Scan General Radiology Digital Mammography MRI Nuclear Medicine PET Ultrasound Laboratory Pathology
Auxiliary Gift Shop The Davis House
davishealthsystem.org explore • elkins 2014 39
ELK INS | arts & culture From the crowning of the queen to a parade and
carnival, donâ€™t miss the fall Forest Festival.
40 explore â€˘ elkins 2014
ach year Elkins paints itself in festive colors in anticipation of the much-acclaimed Mountain State Forest Festival. This annual nine-day celebration in fall packs the town and then some. Begun in 1930, it is a celebration of Elkins’ heritage, agriculture, and natural resources. The festival is jam-packed with family fun, from parades to lumberjack competitions and Irish road bowling to arts and crafts. And with national headliner acts and free entertainment nearly every evening, there’s something for everyone. That’s why this unforgettable event attracts more than 85,000 visitors to Elkins each year. “For the people of Randolph County and the city of Elkins, it really is a homecoming. But it’s also open to visitors and newcomers, a time when they can become part of our family. I think that’s why it grows every year,” says Cindy Nucilli, executive director of the festival. The festival was born when representatives of the Elkins Business Men’s Association (now Elkins Chamber of Commerce) and representatives of the Elkins Women’s Club met to plan the ultimate homecoming event. Taking a cue from the Apple Blossom Festival in Virginia, the founders did much more. Celebrating the Mountain State’s fabulous fall foliage, the main festivities are still held in fall over the first full weekend of October, when the leaves are near peak perfection. For decades the crown jewel of the event has been the coronation of Maid Silvia, the deity of the forest, a young West Virginia woman chosen by the director general and crowned by the governor. More than 3,000 people turn out on the Davis & Elkins campus to catch a glimpse of her velvet gown and 25-foot train— the design for which is a closely guarded secret
arts & culture | ELK INS
each year—as well as the elaborate costumes sported by her entourage as they parade downhill to the coronation at the campus amphitheater. Led by Woodly the Elf, a child who symbolically paints the hills in vibrant fall colors as the procession passes, the pageantry of the court is something to behold. With her two maids of honor, 40 princesses, minor court, and many performers, the queen heralds the end of summer and the splendor of fall. But event officials are quick to point out, this isn’t a beauty pageant. The entire festival is a celebration of the state’s natural resources represented through music, performances, art, education, and great food. The queen’s coronation isn’t the only nod to the natural wonders of the region; events dedicated to preservation, conservation, forestry, and woodcrafts are popular. In particular, the wood chopping and lumberjack contests, displays of arts and crafts, and educational demonstrations take center stage. One of the most famous events is the two-hour Grand Feature Parade—voted best parade by WV Living readers in 2013—when thousands line the streets to see performers, dignitaries, bands, and floats. The number of events continues to increase. Favorites include the ATV race, wing cook-off, strong man contest, talent shows, and the free entertainment in the park. But the events are secondary to the mission, Cindy says. “The most significant part of the festival is the push to educate our young people about the natural resources of the state and the importance of protecting them,” she says. “It’s important that we don’t take them for granted, and we also want to share their beauty.” Whether you’re a native attending to reconnect with old friends or a visitor looking to enjoy the cool mountain air, you won’t want to miss this event. Cindy says, “Elkins is an area full of rich traditions and heritage, and each year the festival brings out new ideas and new ways of keeping those traditions and cultures alive yet modern enough that everyone wants to keep coming back and participating.” forestfestival.com
MORE NEARBY FESTIVALS Mark the calendar for fun. Helvetia Fasnacht, Helvetia, Saturday before Ash Wednesday, helvetiawv. com/events/fasnacht/fasnacht.htm Maple Syrup Festival, Pickens, third full weekend in March, pickenswv. squarespace.com/maple-syrupfestival Ramps & Rails Festival, Elkins, April, mountainrailwv.com Strawberry Festival, Buckhannon, May, wvstrawberryfestival.com Artspring, Thomas, Memorial Day weekend, artspringwv.com Coalton Days, Womelsdorf, every June, coaltondays.com Follow Your Bliss Festival, Helvetia, June, followyourblissfest.helvetiawv.com Augusta Heritage Festival, Elkins at Davis & Elkins College, July and August, augustaheritagecenter.org/ augusta-festival Riverside Blues Festival, Elkins, July, riversidebluesfestwv.com Beverly Heritage Week, Beverly, last full week of July, beverlyheritagecenter.org WV Roadkill Cookoff and Autumn Harvest Festival, Marlinton, September, pccocwv.com/roadkill
explore • elkins 2014 41
Davis & Elkins This small liberal arts college in the mountains of West Virginia bursts with colorful life and excitement year-round.
ELK INS | Davis & Elkins
alking across the picturesque hillside campus of Davis & Elkins College, the rich history and culture are tangible. The historic buildings speak of an elegant past and the name itself serves as a reminder of the college’s foundation. With 800-plus young scholars and more than 30 degree programs, Davis & Elkins offers enriching courses that fulfill its mission: “to prepare and inspire students for success and for thoughtful engagement in the world.” 44 explore • elkins 2014
D&E has seen much success over the past decade and continues to strive for excellence. “Enrollment has grown 62 percent in the past five years,” says Michael Mihalyo, president of Davis & Elkins College. “We have strengthened our academics and our athletic programs and are promoting the arts and developing the spiritual life of our students.” But Davis & Elkins’ influence goes well beyond its students. “It’s a center for education and for the history of our town,” says Linda Howell Skidmore, media relations coordinator. “It’s also a place where people gather for events. Arts, entertainment, culture—it can all be found at D&E.”
Founded in 1904, Davis & Elkins College was established by Henry Gassaway Davis and Stephen Benton Elkins, two United States senators who were also responsible for building the first railroad in the area. In 1901 the senators donated land and money to establish a college and academy associated with the Presbyterian Church. The citizens of Randolph County and the Presbyteries of Lexington and Winchester, Virginia,
matched their gift. “Randolph County is rich in history, Elkins is the basis of that history, and it all starts at D&E. The history of the town began here,” Linda says. When the first classes began on September 21, 1904, the campus was in south Elkins on a plot donated by Senator Elkins. Later, a gift of property from Mrs. Hallie Davis Elkins, Senator Davis’ daughter and the widow of Senator Elkins, prompted the college to move to its present location in 1926. This property included her home, Halliehurst, and the surrounding estate. In 1941 the college acquired Senator Davis’ original estate, including another beautiful home, Graceland, and the lands adjacent to Halliehurst. Since its move to the old Halliehurst farm, Davis & Elkins has expanded to include 22 major buildings on a 170-acre campus. The two mansions, Halliehurst and Graceland, served as summer homes for the senators. Graceland Inn is perched on the hillside overlooking town, and it is easily one of the most beautifully restored Victorian mansions in West Virginia. Today Graceland is part of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Hospitality and Tourism and offers magnificent lodging as well as being a training ground for students of the college’s hospitality management program. It is one of four buildings on the college campus to be designated a National Historic Landmark. The interior of Graceland is a sight in and of itself, with incredible woodwork and a twostory great hall. There, a tiled fireplace is surmounted by a wooden mantle supported by grand Corinthian columns and stained glass windows made by a workman from Tiffany. Upstairs, each bedroom is unique and furnished with antiques or quality reproductions. Next door, Halliehurst is also a National Historic Landmark. Constructed of native hardwoods and stone, the 16,000-squarefoot Victorian mansion was patterned after a castle in the Rhineland admired by Elkins’ wife on their honeymoon. Interior features include rich oak paneling, beaded trim work, and massive fireplaces framed in marble
Davis & Elkins | ELK INS
with hand-carved wooden mantelpieces. The building now houses administrative offices, including the office of the college president. Just down the hill, the property also includes The Gatehouse, which today houses the offices of communications and marketing. The Gatehouse was listed as part of the Davis & Elkins National Historic Landmark District in 1998. The quaint structure doubled as a caretaker’s residence during the years when the Elkins family spent their summers at Halliehurst. Today it maintains its storybook feel with unusual “witch hat” towers and leaded glass windows. Across the way, The Icehouse is a cylindrical stone building built in the late 1800s by Senator Elkins as a place to store ice in the summer. It was refurbished in the late ’60s and is now a campus pub and popular spot for live music. Not only is it distinct for its architecture
and diverse music, but the stones inside are covered in graffiti. The unique, threelevel venue has been hosting live bands, DJs, and open mics, and serving beer, soda, and popcorn to students and guests since 1969. Inside, visitors are treated to a spiral stairway, a bar on the first level, and stage on the middle level—where there is also an upright piano students can play. Nearby, another unique project on campus is the repurposed Boiler House Theater. What used to provide steam heat for the campus is now an adaptable space for campus theater productions and concerts.
“The experience at Davis & Elkins is almost indefinable. Most people who come here love the experience, but can’t put their finger on
why,” Mihalyo says. One thing you’ll notice right away when spending time at D&E is the friendly culture. People smile and say hello even to strangers. It’s a very welcoming place. “I think the culture here can best be described as a family,” Mihalyo says. “It’s one of the most kind and caring environments I’ve ever been in. It’s an immersive culture that I’m very happy to be a part of.” On a deeper level, the culture of D&E is intimately tied to its location and its history. “Our area has a strong passion for the preservation of Appalachian heritage arts,” Mihalyo says. The college offers an Appalachian Studies minor and has an Appalachian ensemble that performs traditional music and dance. And its Augusta Heritage Center is a world-renowned center for cultural preservation, bringing together master artists, musicians, dancers,
Halliehurst sits on the hill on the campus of Davis & Elkins College.
explore • elkins 2014 45
ELK INS | Davis & Elkins
craftspeople, and enthusiasts of all ages for intensive workshops on campus. By some accounts the crowning cultural gem of Elkins, the Augusta Heritage Center began more than 40 years ago. The internationally acclaimed program seeks to preserve traditional folklife and folk arts of not just Appalachian culture but other regions’ cultures as well. Through intensive weeklong summer workshops from Bluegrass Week to Blues Week to Cajun and Creole Week, it brings together master artists, musicians, dancers, craftspeople, enthusiasts, and novices of all ages. Classes cover a wide range of traditional arts from hammered dulcimer to blacksmithing to papercutting. “Augusta has been around for a long time, and it’s important to a lot of people in West Virginia and nationally. Whether they come for a weekend event or for a whole week, it’s life changing,” says Beth King, interim director of Augusta and general manager for Myles Center for the Arts. “They get immersed 46 explore • elkins 2014
clockwise choreograph, compete, produce, and teach dance. Robbins Chapel is the architectural and The three emphases of spiritual focal point the program—sustainable of campus. Folks come Education from all over for the dance, American The small liberal arts college offers a wellAugusta Festival. vernacular dance, and rounded education with personal attention, The Stirrup Gallery is home to many Native contemporary and kept relevant with the regular addition of new American artifacts. postmodern dance—give programs. The college has long been known students an opportunity to for its stellar hospitality management program, customize their training. which prepares students to work as hotel or The dance program is led by Emily Olson, a restaurant managers, executive chefs, or event planners. Also popular, the regional management dancer and choreographer who received her master’s degree in dance from the University and tourism program is perfect for students who of Maryland and who has assisted with Dance love the outdoors and teaches them to thrive in Week at the Augusta Heritage Festival for recreation and sports management careers. many years. Introduced in 2013, the dance program Also new at D&E, the Center for Railway is a unique program of study. The first of its Tourism is preparing students to enter the kind in the U.S., the curriculum explores area’s railroad tourism industry. Students get social and vernacular forms like Appalachian flatfooting, tap, swing, and hip-hop as well as classroom and real-world experience to bolster classic forms like ballet. The program engages their future careers in railway heritage and tourism management. The center aims to have a students in technical training and theoretical inquiry, giving them opportunities to perform, positive, continual effect on railway heritage and
in music or folk art with 200 other people who are totally in love with that art.”
Davis & Elkins | ELK INS
Upshur, and Webster. Qualifying on-campus students receive $14,000 while commuters receive $11,000. The scholarship is renewable all four years, bringing the scholarship total to $56,000 or $44,000 respectively. “A lot of students in the area are used to smaller classes and smaller schools, so Davis & Elkins is a good choice for them,” Linda says. “The Highlands Scholars program allows them to attend D&E, a private institution, at the same price as a public university.” Since its inception in 2008 the program has grown tremendously, from just eight students in the first year to 287 enrolled in the 2012–13 academic year.
“Music and art has always been a major part of the college, but recently there’s been a tremendous resurgence of the arts,” Beth says. One of the best kept secrets on D&E’s campus is easily The Stirrup Gallery (page 31), which houses more than 10,000 items ranging from prehistory to the Civil War. Most recently D&E initiated a new arts series to provide year-round entertainment— tourism venues across the country, too. It offers everything from classical music to Christian public programs to educate and entertain anyone rock to a live West Virginia Public Radio interested in railway heritage and preservation, Christmas show. Mihalyo, who is also an including conferences, festivals, and workshops. accomplished keyboard artist and teacher, was D&E students get a versatile education, gaining the skills they’ll need to be successful especially excited about the new series, initiated in August 2013. “This is a region that is very no matter what field they go into later. “We rich and diverse in its creation and presentation focus on developing writing skills, oral of the arts in all forms,” he says. “D&E has communication, quantitative reasoning, and disposition development,” Mihalyo says. “We one of the nicest facilities in the region—an ensure students can work well independently approximate 1,200-seat auditorium. It just makes sense for the college to be a provider of a and as part of a team. We think about what variety of arts.” employers would want to see and prepare In 2013–14 the series drew crowds with students for their future careers.” its lineup of artists, including Charleston’s Highlands Scholarship Program Bob Thompson and two Grammy Award winners—bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley Along with commitment to quality, D&E and Christian rock band Switchfoot. Another is committed to providing an affordable favorite, American Idol winner Phillip Phillips, education—especially for area students. The Highlands Scholars program offers a significant performed as part of a Randolph County YMCA tuition discount to full-time freshmen students fundraising concert. Beth says the concerts have been very well received. “We bring groups to the from counties around the college—Barbour, area that wouldn’t otherwise perform here.” Pendleton, Pocahontas, Randolph, Tucker,
In addition to the new dance major, D&E also offers majors in art, theater, design and technical theater, and a minor in music. Art students love the renovated visual arts studio. “The pottery studio is state-of-the-art. It’s incredible, and the art professors are young and engaging,” Beth says. The theater department performs three productions each year. “The community members are huge fans of the theater program. They always come out to see the shows,” Beth says.
