September, 2016 – Kingsport, Tennessee

Since the trip from Virginia to Tennessee was less than 2 hours long along Interstate 81 there was not much to write about. We have traveled this road many times over the past two years as we were going back to the place our adventures started.  This time we stayed in Baileyton RV Park, just south of Kingsport, Tennessee.  It is about 7 miles from the Interstate, but since most of this was parallel to the interstate you end up only about 1.5 miles from the interstate.  Still this was far enough that you could not hear the traffic and the RV park was very nice.  It is a small campground, with only about 30 sites, but they are doing a great job in maintaining the park.  We had a pull-through site, so getting in was very easy.  While we did not have one of the sites with a concrete patio, it was still a comfortable site.  They had a very interesting amenity at this park that we have not seen before.  They have a driving range for golfers!!  Thankfully, it is directed away from the park and did not look to be heavily used.  The only problem we had was when Kal turned on the microwave to make dinner without turning off the AC.  We know that can be a mistake when on 30 amp and were reminded of this fact when the power cut out.  However, the breaker outside the RV was not tripped so Kal started checking with other campers about their power.  We seemed to be the only ones without power, so she found one of the owners.  It turns out that they have two breakers for each site, one at the site, and the other in a central location in the park.  He flipped the breaker and we had dinner.

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We were only staying here for 3 nights on our way to the Tri-Am dealership to drop off the RV for a checkup and since we had already seen all the historic sites in the area, we really didn’t have anything else to do.  So we spent the two days in the campground doing laundry, getting this blog caught up, and getting ready to be without the RV for a week.

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September 2016 – Wytheville, Virginia

Our trip from West Virginia into Virginia was largely uneventful as it was along the four lane US 19 to Interstate 77.  We generally avoid toll roads and Interstate 77 is the West Virginia Turnpike from the Virginia state line to Charleston.  However, the alternative would have been some mountain roads and without a GPS to warn us of overpasses and bridges, Kal decided to pay the tolls.  It was a good decision as it cost us $6 to take the interstate.  Kal also got the experience of pulling the RV through some long tunnels, one near the state line and another one just prior to our exit outside of Wytheville, Virginia.  Our destination for the week was Deer Trail Park and Campground, which is about 8 miles through the Jefferson National Forest to US 52.  It is a medium sized campground with a range of sites for all types of campers from large RVs to tents and cabins.  We had been told to pull into our site before coming on in to the office to check in as it would be difficult to turn the RV around.  Fortunately, we were met by one of the staff in the golf cart at the entrance as we had pulled off to the side right at the entrance.  I had recorded our site to be B3, but the sites at the entrance were all in the D range.  The guy in the golf cart also questioned B3, since it was on the backside of the campground and would not be large enough for our RV.  So he took Kal in his golf cart down to the office to figure it out and get checked in.  Thankfully, I had misunderstood as our site was D3, not B3.  D3 was a nice pull-through site right at the entrance and we were quickly situated and set up for the week.  My only complaint about the site was the entire area at the front of the campground was graveled, which means there was no grass and only a few trees.  This certainly is easier to maintain, but it makes you feel you are staying in a parking lot.  Kal had another problem with this campground.  In turns out there is no TV or phone reception AT ALL!!  Having only PBS or ABC for a week was bad enough, but no there was no TV at all.  Thankfully, they did have a good WiFi system so we had a good internet connection.  Instead of TV for the week we pulled out William’s DVDs of “How I Met Your Mother” and watched all of season 3 and part of season 4.

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We spent Tuesday doing the laundry and cleaning the RV, so there is not much else to say.  On Wednesday we decided to check out the hiking trail at the campground which led from the back of the campground up to the top of the ridge.  Expecting a steep climb, we were surprised to find it was a woods road that began by winding along a small creek.   However, it soon began to climb up to the ridge and frankly we were not sure we would make it when we came to the top.  The view from the ridge was well worth the climb and of course the hike back down to the campground was much quicker.

Wednesday evening we had visitors, Dr Richard and Donna Oderwald.  Rich was my major professor for my graduate work at Virginia Tech a LONG time ago and we have kept in touch over the years.  We have tried to hook up with them over the past couple of years when we were in the area, but without any luck until now.  Donna wanted to see our RV, so they met us at the campground where we spent a few hours catching up.  Rich took us all to dinner at a Ruby Tuesday in Wytheville before a very nice evening talking about old times and our plans for the future.  Unfortunately, the time spent with them was way too short.

