I remember one time, when I was about 11 years old, in a winter when snow had consistently been covering the ground for days, and during the evening, a crisp and thick dusting of fresh snow fell late in the evening covering the world again in white.
About the time â€œpreparation for bed timeâ€ usually began, my mother asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. Perhaps I remember so well because I didnâ€™t understand then the reason for this interruption in our routine.
But, once properly bundled and venturing outside, I noticed that the dusting of new snow that had fallen was the chrystalline type of snow that sparkled in the light, and because of the weather, no footprints or car tracks had yet marred the blanket of sparkling crystals that had covered our suburbian neighborhood.
Each step caused the brilliance reflected from the street lights to shine and sparkle in other directions, the night so clear and quiet that made it seem that the whole world was frozen in a diamond-faceted encasing – like the stars from the sky had, for a moment, mirrors on the ground.
As a young child, I realized then, that the rarely seen shimmering of this special snow was the reason for the change in our routine. This rarely seen beauty was important, and it was important to take time out to witness and appreciate it. The experience made such an impression that I remember it vividly — over 30 years later.
It doesnâ€™t seem like snow stays on the ground as long as it used to. I donâ€™t recall many times since when the world sparkled as it did that night. In fact, I remember the winters of my youth as mostly white and clean. But, since I moved away from the world of paved driveways, roads and sidewalks, these seemingly milder winters now seem to be The Seasons of Mud.
I hate mud.
For my birthday, Frank wanted to do something special. Go somewhere we’ve never been – to let loose around people we don’t know or see on a regular basis.
There was one problem though. My tires didn’t come in on time, and the weather was a bit wet for bald front tires. So, he limited the driving distance to the closest counties – but still I got to choose.
After some thought, I said, “I want to hit the seconds room at Everything Fiesta, eat at the Flatwoods truck stop, and go to Pete’s Bait Ranch.”
“Ohhh-kay,” he said.
I fear he was expecting something else – something that required perhaps, me wearing a skirt.
Seem like an odd answer to you as well? Let me explain.
Each month, on delivery, Frank and I visit over 500 stores, restaurants, bars, libraries, senior centers, etc. to drop off Two-Lane Livin’.
Sometimes we eat when/where we can, find places we’d like to revisit when there’s more time, and sometimes, there’s just a place that makes you curious.
See, I’ve never been in Everything Fiesta. The price tags on the items in the window displays were enough to tell me there was no need to enter. But I didn’t know about the seconds room until about a month ago. So, I wanted to go and check it out.
We did – and spent $30 on three pieces – a candy dish, a casserole dish, and a serving tray. So what if there’s a small white speck in the finish? If the dish is full of candy or a casserole, you’ll never see it.
Of course, Everything Fiesta is next to the dress barn (new shirt and earrings, both on sale), which is near The Paper Factory (bookmarks on sale for stocking stuffers and Christmas Cards), which is near The Book Cellar (more stocking stuffers on sale).
I think most will agree that Outlet stores are great for shopping.
But, dinner at the truck stop?
Well, I tell ya, we’ve eaten at the truck stop before, years ago when we couldn’t sleep and decided to drive 40 minutes for breakfast at 3 a.m.
The food was excellent, the portions were HUGE, and the price was right. The service was good. The place was clean. They have wonderful steaks, and excellent Mexican. It’s rarely crowded, and there’s never any waiting line. It’s one of those places we’ve discovered that are a well-kept secret.
And, knowing we would save money on dinner, I could spend more money shopping. Fabulous!
Pete’s Bait Ranch was more of a curious sort of thing. We deliver magazines there during the day time, and their customers are big fans. Everyone was always so friendly when we popped in to drop off magazines, and the bar was huge – with a dance floor, stage, neat lighting… It’s also very clean. (We’re big on clean places, can you tell?)
Of course, during the day, there’s only a few customers, quiet, like any other home town bar. But, my curiosity was peaked. I wondered what it was like at night. Music every weekend, disco lights, etc.
So we went, and we had a wonderful, wonderful time. Pete is in his upper 70′s, and it’s a family run operation. Everyone was so nice, and I sang karaoke and people danced.