On the court, in the pool, and on the field, the Davis & Elkins Senators compete in a variety of NCAA Division II sports—men’s baseball and golf, women’s volleyball and softball, and men’s and women’s basketball, cross-country, soccer, swimming, and tennis. In May of 2013, the college celebrated the groundbreaking for a state-of-the-art athletic field that will serve the community and the college. To address heavy wear, poor soil conditions, and drainage issues on the old soccer field, the college, with the help of alumni donations, installed an all-weather synthetic turf field at a cost of $600,000. With the opening of the new field came the announcement that the field would not only be used for soccer, but also for the newly launched lacrosse team. “Lacrosse will not only strengthen our athletic department, but will also add more life to our already vibrant campus community,” says D&E Athletic Director Ron Palmer. With the start of the 2013-14 sports season, D&E began competing in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) Division II, which includes colleges from Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Several of those colleges have or are planning lacrosse programs, and dozens of other NCAA Division II colleges have lacrosse teams in place. “There will be no problem in filling a schedule,” Ron says. During 2013-14 lacrosse was played as a club sport; however, the college will hire a coaching staff and recruit student athletes to begin conference play in the 2014–15 season. explore • elkins 2014 47
A mountain festival draws visitors from around the world.
he best part of a mountain jam, musicians might tell you, is the unspoken cooperation between instrumentalists, singers, and dancers. By the simple touch of a knee or a nod of the shoulder, strangers play to the guidance of an invisible conductor and create haunting melodies or foot-stomping tunes. Modern West Virginia isn’t all flannel shirts, overalls, and banjos, but traditional arts practiced around the state continue to thrive at the Augusta Festival in Elkins. The annual festival brings together the best fiddlers and yodelers from West Virginia as well as a cosmopolitan mix of national and international visitors for a month of heritage arts centered around community and friendship. “I saw Augusta as a really unique networking opportunity, not just on a professional level but a personal level,” says Emily Oleson, coordinator for Augusta’s dance program. “People are united by an interest in traditional arts, and it gives life to a lot of lifelong friendships.” The Augusta Festival, presented by the Augusta Heritage Center, is a month-long celebration of America’s traditional arts— Appalachian to Irish to Cajun to hip-hop— including music, crafts, and dance. Augusta Heritage takes its name from one of West Virginia’s historic monikers during early settlement periods, and its focus stretches back to early American settlement arts. Each of the five festival weeks takes a theme, during which students and instructors live closely together on the campus of Davis & Elkins College (D&E) for intensive class time and workshops. “People come for a full week and participate in really in-depth experiences with whatever they’re interested in,” says Beth King, Augusta director and general manager of D&E’s Myles Center for the Arts. “Someone might come for Early Country Week to study vocals with Ginny Hawker in the morning and take Cajun fiddling classes in the afternoon.” Class instructors are often legends in their fields.
Davis & Elkins | ELK INS
“Every week has people who are just stellar,” Beth says. “During Old-Time Week we have Joe Newberry, who you’ll often hear on A Prairie Home Companion, and Jim Watson. During Bluegrass Week we have fourfifths of the Nashville bluegrass band The SteelDrivers teaching.” Missouri native Joe Newberry has been an Augusta regular since 1993. Joe is an internationally renowned banjo player, guitarist, fiddler, and singer, with a clarity to his music that makes his songs easily recognizable by fans. For the last six years Joe has coordinated Augusta’s Old-Time Week with one of Augusta’s most easily recognized qualities in mind—relationships. “One of my
“I was told before we started going to Augusta that it was the best one-day show in West Virginia, and I’ve found that to be true,” TOM DOAK favorite things about Augusta would be the beginning of the week when you see little reunions with people who know each other from years past,” Joe says. “My second favorite is the end of the week with the hugs and the good-byes and knowing next year they’ll have the first-day reunion all over again.” Intimate class sizes and community spirit make the Augusta festival one of a kind, attendees say. Walking along the grassy lawns at D&E during Augusta, visitors might see pockets of musicians and artists spread among the trees practicing or participating in an impromptu jam session. At night, after classes and meals are over, you can hear it. “It’s like a car radio signal picking up different stations,” Joe says. “Even though different groups are playing different tunes, there’s a flow to it. There’s an intensity. Some jam sessions are big and play like a freight train with a lot of folks. In other
sessions people are playing knee-to-knee right at each other. The levels of communication when folks are playing this kind of music is incredible.” Stay late enough and the fog starts rolling down the mountains, giving the campus an otherworldly glow. In the morning, as the mist clears, people are still there and ready to start all over again. A popular but less impromptu moment at Augusta is the Onion Jam session—one of the most magical events of the Old-Time Week, Joe says. The Onion Jam takes its name from its layers of music and talent. The staff begins playing a song and students and instructors can move in and out of the session as they choose. This type of event is where the real instruction takes place, Joe says. “I didn’t learn music by traditional instruction. I would go find people to play with,” he says. “You start at the outside of the circle with the goal of moving into the middle. People can self-select. A beginning student often thinks they’ll never be able to play, but if you get thrown off the horse there are a bunch of people playing and you can jump back on.” Participants interact as if in a dance during these sessions, with instrumentalists diving in and bowing out almost seamlessly. If one stumbles, it’s met with a round of friendly laughter, and the dance continues. “People coming to the workshops will take this community love back to where they live and look for jam sessions, build a jam session, or find a singing partner,” Joe says. “The Augusta community helps build a wider community.” Emily spent two years as a student before returning to Augusta as an instructor and coordinator for the dance program. She’s now spent about 12 years at the festival and watched it ebb and flow with the interests of participants. Always, though, the intimacy that defines Augusta remains. “The class size is an attraction,” she says. “Student-teacher ratio is everything. If you want to go to a large city and study with an internationally known artist with 200 or 300 people in the room, there are plenty of opportunities for that. But at Augusta you’ll have the same quality of instructor and one-on-one time.” explore • elkins 2014 49
ELK INS | Davis & Elkins
“People are united by an interest in traditional arts, and it gives life to a lot of lifelong friendships.” emily oleson, coordinator for Augusta’s dance program
clockwise You can see everything from cigar box banjos and split oak basketry to dancers demonstrating flatfooting at Augusta. There’s no shortage of refreshments and other goods to buy, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll hear the sounds of Joe Newberry during the day.
50 explore • elkins 2014
Sprinkled between Augusta’s famous music classes are craft classes ranging from Cajun cooking to blacksmithing and basket making to pottery. Guests might also find an accordion or fiddle repair class. Festival and class attendance hits the thousands each year, but prospective students can usually find room, Beth says. “It’s always worth checking to see if there is space in a class, even if it seems too late. We offer such a broad range of classes and levels that we try to make sure there’s room,” she says. Everyday visitors can also find concerts and dances that are open to the public each year without having to be enrolled in the program. The 2014 festival began in July with Cajun/Creole and Early Country Music week. Blues and Swing Week follows, then Irish Week, Bluegrass Week, and Old-Time, Vocal, and Dance Week. The five weeks are capped with a weekend festival August 8 to 10. The people of Elkins and beyond descend on D&E during the two-day, final festival for concerts, food, demonstrations, and shopping handmade crafts. Festival visitors will find dancing, singing, and a bit of neighborly competition to snag the best pieces in the craftshow, says Scottie Roberts Wiest, a professional potter and longtime vendor at the festival’s juried craft market. “There are always early shoppers who come out to look for unusual, one-of-a-kind pieces. I personally try to look for Christmas and birthday gifts.” Due to the juried nature of the show, visitors will find the best of Appalachia’s crafts and the selection draws people from around the world. “I was told before we started going to Augusta that it was the best oneday show in West Virginia, and I’ve found that to be true,” says Tom Doak, a popular furniture builder. In addition to pottery, jewelry, and Tom’s handmade rocking chairs, visitors will find an assortment of handmade instruments from dulcimers to guitars. This year’s festival will feature one of West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s famous Mountain Stage concerts, too. Mountain Stage is a nationally renowned radio show that’s been documenting music for more than 30 years. “It’s a beautiful setting on a nice summer day,” Beth says. “Whether it’s someone performing on an official stage or one of the jams that pops up under a tree, it’s a great day. You hear a touch of bluegrass from one side and a little bit of Irish from another, or an old-time jam and a bit of gospel. People come back year after year to spend the day visiting with friends and taking everything in.” explore • elkins 2014 51
Train of Thought The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad offers a unique train riding experience for people of all ages. 52 explore â€˘ elkins 2014
trains | ELK INS
hildren’s ears perk up the moment they hear the faint whistle of a train in the distance. They squeeze their parents’ hands and watch excitedly as the rumbling steam locomotive appears from behind the bend, emerging from the mountains. Black smoke pours from the smoke stack as the train approaches the station. Time seems to slow down as the conductor smiles and waves to waiting passengers and the brakes screech to a full stop. When the coast is clear, the friendly conductor welcomes visitors onboard to be part of the adventure. In the early 20th century luxury passenger steam trains pulled into Elkins on a daily basis. Today, thanks to John Smith, trains once again frequent the town. “I just didn’t want to see them pull up the tracks,” says John, who retrieved washed-out tracks from the river after West Virginia’s 1985 flood. “But before we could bring a train into Elkins, we had to build a bridge. That wasn’t an easy undertaking, but we got the funding.” John is the president of the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad, an excursion rail company comprised of four trains that keeps West Virginia’s locomotive heritage alive. “In our first year, 1997, without any type of publicity, 5,000 people showed up to ride our train,” he recalls. “Even with the economy, we haven’t seen it slow down.” This railroad company keeps West Virginia’s railroad history alive by offering countless special train excursions to visitors year after year. “Trains are usually exciting for everyone. On a nice day we go along rivers and see the scenery. It’s a very interesting trip,” he says. “A lot of the special event trains, such as the Father’s Day train and The Great Train Race, sell out.” Trains like The New Tygart Flyer, Cheat Mountain Salamander, Durbin Rocket, Mountain Explorer Dinner Train, Castaway Caboose, and The Polar Express offer customers the finest service and one-of-a-kind experiences. “You’re going to ride a train, see the scenery, and get a meal at the same time,” John says. “It’s a time for everyone to relax, unwind, and enjoy riding a train.”
The Durbin Rocket
Built in 1910 for the Moore-Keppel Lumber Company in Randolph County, this 55-ton locomotive is one of the rarest trains in the world—it is one of three surviving Climax geared logging trains. This train uses two steam cylinders under the center of the boiler to transfer power to the front and rear of the train. A two-hour steam train ride on the Durbin Rocket covers more than 10 miles of dense forest terrain in the
Monongahela National Forest. John recommends this ride to young families for its beautiful view and intimate experience with the crew. Visitors can ride in historic vintage coaches and cabooses and watch the black smoke rise to the sky as the steam engine chugs along. Along the way the train will drop guests opting to spend the night in the Castaway Caboose along the Greenbrier River before going on to chug along through the mountains.
All aboard! Tickets go fast for rides on the scenic Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad in Elkins.
John says the Castaway Caboose is a West Virginia favorite of the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad. “You do have to reserve it a year in advance,” he says. “It’s very peaceful down there in the national forest. People love it.” Visitors can choose from one of two refurbished original Wabash railroad cabooses and spend the night under the stars in the quiet wilderness along the Greenbrier River. The Durbin Rocket, attached with the Castaway Cabooses, picks up participants at the train depot. The train runs backward, caboose first, to the secluded destination by the Greenbrier River and drops visitors off to sleep in the caboose deep in the forest. Each caboose holds up to six adults and includes amenities like refrigerators, linens and towels, and full restrooms with showers. The caboose is powered by solar panels, providing electricity for storing food, taking hot showers, and even watching DVDs on a rainy day if guests so choose. explore • elkins 2014 53
ELK INS | trains
Mountain Explorer gets ready for another adventure. The Elkins Depot is a beautiful landmark on Railroad Avenue.
The New Tygart Flyer
This four-hour train ride transports guests across 46 miles of awe-inspiring mountain scenery into a 1,500-foot canyon covered with dense forest. The train crosses the bridge of the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River, where visitors marvel at the beauty of the 18-foot-high, 150-foot-wide waterfall. This roundtrip journey also includes lunch. The 1922-era Pullman Parlor car is one of the most popular seats on this train for those who want a perfect view of the West Virginia wilderness. Guests can also choose from a selection of wines when riding in the Parlor Car.
The Mountain Explorer Dinner Train
The New Tygart Flyer was such a success John decided to add a new train to the mix in 2008. The beautifully appointed Mountain Explorer Dinner Train provides a more refined four-course dining experience for passengers as they enjoy watching evening descend on the peaks and canyons of the Monongahela National Forest and Cheat River. “Before airplanes, dining service on trains was top-shelf, and that’s what we are trying to re-create. All of our recipes are original menu items from the 1930s to ’60s,” he says. “On our trains, you can go 25 miles an hour and drink wine without spilling it.” John says the dinner train hosts murder mysteries every other week. Guests are invited to eat a four-course meal and watch as the play 54 explore • elkins 2014
unfolds around them. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the full dinner service complete with smooth jazz.