Thursday we spent just relaxing at the campgrounds while I got caught up on this blog, hoping the cold front would come through and cool off the temperatures a bit.  By Friday, the temperatures were moderated a bit into the mid-80s so we decided to check out a museum we had seen signs for on the interstate.  We drove back up the interstate (and through the tunnel again) to Bland, Virginia to check out the Wolf Creek Indian Village and Museum.  This facility is being operated by the county and they have done a fantastic job with it.  The museum itself is not all that great with just a few exhibits about Native Americans in general and a few artifacts they found on the site.  The real draw is the village itself, which they are still in the process of reconstruction.  They conduct guided tours of the village and since this was the middle of the week after school had started, we had the tour guide to ourselves for a private tour!!  Along with being knowledgeable about the site and Native American culture, she was also bubbly and a lot of fun.  We managed somehow to turn this tour that is suppose to take about an hour into just under two hours and learned a lot in the process.  The history of the site is itself an interesting story.  Back when they were building Interstate 77 in the 70s they needed to reroute Wolf Creek to make room for the exit.  Local lore had it that there was an old Indian village on the creek and when the state archeologists located it, construction on the interstate was delayed for one month so they could excavate the site.  A month is not a long time for an archeological excavation, so by using the large equipment to remove the top layers and lighting the site with car headlights at night they set to work.  They found a number of burials and a total of 11 huts surrounded by a palisade.  They constructed an extensive map of the area, which they are using today to reconstruct the site.  Unfortunately, the original site is mostly covered now by rerouted Wolf Creek, so they have had to move it a few hundred yards.  They have completely reconstructed all of the huts using bamboo instead of river cane for the outside walls, a fake bark for the roof, and woven mats hung on the inside of each hut.  They use each of the huts as part of the tour highlighting different aspects of the Native American lifestyle from cooking, hunting, flint knapping, animal hide preparation, and games.  Our guide demonstrated some of the techniques they would have used and managed to produce some pretty good knapped points while we watched.  Besides using river cane as a construction material for their exterior walls, the most interesting feature of the village was the palisade.  It was built using poles spaced about a foot apart and offset from each other.  Branches and vines would then be woven between the poles to create a barrier to keep wild animals out and children in.  While not the best defensive structure it would likely serve them well back in the late 1400s when this site was occupied.  They are not sure what Native American culture is represented by this site as the burial practices are unusual for the other cultures in the area.  After our extended tour, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch in their very nice picnic area before heading back to the campground for the afternoon.

 

We spent both Saturday and Sunday relaxing at the campsite, which wasn’t all bad.  Life is good.

September, 2016 – Summersville, West Virginia

The trip south through West Virginia was surprisingly easy.  We expected twisting mountain roads, but since we were only traveling about 50 miles we expected it to take between 2 and 3 hours.  However, the trip was south on US 19, which is a four land highway that is just short of an Interstate since there was controlled access only at major towns.  Consequently, the highway took all of the work out of the trip gliding through the West Virginia mountains.  Instead of 2-3 hours, we arrived at Mountain Lake Campground at Summersville Lake in about .75 hours.  Without our GPS unit to tell us differently we had left Bulltown around 11 planning on arriving between 1 and 2 in the afternoon.  However, we pulled in just before noon.  Since check-in was suppose to be 2 in the afternoon, we could potentially be looking at a long wait before they allowed us into the site.  In fact, the guy working the registration desk made this very clear.  However, he did a quick check with his computer and determined the site was open, so we were allowed to pull in.  Mountain Lake Campground is a very large campground laid out in 4 circles spread out all over the top of the mountain.  They have a policy that guests have to wear a cheap wrist band in order to access any of their facilities and this guy made quite a point about it.  We assured him we would put on the wrist band before we accessed any of their “facilities”, which we had no plans to do.  In fact, when I returned later in the week to get a copy of their planned activities for Labor Day weekend, he just about refused to talk with me because I was not wearing my wrist band!!  I had to identify what site we were staying in, show an ID, and he had to check on the computer before he would even hand me the piece of paper.  This is by far the rudest treatment we have run into over the past two years!!  On top of all that as we circled our loop to our campsite we found that of the 50 sites in the loop only about 3 were occupied!!  He had made such a fuss about us checking in that I expected the place to be already filled for the weekend.  I will admit that the campground was PACKED for the entire weekend, but this did not begin to happen until Friday afternoon.  I should also mention that after looking at their planned activities over the weekend, we quickly decided we were not interested in participating in any of their cheesy activities that were exclusively for young children.  I will admit the campgrounds were nice with very impressive playground area in the center of the circle and the bathrooms were kept clean.  After a week of nothing but PBS, it was nice to now have ABC as well and of course internet access via our hotspot was an improvement over the past week.

