Wandering through West Virginia

by jdroth on 19 August 2015 · 3 comments

Between southern Ohio and northern Ohio, Kim and I found the time to spend a couple of nights in wonderful West Virginia. Seriously, this state is gorgeous. It’s easy to see why John Denver called it “almost heaven”. At the start of this trip, we were blown away by the beauty of Arizona. Since then, we’ve waited for other states to wow us. Colorado has come close, and Montana, but the first place to really amaze us is West Virginia.

We’ve both noticed that there are often obvious differences when you cross the border from one state to another. Not just cultural differences, and not just crossing natural boundaries like mountains and rivers, but actual geological differences.

For instance, when you cross the border form Ohio to West Virginia, you move from (generally) flat farmland with scattered woodlands to rolling hills (and mountains!) with trees everywhere. West Virginia is a state that would not be out of place physically in the western U.S. And here it is on the edge of the Midwest.

West Virginia is beautiful
The lovely misty mountains of West Virginia…

Anyhow, after exploring southern Ohio, we crossed the border to WV before heading north. (When we told people we intended to visit West Virginia between Cincinnati and Cleveland, they gave us funny looks. But no really, it makes sense on the map. Take a look.)

We wandered past the state capitol (Charleston, where the capitol building has a bright gold dome) and into coal country before we found a camp site in a remote state park. We parked the RV and went down to the river to see what there was to see. What there was to see was four drunk locals who were excited to see a couple from “Ore-ee-gone”. They seemed to be sincerely impressed by our travels, and were eager to offer suggestions about what to see in their state.

Note: That night, we missed some excitement. Apparently somebody — and we think it was one of these guys — hopped into somebody else’s Geo Tracker and drove it into the river, which brought out all of the local police.

Our campsite
Our campsite in West Virginia…

As lovely as West Virginia was, we spent just one full day in the state. (We intend to hit the east side when we come down the coast in the fall.) In that day, we visited two popular attractions.

First, we toured the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. This used to be an operational coal mine but is now a tourist attraction meant to show the importance of the coal industry to the state. It’s pretty cool. As the Arizona copper mine earlier in the trip, we rode railcars into the side of the mountain to view staged exhibits meant to demonstrate what the work was like.

A two-ton coal car

Even more fun were the authentic buildings around the site, which allowed us to see what it might have been like to live in a company town. Kim and I both agreed the coal miners’ family home was the perfect size (maybe 700 square feet). After living in an RV for five months, we have a different perspective on how much space people “need” in order to live comfortably.

Our second stop was the bridge over the New River Gorge. This bridge, completed in 1977, reduced a 40-minute trip to less than a minute. But I think it remains a tourist draw primarily because it’s beautiful.

The New River Gorge Bridge

While in West Virginia, Kim and I were treated to our first rain storm since…Montana? We had a thunderstorm in Indiana, but not much rain. In West Virginia, we had a day of rain. It was lovely.

After forty-eight hours in the state, we headed north to Ohio. Bur we weren’t quite done with West Virginia yet.

Just across the Ohio River, outside the town of Marietta, we set up camp in a small park (just five RV sites). From there, we drove northeast to Moundsville, West Virginia. As the name implies, the town is the site of ancient Native American burial mounds. These were cool to see, but we thought the tour of the (former) West Virginia State Penitentiary was more interesting.

The West Virginia State Penitentiary
The penitentiary building, as seen from the mound across the road…

The basketball court at the penitentiary

A cell in West Virginia State Penitentiary

Don't mess with J.D. Roth
Don’t mess with me…

We didn’t spent a lot of time in West Virginia, but what we saw was spectacular. In fact, we hope to spend more time here in October. We want to see what all of these trees look like when they turn from green to gold…

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tammy 31 August 2015 at 15:02

As a lifelong West Virginian, it is wonderful to read something positive about my home state! It is even more beautiful in October.


2 Michele 02 September 2015 at 08:02

Hope you had a great time in Ohio. There are a lot of things here to do. The lake is lovely, especially around the Sandusky Bay area.

My cousin works in the Beckley mine museum. He gives the tours.

The New River Gorge bridge is mostly known for the people who like to bungie off of it every year. The area around there is so beautiful.


3 Susanne 18 April 2016 at 11:13

Raised in WV- Come back anytime! So much more to enjoy.


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