If you want a fun night out, that’s different, and won’t break the bank – do what we did. Shop where you can get great deals, eat where you can get great food, and end the evening partying with the great folks at Pete’s Bait Ranch.
You’ll be glad you did.
October 2008 – The Luxuries of Greenbrier County
Lewisburg, a quaint little town with art galleries and craft and antique shops, the bulk of Lewisburg falls within a 236-acre National Register Historic District. A walking tour takes you past many of the sites in the district-including more than 60 buildings from the 1700s and 1800s. The Old Stone Presbyterian Church displays a first edition King James Bible that was printed in 1611.
The historical cemetery tells of generations of our past. Lewisburg was the site of several Civil War battles. After the end of the war, the bodies of 95 Confederate soldiers were exhumed from the grounds of the Old Stone Church and re-interred on a hill. Now known as the Confederate Cemetery, the mass grave-in the shape of a cross-is a striking monument to the war. Andrew Lewis Park, discovered and named in the early 1750s for surveyor (and later, General) Andrew Lewis, includes the town’s original spring that supplied water to its earliest settlements.
Lewisburg is home to Carnegie Hall West Virginia, built in 1902 as a gift from Andrew Carnegie, a captain of industry of 19th century America. Today, Carnegie Hall is a non-profit performing arts center offering live performances, education and changing art exhibits throughout the year. Lewisburg also is home to the Greenbrier Valley Theatre, The Barrack Museum and North House Museum, and is a shopper’s delight, filled with specialty shops and galleries.
The world-renowned Greenbrier Resort is just seven miles down the road at White Sulphur Springs. The posh facility has a AAA Five Diamond rating, and covers 6,500 acres of scenic land, including a 40,000 square foot spa, mineral springs, three championship golf courses, pools, tennis courts, riding and hiking trails and a gun club. As a National Historic landmark, The Greenbrier’s classic architecture, interior design, sculpted landscape, impeccable service and outstanding amenities have hosted distinguished guests from around the world since 1778.
The resort has an unusual sightseeing attraction: an underground bunker system built to protect members of the U.S. Congress from nuclear attack. The US Government Relocation Facility was a secret from 1958 until 1992. Tours are available. During recent renovations at the resort and in the bunker, five meeting rooms were added to the bunker. The rooms, Knowland, Johnson, Rayburn, Stewart and Martin, were named for the leaders of the House and Senate and the Architect of the Capitol when the project began in 1956. In addition, the resort added an exhibition gallery. This area features artifacts and reproductions representing the security and communications area, dormitories, VIP lounges and medical clinic, as well as numerous photos of the facility, a video on the history of the Cold War and other materials relevant to the bunker.
Another feature of history, Oakhurst Links, is the oldest organized golf club in the United States. Established in White Sulphur Springs in 1884, green fees still include replica equipment like hickory golf clubs and guttapercha balls. Sheep roam the course today, as they have throughout the club’s history. While in town, visitors can also stop by the National Fish Hatchery and the Monongahela Forest Information Center.
Greenbrier State Forest, in Caldwell, covers 5100 acres of Kate’s Mountain, which peaks at 3,280 feet. The park features nine hiking trails, game courts, log pavilions and, in summer, a heated pool. Thirteen cabins are available for rent. The campground features sixteen campsites, all with electric hookup, picnic table and stone fire pit with a grill. The forest of Kate’s Mountain is a bountiful spring display ground of West Virginia plants and wildflowers, both common and rare. Kate’s Mountain’s box huckleberry, for example, is said to be at least 6,000 years old; the oldest living being in the world. In late April, wildflower enthusiasts, naturalists, and hikers gather in the park to search the forest and identify as many species as possible. Watoga State Park is about 30 miles from White Sulphur Springs. It has the Greenbrier River as part of its boundary and is the state’s largest park.
For more on Greenbrier County, visit www.greenbrierwv.com.
He sat, all afternoon and evening, into the dark, alone by a campfire, next to his pop-up camper. His son pulled and parked the camper for him, for he lost eyesight in one eye due to a recent stroke, and couldnâ€™t back well any more.