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The weather forecast called for a minor front to come through on Wednesday that would cool the temperatures a bit and lower the humidity, so we decided to put off any activity for a day and spent Tuesday doing laundry and cleaning the RV.

The main reason for wanting to stay in this area are the two National Parks sites within easy driving distance.  We were camping near Summersville Lake, which empties into the Gauley River National Recreation Area, meaning we were just a few miles away.  However, upon looking at their website we realized there were no Visitor Centers at the Gauley River NRA and information could be obtained at any of the New River Gorge National River Visitor Centers.  So on Wednesday we headed south on US 19 to the Canyon Rim Visitor Center at the New River Gorge National River.  This Visitor Center is located at the longest span bridge over the New River, which is itself a sight to see as it soars more than 200 feet above the gorge in a single span.  We did get some information about the Gauley River NRA, but it turns out there is not much to do there unless you are into white water rafting.  We watched their short video about the New River, explored their few exhibits, and took a few pictures from their overlook looking up the New River Gorge.  As they day was going to get very hot again until the front came through, we wanted to get on a hiking trail as soon as possible.  We picked up an extensive “newspaper” about all the hiking trails in the 70,000 acre park and found an “easy” trail along the rim of the gorge that was close to the Visitor Center.  The Endless Wall Trail is listed as a 2.4 mile trail that can be made into a loop by following the road back to the parking lot, which would add about 0.5 mile to the trail.  Rather then doing this we hiked about 1.5 miles from one end along the rim to the overlook at Diamond Point and then turned around to return to the truck.  Except for the climb to get up on the rim from the parking lot, the trail was easy as it traveled along the rim.  There were a few locations where you could access the shear bluff overlooking the river along the trail and the views both ways at Diamond Point were worth the effort by itself.  Most of the locations where you could get a view were also access points for cliff climbers as well.

I suppose I should say a few things we learned about the history of the New River.  First the name given to the river is misleading, as the New River is one of the oldest rivers in North America.  There is evidence that it existed prior to the Appalachian Mountains were pushed up when the continent of Africa collided with North America millions of years ago.  More recently this gorge was part of the reason this area of the county was more or less bypassed by settlers looking for new land back in the late 1700s and 1800s.  It was not until a railroad was built up the gorge in 1873 that the area was opened up.  Over the eons the New River has cut through many layers of rock and exposed four coal seams of the prized bituminous or “smokeless coal”.  This was the real reason the railroad was built and for the next 60 years coal and lumber were king.  At one time this 55 mile stretch of river had over 60 mining towns pulling coal out of the seams and employed thousands of workers.  As the demand for coal waned and the railroads shifted into diesel these towns became ghost towns and today are being reclaimed by the forest.  You can still find evidence of this history, but the real draw to the gorge are the recreational opportunities of white water rafting and cliff climbing.  This was not our first trip to the New River Gorge, as Kal, William, and I made the trip one summer to spend a day on a raft.  This was quite the experience in early July of that year, as the New River was running full and the rapids were a real challenge with multiple Class V+.  It was a thrilling and tiring experience that we love to relive even today.  Especially the experience of doing a Hairy Ferry across one of the rapids in order to replace the guide for one of the other rafts, whose guide had been thrown from their raft going over the drop into the rapids.  This was the last time we did any white water rafting of any magnitude and Kal absolutely refuses to this day to experience it again!!