The Polar Express
Talk about magical. Tickets to ride The Polar Express, offered around the holiday season, sell quickly. In fact, John says The Polar Express is the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad’s most popular train. This nighttime train ride, based on the book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg, transports families on a memorable journey to the North Pole. Santa and his helpers greet children with warm smiles and give silver bells to passengers who believe. During the journey dancing chefs will serve hot chocolate to visitors in souvenir cocoa mugs and read the classic story.
The Cheat Mountain Salamander
Named after the legendary Cheat Mountain salamander, this locomotive offers three-, six-and-a-half-, and nine-hour rides through the beautiful Cheat Mountain. Visitors go through a long “S” curve tunnel underneath the mountain to the High Falls of Cheat, where they can stretch their legs and admire the mountain’s natural beauty. Along the way the Cheat Salamander treks through the tiny Pocahontas County town of Spruce. The town was settled in the early 20th century along the Shavers Fork of Cheat River. Lunch is included with ticket fare.
trains | ELK INS
clockwise Murder mystery actors engage with passengers aboard the dinner train. A delicious meal is guaranteed on the Mountain Explorer Dinner Train. Singing chefs serve hot cocoa on The Polar Express.
explore â€˘ elkins 2014 55
ELK INS | trains
Train Pricing The Durbin Rocket Adult (12-64) $26 Child (4-11) $16 Senior (65+) $24 Military $23
The Castaway Caboose First night (up to four people) $260 Second night (up to four people) $180 Third night (up to four people) $150 Additional occupants $30 each
The New Tygart Flyer Adult (12-64) $49 Child (4-11) $39 Senior (65+) $47 Military $46
The Mountain Explorer Dinner Train Regular Schedule Regular Seating $72 Parlor Car Upgrade $82 Murder Mystery Regular Seating $89 Parlor Car Upgrade $99 Wine & Roses Regular Seating $75 Parlor Car Upgrade $87
The Cheat Mountain Salamander 9-hour tickets Adult (12-64) $79 Child (4-11) $68 Senior (65+) $77 Military $76 6.5-hour tickets Adult (12-64) $62 Child (4-11) $54 Senior (65+) $60 Military $59 3-hour tickets Adult (12-64) - $42 Child (4-11) - $34 Senior (65+) - $40 Military - $39 *Tickets purchased the day of the event cost $2 more.
56 explore â€˘ elkins 2014
Stay awhile. Book a night (or nights) in the Castaway Caboose and get dropped off along the remote and beautiful Greenbrier River.
Wilderness Excursions • Dinner Trains • Special Event Trains • Gift Shops • RaiiYard Restaurant Departs Elkins & Durbin Depots April -December
ELK INS | trains The Train Loop Project will connect visitors on trains to activities across the region. It is scheduled to begin in 2017.
All Aboard When it’s complete in 2017, the Train Loop Project will offer visitors a unique way to tour the region. 58 explore • elkins 2014
est Virginia is known for its breathtaking fall scenery, woods packed with wildlife, and miles upon miles of rolling hills, but many people don’t know about the historic railroads deep in the heart of beautiful Appalachia. These historical treasures, including the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad and Cass Scenic Railroad, are a wonderful and relaxing way to enjoy the natural wonders of the state without leaving your seat. And the new Train Loop Project will make traveling back and forth to popular destinations in the state easier than ever. The Highland Adventure of Mountain & Rail, known informally as the Train Loop Project, will restore and construct new railroads in six Potomac Highland counties to create a 90-mile loop of railways. This unique project will connect with several popular attractions like Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, the Monongahela National Forest, and Snowshoe Mountain. “The Train Loop Project really caters to the ages of people riding. The reason we’re doing it is we feel like we have the opportunity to contribute to an outdoor experience,” says John Smith, founder and president of the Train Loop Project. “Putting all the trains together in this project will make for a better quality of trip. In other words, it will make it a transportation network without destroying the area.”
In addition to being in charge of the Train Loop Project, John is the owner of the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad, which will contribute a major portion to the project. The rail company offers countless train excursions throughout the year to visitors of all ages. John was responsible for getting trains into Elkins in 1998, and now the trains bring a substantial amount of economic growth to the town. “It’s terrific for the Elkins area,” he says. “It opens up new places for you to think of visiting.” That’s how the idea for the Train Loop Project was born. John says the state didn’t have a plan for the unused railroad tracks, and that was the original inspiration for the project. “We wanted to see the tracks being useful instead of not being used,” he says. The $40 million project is funded by federal loan programs designed for small railroad companies and private investments. While the cost of the Train Loop Project is double the estimated price, John says it’s a small price to pay for tourist activity and the growth it will bring to the state. “It’s a huge economic shot in the arm for the area. It is a privately funded effort that will affect six counties for a positive economic standpoint.” The project will benefit Randolph, Barbour, Greenbrier, Pocahontas, Tucker, and Webster counties. John says the key idea to this project is to combine recreation with transportation, allowing passengers to go hiking, horseback riding, rafting, or do other outdoor activities along with their excursion train rides. “You can ride to a certain point and camp, bicycle, or kayak and ride back on another train,” he says. The construction of the Train Loop Project is scheduled to begin in fall 2014, and John expects the loop to open to the public in 2017. “It’s coming along really well. Cass will be a part of the loop and its operation and participation in this will be key to get it running,” he says. “Everyone has been very supportive of the project—local delegates have been wonderful to work with. I feel privileged to get to work on it.”
BREAKFAST SERVED ANYTIME
Experience a True Neighborhood Diner! Serving Elkins for 39 years “The Best Burgers in Town”
BREAKFAST LUNCH DINNER 800 7th Street Elkins WV 304.636.7500
Day Trippinâ€™ Elkins is perfectly located to serve as a base for exploring charming small towns and breathtaking outdoor adventures.
Germany Valley is known for its extensive cave system, with dozens of caves documented. The area was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1973 by the National Park Service.
Let us welcome you to Elkins with an AMT vacation package. In the town of Elkins, West Virginia, you can experience the best that the state has to offer at a price you can afford.
ELKINS, WEST VIRGINIA VACATION PACKAGES
2-NIGHT GETAWAY PACKAGE INCLUDES: • Two nights Lodging, including hotel breakfasts at The Isaac Jackson Hotel • Tickets to American Mountain Theater's Premier 2-Hour Music & Comedy Variety Show • Buffet Class Seating on the New Tygart Flyer - 4-Hour Scenic Train Ride with lunch included on board the train • Dinner at the 1863 Grill • Dinner at the Vintage Restaurant • Taxes and Gratuities Included
Starting at $260* per person *Based on double occupancy. Subject to availability. Prices subject to change.
FAMILY FUN PACKAGE INCLUDES: • Two nights Lodging, including hotel breakfasts at The Isaac Jackson Hotel • Tickets to American Mountain Theater's Premier 2-Hour Music & Comedy Variety Show - Show Tickets are free for the kids! • Buffet Class Seating on the New Tygart Flyer - 4-Hour Scenic Train Ride with lunch included on board the train • Dinner at the Vintage Restaurant • Dinner at the 1863 Grill • Taxes and Gratuities Included
Starting at $650* for a family of four
AMERICAN MOUNTAIN THEATER._ THE FRESHEST SOUND IN THE MOUNTAINS
Adult Pricing Starting at $260* per person Child Pricing Starting at $6S* per person. *Based on family sharing one hotel room. Subject to availability. Prices subject to change.
CHRISTMAS GETAWAY PACKAGE INCLUDES: • One night Lodging at the Isaac Jackson Hotel, including breakfast • Dinner at the 1863 Grill • Tickets to American Mountain Theater's Christmas Spectacular • Taxes and Gratuities Included
$99* per person *Based on double occupancy. Subject to availability. Prices subject to change.
planning your trip | E A SY ROA D TR IPS
THE LAND SURROUNDING ELKINS
buckles and folds into spiny ridges and dramatic monoliths. This region, known as the Potomac Highlands, traverses the Monongahela National Forest, covers an eight-county area, and offers some of the highest elevations in the Allegheny Mountains, with peaks rising to more than 4,800 feet and plummeting to less than 1,000. Easily accessible from major interstates and highways that traverse the state, this is an outdoorsman’s paradise, and it’s a side of West Virginia every adventurous traveler should experience firsthand. From the eclectic towns of Canaan Valley to the raw, megalithic landscape of Seneca Rocks—these are the highlands of West Virginia, where adrenaline and inspiration are a way of life. To help you with your journey, we’ve highlighted some easy road trips and hidden gems that take you off the beaten path.
Weston Stonewall Resort
Canaan Valley Resort
Dolly Sods Wilderness 32
Beverly Seneca Caverns 20
Kumbrabow State Forest
Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park
Snowshoe Mountain 219Resort
Elk Springs Resort
Marlinton Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Museum Beartown State Park
explore • elkins 2014 63
northern | E A SY ROA D TR IPS
Blackwater Falls State Park Forty miles north of Elkins on Route 219 or U.S. 33 East, Blackwater Falls State Park is best known for its energetic waters that twist through an eight-mile gorge before plummeting 63 feet into the canyon below. The park also offers 20 miles of hiking trails, scenic overlooks, nature and recreation programs, and endless photo opportunities. Although the park’s namesake waterfall is one of the most photographed sites in the state, there are countless other natural wonders to explore. Elakala Falls, where the waters of Shay Run rush to the edge of Blackwater Canyon, tumbling down in a beautiful display, is just a quick walk along Elakala Trail from the lodge. If you’re undaunted by heights, take the short trail to Lindy Point and prepare yourself for one of the most famous views in the state—a breathstealing drop off into Blackwater Canyon, where 45 acres of wild country stretch out in all directions. But don’t miss Pendleton Point Overlook—showcasing the canyon’s deepest and widest point, where the dramatic curves of the landscape spread out before you. After taking in the sights, travelers can relax and refuel any time of year at Blackwater Lodge, where hungry adventurers will find excellent dining at the lodge’s family restaurant. West Virginia is also known for its waterways that offer bountiful bass, trout, catfish, walleye, and muskellunge. In some areas you may also find pike, sturgeon, striped bass, and plenty of tasty panfish such as sunfish and yellow perch. From Blackwater Canyon, with its pristine waters and premier trout fishing, to the stocked upstream sections known as Dry Fork, Laurel Fork, Glady Fork, and others, anglers will find no shortage of opportunities to land the big one. Drop in a line at spots like Blackwater River, Clover Run, Dry Fork, Horseshoe Run, and Red Creek, and enjoy excellent stocked or catch and release fishing. 1584 Blackwater Lodge Road, 304.259.5216, blackwaterfalls.com
(pictured) and neighboring Davis are charming small towns in Canaan Valley.
Thomas & Davis
to nine million board feet of lumber in nearly 38 years. Today both Thomas and Davis are hubs The charming small towns of Thomas and of art and culture, where resort hoppers, Davis are quintessential Canaan Valley, seasonal visitors, and new residents can find with a diverse mix of outdoor enthusiasts, diverse dining opportunities, unique shops, artists, and entrepreneurs. and miles of scenic wilderness to explore. The histories of Thomas and Davis are One way to do that exploring is by visiting written in timber and coal. In 1736 Lord Mountain Trail Rides (255 Freeland Road, Fairfax sent a team of surveyors to the area Davis, 304.866.4652, mountaintrailrides. near Thomas and, 10 years later, a young George Washington returned to survey the com). Open year-round, Mountain Trail Rides offers families a plethora of activities land himself. Despite the attention, it was like gemstone mining, an adventure cave another 134 years before settlers and their families could brave the harsh environment experience, winter sleigh rides, and a petting zoo. For the equine devotee, the facility and establish a permanent home. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, offers both short and long trails and has a Thomas—first named Fairfax—was already horse companion for every ability level. For those inclined to hit the trails on their becoming known as a logging town with own two feet or two wheels, the Blackwater budding potential for coal. Like Thomas, the vast forests of spruce, Canyon Rail Trail (highlandstrail.org/ trailmap.html) is a 10-mile line that starts in mountain laurel, and hardwood that Thomas, runs through Blackwater Canyon, surrounded Davis were both a blessing and ends in the community of Hendricks. and a curse. Their density kept permanent Hiking and biking are the best way to European settlement at bay until the late tame the trail, which features a section of 19th century, but the wealth of timber they offered turned a formerly inhospitable old coke ovens, unique bridge stonework, and the natural wonder of the canyon. environment into a boisterous lumber town. Two mills in the area produced close historicthomaswv.com, daviswva.com explore • elkins 2014 65
northern | E A SY ROA D TR IPS
Canaan Valley Traveling along U.S. 219 to West Virginia Route 32 or east on U.S. 33 brings you through the Canaan Valley area, the highest valley east of the Mississippi, encompassing some of the most majestic scenery in the highlands, with pockets of art, music, and culture akin to something you might find in more bustling areas. Less than 7,200 people call Tucker County, of which Canaan Valley is a part, home. Here travel destinations outnumber traffic lights four to one, and with attractions as diverse as the tumbling headwaters of the Blackwater River and three ski resorts, visitors will be hard-pressed to fit it all in. The story of settlement in this upland valley begins with a local legend. Sometime in the mid-1700s, a hunter, tracking one of the area’s large black bears, stumbled upon a break in the trees overlooking a vast tract of thick red spruce forest, shimmering wetlands, and grassy plains. Overcome with its wild beauty, the man involuntarily cried out, “Behold! The Land of Canaan!” And the name stuck. Talk to any visitor from a northern climate, and they’ll tell you parts of Tucker County feel more like a valley in Switzerland or a mountaintop in Canada than anywhere in West Virginia. With elevations reaching more than 4,200 feet, the wildlife of the region have become uniquely adapted to a cold, moist climate normally found much farther north. The Cheat Mountain salamander—found on only a few secluded ridge tops in West Virginia—and the West Virginia northern flying squirrel—a prehistoric subspecies as old as the mastodon—make their home in this part of West Virginia. The Canaan Valley was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1974 and a portion was later preserved as a national wildlife refuge. The Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge (6263 Appalachian Highway, Davis, 304.866.3858, fws.gov/ canaanvalley) became the 500th refuge of its kind in 1994 with the purchase of 86 acres. Today the refuge encompasses approximately 17,000 acres. One of two biologists at Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, wildlife biologist Marquette Crockett, talks about rare animals and plants with reverence. “We have so many rare species you won’t find anywhere else in the state,” she says. “This combination of high elevation and heavy rain is truly unique.” Visitors are welcome to explore the refuge from one hour before dawn to one hour after sunset. More than 30 miles of roads and trails are open to walking, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing. Designated areas for horseback riding and biking are also set. Hunting and fishing are allowed with appropriate licenses and refuge permits.
