Check our blog out for news for area visitors and travelers. We'll let you know when the fish are biting, special hikes and walks available for nature goers and special train rides...anything you want to know.
Let's Get Together
Some of you may remember the song ﾓLetﾒs Get Togetherﾔ from the 1961 Disney film, The Parent Trap. But today when I talk about ﾓLetﾒs Get Togetherﾔ, Iﾒm speaking about family reunions in Pocahontas County. Each year there are dozens and dozens of family reunions held around the county. Some are held annually, like the Hill Reunion held at Droop Mountain every August but others are held once every five years or even ten years. It seems everyone has their favorite reunion place too.
The state parks certainly hold the record for hosting the most family reunions and can you blame the strategists who set up these gatherings? What better place can you think of than Watoga State Park or Droop Battlefield State Park for lazing around with distant cousins and favorite nieces?
Somebody just reminded me about Snowshoe Mountain Resort with all their amenities and the green zebra off-road adventures, the climbing wall, Shaverﾒs Lake and beach area, and hundreds of luxurious condos perched high atop the mountain.
With so much blue sky, lush valleys, and mountain vistas to escape to, itﾒs hard to narrow down to just one location sometimes. For small reunions, thereﾒs no comparison to Mountain Quest Inn at Frost. The Inn offers individually themed rooms, an elegant common area as well as an outdoor area where you can see the mountains and enjoy the farm and its animals.
For a more rustic experience, thereﾒs the Cranberry Lodge. While it sits off the main drag, the view that comes with it is well worth the couple of extra miles. This isolated retreat generates its own electricity primarily through solar electric panels so if youﾒre green conscientious, youﾒll like that feature. For your enjoyment though it does a Satellite television and VCR and dial up phone service.
The lodge sleeps 16 but I ask you, who wants to sleep when you have a view like this right in the middle of birding country and adjacent to the largest black bear sanctuary east of the Mississippi!
The state of West Virginia has a wonderful new program called Genuine West Virginia Reunions. Just go online to their site http://wvcommerce.org/people/genuinewv/reunions/reunionapplication/default.aspx and sign up for the kit that includes 25 plastic logo bags, 25 business guides, 25 highway maps, 25 state park bookmarks, 25 post cards, 3 WV hats, 1 WV t-shirt, and other valuable information. Additional t-shirts and hats are available for purchase.
In the meantime, if you have questions about facilities to host your next family or class reunion, just call the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800.336.7009.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. The harrowing battle raged for four years, pitting brother against brother at the cost of more than 600,000 lives. Out of the war, however, there was born a new state, the only one created as a direct result of the war ﾖ West Virginia. Did you know that over time, the Civil War has been called and referred to as The Lost Cause, The Brothers' War, Mr. Lincoln's War, The Yankee Invasion, The Confederate War, The Great Rebellion, The War of Secession, The War for the Union, The War for Abolition, The Southern Rebellion, The War for Separation, The War of the Sixties, The War of the Rebellion, The War Against Slavery, The War for Nationality, The War of the Southrons, The War for States' Rights, The War for Southern Rights, The War for Southern Freedom, The War of the North and South, The Second American Revolution, The Second War for Independence, The Civil War Between the States, The War for Southern Nationality, The War of the Southern Planters, The War for Southern Independence, The War for Constitutional Liberty, The War Against Northern Aggression, The War to Suppress Yankee Arrogance and Iﾒm sure there are many more that Iﾒve missed.
As you drive about West Virginia and her neighboring states this summer youﾒll see a special marker of red, white and blueﾅthe Civil War Trail marker. The Civil War Discovery Trail links more than 1000 sites in 16 states to inspire and teach the story of the Civil War and its lingering impact on America. The Trail includes battlefields, historic homes, railroad stations, cemeteries and parks. Civil War Discovery Trail sites are specifically selected for their historic significance and educational opportunities.
The Trail is an initiative of The Civil War Trust, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Park Service, state agencies and local communities. West Virginia is a part of the Civil War Discovery Trail that also covers Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. Currently, there are over 1,000 sites in the program and more than 3,000 map guides are downloaded weekly from the programﾒs website, www.civilwartrails.org.