By the time we got back to the truck the temperature was in the low 90s and we had certainly had enough hiking for the day.  So we decided to take their driving tour that descended into the gorge along old US 19 before crossing the New River.  Whereas today you cross the gorge in less than a minute over the huge bridge, it used to take 45 minutes to an hour to descend into the gorge, cross the river, and climb back out.  Taking this road, we could certainly see why it took so long.  The road is so narrow that I have trouble imagining cars and trucks attempting to pass each other along most of the route.  Today the road is nearly all one-way for this reason.  There are a couple of switchbacks going down that are so tight that we had to back our monster truck up in order to make the turn.  You do get to pass under the huge bridge twice on the way down and they provide one pull out directly under the bridge giving you a totally different perspective.  At the bottom of the gorge they have rebuilt the bridge that crosses the New River at Fayette Station where you can park to get a view of the river from the bottom.  Fayette Station is the main pull-out point for rafts and I am convinced this is where we pulled out years ago at the end of our experience years ago.  We also met a young man pulling in a canoe with two ice chests attached to outriggers like two pontoons and asked about them.  It turns out he worked for Wingman’s Outfitters and they were doing some testing and getting movie clips of a new design they were developing to provide stability for canoes in white water.  The ice chests could either be filled with ice and drinks as you might expect or with rocks to add weight to the design.  They are convinced this will greatly improve the stability of the canoe in turbulent water and were testing it out.  We finally ate lunch at the bottom of the gorge before driving back out of the gorge along the one-way road up the west side of the river.  This road was longer, but less hazardous then the descent.

The weather front did come through overnight, so although the temperatures were still in the upper 80s the humidity was noticeably lower on Thursday.  So we decided to see what we could of Gauley River National Recreation Area.  The Gauley River is primarily for white water enthusiasts and access is limited to just a couple of spots.  The major point of interest is actually located at the Summersville Lake Dam which feeds into the Gauley River.  Along the road to the dam there is an overlook of the Lake that is incredible.  Summersville Lake is the deepest man-made lake in the US being over 200 feet in depth.  The lake extends up to the based of the sandstone bluffs that make up the gorge and consequently there is little access to the lake.  Rather you are looking out over a 40-50 feet sheer drop from the edges of the sandstone bluff!!  The dam itself is also awe inspiring.  Generally speaking I am not to interested in dams, but this dam is different.  From on top of the dam you get a good view of Summersville Lake about 20-30 feet below the dam.  However, when you look on the other side of the dam you get a good idea of the depth of the lake as it drops over 200 feet down to the Gauley River!!  The perspective is amazing.  You can also drive down to one of the very few access points for the river at the base of the dam, which we did although from this location you cannot see any of the rapids the river is known for.  We learned that the season for white water rafting the Gauley River was just about to begin as they dramatically increase the release of water from the Lake beginning on Labor Day which was just a couple of days away.  For about 5 weeks they lower the level of the lake in preparation for the winter and spring rains.  This was also the reason I found it difficult to find camping locations in the area for the weekend.

 

According to our map of the Gauley River NRA, there was also supposed to be access as the Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park, so we headed up there to check it out as well.  As it turns out, this is not an access point to the river as the actually ferry location is a couple of miles downstream from this location.  Rather this is the location at the confluence of the Gauley River and Meadows River that was the site of a Civil War skirmish.  They simply called it the Carnifex Ferry as this was the closest landmark at the time.  While West Virginia did not see any major battles during the Civil War the area was hotly contested by both sides early in the war.  In 1861, the Confederates were attempting to reestablish control of the Kanawha River Valley and the Union was attempting to drive them out of what would become West Virginia.  On September 10, 1861 Brigadier General Rosecrans led his Union troops against an entrenched position of the Confederates under Brigadier General Floyd at the Patterson Farm.  After stopping the Union forces during the afternoon, the outnumbered Confederates retreated during the night across the Gauley River at Carnifex Ferry.  It was just a minor skirmish, but still an important example of the Civil War was fought in the early years.  As it was basically a temporary position of the Confederates there is little left of the battlefield except for the Patterson home.  There are a few interpretive signs scattered about the area giving the history.  However, our main reason for visiting the site was to get a look at the Gauley River.  There is a nice wooden overlook that gives a good view of the river from the bluff, however, any view of Pillow Rapids is blocked at this location.  To see this rapid we hiked about a 0.25 mile along the rim to another overlook that was much better.  At this point we had seen about all you can see of the Gauley River unless you want to raft the river, which Kal absolutely refused to consider.  So we headed back for lunch and the afternoon at the campsite.