Nearby Canaan Valley Resort State Park pulls double duty as a luxurious resort and a pristine 6,000acre four season state park. Epic mountain views and quality skiing are its specialties. In addition to new lodging Canaan Valley Resort has revamped its ski area and added new amenities like a wobble clay shooting range and tubing park. In addition to lodging, cabins, and a campground, the resort boasts several dining options—from the seasonal Clubhouse Grill to the Bear Paw Food Court to the new private dining area at the Hickory Dining Room, which offers a breathtaking panoramic valley view. Golf is another major attraction for the park, featuring one of the top 10 courses in the state. After a
day of outdoor adventure, guests can enjoy massages on-site and kids are welcome to unwind in the arcade in the lodge. Depending on the season, visitors can also choose between the outdoor or indoor pools, hot tub, and saunas. The resort also offers scenic chair lift rides, miniature golf, and 18 miles of hiking trails. 230 Main Lodge Road, Davis, 800.622.4121, canaanresort.com
Timberline Four Seasons Resort Just eight miles from Canaan Valley Resort State Park, off West Virginia Route 32, Timberline is known for its 7,000-foot vertical rise and some of the longest ski runs in the region. In the summer and fall, enjoy chair lift rides, mountain biking, and zip-lining. 304.866.4801, timberlineresort.com
explore • elkins 2014 67
E A SY ROA D TR IPS | northern
68 explore â€˘ elkins 2014
northern | E A SY ROA D TR IPS
Dolly Sods Wilderness & Scenic Area As part of the massive Monongahela National Forest, this 17,000-acre wilderness area is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. With its bogs, heaths, and boulder-strewn plains, the terrain of Dolly Sods is more typical of Canada than south of the Mason-Dixon. Elevations ranging from 2,500 to 4,700 feet above sea level mean freezing temperatures can occur at any time, but talk to anyone who’s seen this outdoor wonderland and they’ll tell you the extremes are a challenge worth taking on. The view from Dolly Sods’ perch on a ridge to the west of the Allegheny Front is incredible. On a clear day visitors can see seven mountain ridges across a 30-mile stretch to the east. Not sure which way is east? Check out the red spruces along the rim of the ridge. Winds often blow from the west at high speeds, and tree limbs point with the wind to the east. Hiking is the best way to see all this area has to offer. With 47 miles of trails—many of which follow old railroad and logging paths—and a good pair of hiking boots, visitors can experience one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the region. Fishing, hunting, and horseback riding are allowed in many areas.
Blueberries Abound Did you know wild blueberries grow here? Many visitors stop by in mid-summer to pick their own.
explore • elkins 2014 69
E A SY ROA D TR IPS | southern
Seneca Rocks Dwarfed by nearby peaks in the Allegheny range, River Knobs—a series of knobs in western Pendleton County—measures in at half the height of neighbors like North Fork Mountain and Spruce Mountain. Despite its modest stature, it has become notable for a series of razorback ridges that decorate its stunted peaks—Champe Rocks, Nelson Rocks, Judy Rocks, and one of the most recognizable landmarks in the state, Seneca Rocks. The jagged, open-face crag rises 900 feet off the mountain, towering over the valley like a cathedral. With two climbing schools in the area and plenty of marked routes, Seneca Rocks is a destination for climbers. For those who want to keep their feet on the ground, a selfguided interpretive trail snakes its way up to the top of the rocks. Despite its steep ascension, steps, switchbacks, and benches along the trail allow visitors of all fitness levels to enjoy the rewarding view. You can even ride to the top on horseback, courtesy of Yokum’s Stables. Stop by Seneca Rocks Discovery Center to learn about the formation of the rocks and the Indian tribes that once gathered there. Grab a pizza and settle down on the deck at the nearby Front Porch Restaurant over Harper’s Old Country Store, which offers a spectacular view, especially at sunset. 70 explore • elkins 2014
southern | E A SY ROA D TR IPS
Seneca Rocks Discovery Center The Seneca Rocks Discovery Center is located at the base of Seneca Rocks. It is a great place to start your visit to the area. Interpretive programs and living history events are offered on weekends throughout the summer. Nearby, the Sites Homestead tucked beneath the shadows of West Virginiaâ€™s most famous rock formation, Seneca Rocks, is a serene spot that provides a great vantage point to view the rocks. In the late spring and summer, the heirloom gardens are magnificent. Built in 1839 by Jacob Sites, it was expanded by his son in the 1860s. Tours of the home are available; visit Seneca Rocks Discovery Center. Seneca Rocks Discovery Center, Roy Gap Road, Seneca Rocks, 304.567.2827, Cheat Potomac Ranger District, 304.257.4488
The Sites Homestead, built in 1839 by Jacob Sites, is tucked beneath the shadows of Senica Rocks. In the late spring and summer the heirloom gardens are magnificent.
explore â€˘ elkins 2014 71
E A SY ROA D TR IPS | southern
Smoke Hole Caverns One mile southwest from Seneca Rocks is Smoke Hole Caverns. Named for its firstknown use as a smokehouse for the Seneca Indians, Smoke Hole Caverns is home to some of the most unique formations. It boasts the longest ribbon stalactite in the world, as well as one of two crystal coral pools in the world. With a dazzling display of spindly soda straw stalactites, an underground lake, and one of the highest ceilings on info the East Coast, Add the from Fall 2013 here. Smoke Hole Caverns is a family friendly memorymaking experience. Smoke Hole Caverns, 8290 North Fork Highway, Cabins, WV 26855 304.257.4442, smokehole.com
72 explore â€˘ elkins 2014
WEST VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
southern | E A SY ROA D TR IPS
Seneca Caverns Eight miles from Seneca Rocks, explore a natural wonder at Seneca Caverns, home to the oldest recorded cave in the state. The caverns include two caves available for tours, where visitors can travel 165 feet below the entrance on cement steps or don a helmet and go wild caving with a guide. Budding cavers can learn proper knot-making and basic cave safety or sift through the mining rough for a chance to snag a sparkly gem. 3328 Germany Valley Road, Riverton, WV 26814, 304.567.2691, senecacaverns.com explore â€˘ elkins 2014 73
Nelson Rocks is a majestic nature preserve where you can hike, climb, or even zip line.
Nelson Rocks The Nelson Rocks Outdoor Center is a privately owned nature preserve covering 145 acres and the monolithic fins of Nelson Rocks. Just an hour from the Elkins area, you can explore the landscape from a whole new vantage point—dangling more than 100 feet from the ground suspended between two mountain peaks on a bridge known as a via ferrata. 74 explore • elkins 2014
What is a via ferrata? It means “iron road” in Italian. The phrase is used in the United States and elsewhere to refer to a mountain route equipped with fixed structures like ladders, cables, and bridges to allow climbers and walkers access. A team of North American climbers and riggers constructed the via ferrata suspension bridge at Nelson Rocks. It now stretches 200 feet and hangs 150 feet above the ground. It is the first via ferrata designed and built by Americans and one of the longest in the country.
COURTESY OF NELSON ROCKS OUTDOOR CENTER
Don’t be intimidated. Groups of two to 14 are fitted with equipment before receiving safety training that teaches climbers how to connect to the fixed anchor systems. Your adventure will take three to six hours. Adventurers can also scale mountainsides, hike, zip line, and explore the forest at the center, and they can access on-site lodging—including an inn, cabins, and campsites. Special rates and packages are available for groups. 141 Nelson Gap Road, Circleville, 877.435.4842, nelsonrocks.org
Via Ferrata Some visitors to the Via Ferrata at Nelson Rocks Outdoor Center have described the experience as a hike on steroids. Climbing up vertical cliffs, shimmying around ledges, tiptoeing over a suspension bridge—it’s the thrill of rock climbing with the accessibility of hiking. And it’s one of a handful of its kind in the nation.
E A SY ROA D TR IPS | southern
Spruce Knob You might already know Spruce Knob is the highest point in West Virginia, towering above the rest of the state’s terrain at nearly 5,000 feet above sea level. But it’s also the tallest peak in the Allegheny range, looming above stretches in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. The top of the summit feels more alpine than Appalachian. The red spruce trees dotting the peak have been beaten down by the howling westerly winds, with limbs only jutting out on the eastern side. You can travel to the top by car on Forest Road 112, and once there, a quick walk on the Whispering Spruce Trail offers many panoramic views over its half-mile course. Picnic tables and grills are available if you want to pack a lunch.
76 explore • elkins 2014
southern | E A SY ROA D TR IPS
explore â€˘ elkins 2014 77
E A SY ROA D TR IPS | southern
Beverly Nestled between Elkins and Mill Creek, the extraordinary town of Beverly is rich in history. Beverly Heritage Center acts as visitor center and museum, bringing together the Beverly Bank, the Randolph County Courthouse, the Hill Building, and the Bushrod Crawford buildings, all more than 100 years old. Museum tours are guided by Beverly’s own residents, telling the story of the town through local tradition and culture. Renovation is an ongoing project, but the main buildings are open to the public. Group and guided tours are available by calling 304.637.7424, seven days a week in summer and Thursday through Monday in winter for $5. History buffs will appreciate the Rich 78 explore • elkins 2014
Mountain Battlefield Civil War Site, where one of the earliest battles of the Civil War took place. The encounter occurred one month after General George B. McClellan assumed command of Union forces, and his victory there helped lead to the eventual formation of the Mountain State. The Goff House steps right out of the late 18th and 19th centuries with its white clapboard siding and romantic wraparound porch. The sprawling 4000-square-foot farmhouse, originally built in 1795, once belonged to David Goff, lawyer and colonel in the Beverly Militia. He acquired it in 1830 but fled south with his family during the Civil War. The structure later became an official U.S. Army Hospital for the Union side. Today the fully restored building is
home to Historic Beverly Antiques, where you can view Civil War-era graffiti or peruse consignment antiques and collectibles, including rooms full of vintage clothing, oldfashioned Christmas decor, and new and used books. Manager Deb Farrell has been greeting customers since the store’s opening three years ago and is proud to say purchases support the Beverly Heritage Center. You might also be interested to see the Lemuel Chenoweth House. Chenoweth was a noted carpenter in Beverly, having built the wraparound porch of the Goff House and a bridge across the Tygart River that was later destroyed. The grandson of Revolutionary War veteran John Chenoweth, Lemuel is best known for building the covered bridge still standing in Philippi. His home in Beverly has
southern | E A SY ROA D TR IPS
Rich Mountain Battlefield
been restored to its 19th century condition and offers a view into the past. The hub of history, though, may be the Randolph County Museum. Loaded with artifacts, the attraction is in the BlackmanBosworth Store building, circa 1828. You can also visit the Subscription School, a one-room schoolhouse built for kids whose parents’ hired their own teachers in opposition to public schools. Nearby, the Jacob Stalnaker Jr. Cabin was home to one of the first frontier families in the county. It weathered the decades on a rise just south of Beverly for more than 200 years. In 1996, in an effort to preserve and protect it, the Stalnaker family—together with volunteers and the Randolph County Historical Society—disassembled and moved the cabin to its present location behind
above Tour the county museum. The the Lemuel structure is beautifully Chenoweth House restored and filled with to see how the noted carpenter—best period antiques and artifacts. known for building The cabin is open to the public the Philippi during many summer holidays covered bridge— and special occasions. once lived. For unique shopping in town, buy, sell, or trade books at Beverly Books & Antiques on Main Street. Join a reading group or simply relax in one of the wooden rocking chairs. You’ ll also find vintage clothing for sale. End up the day with a drive on the scenic Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike. Built in 1848, it was an engineering masterpiece at the time of its completion, inviting settlers and businesses into West Virginia.