In Pocahontas County, five sites have been identified and now have signage. They include Camp Bartow, Camp Northwest, Huntersville, The First Campaign, The Great Raid ﾖ Overview, and Union Camp. Today itﾒs difficult for us to imagine what life then would have been like but standing and reading these thoughtful summaries of that time makes one realize the suffering, and anguish that went on during that time. In the spring of 1861, Union forces rushed into northwestern Virginia to secure the vital Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, protect important turnpikes, and support Unionists against Confederates.
From the marker at Huntersville Jail these words come ﾓThe two sides fought numerous engagements between June and December. They included Philippi (the warﾒs first land battle), Rich Mountain, Corricks Ford, Cheat Summit Fort, Carnifex Ferry, and Camp Allegheny. The many Union victories made Gen. George B. McClellanﾒs reputation and damaged that of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Leeﾗa situation reversed in 1862. Despite later Confederate raids, todayﾒs West Virginia remained largely under Federal control for the rest of the war.ﾔ
We can all learn a great deal about the battles fought on the ground that we travel every day and take for granted along the way. Rather than me telling you about each battle or encounter - how about you pack a picnic, a camera, and the kids and spend a weekend discovering some of West Virginiaﾒs history.
Preservation of Pocahontas Countyﾒs Civil War sites is accomplished largely through their remoteness. There are no vendors or consignees selling t-shirts, hard back books, or colored post cards. No over-sized American flag, no asphalt covered parking lots with cars from adjoining states. While youﾒre at any of these markers, you may very well be the only one. But then, you might have the best experience.
Camp Allegheny still contains some of the foundations where the camps were for the First Campaign. From Bartow you can still see the actual trenches where men fought and died. Many Civil War sites can be seen as you drive through Huntersville where General William W. Loringﾒs troops launched his ill-fated campaign against General Robert E. Lee. After the defeat, Huntersville was used as base camp for much of the War. The old Presbyterian Church was used as a field hospital and many of those killed either through battle action or disease are buried on a hill south of the church or in a second cemetery only a few hundred yards away.
Today there is an eerie silence in these battlefields. Can you hear whispers of battle cries, did you see something along that ridge, and could you tell you were in a hallowed place if there were no signs? Whether you visit a Civil War site that is well advertised and maintained or one that most people drive right pass without any acknowledgement, enrich your life and that of your children by visiting the battlefields that are close to you.
Who's in that cemetery?
Genealogists and family researchers have a good friend in Pocahontas County in the Genealogy Group.ﾠ Founded more than 7 years ago, the small group continues to work away at the overwhelming job of performing a physical inventory of every cemetery in the county.ﾠ At last count they had identified 330 cemeteries that they know of but are also quick to say that the public helps them new cemeteries regularly.ﾠ
The newest book the group has published is the Little Levels area and the book is chocked with over 200 pages of information taken directly from head stones in the Little Levels area.ﾠ Each book has a complete index at the back which lists last names of people plus their first names also, which makes it much easier to find kin that researchers are in search of.ﾠ A sampling of family names in the books include:ﾠ Gladwell, Dean, McNeel, Hill, Dilley, Cochran, Cutlip, Bruffey, Clark, Anderson, Kellison, Jackson, Morrison, Nottingham, Pritt, Ruckman and dozens more.ﾠ
The book also includes a listing of what certain markers on cemetery stones reveal.ﾠ For instance, did you know that on a cemetery stone the birds flying means the resurrection, oak leaves and acorns mean maturity and ripe old age, and shells stand for pilgrimage of life?
To order the Little Levels Cemetery Book, contact the Genealogy Group of Pocahontas County at 304.799.2228.ﾠ
Marlinton boasts Scenic Byway 39
West Virginia has a great scenic byways program and utilizes the program more than any other state.ﾠ Pocahontas County also uses the program.ﾠ We have more scenic byways than any other county in West Virginia: the Highland Scenic Highway (Rt. 150) - one of the first highways in the National Scenic Byways program; the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike (Rt. 250)- surveyed by Claudius Crozet, Napoleon Bonaparte's surveyor; the Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway (Rt. 39) - connects Virginia and West Virginia in the scenic byways program; the Williams River Backway; the Camp Allegheny Backway; and the Back Mountain Backway.
What do these byways mean for Pocahontas County?ﾠ Well, they mean a lot.ﾠ Visitors into our area look for scenic roads to travel.ﾠ Some visitors take scenic routes to destinations and consider "getting there" as a part of their vacation and some use our scenic roads once they are here as something else to do on their visit.ﾠ But what else does it mean for us?