 

On Friday the weather had definitely cooled off with projected temperatures in the low 80s and much lower humidity, so we decided to explore more of the history of New River Gorge.  Down near the southern end of the gorge, almost to Beckley, are the remains of the railroad town, Thurmond.  While the remains of the town is only three of the original buildings along the tracks, as well as, the train station which the NPS has rebuilt, it is still an interesting place.  The “main street” of the town was the multiple railroad tracks with the buildings right up against them.  Back in the early 1900s, Thurmond was a boomtown, providing more revenue to the railroad then any other operation at the time.  Thurmond was the heartbeat for the coal industry in the gorge, providing repair and maintenance facilities and managing the VERY hectic train scheduling.   At its peak there were at least 15 passenger trains a day serving over 75,000 passengers a year as well as the massive number of coal trains every day.  The hotels, shops, and other venues were packed and busy all day long and the banks were the richest in the state.  However, the Great Depression and the decline for the demand of coal brought the slow death of the town.  Today it is just a ghost town, although the railroad tracks are still used to haul freight and passengers on Amtrak.  In fact, we saw two huge coal trains pass through Thurmond while we were visiting.  After spending some time in the rebuilt train station which is a very nice museum where they use audio recordings to describe the functions of each room, such as the telegraph office, we decided to explore a small part of the Southside Trail.  This trail is along the old railroad bed that ran up the south side of the river and consequently is nearly flat which made for a very easy hike.  Along the initial stretch leading from Thurmond you can still see the four sets of railroad tracks as this area was used to store some of the engines and cars when not in use.  We saw where one of these tracks turned to go up Arbuckle Creek to service the mines up this tributary.  The mainline, however, continues down the New River and the trail runs for 7 miles passing the sites of many of the mining towns along the river.  Of course, we had no intention to do the whole distance so when we came to the first of these mining towns about 1.5 miles downriver we turned around and headed back to Thurmond.  There was not much to see of this old mining town as all the wooden buildings were long gone leaving nothing more than a few stone foundations.  Without all the climbing we generally dealt with hiking in the mountains, this hike was very pleasant and we could have gone farther.  Luckily we returned just in time to cross back over the traintracks before another coal train came down this spur and stopped at Thurmond.  If we had been any later getting back we would have been stuck waiting for the train to leave for over half an hour.  There would have been no way to go around the train as it extended for more than a couple of miles away from Thurmond and the bridge at Thurmond over the New River made it impossible to go around the front of the train.  So we were both glad we decided to turn around when we did.  It was a very good day exploring the history of the New River Gorge.

Saturday and Sunday were Labor Day weekend and instead of trying to deal with the crowds, we just stayed in the campground and relaxed.  While we do enjoy exploring the sights and sounds of every area we have camped, we also enjoy just relaxing at the campground taking time to read and play games.

August, 2016 – Flatwoods, West Virginia

The trip to our next stop in West Virginia started out with some bad news.  One of the steps to getting the RV hooked up is for Kal to find our next stop in our GPS and she could not find it in the truck.  She had used it on Sunday, so she was sure she put it back in the truck.  We checked everywhere and finally decided it had been stolen.  We did not find anything else missing, although the backpacks in the backseat had been moved around.  We flagged down one of the COE volunteers who called his contact with the COE who was in the area and came right over.  It would appear that we were not the only ones hit, as there was some things taken from another camper nearby.  They had the thieves on camera entering the campground around 1:00 in the morning and had already reported the incident to the police.  They added our theft to the list, but there was not much chance of recovering our stolen GPS.  Of course, we could use the GPS service on our phones (which are not smart phones) and we could get routing directions on our iPad, which we did.  However, we really liked our GPS device as it was designed for RVs and big trucks keeping us off roads with overpasses that are too low or bridges that could not handle the weight.  We are certainly going to have to purchase a new GPS while at my sister’s in Tennessee that we will be visiting in a couple of weeks.  The trip itself was not too bad once we got to the interstate.  The road to the interstate, however, we had traveled multiple times during the previous week in the truck.  Now we had to pull the RV over this narrow, winding, and very steep road.  We took it very slow and made the trip without any incident and the truck seemed to work less then I would have thought.  Maybe we do have sufficient power for mountain roads.  We had one further problem on the trip and this was with the directions to the COE campground.  The directions we had off the internet for Bulltown Campground was actually to the dam on Burnsville Lake, which is a COE campground, just not the right one.  There was nobody at the entrance booth to the campground, which was for tent camping only, but there was a map of the lake.  Bulltown was on the other side of the lake and there was not a convenient way to it.  We had to drive back the 10 miles to the interstate, go south 2 more exits and then travel 10 miles back northeast from Flatwoods, West Virginia.  This was along US 19, so the road was not to bad and we found the campgrounds without further incident, although their records showed us to already be checked in!!  They were able to get that cleared up, thankfully, and we backed our RV into our new campsite.  I have to admit I am starting to get this backing in figured out finally.  The campground is one of the nicer COE campgrounds we have stayed in and this one actually had water hookups, unlike what we had to deal with the previous week.  It also had electric hookups, only 30 amps, and sewer, which is real unusual for COE.  Unfortunately, our TV reception was now limited to a single PBS channel and we had no phone service and therefore internet.  We actually enjoyed some of the historical programs on their PBS channel, however,  they started to repeat them after a couple of days…  We are finding out that poor TV reception is not good, but livable, however, no phones or internet is a real problem.  Our only option was to drive into Flatwoods everyday to check in.  Other than this drawback, this campground is real nice with adequate sites, modern bathrooms, and a nice view of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Campsite