This early Union victory set the stage for West Virginia’s statehood. “This was a small battlefield with huge repercussions,” says Hunter Lesser, Elkins resident and author of Rebels at the Gate: Lee and McClellan on the Front Line of a Nation Divided. The July 1861 battle for control of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike took place five miles west of Beverly. The Rich Mountain Battlefield site has more than 400 protected acres, including the battle site at the top of Rich Mountain, the Confederate Camp Garnett, and a section of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike. Visit to see veterans’ rock carvings and the original earthworks at Camp Garnett. Rich Mountain Battlefield features interpretive signs, walking tours, and a picnic area. The Beverly Heritage Center on Main Street in Beverly also has more information, with an exhibit and research facilities. Visitors are invited to take a self-guided tour of the hilltop battlefield year-round, though a four-wheel drive vehicle may be needed in winter months. 304.637.7424 explore • elkins 2014 79
Mill Creek is home to the native brook trout.
southern | E A SY ROA D TR IPS
Kumbrabow State Forest Twenty-four miles south of Elkins, Kumbrabow State Forest forms the cap of Rich Mountain along the western edge of the Allegheny Mountains. Once you’ve rounded the mountains, traveling across U.S. 219 South and State Route 55 West, you will find West Virginia’s highest forest—nearly 9,500 acres with elevations that reach more than 3,900 feet above sea level. Black cherry and spruce trees grow here and form a habitat for everything from black bears to bobcats. The forest isn’t just interesting for its name—which comes from the last names of the three prominent families instrumental in the purchase of the land in the 1930s—but it’s also home to a myriad of unique plants and wildflowers. On a walk through the vast forest in spring, you’ll find everything from unique plant life—the trout lily, Dutchman’s breeches, ramps, skunk cabbage, and hellebore, to name a few—to even a grouse or two. Kumbrabow State Forest offers plenty to do for anybody who loves getting away from it all. Take a hike or plan a picnic. You can even rent a pioneerstyle cabin or stake a claim on one of the scenic campsites and spend the day hunting or fishing—state license required. 304.335.2219, kumbrabow.com
Things to Do Trout Fishing One of Kumbrabow State Forest’s biggest lures is Mill Creek, which hosts native brook trout.
Hunting If you’re game for hunting, Kumbrabow State Forest is teeming with—well, game. Bears, bobcat, deer, ruffed grouse, and turkey are most common and can be hunted in season with a valid state license. There’s also a shooting range for practicing on those off-season days.
Hiking Trails and Civil War Trail Pack some trail mix, water, and a map and hit the trails at Kumbrabow State Forest for an adventure on foot. Choose from trails ranging from a halfmile long like the Mowry Trail up to three-and-a-half miles long like the Rich Mountain Fire Trail. Or explore a Civil War-era trail that leads you deep into the forest and into the region’s fascinating history.
explore • elkins 2014 81
E A SY ROA D TR IPS | southern
Snowshoe If you’re looking for an epic outdoor experience, look no further than the 251 acres of skiable terrain and 11,000 acres of pristine backcountry at Snowshoe Mountain Resort. Just one hour from Elkins off of U.S. Route 219 in Pocahontas County, Snowshoe is a resort community like no other. From zip-lining to biking to water sports to winter recreation of all kinds, this resort never fails to surprise visitors with its sheer variety of attractions and amenities. One of the most popular summertime adventures at Snowshoe is the Polaris RZR 82 explore • elkins 2014
side-by-side ATVs. Once you’re at the wheel and strapped in, you will follow a tour guide through challenging terrain with mud pits, creek crossings, and steep climbs. The 14-mile wild adventure will leave you breathless, so work in a trip to the Sunrise Backcountry Hut for a relaxing dinner and incredible vistas. This charming and rustic cabin located two miles out on the Cheat Mountain Ridge Trail can be reached by passenger van. Enjoy a glass of wine on the porch, relax in a hammock, and relish a gourmet dinner. Despite its name, Snowshoe is also a major two-wheel destination with nearly 40 trails and
1,500 vertical feet of downhill mountain biking. The Snowshoe Bike Park has been touted as one of the best in the U.S. with one of the largest trail systems in the East. Novice riders will appreciate the machine-groomed trails, while pros will relish the berms, jump lines, and man-made challenges. Two high-speed quad lifts will save your strength for the downhill and carry you safely to the top every time. If you’re looking for some off-road adventures, Snowshoe has kicked it up a notch and created an off-road Segway X2 tour. That means: in the woods, around tall trees, and on tangled trails. It’s a one-and-a-half-hour tour that begs
southern | E A SY ROA D TR IPS clockwise from opposite
KIRSTEN BOEHMER PHOTOGRAPHY
Snowshoe Mountain sunsets are majestic. Enjoy Shavers Lake
from the Boat House deck. Even in the summer the chairlifts are active. Shavers Lake offers many family activities.
KIRSTEN BOEHMER PHOTOGRAPHY
Elk Springs Resort is an angler’s
to be repeated. If you’d rather get out of the woods for a day, head to Snowshoe’s Sporting Clays Center and try your aim at flying clay discs. A range master will outfit you with a vest, a gun, and shells and teach you the art of golf with a shotgun. But don’t forget about West Virginia’s highest elevation beach. Shavers Lake is a perfect backdrop for either relaxation or adrenaline with paddleboats, canoes, kayaks, water bikes, volleyball, nature trails, a climbing wall, geocaching, and a shuffleboard court. 10 Snowshoe Drive, Snowshoe, 877.441.4386, snowshoemtn.com
paradise surrounded by bubbling streams, abundant fly hatches, and natural wonders. With a newly opened fly shop and restaurant the whole family can enjoy a retreat any time of year. If you’ve come to Elks Springs Resort, you probably have trout on your mind. Rainbows, browns, and brooks thrive here and the guides at Elk Springs are eager to get you in on the action. You might even persuade head guide Dave “Elkfisher” Breitmeier to share his secrets—he’s been featured in The Washington Post and Field & Stream and has logged more than 3,000 days on the river. Forgot your pole? No problem. An Orvis-endorsed 2,700-square-foot fly shop above the resort’s restaurant is one of the largest in the East. 14a Dry Branch Road, Monterville, 304.339.2359, elkspringswv.com explore • elkins 2014 83
Cass Scenic Railroad
towering planing mill would have been the tallest man-made structure for miles, with three stories of massive elevators capable of lifting 5,000 feet of lumber to separate floors. It has been estimated that this behemoth turned more than two billion Elkins is a train afficionado’s dream town. feet of timber into pulp or lumber. In Cass, nearly The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad, every local man worked for the mill—more than based in Elkins and Durbin isn’t the only 2,500 at its peak—and the trains kept the lumber track in the region. Just 30 minutes from flowing down from the hills. Durbin, Cass is a historic town steeped in Although the mill closed in 1960, Cass the logging and lumber industries of the early was brought into the West Virginia state 20th century. In its heyday, the West Virginia park system as Cass Scenic Railroad State Pulp and Paper Mill in Cass—about 54 miles Park with its first tourist trip on June 15, south of Elkins—was a powerful symbol. 1963, and has since become one of the state’s Wreathed in clouds of steam and the smell of biggest tourist attractions. A company store, kiln-dried wood, it was the nexus of a growing museum, and train depot have all been local economy. From 1908 to 1922, the mill preserved in their 1940s grandeur and the ran two 11-hour shifts six days a week and company houses and even cabooses can be cut 1.5 million feet of lumber each week. Its 84 explore • elkins 2014
rented for overnight or extended stays. Stick around for an orientation video and diorama depicting the once booming logging town at the Cass Showcase, have The Last Run Restaurant pack you a lunch, and head up the mountain in an authentic Shay, Heisler, or Climax locomotive. On the original 1901 rail line, passengers travel through graceful mountain valleys as the train reaches heights of more than 4,000 feet. A trip to Whittaker Station allows visitors to peruse a re-created logging campsite from the 1940s, while a stop at Spruce Run reveals the beautiful Shaver’s Fork of the Cheat River. Bald Knob, the second highest natural point in West Virginia, is the last stop on the line and affords an aweinspiring view of two states from its summit. 304.456.4300, cassrailroad.com
E A SY ROA D TR IPS | southern
southern | E A SY ROA D TR IPS
Green Bank If you’re more of stargazer than a time traveler, check out Green Bank, located between Durbin and Cass on State Route 28. You’d never guess it, but just over the mountain from Snowshoe, this tiny hamlet of 140 (as of 2010) is home to a very big, very cool secret. The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (304.456.2150, gb.nrao.edu) is the largest, most capable, fully steerable single dish radio telescope in the world and it is humbly nestled in the quiet, verdant hills in Pocahontas County. The dish’s area is more than two acres in size and can pick up the faintest radio waves from across the universe. Things
like pulsars, dense neutron stars, and other extreme states of matter are just a few of the center’s favorite research subjects. Scientists at the center are adding to our knowledge about the structure and formation of the universe every day, and as many as 50,000 visitors flock to this technological wonder every year. Visit the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank and you’ll find more than 4,000 square feet of exhibit space, programs, and activities on science and technology, and tours, as well as the Starlight Café and The Galaxy Gift Shop. Field trips and group tours are welcome.
The Pocohontas County Artisan Co-op Gallery The small space at 721 Fourth Avenue in Marlinton used to be the showroom for a classic 1960s automobile, the Chevrolet Rambler—but seven years ago it was converted into a unique space for Pocahontas County artisans to display and sell their art. “Just through volunteer labor and donations, we’ve been able to modify it to be an art gallery,” says Brenda Harman, an artist who has been handcrafting Appalachian brooms for the Fourth Avenue Gallery since 2007. Of course, a lot of hard work went into converting the old automobile showroom into an art gallery, and the result is stunning. “Now we have a really unique mural painted on our sales counter. One of our members, Ron Radcliffe, was so inspired by the mountain landscape surrounding Marlinton that he decided to paint it on the sales counter. And he did a beautiful job,” Brenda says. The gallery sells everything from regional photography, watercolors, baskets, quilts, and purses to handmade notebooks, candlesticks, and soaps. There are even handcrafted dulcimers for sale. All are welcome to peruse, and the gallery is staffed by the artists themselves. artisancoop.com explore • elkins 2014 85
POCAHONTAS COUNTY CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU
Nearby Cranberry Glades is home to more than 60 unique plant species.
southern | E A SY ROA D TR IPS clockwise from left
The Old Clark Inn is a haven for cyclists. Historic buildings line the streets
of downtown Marlinton. The Autumn Harvest Festival and Roadkill Cookoff is nationally known.
POCAHONTAS COUNTY CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU, NIKKI BOWMAN
Cranberry Glades Botanical Area Encircled by Cranberry Mountain to the east and south, Kennison Mountain to the west, and Black Mountain to the north, the Cranberry Glades stretch over more than 700 acres within the Monongahela National Forest. Commonly referred to as muskeg, these acidic wetlands occur where high water tables and poor drainage create a unique ecosystem of decomposing plants, mosses, alder thickets, and rare plants like bog rosemary and buckbean. The glades’ unusually high elevation and topography prompted the National Forest Service to protect and preserve the area in 1965. Today the glades are home to more than 60 unique plant species as well as countless animals. Inside the botanical area, a half-mile of boardwalk brings you through two of the area’s four bogs, offering a prime vantage point without disturbing fragile habitats. While on your walk, keep an eye out for unusual plants like grass pink orchids, Indian pipes, and the carnivorous pitcher plant. Want to learn more? Cranberry Mountain Nature Center has exhibits such as a live snake display and educational programs for visitors of all ages. Located at the junction of State Route 150 and State Route 39/55, the center often features live nature programs and guest speakers from April to November. Hillsboro, pocahontascountywv.com/cranberry_ glades_nature_center.aspx
Nearby Things to Do Marlinton bills itself as nature’s
playground, and for good reason. Hikers, bikers, skiers, backpackers, and everyone in between hit the 78-mile-long Greenbrier River Trail, accessible from downtown Marlinton, to take in the beauty of the Allegheny Mountains and follow the river as it winds along the edge of Monongahela National Forest and multiple state parks. Ranked by Backpacker Magazine as one of the top 10 hiking trails in the U.S. and most recently added to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame, the trail is one of the best known and loved rail-trails in the country, offering ample opportunities for world-class fishing, as well as swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and horseback riding.
Autumn Harvest Festival and West Virginia Roadkill Cook-off has been recognized by the Travel Channel, Food Channel, and Discovery Channel. The Pocahontas County cook-off is an opportunity to try kooky dishes like Pothole Possum Stew and Smeared Hog with Groundhog Gravy—but don’t worry, none of the food has been peeled from the side of the road. Stop by Marlinton in September to see for yourself. Cooking starts at 9 a.m. Tasting ticket sales close at 1 p.m. 800.336.7009, pccocwv.com/roadkill
explore • elkins 2014 87
E A SY ROA D TR IPS | southern
KIRSTEN BOEHMER PHOTOGRAPHY
Just off of U.S. Route 219 south of Marlinton, Hillsboro is a surprising locus of history, culture, and recreation amid the lush green farmland of the Allegheny Mountains. Part of an area called Little Levels, Hillsboro is home to two of the state’s most prized historic sites—the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Museum (304.653.4430, pearlsbuckbirthplace.com) and Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park (304.653.4254, droopmountainbattlefield.com). Activist, humanitarian, and prolific author Pearl S. Buck was the first American woman to be awarded both the Pulitzer Prize (1932) for her novel The Good Earth and the Nobel Prize in Literature (1938) for the biographies of her parents and for her portrayal of Chinese peasant life. Take a tour of the modest, hand-built home where she was born and learn about the early experiences that shaped her imagination.
88 explore • elkins 2014
southern | E A SY ROA D TR IPS The Little Levels Heritage Fair is an annual celebration of the legacy of Hillsboro native and Pulitzer Prize winning author Pearl S. Buck.
