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.
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.