I already knew there were no National Parks in the area, so we were limited to state parks.  However, without internet I had no way to find out what or where they were.  Therefore, we traveled to a MacDonalds in Flatwoods for breakfast Tuesday morning so we could access the internet. I found 4 state parks that sounded possible and copied down directions to them into a Word document that we transferred to the iPad.  Since we had not done laundry for almost two weeks, we headed back to the campground to do the laundry and clean the RV.  I did work on this blog as well, however, it was into a Word document that I would copy into WordPress next week when we hopefully have internet.

Wednesday was forecasted to be hot and humid again with afternoon thunderstorms, so we headed to the first State Park on my list, Holly River State Park.  This state park is the second largest in West Virginia and was created back in the 1930’s by the WPA, the precursor to the CCC.  In this program, families scratching out a subsistence living on marginal land were identified by each state in order to create parks.  These families would be offered better land and forced to move.  The WPA would then come in and build roads, trails, picnic areas, and facilities in the parks.  Once completed they were turned over to the state to be administered.  I am not convinced that dislodging families is the best approach to create a state park, but the resulting parks, such as Holly River, are a testament to the job done by the WPA.  The central building built by the WPA serves as the offices, gift shop, and a restaurant for the park and it is a beautiful stone structure.  We went into the gift shop to ask about a hiking trails map and were greeted by some very helpful volunteers.  It turns out they have the best trail guide that I have ever seen.  Not only it is a very nice colored map of the park with color coded trails, but each trail has a complete description which includes an elevation change graph that shows the steepness of the trails and where along the trail it occurs.  VERY helpful, however, it was too hot to be thinking of seriously about any serious hiking.  We choose to do 2 short trails, both 0.5 mile loop trails that were listed as easy on the map, before lunch.  The first was Nature’s Rock Garden Trail for which they had a simple brochure with information about the geology and plants at number posts along the trail.  This trail was “easy” only because of the distance, as it climb up the rocky slope before quickly descending back down.  We were rewarded with being just about the only people in the park by surprising a couple of deer that seemed quite unconcerned that we were watching them.  We literally traveled together up the small drainage going up the slope.  This trail was well marked with small triangles nailed into the trees, but not well traveled.  In fact, it took us awhile to realize we were suppose to climb up onto a large rock in order to access the bridge over the drainage!  Along with the brochure, we did get a good feeling for the terrain and ecology of West Virginia.  Our second walk, Laurel Fork Trail, was the opposite extreme of an “easy” trail. It was again a half mile loop trail, but it was paved with benches and water fountains along the way as it circled around a small island where Laurel Fork Creek splits.  In comparison, it was almost too easy.  Along the trail were also interpretive signs that gave the history of the park and the families that were displaced to build it.

We ate lunch near the gift shop at a picnic table with a nice view of the mountain stream.  After lunch we got into the truck and went to see if we could find Tenskwatawa Falls off of a county road along the south side of the park.  It was obvious to me that this county road used to be a railroad bed as it was nearly level as it wound its way along the side of the mountain.  About half of the distance was even paved, but that is where the quality of the road ended.  It was very narrow, single lane road with little room to pull over for any oncoming traffic, of which there was very little thank goodness.  There were no side rails and the drop off to the side was very steep.  Consequently the 4.5 mile drive to the falls seemed to take forever.  Once we got to the falls we found a nice parking lot and wooden steps down to the base of the falls.  I am sure these falls are more spectacular in the spring rather than late summer, however, they were still worth the trip.  Once we climbed back up the over 100 steps to the parking lot, we decided to once again descend to the stream bed to explore Shupe’s Chute.  This trail is very well maintained and not too steep as the trip to the Chute is all downhill, which means all uphill coming back.  Shupe’s Chute is certainly worth the walk as the creek is forced into a narrow chute only about 2 feet across which it races through to a small falls before widening back out.  Besides being very noisy, even in late summer, the water had bored a circular hole into the rock at the base of the small falls at the end of the chute.  By this point it was the middle of the afternoon, so we drove on back to the campground by way of Flatwoods so we could check our emails and messages.