KIRSTEN BOEHMER PHOTOGRAPHY
Little Levels Heritage Fair For more than a decade, the Little Levels Heritage Fair has been celebrating the legacy of Hillsboro native Pearl S. Buck and those who have continued to lead rich lives in Pocahontas County. The Little Levels Heritage Fair was formed to showcase local heritage and talent as well as educate
people on how the community was built. It also highlights the international importance of Pearl S. Buck, her literature, humanitarian efforts, and her mother’s house—now a museum that continues to draw tourists. In her book, The Exile, Pearl says about her mother, “Did I say I remember her best in her American garden? I think
I remember her as well in the little square living room of the mission house, a room she had made pretty and American with white curtains at the windows and fresh flowers and wicker chairs, sitting at her organ on Sunday evenings, singing.” A strong sense of community pride continues in Hillsboro today, especially as the fair nears and residents
enthusiastically spruce up porches and yards. Organizers say they hope the Little Levels fair will always be an event to return to. Each year the fair takes place during the last full weekend in June in order to coincide with June 26, 1892—the date of Pearl S. Buck’s birth. 304.653.4897, littlelevelsheritagefair.com
explore • elkins 2014 89
E A SY ROA D TR IPS | southern
90 explore â€˘ elkins 2014
Beartown State Park At Beartown State Park, you can relax in beautiful solitude. Seven miles south of Hillsboro off of U.S. Route 219, this day-use park offers visitors more than 100 acres of nearly untouched, rocky terrain to explore. Guests can easily navigate through the park by traveling on the boardwalk, a wooden walkway that carefully winds through the property while not disrupting the ecosystem. The flora and fauna in Beartown make guests feel like they are escaping into a magical, leafy labyrinth. With a forest full of hemlock, birch, beech, oak, and maple trees, the entire park appears green. Moss and ferns cling to trees and in between unusual and ancient rock formations. The name Beartown was chosen by locals who say the cave-like openings in the rock formations make an ideal winter home for black bears in the area. Visitors are drawn to these unusual rock formations, large crevasses, massive boulders, and cliffs in the area made of sandstone. These rock formations often collect ice and snow in the winter that remain in the park until mid- or latesummer. HC 64, Hillsboro, WV 24946, 304.653.4254, beartownstatepark.com
WEST VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
southern | E A SY ROA D TR IPS
Nearby Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park played a pivotal role during the creation of West Virginia. The battlefield is the site of the last significant battle of the Civil War in the state. On November 6, 1863, Union troops under Brigadier General William W. Averell faced Confederate troops under Brigadier General John Echols. Although the smaller Confederate army held the high ground all morning, they were later overwhelmed and retreated south into Virginia. Federal troops were then able to occupy Lewisburg the following day. Operations in the Shenandoah Valley the following year drew the remaining Confederate troops out of West Virginia and the state was securely under Union control from that point on. Learn more about this battle as you tour the on-site museum and hike the historic trails. Don’t forget to take a picture in the lookout tower, which affords an exceptional 360-degree view.
Watoga State Park is 14 miles south ofMarlinton and has more than 10,000 acres to explore. Two campgrounds—one just eight miles south of Huntersville and the other situated along the Greenbrier River—give visitors a chance to access hunting, fishing, swimming, and boating. Thirty-four modern cabins with room for two to six people feature stone fireplaces, forced air furnaces, modern kitchen appliances, and full bathrooms. Solar energy heats the outdoor swimming pool that is open on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day and most weekdays for a minimal fee. Nearby a tennis court, shuffleboard court, basketball court, and other recreational opportunities will keep everyone busy for hours. Join the park’s naturalist and learn more about the local flora and fauna through slideshows, hikes, and other activities or rent a paddleboat and glide along on the 11-acre lake. 304.799.4087, watoga.com
explore • elkins 2014 91
E A SY ROA D TR IPS | western
Buckhannon Set along the Buckhannon River this friendly town is 30 minutes west of Elkins. From the George Latham House built in 1866 to continued operation of St. Joseph’s Hospital established in 1921, the town boasts numerous historical sites and events. One of the most popular events is the West Virginia Strawberry Festival, which continues to attract more than 100,000 visitors every May. Buckhannon is the Upshur County seat and was once a top contender to become West Virginia’s capital city because of its nearcentral geographic location. With a foundation built upon the glass, mining, and chemical industries, Buckhannon has a deep and telling history rooted in Civil War lore and the days of B&O Railroad passenger trains.
92 explore • elkins 2014
western | E A SY ROA D TR IPS clockwise Buckhannon is an easy 15-minute drive from Elkins. Doughnuts are made daily at The Donut Shop. West Virginia Wesleyan College was founded in 1890.
West Virginia Strawberry Festival is now the largest festival in the state. It has been held in May every year except during World War II, and it all started in 1936 in an effort to showcase Buckhannon, its people, and the strawberry—one of West Virginia’s largest crops.
CARLA WITT FORD, NIKKI BOWMAN, UPSHUR COUNTY CVB
The West Virginia Wildlife Center is 12 miles south of Buckhannon on State Route 20. The popular family destination showcasing native and introduced state wildlife. A 1.25-mile woodland trail features interpretive signs that educate visitors about Mountain State wildlife, and a picnic area, well stocked fish pond, and gift shop add to this family experience.
Ron Hinkle Glass on Sago Road is home to glassblowing demonstrations and beautiful handblown glass for purchase at Ron Hinkle’s studio. Glassblowing is an fundamental part of our state’s heritage, and Ron has carried the torch into an age where the art has all but died, producing piece after piece of gleaming
gems that have been commissioned for the likes of The White House and the Olympics. 304.472.7963, ronhinkle.com
West Virginia Wesleyan College was founded in 1890. The liberal arts residential college with approximately 1,400 students studying in 46 majors, 34 minors, and five graduate programs. Known for its immaculate grounds and gorgeous Georgian architecture, the Wesleyan campus is open to visitors any time of year. The college strives to cultivate a relationship with Buckhannon, bringing cultural opportunities to the community, and appeals to students from West Virginia and beyond with leadership opportunities in student government, international travel programs, more than 70 clubs and organizations, 21 NCAA Division II athletic teams, a flourishing Greek life, and an intramural and outdoor recreation program featuring seven intramural sports, snow skiing, horseback riding, white water rafting, and rock climbing. 59 College Avenue, 304.473.8000, wvwc.edu
A visit to Ron Hinkle’s glass studio outside of Buckhannon is worth the trip. The Daily Grind Coffee House is a local favorite. The Strawberry Festival brings thousands to Buckhannon.
WV Hometown Market on College Avenue also has a lot going on. The specialty foods store offers a full-service deli, gourmet chocolates, sushi Fridays, catering, and artisan demos, among other things. Locally owned and operated, the market supports West Virginia farmers and works hard to preserve the great artisan heritage of the Appalachians. 39 College Avenue, 304.472.0686
The Daily Grind Coffee House is a cozy gathering place where college students, locals, and travelers enjoy coffee and pastries. Call ahead for hours. 5 Main Street, 304.471.2218
The Donut Shop bakes twice a day to keep up with sales. People also stand in line for homemade chili and sandwiches made fresh on bread baked by Janice Huffman, who’s been there since the shop opened out near State Route 33 in the late 1970s. 51 North Locust Street, 304.472.9328
explore • elkins 2014 93
E A SY ROA D TR IPS | western Lambert’s Vintage Wines is a great way to spend a couple of hours. A tradition of glassblowing continues at the family-run Appalachian Glass. Pink Moon
Coffeehouse in Weston is a great weekend stop. For history and a good scare, take a tour of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, formerly Weston State Hospital and now a tourist attraction.
Weston Weston is known as “Stonewall Country” because Civil War General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson grew up there. Born in nearby Clarksburg, he was orphaned when he was 7 years old and sent to live with relatives at Jackson’s Mill, a 1,500-acre Weston estate. The estate where the American icon grew up is now part of West Virginia University’s Jackson’s Mill (160 Jackson’s Mill Road, 304.269.5100, jacksonsmill.ext.wvu.edu). The Old Mill is all that remains of the original 94 explore • elkins 2014
AMBERLEE CHRISTEY PHOTOGRAPHY
structures on the property. Other period structures include an operational 1794 waterpowered gristmill and a 1793 cabin, both relocated to the site. The historic area of the mill is open to visitors, and the Jackson’s Mill complex is a center for state 4-H camps and activities as well as festivals like the Labor Day Weekend Jubilee, a celebration of history and crafts. Make sure you visit Mountain State General Store (160 Jackson Mill Road, 304. 269.5100, jacksonsmill.ext.wvu.edu). The definition of quaint, this log cabin on the grounds of Jackson’s Mill Historic Area is
located by a pond where hungry ducks gather. Sitting in a rocking chair on the porch, lemonade in hand, you will be transported to a time long before the 24-7 connectivity of today’s world. Browse the store for heritage items going back to the Civil War, as well as freshly ground meal and flour from Jackson’s Mill. But that’s not all this area has to see. Built before the Civil War, the former Weston State Hospital—now the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (71 Asylum Drive, 304.269.5070, trans-alleghenylunaticasylum.com)—is the largest hand-cut stone building in North
western | E A SY ROA D TR IPS
America, some say second only in the world to the Kremlin. The imposing Gothic structure, which covers more than a square block of downtown, is open for historic as well as paranormal tours and is within walking distance of other 100-year-old structures in modern-day use. Reported paranormal activity and Civil War tales make the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum haunted tour a must for ghost hunters. Guides recount tales of Civil War raids, a gold robbery, and the workers who heroically tried to improve the plight of the mentally ill. Construction of this National Historic Landmark began in 1858. Designed to house 250 patients, the hospital peaked in the 1950s at 2,400 patients living in poor circumstances. Changes in mental health treatments and the facility’s deteriorating condition led to its closing in 1994. After touring the asylum, head to nearby Lambert’s Vintage Wines (190 Vineyard
Drive; 304.269.4903, lambertsvintagewine.com). Inspired by the winery at North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate, Jim and Debbie Lambert came home and planted grapevines on their land. When the winemaking outgrew the kitchen, the winery was born. Today the automatic bottling system churns out 2,000 bottles of wine an hour. More than 25 types of Lambert’s wines can be found in 350 stores in West Virginia. The family can almost always be found on-site—whether in the tasting room pouring samples or stocking shelves with local pottery and gifts, in one of the wine cellars, or at the new pottery studio that offers classes and studio time. Lambert’s Vintage Wines was established in 1992, but the couple collected hand-hewn rocks for three years to use in the construction of their tasting room, which now looks as if it has been on the same spot for 100 years. West Virginia is known for its limestone— evidenced in houses, barns, and fences
throughout the state. But it’s also home to fine silica, which led to Lewis County’s 19th century stature as the hand-blown glass capital of the world. Though Weston’s big glass factories are gone, you can still watch the art of glassblowing demonstrated at Appalachian Glass (499 U.S. Highway 33 East, 304.269.1030, appglass.com). Owner Chip Turner demonstrates the craft at the main studio in east Weston and at local festivals. The studio, free to visit, contains a shop with blown glass and stained glass, as well as toys, candles, pottery, quilts, paintings, wood and leather crafts, fresh honey, and other West Virginia goods. You can also learn the history of the industry in the town’s West Virginia Museum of American Glass (230 Main Avenue, 304.269.5006, magwv.com). The years 1900 to 1940 were the heyday of American handmade glass. Beautiful pieces produced during this era are on display.
explore • elkins 2014 95
E A SY ROA D TR IPS | western
96 explore â€˘ elkins 2014
western | E A SY ROA D TR IPS
COURTESY STONEWALL RESORT, CARLA WITT FORD
You’re still in Stonewall Country as you travel eight miles south of Weston on I-79 to Roanoke. Twenty-five years ago no one imagined this little river town would be the site of one of the Mid-Atlantic’s finest lakeside resorts. In 1990, the picture had changed, and a new flood control lake was the centerpiece of—you guessed it—Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park. Over the next decade, the park became a popular camping, boating, and fishing spot. The story could have ended there, but at the turn of the 21st century the state partnered with a private developer to build Stonewall Resort (940 Resort Drive, 304.269.7400, stonewallresort.com). Built in the style of a 1920s Adirondack-style hotel, the lodge has a timeless quality, with soaring ceilings, massive wooden beams, and stone fireplaces in the common areas. Big windows overlook the lake and marina, a hub of water-based activity. The center of water activities is the 374-slip marina, where you can rent a pontoon boat to cruise the 2,600-acre lake, a fishing boat to stalk the lake’s legendary bass, or a kayak or stand-up paddleboard (free to guests) to explore under your own power. If you prefer a guided
tour, join the one-hour daily excursion aboard the 100-passenger Little Sorrel, named for Stonewall’s favorite horse. Stonewall Resort is also home to the Arnold Palmer Signature Course, a 7,149yard Arnold Palmer creation ranked in the country’s top 100 public and resort layouts. The golf legend utilized every nuance of the hilly, partially wooded site, screening sightlines between holes with terrain, trees, and vegetation. Cart paths wind in and out of hardwood and evergreen groves, revealing vistas of spiky hills, mountains, and the lake itself, which comes into play a few times. The park also has miles of well-maintained hiking and biking trails. For a short jaunt, check out the pedestrian boardwalk that connects the lodge with the campground and day use areas. On the new Cairns Trail, watch for the mysterious stacks of rock. No one knows where they came from or how old they are, but there are 150 for visitors to check out. In addition to the cairns, geocaching treasures can be found on the resort grounds—the only mystery there is where to find them. If your legs need a rest, learn to ride a Segway on a fun guided tour. The Roanoke Activity Plaza also features two playgrounds, a disc
Stonewall golf course, basketball courts, Resort is an horseshoe pits, and a fitness outdoor mecca trail with 10 stations. New on with gorgeous views, an Arnold the plaza is a small outdoor Palmer signature theater for musical and theatrical golf course, and performances. On rainy days, plenty of activity on the lake. there’s an indoor climbing wall and nine-hole miniature golf course as well as the indoor pool. Hungry after all that activity? Visit Stillwaters Restaurant on the ground level of the resort lodge. Choose inside or patio seating—both with lake views—and enjoy an eclectic menu of local game, fish, and produce. Across the hall is TJ Muskies Lounge, a comfortable place to cozy up to the fire with drinks, listen to live entertainment on Saturday nights, and sample one of the signature burgers. Après golf, the place to replay your triumphs and defeats is at Lightburn’s Restaurant, the casual restaurant atop the clubhouse. Appetizers, soups, salads, and sandwiches are served inside or on the roomy terrace overlooking the course, lake, and lodge. The resort is open year-round, the marina April 1 to October 31, and the golf course March 30 to November 15.
