Out of the way and out of the ordinary
Traveling the back roads you’ll find no end to the uniqueness nor surprises that make up Pocahontas and surrounding counties.
And perhaps one of the most unique, yet often overlooked phenomenons is the Elk River, which finds its headwaters in Pocahontas County at an elevation of about 4,000 feet.
According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, by the time the Elk traverses its 177-mile course to Charleston, it finds itself at an elevation of just 565 feet. – a drop of 19 feet per mile. The Upper Elk is considered a geological marvel: “a subterranean network of caves, streams and waterfalls, including a six-mile stretch in Randolph County where, in dry weather, the river sinks underground.”
That is the unique part.
The surprise comes near where the Elk returns to the surface with water temperatures that provide perfect conditions to support year-round trout fishing.
A 10-mile drive down Dry Branch Road just off Rt. 219 near Mace transports visitors to Monterville, and to Elk Springs Resort, consisting of cabins, a lodge, nearly completed camping facilities with a bathhouse, fly-fishing opportunities, an Ovis endorsed fly-fishing shop and Ellie May’s Ole Mill Restaurant – all of them open 365 days a year.
Traveling south from Elkins, one should take Rt. 15 right off of Rt. 219 for about five miles, then turn left onto Valley Fork Road for about five miles, then left onto Dry Branch to reach the resort.
There is adequate signage to help you reach your destination.
The resort was originally owned by Betty and Jim Wilson, of Valley Head. They started the business in 1988 as a fly-fishing haven. They sold the property in 1996, and those owners began the construction of the lodge and cabins.
Daron and Lisa Dean, of Kenova, visited the area and subsequently purchased the property in 2004, completing the lodge, with its four rooms, two suites and common areas, as well as adding the restaurant.
“They designed the lodge after one where they had stayed in British Columbia,” Betty said.
The interior of the restaurant boasts the same rustic décor.
Ellie May’s Ole Mill Restaurant is named for the Dean’s daughter, Elizabeth, a fly-fisherman and fly-tier in her own right.
Elizabeth’s picture graces the restaurant sign as well as the fireplace mantles and other spots at the resort.
Betty returned to Elk Springs as one of three co-managers, who oversee the day-to-day operation for the Deans. She works alongside Dave Breitmeier and Patrick Skeen.
Ed Shaffer, of Monterville, first bought property in the area in 1970. He and his wife, Vicky, later retired there. They are frequent customers at the restaurant.
“We’ve watched this thing happen,” he said. “It’s been amazing. They have tripled the size.”
According to the local clientele, breakfast at the resort is “awesome.”
Jerry Strawderman is the chef at Ellie May’s and may be remembered for his 14 years as chef at Brandi’s at Snowshoe.
He is known as well for his hand-turned wooden bowls, made from burls and walnut and cherry – for sale at the resort and at Tamarack, the premiere outlet for West Virginia’s best artisans.
While his wood-crafting skills are impressive, it is what he dishes up in the kitchen that keeps folks coming back to Ellie May’s.
On a recent visit Strawderman was observed turning out some fine looking meatloaves and preparing French onion soup for the night’s dinner special. The dessert menu that day carried chocolate cake, a couple of fresh fruit cobblers and a peanut butter pie that may have had an illegal amount of calories attached to it.
The menu lists a variety of lunch options including a Fresh Deep Fried Trout Sandwich. It is a treat, served on Italian bread that is grilled with butter and herbs and served with a choice of sides such as homemade onion petals and homemade coleslaw. There are vegetarian dishes and salads available, as well soups and pizza.
Appetizers abound, and the dinner menu boasts Rib-eye, Fresh Spring Creek Rainbow Trout, BBQ and Herb-Baked Chicken, as well as several pasta dishes.
Everything is homemade, the prices are reasonable and the atmosphere can’t be beat.
Beginning Sunday, January 20, the resort will host a Sunday afternoon fish-fry from 1 to 5 p.m. – with the fish coming fresh from their hatchery – no shipping and handling charges on the meal.
If you prefer to have your own fish-fry, you are welcome to visit the “pay per pound” pond, and catch your own.
The brown, golden and rainbow trout are all raised from eggs right on the premises.
Specials are available every day, but to give some continuity to dinner plans, Wednesday nights will feature Meatloaf and Spaghetti as the regular fare.
Ample tables and chairs on the upper and lower deck of the restaurant and store offer dining with a view in warm weather, and, in cold weather, a view with the soothing sounds of the sometimes rushing, always flowing Elk River.
For more information or to make reservations, call 304-339-2 FLY or 304-339-2 FISH or visit Elk Springs Resort online at sites.google.com/site/elkspringsresortwv/home
There is more to Elk Springs Resort than a good meal, and you can read about the lodge, cabins and camping, as well as fly-fishing and shopping in the Spring Mountain Times, a supplement to The Pocahontas Times, which will publish February 28.
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at email@example.com