Thursday was another hot day with storms in the afternoon so we decided to just stay in the campgrounds where I worked on the blog for part of the afternoon.  The weather on Friday was not supposed to be any cooler, but we decided to explore another of the state parks anyway and headed north to Audra State Park.  Even though the state park was less than 40 miles by road from Bulltown, the mountain roads made it nearly an hour and a half to get there.  Audra State Park is a much smaller state park then Holly River and from what we can tell there is no Visitor Center.  In fact, there is not much beyond a small campground and picnic area along the Middle Fork River.  We drove through the campground trying to find a bathroom, as the one at the picnic area was closed.  There were quite a few campers along the river, although the campgrounds are rustic and much too small for our RV.  We did find a restroom, however, and then went back to the picnic area. There is a large pool in the river that looks to get heavy use on the weekends, as there was only a few people there on a Friday.  There is also a short trail along the river that leads to Alum Cave.  This “cave” was the reason I choose to visit this park, although it is really just a large overhang where they have constructed a long boardwalk for visitors.  It took us less than an hour to walk to and through the “cave”.  So we ate lunch at the picnic area and headed back to the campgrounds for an early afternoon.

We planned on staying in the campgrounds on Saturday, which gave us the opportunity to explore their Historic Area.  As we learned from a West Virginia historic program on PBS earlier in the week, Bulltown was the site of a Civil War battle.  Frankly I was surprised to learn there was so much action in West Virginia during the Civil War since you never hear about it as there were no large battles.  However, West Virginia was the “pipeline” for the Union to supply men and supplies to the Western Theater, especially from Ohio.  While most of the battles were more in the nature of raids on these supply lines, the Confederates and Federal forces fought back and forth across the state many times.  One of these battles occurred at Bulltown on October 13, 1863.  Bulltown was a Union stockade built on top of a hill overlooking the Weston-Gauley Bridge Turnpike and the strategic bridge over the Little Kawahna River.  The skirmish only lasted 12 hours as the 700 Confederates under the command of William Jackson attempted to capture the stockade from the 400 Union forces under the command of Captain Mattingly.  They initially overran the outer trenches and rifle pits at 4:30 in the morning, but were never able to capture the fort.  They withdrew that evening as they were now low on ammunition.  This battlefield happens to be on the land owned by the COE around Burnsville Lake so they are having to maintain and preserve the site, which is unusual for COE.  There is a nice, small museum at the site run by volunteers along with the Cunningham farmhouse and two log cabins they moved before they were underwater from filling the lake.  There is not much to see of the Union fortifications, as the lower area was farmed since the Civil War and the stockade itself was wooden.  You can still make out the trenches that encircled the top of the hill and the well they used for fresh water.

Starting at 7:00 in the evening, a local fiddler and square dance group put on a small show for the campgrounds in the pavilion just down the hill from our campsite.  We went and checked it out, enjoying the music and watching them teach a small group of campers how to square dance.  I could not get Kal to volunteer during this first session, so we just watched and enjoyed.  After playing for a while longer, they again called for volunteers to learn the square dance and to my surprise Kal agreed to give it a try.  So we joined their group and leaned the different moves from their caller, who in this style actually is one of the dancers.  There was one move that seemed to confuse Kal as at the end of the move all around the group we were suppose to end up back with your partner and Kal for some reason would be out of position!  It was fun and everyone had a good time.  When they called for volunteers the third time we decided to join in again, however, this time they had a different caller.  We had trouble hearing this caller over the music and he called a number of new moves that we had not seen which created mass confusion at times.  It would seem that about half of the dancers knew what they were doing so we always had someone to tell us what was expected, however, it was still a mess until everyone got it figured out.  After this round, we had had enough so after listening to some more music and a demonstration of different clogging techniques, we headed back to our campsite as they were attempting to call once again for volunteers.  It was really fun and if you knew of the difficulty I have in getting Kal onto a dance floor, you would understand how rare and special this opportunity was for me.

Sunday was just another relaxing day in the campgrounds, except for going once again into Flatwoods to check our emails and messages.  Thankfully, there was no big news on Kal’s mother, who appears to be slowly recovering at this point.