explore • elkins 2014 97
Reading the Water From fly-fishing for native trout to outsmarting the elusive muskellunge, fishing in Elkins isnâ€™t just a sport. Itâ€™s an art, a science, and a way of life.
resident Jonathan Paine. Jonathan grew up casting a line but only caught the fly-fishing bug about 10 years ago. Today he’s considered a local authority on fly-fishing and acts as an administrator on the popular wvangler.com. “It’s an incredible experience to catch a fish on one of your own creations. It really is an art,” he says of creating his own flies. “Fly-fishing is a science, an art, and a sport.” Jonathan spent a lot of time in the Elkins area before settling there. As a former network engineer for an agency in Clarksburg, he used t isn’t hard to imagine why the Elkins his weekends in the country to unwind. “For me, area has been called a fisherman’s parabeing surrounded by computers and technology dise—just take a look at an aerial view all day, I needed to get outside and relax.” of the region. From the crazy loops and In the end, the cornucopia of fishing switchbacks of the Tygart Valley River runopportunities is partially what convinced ning through town to the calligraphic curves Jonathan to pack up and move to Elkins— of nearby Shavers Fork, which borders the that and a great job opportunity as director massive 921,000-acre Monongahela National of technology for Randolph County Schools. Forest, Elkins is at the heart of a merry tangle Jonathan’s only qualm with the area since of rivers, streams, creeks, and brooks. And putting down roots is actually having too many say it is the veritable epicenter of recremany fishing options to fit them all in on any ational fishing in the state. given weekend. But he’s pretty sure that’s In fact the area is legendary among fly a good problem to have. “I can go north to fishermen looking for that elusive trophy trout. Tucker County and the Canaan area. I can “If I had to provide advice to someone who go west to Seneca Creek and east to the wanted to see the most spectacular trout streams Monongahela National Forest. I can also go in the East, I would recommend staying in south to the Elk River and the southern part Elkins,” says Curtis Fleming, Bridgeport native of Randolph County. Sometimes I just get in and award-winning host of the popular Outdoor my vehicle and start driving and wherever I Channel show Fly Rod Chronicles with Curtis end up is where I fish.” Fleming. “It’s centrally located within a few miles Jonathan says any one species of fish—the of native brook trout streams and several miles of trout for example—offers many options of stocked rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, difficulty level, scenery, distance from home, and golden trout streams. All of the streams and other factors. “Say you want to catch our and rivers can be fished by spin fisherman, bait state fish—the native brook trout. You can just fishermen, or fly fishermen.” Ample bass and drive to the Monongahela National Forest— muskellunge also call the rivers and streams minutes away—and explore the entire forest. of the region home, so a line and a lure can You can look at a map, put your finger on a buy a fisherman many hours of leisure, not to creek, and odds are you’ll find native brook mention a bit of excitement, and, possibly, a tasty trout in there.” dinner—if you can decide which of the many The Elkins area is also a prime location for streams to fish. a new, extreme version of fly-fishing—with “I can wake up on a nice Saturday or the notoriously smart, feisty muskellunge, also head out after a workday and take my pick of known as muskies, as the target. “Muskies are locations,” says Buckhannon native and Elkins a predatory fish. You have to use larger gear
explore • elkins 2014 99
and larger flies to mimic the larger baitfish,” Jonathan says. “You can go out and catch a dozen trout in a day. You can’t do that with muskies. They’re very hard to catch—a moody fish. But there’s definitely an adrenaline rush when you see one approaching your fly. It’s a whole different ball game.” The popularity of streams near Elkins can also make for a challenge, Curtis says. “Some of our stocked trout that get pressured by anglers can be the smartest fish in the world.” Curtis calls them educated and warns fishermen visiting the area not to underestimate their wiles. “Native brook trout especially are incredible survivors and are born and breed in these pure, clear, tiny streams,” he says. These fish even become nocturnal feeders just to avoid the hook, so learning to “read the water” and anticipate the fish’s moves is key. “The best approach is to be stealthy and fish for them during low light conditions early in the morning or late in the evening. And always approach the fish from downstream, so you don’t alarm those wise ones.” Despite its seeming aura of difficulty, Curtis says fly-fishing is actually easy to learn and well worth the effort, even if it does take some finesse to perfect it. “You don’t have to be athletic or strong to be a fly fishermen. It has a lot more to do with timing, practice, and patience. You also don’t have to be an expert fly fishermen to catch fish. Even a bad cast can reward you with a fish. It is about presenting the fly in a free-flowing presentation 100 explore • elkins 2014
Curtis Fleming and Jonathan Paine weigh in on a few of their favorite West Virginia spots. Shavers Fork Stretching nearly 89 miles, this branch of the Cheat River lies east of Elkins and is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts like Curtis Fleming. In fact, Curtis claims the cold, clear waters separating Elkins from the sweeping wilderness of the Monongahela National Forest are perfect for the fisherman who likes to get off the beaten path. “You can fish the stream all the way from Snowshoe Resort downstream to below Elkins,” Curtis says. Looking for a trophy trout? Shavers Fork has excellent catch-and-release fishing areas. Looking for dinner? The same river also has “put and take” systems that let you keep your catch.
Lower Shavers Fork and Cheat River Jonathan says these areas are great for bass fishing and the occasional trout. They are also great locations for relaxing on the water in canoe or kayak. “There are a lot of streams around here that have excellent largemouth and smallmouth bass,” he says.
Slaty Fork These first few miles of the Elk River headwaters are a catch-and-release regulated wild trout fishery. It’s a great place for naturally reproducing brown, rainbow, and brook trout, but it’s also a challenge. “Often the water is very clear, and the trout are very, very wary up there. Their instinct—when they sense a fisherman is around—is to hide,” Jonathan says.
Seneca Creek This small stream portion of the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac is located in the Monongahela National Forest east of Elkins. It is managed as a wild trout stream and maintains both brook trout and wild rainbow trout.
Tygart Valley River Approximately 135 miles long, this tributary of the Monongahela River winds through the town of Elkins and offers good smallmouth bass and muskie fishing. Upstream you may find the occasional trout.
Elk River Some angling enthusiasts may not realize the Elk River is just over the mountain from Elkins, offering all species of trout fishing and catch-and-release sections as well as a unique, nearly year-round fly hatch season. “The Elk River is a true fly-fishing experience,” Jonathan says. “It gives you an opportunity to match the hatch on educated trout.”
The area surrounding Elkins offers some of the best fishing in the country.
Common Fish Species in the Elkins Region Largemouth bass: Known for voracious appetites and determined battles, these fish lurk around weed beds in many of the state’s waterways. Anglers may keep six fish daily.
Muskellunge: Also known as “The Fish of 10,000 Casts,” this famously elusive fish can grow to monstrous proportions—often exceeding 40 pounds. Big fish like big meals, so tie on the largest spinner or crankbait. Limit is two per day.
Smallmouth bass: Prone to acrobatic leaps when hooked, catching even a small one is a thrill. They can be found on rocky shelves or shoals. Daily limit is six fish.
Trout: Whether it is a brook trout, to the fish, hoping to imitate that bug and fool the fish into taking your artificial fly.” So what’s the secret to the Elkins area’s incredible fishing opportunities? What makes this region a haven for all types of angling enthusiasts? Just hike out to the Elk River certain times of the year and you’ll see. “In late May or early June, you can drive along the Elk River and you’ll see fly fisherman everywhere—especially in the evening. That’s when they’re anticipating the Sulphur mayfly spinner fall,” Jonathan says. This healthy insect population is one reason the area is such a draw for fly fishermen. “The mountain streams are free flowing and rich with aquatic bug life. They’re an entomologist’s dream,” Curtis says.
Mayflies, stoneflies, and caddis flies are abundant around the area’s many cold water streams, and at certain times of the year the air is so thick with them even seasoned fishermen just have to take a moment and watch this million-year-old dance of life and death in awe. “A mayfly usually lives for one day, basically just long enough to reproduce,” Jonathan says. “In the evenings on the river, after the insects are done mating, the females lay their eggs and the males spin down to the surface of the water and die. The fish, of course, are looking to the surface, waiting for an easy meal. That’s when the fly-fishing is at its best. The fish are feeding at the surface and rising. It’s really something to sit back and watch.”
brown trout, or rainbow trout, these beautifully colored fish are even more breathtaking than the clear, pristine mountain streams they live in. And West Virginia is known for its gold medal trout streams. If you’re lucky, you might catch a rare golden trout, unique to West Virginia. Bring your fly gear or just try good old-fashioned worms. Limit is six per day.
Other species found around West Virginia include catfish, northern pike, sunfish, sauger, sturgeon, striped bass, and yellow perch. Check special regulations for each waterway you fish. Find detailed information at wvdnr.gov/ fishing/regs12/regs_specialareas.pdf. explore • elkins 2014 101
Outdoor Recreation Around Elkins
Adventure in the Monongahela National Forest
elcome to the Monongahela National Forest—a highland paradise with all the natural beauty West Virginia has to offer. Here, visitors will find the highest mountain peaks in the state, peaceful streams teeming with fish, winding wildlife trails, and a wealth of biodiversity. With its headquarters in Elkins, the Monongahela National Forest is an easy day jaunt or weekend adventure, and visitors will find plenty of opportunity to enjoy nature at its finest.
Hiking and Backpacking The national forest has more than 800 miles of trails with nearly 20 designated hiking trails at Spruce Knob alone. Follow mountain ridge trails through hardwood forests, pass streams with beavers building their homes, pick berries from wild blueberry bushes for a tart snack, rest your legs at a scenic overlook, and watch hawks soar above your head. Trail maps and information are available at any of the nine ranger stations in the forest and can be downloaded online before your trip. More information about these areas is available at the Cheat, Potomac, and Greenbrier Ranger District offices. wvhighlands.org
Biking Go where motor vehicles can’t. Bikes are permitted in many areas of the forest, behind gates and on mountain trails. Most trails have been constructed with hiking in mind, so bikers are asked to yield to hikers and be aware of trail damage caused by tires. Some of the forest’s better biking can be found in Canaan and the Backbone Mountain area near Davis and Thomas. The Allegheny Highlands Trail is a rail-trail project that runs between Elkins and Thomas with 102 explore • elkins 2014
25 miles of trails perfect for biking enthusiasts. Information about the Highlands Trail can be found at the Randolph County Convention & Visitors Bureau in Elkins.
Nature Viewing The national forest has an abundance of flora, fauna, and vistas for nature lovers to see. Bird watchers will love the more than 200 known bird species inhabiting the forest. The forest is also home to federally protected species, including birds, bats, and flying squirrels. Visitors can check out the sights at multiple overlooks, picnic areas, trails, or dedicated nature centers. Try Red Creek Campground, Dolly Sods picnic area, Seneca Rocks Discovery Center, or Spruce Knob Observation Tower and picnic area. All are in the Potomac Ranger District. Wherever you go, remember to treat wildlife with respect.
Cool Off Spend a warm summer day cooling off in one of many rivers around the area. At Smoke Hole Canyon, east of Spruce Knob and Seneca Rocks, the South Branch of the Potomac has carved a 20-mile canyon with half-mile-deep vertical walls. Fishing, hunting, hiking, and camping are available in the area, permit and weather permitting, but kayaking and white water canoeing are the best way to see the views. At Spruce Knob Lake, visitors can boat and fish for trout in non-motorized boats. Both are located in the Potomac Ranger District.
Scenic Drives A drive in much of West Virginia is a scenic rollercoaster ride along roads clinging to
The area is known for its diverse flora and plethora of outdoor activities
like fishing and camping. It is a favorite destination for autumn drives.
mountains with swaths of colorful trees. U.S. Route 219 has particularly nice views, and just a few hours south of Elkins it connects to a designated National Scenic Byway, the Highland Scenic Highway. Forty-plus miles of scenic highway extends along the Allegheny Highlands and Plateau, rising 2,000 feet in elevation. The highway creates a colorful corridor through the Monongahela National Forest and has four designated scenic overlooks. The area is most beautiful in autumn when the tree canopy bursts with fall colors. Comprised of state routes 39 and 150 with speed limits from 45 to 55 miles per hour, the scenic highway’s lazy drive is perfect for sightseeing.
REBECCA DEVONO PHOTOGRAPHY
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are a great way to view the forest at its wintry best, and Elkins has plenty of comfortable lodging and dining options for before and after any treks through the forest. Because road conditions might make access to scenic areas a little difficult in winter, visitors are advised to call ranger stations to check accessibility and weather conditions. We suggest visits to Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls.