Well, I think it is also very important to community pride.ﾠ We live and work in some of the most beautiful lands in the United States.ﾠ We can take pride in knowing that not only do we who live here believe that our area is beautiful, but so do those in Charleston, WV and Washington, DC who designate these roadways for their aesthetic value.
The other part of community pride in connection with the scenic byways program is the research that goes along with the designation.ﾠ The groups that work on the applications learn so much about the history and importance of the roads.ﾠ Then they share that knowledge with those who live along the roadways and we all learn more about how unique and special this area really is!
Of course, another important part of the byways program is the funding that is available for projects along the scenic byway.ﾠ There are grants available though the Division of Highways for establishments of museums; facilities for pedestrians and bicycles; safety and educational activities; acquisition of scenic easements; welcome center projects; landscaping and beautification projects; historic preservation; rehabilitation of historic transportation facilities; preservation of abandoned railway corridors; archaeological planning and research; etc.
The Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway (Rt. 39) is the newest byway for Pocahontas County.ﾠ It stretches from Interstate 81 in Lexington, VA to Rt. 19 at Summersville, WV.ﾠ This byway project has brought tourism advocates in West Virginia and Virginia together in a marketing and development project that will cross state lines.ﾠ Four groups actively participated in projects within their community - Lexington Area Tourism Bureau, Rockbridge Co., VA; Bath Co. Chamber of Commerce, Bath Co., VA; Pocahontas County CVB, Pocahontas Co., WV; Summersville CVB, Nicholas Co., WV; and Greenbrier County CVB for Greenbrier County.
Click here to go to the Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway and see a video on all the fun events and great attractions along this beautiful byway.
So as you are traveling to or around our area, take time to look and enjoy our scenic roadways. They are very important to the tourism industry and to those of us who use them.
For more information on our area contact the Pocahontas County CVB at 1-800-336-7009.
Don't tell me you just saw a Blackburnian-warbler!
The Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau has just completed a unique partnership with the Monongahela National Forest Marlinton Ranger Station.ﾠ It's exceptional because it joins together experts on the great outdoors in Pocahontas County - the CVB is a partner with the Forest Service to identify particular birds on specified trails throughout the forests.ﾠ The Forest Service staff in turn develops intricate maps of the region, with GPS coordinates, trail heads are identified and color coordinated against a topo map backdrop.ﾠ The result is something exceptional to our area.
The CVB spearheaded the project but several entities worked together to make the plan a reality.ﾠ The Pocahontas Nature Club brought their expertise by identifying migratory birds found during the nesting and brooding season in certain parts of the county.ﾠ They in turn worked with the State Ornithologist to make sure the information available to the public was accurate.ﾠ A birder doesn't want to come looking for a bird that in fact has never been identified in the region.
So far now you have two non-profit groups working with two government agencies.ﾠ Each has a designated job, each brings a special knowledge to the table and all respect what the others bring and what is expected of each individual.
The result?ﾠ An amazing experience for the devoted birder ...a bird inventory of dozens of species found over a number of years, a featured habitat review for those looking for a "life list" bird or preparing to go hiking into the region, and all coupled with gorgeously designed colored mapsﾠ which will get you there and back without a miscalculation.
The maps are fun, they're thorough, they're efficient, and they're precise.ﾠ The Birding Trails Project shows what can happen when government and non-profit put their best foot forward, when they value each others' expertise and trust the people involved.
Our sincere thanks to Patty Felton of the US Forest Service at the Marlinton Ranger Station.ﾠ We were very fortunate to have her on this project; her acumen is beyond compare. ﾠﾠSpecial thanks to Jim and Beth Bullard of the Pocahontas Nature Club who can identify a bird from yards away just by a few shrill calls.
Rob Tallman of the Division of Natural Resources and State Ornithologist - this project would never have taken off without your encouragement and your knowledge.ﾠ Thank you all for making this project a delight to work on and a notable accomplishment for all involved.
To see the work, visit us on the web at http://www.pocahontascountywv.com/birding_maps.aspx
A State Park State of Mind
Pocahontas County is blessed with an abundance of natural and scenic wonders.ﾠ No trip to the area is complete without seeing the ancient rocks of Beartown, or the 9,000 acres of the Calvin Price State Forest.ﾠ At Watoga State Park you can amble on bicycle, fish and paddle on the lake, and hike more than 30 miles of trails.ﾠ From the colorful logging days relived at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park to the clash of the blue and the gray atop mighty Droop Mountain, a sense of history is everywhere.