Each night, as quiet fell upon the campground, he remained still and silent, leaned forward in his lawn chair, elbows on his knees, hands clasped in the fireâ€™s warmth.
His wife was gone, 23 years now. He was accustomed to living alone, indoors or outdoors.
On the third night, after seeing the dome light on in his vehicle from our camp across the road, I felt a need to interrupt his posing.
â€œSir? Did you know your dome light is on in your vehicle?â€
â€œNo, I did not,â€ he replied, â€œThank-you.â€
And I returned to the flickering light of my campfire, and he returned, after attending to his car, to his.
In the morning, as a gesture of thanks, he brought us kindling to light our morning-coffee campfire.
He had peaked our curiosity — this old man, alone and quiet in the night. We had to ask, â€œAre you alone here?â€
With stuttering spaces filled with spelled-out words his mouth would no longer say, he summed up his story for us, and then gave a matter-of-fact shrug.
â€œI just like to get outside.â€
I hope, when we are his age and condition, shall we all.
Cedar Creek State Park is obviously popular for camping, swimming, and gathering. However, not many realize they can really “get away from it all” by hiking along the seven established trails which wind through the park.
Three of the trails offer casual, relaxed paths through shaded, manicured grounds while the other four offer a challenge not many will accept. All of them are worth exploring.
This 1 ½ mile trail begins at the Park’s Athletic Field and meanders along Cedar Creek to the park boundary. Mostly level, the trail wanders along sunny banks, then meanders through the tall shaded grasses by the creek.
Many fishermen use this scenic trail for access to their favorite fishing spot. Travelers along this path could see blue or green heron in addition to riparian zone plants and wildflowers. This trail is a one hour casual stroll.
Park View Trail
This rugged 1 ¾ mile trail begins along the main road to the park, near the bridge at the park entrance over Cedar Creek, then climbs the point and follows the ridge above the road.
The clearly marked path provides a shaded aerobic workout at the beginning climbing up to take in the views, followed by a casual down hill trek to the ponds.
Rewards include scenic views of the park and surrounding forested areas. Wild columbine often bloom along this path, which is a 2 ¼ hour aerobic workout.
A project of the Nightingale 4-H Club, this ½ mile trail is laid out above the park picnic area. This trail is a wonderful location for a relaxing afternoon snack and short walk in the shade.
Mostly level, this path is perfect for exercising seniors or for introducing young children to nature. Wild violets and wild geranium grow along the path, as well as other wildflowers. It’s a nice ¾ hour casual stroll.
Grassy Ridge Trail
Grassy Ridge Trail is a favorite 1/4 mile shortcut from the park swimming pool area to the Grass Ridge Picnic Area.
Shaded, and simple, this path provides a wooded connection between private, family picnics and swimming fun. Also nearby is the playground, the one-room school house and memorial and the Country Store. This short trail takes about 10 minutes.
Stone Trough Trail
Those truly looking for a hiking adventure will enjoy this path which has the additional challenges brought on by the damage created by the 2003 ice storm. The trail has not yet completely recovered.
This 2 ¼ mile loop begins at the campground and runs up Long Lick Run then climbs a ridge. There, it passes a stone watering trough, hand-carved from solid rock and believed to be over 100 years old – but only the most dedicated hiker may find it. This is a two hour challenge.
Two Run Trail
The longest of the trails, this 2 ½ mile trail goes up Two Run to its source, then follows a series of abandoned logging roads and animal trails. The challenging path weaves through sun and shade.
This adventurous challenge varies from a wide clear road to narrow uphill climbs. Hikers can continue along Stone Trough Trail to return to the campground. It takes about three hours to tackle this trail.
North Boundary Trail
An extension of Two Run Trail, the one mile North Trail winds over interesting shale barrens to an area of large timber. Red Trillium grows along the Grassy Ridge Trail, among other wildflowers.
Alone, this trail provides an aerobic workout, but combine it with the Two Run Trail, it becomes a day’s adventure! The up and downhill trek meanders though both sunny and shaded regions. This is a nice one hour workout.