Campgrounds Visitors are allowed to camp anywhere in the national forest unless posted otherwise. All campers are reminded to put out fires and take all trash and equipment from the forest when leaving. 877.444.6777, recreation.gov
National Forest Ranger Stations and Information Centers Randolph County Convention and Visitors Bureau 1302 North Randolph Avenue, 800.422.3304 Monongahela National Forest Headquarters One block east of U.S. Route 219 at the Iron Horse statue in downtown Elkins. 200 Sycamore Street, 304.636.1800 Potomac Ranger District 2 miles south of Petersburg off Route 28/55. 304.257.4488 • Big Bend Campground • Dolly Sods Picnic Area • Red Creek Campground • Seneca Rocks Discovery Center • Seneca Shadows Campground • Spruce Knob Lake Campground • Spruce Knob and Spruce Knob Observation Tower • Jess Judy Group Campground Cheat Ranger District On U.S. Route 219, just east of Parsons. 304.478.3251 • Bear Heaven Campground • Horseshoe Recreation and Campground • Stuart Day Use Area and Campground Greenbrier Ranger District On Route 92/250, just east of Bartow. 304.456.3335 • Greenbrier Ranger District • Island Campground • Laurel Fork Campground Information boards are also posted throughout the park at campgrounds and trailheads.
explore • elkins 2014 103
A Playground for Adults In Elkins, retirement is more than just quitting your day job. It’s being where you want to be.
lready an established tourism destination in the state, Elkins is used to a weekend influx of adventure-seekers. Now a different population is coming to town, adventure-seekers of a different sort, looking for a break from careers but not from the good life. With an active senior center, increased public transit, the arts, opportunities for volunteering, and plenty of outdoor activities, Elkins is fast becoming a playground for older adults—and they’re taking notice. The senior population in Elkins will more than double between 2000 and 2035, 104 explore • elkins 2014
though overall population numbers will remain steady, and the city is readying itself, says Laura Ward, director of the Randolph County Senior Center. “In Elkins we have the YMCA, we have senior health and fitness programs, a lot of veteran organizations, volunteer opportunities, and classes in the Randolph County Community Arts Center,” she says. “What’s cool about Elkins is these agencies aren’t in competition with each other. We’re all working toward the same thing for the same folks.” Walking into the local senior center on any given day, visitors might see
weavers working on looms, adults taking food canning, knitting, and crocheting classes, or others just sitting down with friends for the daily lunch. There are opportunities for very active seniors and the homebound, including exercise and tai chi classes, pool tables and card tables for poker, bridge, and even mahjongg—a popular but complex Chinese board game. And that’s just inside the center. “It’s amazing what you can do within the state on a day trip,” Laura says. She’s referring to the center’s multiple small bus trips to places like Moundsville and White Sulphur Springs. Longer trips take seniors all the way to places like Alaska, Pasadena, and even over the Atlantic to Britain and Ireland. Along with activities at the senior center, the city’s health amenities are expanding, as are its public transit and highways. When visitors come to Elkins for the first time, many can’t help but want to stay, says Elkins Mayor Van Broughton. “We’re a hidden gem. We’re a treasure. People want to retire here, no matter where they have lived,” he says. “They might drive through for a trip or vacation and find that they like Elkins well enough to stay.” The mayor sees those retirees coming in to Elkins to create new lives as a boon for the town. “They have learned skills and talents and once they retire here they do use them,” he says. “For a city it’s great to have that experience come in.” Vera Klug is one such transplant retiree. She spent more than 30 years visiting friends in Elkins before deciding to move to Elkins from Maryland. Vera has now lived in Elkins just over two years and wishes she’d made the move much earlier. “I wish we’d raised our children here. Failing that, I’m very happy to be retired here,” she says. Vera has become an active Elkins resident, joining a local women’s club while her husband has joined the Lions Club. “While donating your time, talent, or money is always a good thing, belonging to a service club in a small town is especially rewarding because you can often see the results of your efforts,” Vera says. In addition to her work at the women’s club, Vera
says she’s been enjoying the four seasons in Elkins—even winter—by camping, strolling around town, and taking classes at the senior center and Randolph County Community Arts Center (RCCAC), places where older adults are vital volunteers. The RCCAC is a nonprofit organization promoting arts in the greater Randolph County area and its older-adult volunteer base is growing, according to Kurt Barkley, RCCAC executive director. Retirees who have discovered the vibrant arts scene in Elkins after moving to town assist in everything from stuffing envelopes to teaching classes and hanging art exhibits to providing refreshments during events. “A significant portion of our volunteers are older adults and there is no way, given the amount of programming we offer, we could do this without them. They’re energetic and knowledgeable. It’s an exciting environment for them to participate in,” Kurt says. In addition to the volunteer programs at the community arts center, seniors regularly
attend community events and participate in music and arts classes focusing on traditional and contemporary arts. Sharon Teeter recognized the opportunities in Elkins and, though of age for her own retirement, chose the city to start another career creating an active adult community. She built Colonial Estates, a residential development on Magnolia Lane in Elkins that focuses solely on the needs of older adults. Sharon has more than 30 years of experience working with older adults as a registered nurse and having once owned another senior living community in Florida. She and her husband, Lloyd, purchased 90-plus acres for Colonial Estates in 2009 and finished construction in 2010 on the first home. Now the community has grown to six homes, five of which are purchased, and interest continues to pour in from as far away as California. “Elkins offers a lot of area attractions, sports and recreation, arts and entertainment, fairs, festivals, and health care, and it needed an age-restricted
L ive Comfortably
Custom-built homes in a gated Active Adult Living Community. Starting price $220,000 and up depending on upgrades. Colonial Estates offers maintenance-free exteriors, excellence in interior finishes and appliances, flexible designs and a variety of customizations according to your specifications. The construction of these single level homes will incorporate many of the environmental standards found in green homes, such as the latest in insulation, energy-saving windows and doors, energy efficient appliances, water, and heating systems. Common areas include a Club House, (and in the near future) a walking trail and a life wellness trail, as well as an area for community vegetable and flower gardens.
community due to the number of retirees and boomers moving back to this area,” Sharon says. “Elkins is fast becoming a city others envy, drawing visitors from all over the country who savor a taste of the good life in this town,” she says. “Tourism is a big part of the lifestyle here—theaters, train rides, outdoor sports, and activities.” One of the biggest area attractions is the peaceful community in Elkins and nearly limitless outdoor opportunities. “Our baby boomers are more active. They’ve taken better care of themselves so they like the outdoor activities, hiking, biking, camping, skiing, and everything that’s offered here.” Within her living community, Sharon says her residents are taking full advantage of the opportunities, from volunteering at Davis & Elkins College to traveling around Elkins on a bicycle. “Elkins is a place where dreams can meet reality,” Sharon says. “People always thought that one day they’d leave the city, and here they can realize that.”
olonial CE states
For more information on our custom-built homes visit colonialestateswv.com. Or call 877.636.4555.
60 Magnolia Lane | Elkins, WV 26241 | 304.636.4555 | 877.636.4555 | firstname.lastname@example.org | colonialestateswv.com explore • elkins 2014 105
Winter Fun Winter activities abound in and around Elkins.
ith elevations reaching more than 4,000 feet, majestic sloping terrain, and an abundance of snow, the Mountain State turns everyone into a mountaineer when the flakes start to fall. Even if you donâ€™t relish the thought of hurling yourself downhill on two thin pieces of wood, you can still enjoy a memorable winter getaway. West Virginiaâ€™s ski resorts have evolved into destinations that cater to everyone with an abundance of off-slope activities. And the best part is that Elkins is perfectly situated as a base for all of your wintertime fun.
Canaan Valley Resort State Park Canaan Valley Resort in Davis has been called one of “50 Great Places to Stay” by Washingtonian Magazine, and all you have to do is check in to see why. The new, state-of-the-art lodge boasts facilities to rival the best state parks and was a $39 million project. You can spend the night in a room with a view—and a balcony—but we expect most of your day will be spent outside adventuring in the 6,000-plus acre park. The resort offers more than 40 trails for every level of skier or snowboarder and a summit elevation of 4,280 feet. Canaan Valley Resort also offers activities like crosscountry skiing, snowshoeing, or even snowtubing in its new tubing park. The tube park for ages 4 and up offers eight lanes, and a magic carpet will whisk you back to the top to zip down again. The whole family will love the warming hut—complete with fireplace—with its concessions, restrooms, and outdoor fire ring. If you have a knack for grace, grab a pair of skates and take part in one of the most popular wintertime sports at Canaan Valley Resort. A covered, outdoor ice-skating rink overlooking the Allegheny Mountains is the pictureperfect place to master salchows, spins, and figure eights. Afterward, catch your breath at the outdoor fireplace and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. Did you know Canaan has sleigh rides? We can’t think of a better way to get in the holiday spirit than to board horse-drawn sleigh. Reservations are recommended, and availability depends on snowfall. Canaan Valley Resort also offers cabins and cottages with pet-friendly options. 230 Main Lodge Road, Davis, 800.622.4121, 304.866.4121, canaanresort.com explore • elkins 2014 107
Snowshoe Mountain Resort offers a wide range of accommodations.
Snowshoe Mountain Resort Snowshoe is one of the Southeast’s premier winter destinations—a wintertime Disneyland. The resort sits like a Swiss Village at the top of Snowshoe Mountain off of U.S. Route 219, and on clear, crisp days the views are breathtaking. Upscale lodges, restaurants, and shops line the wide cobblestone and bricked walkways that 108 explore • elkins 2014
make up the village, giving it a quaint and pedestrian-friendly atmosphere. An average of 180 inches of snow falls in the Snowshoe area, home to more than 250 acres of skiable terrain, nearly 60 trails, and some of the best snow around, all accessible from 14 ski lifts. Seasoned ski and snowboard pros flock to the western territory of the resort, including the legendary Cupp Run and Shay’s Revenge. Beginners will be glad to find suitable terrain for unsteady legs in the
northern tract, which includes learner trails like Yew Pine, Gangway, and Log Slide. Although ski aficionados come for the powder, non-skiers are equally entertained. Nature lovers prize West Virginia’s huge tracts of undeveloped land, scenic rivers, frozen lakes, and seemingly endless woods. Add reliable deep snow, miles of groomed trails with easy access, and you’ve got the perfect snowmobiling destination. Guided snowmobile tours loop and wind through spectacular scenery. For a behind-the-scenes look at ski resorts, take a picturesque snowcat tour. A snowcat is a large tracked vehicle with an enclosed heated cab that grooms the snow. You sit up high, protected from winds, as your tour takes you down the slopes to Shavers Lake with a brief stop at the Compressor House, where a veteran snowmaker will share with you the magic of snowmaking. Kids can search for the legendary Sasquatch, who reportedly makes his winter home at Snowshoe, on their very own tour. If you want to enjoy the wild and wonderful winter landscape without the fear of breaking bones, simply strap on snowshoes and enjoy an afternoon excursion through rugged backcountry on 27 miles of marked trails. Follow the trail that leads you to Shavers Lake or the Sunrise Backcountry Hut where you can reward yourself with a cup of hot chocolate. Tired and just need to relax? You’ll love the Spa at Snowshoe. End a long day with a hot stone massage, hydrating body wrap, or simply get pampered with a pedicure. 10 Snowshoe Drive, Snowshoe, 877.441.4386, snowshoemtn.com
Cross-country sports may not have the glamour of their downhill cousins, but cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are two of the best ways to experience the beauty of West Virginia. If you’re looking for a truly unique crosscountry experience, check out White Grass Ski Touring Center in the Cabin Mountain range of the High Alleghenies. Less than five miles from Canaan Valley Resort, this locally owned and operated cross-country ski touring center offers acres of trails, ski rentals, classes, a backcountry ski specialty shop, and a down-home café serving all-natural lunches and dinners by reservation throughout the winter. Take in the beauty of the Dolly Sods Wilderness as you trek across the backcountry Beginners won’t feel left out here with and don’t forget Fido. Dogs are welcome in the smooth and easy Salamander Run, the many areas at White Grass. Cross-country resort’s claim to fame. It’s two miles long—the novices never fear—White Grass’s ski school longest trail in the Mid-Atlantic region with is fun and exciting. Learn everything from unbeatable views. Timberline also boasts one of skating to telemark skiing, or sign up for the best ski schools in the area, so grab a pair of a guided high country tour complete with skis or a board and don’t be afraid to test your instructions and local lore. 643 Weiss Knob mettle. 254 Four Seasons Drive, Davis, 800. Road, Davis, 304.866.4114, whitegrass.com SNOWING, timberlineresort.com
Timberline Four Seasons Resort Timberline’s 36 groomed slopes and trails, about a 10-minute drive from Canaan Valley Resort, get more than 200 inches of snow each year and attract some of the area’s most experienced athletes. Snowboarders and skiers can enjoy two terrain parks with plenty of jumps amd rails, while skiers can also do the advanced glade or tree skiing (not for the faint of heart). 110 explore • elkins 2014
HEIDI SOLOMON, AMBERLEE CHRISTEY PHOTOGRAPHY
White Grass Ski Touring Center
DISCOVER THE NEW CANAAN! Rediscover Canaan Resort and enjoy new facilities along with a variety of activities for families and groups of all ages and sizes!
• 160 New Lodge Rooms & Fireplace Suites • Remodeled Main Lodge • On-site Dining • Indoor/Outdoor Pools • Conference & Banquet Services • Cabin/Cottage Rentals • Campground • Affordable Destination Weddings • Family Reunions & Gatherings
ON-SITE ACTIVITIES INCLUDE: • NEW Sporting Clay Target Range • 18-Hole Championship Golf • Turtle Slide Mountain Tubing Ride • Hiking & Biking Trails • Seasonal Events • Geocaching • Scenic Chairlift Rides • Downhill & XC Skiing • 43 Slopes & Trails • 850’ Vertical Drop • Snow Tubing Park • And More!
Visit us online for more details!
800.622.4121 • CanaanResort.com
Mountain Mecca photographed by
Elkins is renowned for its unparalleled scenic beauty and its proximity to a wide range of outdoor recreation and arts and culture. The view from The Forks Restaurant & Inn only enhances the culinary experience.
112 explore â€˘ elkins 2014
COUINilliY liOADS WITHOUT EVER LEAVING HOME
In Elkins, WV, music &laughter can be found nightly at the American Mountain Theater, West Virginia's award-winning music &comedy variety show. The incredible musical talent of the Due Time Band plus gut-busting laughs during hilarious comedy routines will delight audiences of all ages and have you smiling and singing for days.