Our State Parks are sprawling woodlands filled with a multitude of recreational activities.ﾠ Imagine past steam trains chugging along as you pedal the 78-mile Greenbrier River Trail.ﾠ One of West Virginia's most successful rail-to-trail conversions, the Greenbrier River Trail was ranked by Backpacker Magazine as one of the top ten hiking trails in the United States.
Oldest of West Virginia's state forests, Seneca borders the beautiful Greenbrier River and is named for the Indian tribe which once roamed the area.ﾠﾠ Fish for trout, bass and bluegill in the lake or just relax and enjoy the stillness of the forest.
One of the things that set Pocahontas County apart from other destinations in the mountain state is our people.ﾠ This is particularly true when it comes to the superintendants in our state parks.ﾠ I always suggest to visitors that they plan their trip to the southern end of the county based on when they can have an opportunity to have a tour of Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park with Park Superintendant Mike Smith.ﾠ It's not only Mike's years of experience that sets him apart, it's his wholehearted sense of respect for the past, what happened at that place almost 150 years ago, and his keen dedication to pass on truths of that time period and of the land.
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park stands front and center as a visitor destination here in the county.ﾠ The Cass Trains continue to be a number one attraction in the county because it gives us a glimpse back into a time before TV, cell phones and iPads...when life looked simpler.
Recent surveys on the Greenbrier River Trail suggest more than 80 thousand people ride this longest of all West Virginia's state parks.ﾠ We're not an easy destination to get to...the nearest Interstate highway is 40 miles down the road.ﾠ Visitors make the trek up and over the mountains to get here because our scenic beauty is as legend as our mountain hospitality.
Whether you visit a few days or a week, the memories and adventures of our state parks will last a lifetime.ﾠ For more information on lodging or attractions on your visit to Nature's Mountain Playground, check out our web site at http://www.pocahontascountywv.com/
Thanks To Our Volunteers
Pocahontas County is rich in natural beauty, geological wonders and historic firsts. School children recite them, visitors trek miles to see and experience them, and a great deal of funding is spent advertising them. We have one wonder though which escapes most lists of accomplishments, wonders, and must sees - the good ole' raise my hand, I'll do it, doesn't matter what time, we can do it - VOLUNTEER.
Living in Appalachia brings special challenges to many people but it also brings a kind of kindred spirit that is achieved almost no other place in this country. The camaraderie, the joining together for the good, the stretching out one hand to another, is an intricate part of we are as a people, as a generation.
National Volunteer Week is April 18th through April 24th for 2011. I know a couple people who had talked recently about celebrating the occasion and having some kind of celebration at the Pocahontas County Opera House but in the process they forgot that they would be the ones to do the planning, the inviting, the decorating, the catering, and the publicity so with that thought in mind, it won't happen this year.
For every festival or grand event we have in this county during the summer and fall, you'll find dozens of volunteers preparing their lists of chores to be done as early as last winter. Volunteers show up every week all around the region from Durbin to Marlinton to Hillsboro to help out their neighbor and their community.
Assimilate this if you will. Marlinton Rotary enlists a dozen business men - bankers, pastors, and working people to make and sell pork rinds so they can offer two college scholarships for nursing students. Women with hearts of gold wake up to the call in the night of an injured puppy on Rt 92 or a litter of kittens that need homes. You'll see them at events selling tickets for ducky races just to ensure there is funding for the medical bills. Do you know of someone who cannot make their electric bill? The Community Club sells hot dogs and hamburgers so that need will be met.
EMTs, fire fighters, rescue squad members, and sheriff auxiliary members show up for the call of duty with neither dime nor promise. From Women's Club to Lions Club, from 4-H leaders to scout leaders, from the people who inventory cemeteries to the ladies who make kitchen items to sell to support Relay for Life, our community is loaded with good hearted, hard working, no need of thanks volunteers who help create an extraordinary value that cannot be bought anywhere.
To all of you - and you know who you are - take a bow tonight, and know how thankful we all are for your generosity and kindness, your time and effort, your material contribution as well as the spiritual one. Know too that if we were as organized, orderly, and creative as you were - we'd give you one fabulous party to celebrate all you do!