100 Great Things about West Virginia
(more or less)
We spent eleven wonderful days in West Virginia – eastern
West Virginia – in June / July 2011. Here are some of the great things we
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The Big Bend Tunnel is to the left, the
Great Bend Tunnel is to the right.
The John Henry legend is at home at Tolcot, WV. See the
monument and the tunnel. To get to the tunnel face, get on the gravel road
on the north side of the tracks and head west. Stop the car to walk through
the park-in-development to get to the abandoned Great Bend Tunnel. The
Great Bend Tunnel was the one finished in 1872 and is the historic site.
The Big Bend Tunnel was finished in 1932. The statue was installed in
1972. The Great Bend Tunnel was closed in 1974.
The Company Store at Ashland isn’t worth the detour. It’s
a newer, moderately interesting building an the nearby interpretive panels
are OK, but don’t spend the time.
- The Company Store at Whipple is very interesting.
It’s an old wood building with a great round sales floor. The tour is good,
but could be “tightened up.” Be prepared for the $10 fee for the tour—worth
it in our opinion. (This place can use any help it can get to keep it up
and get it fully restored.) Getting there is a bit tricky. Check
the website at
www.whipplecompanystore.com for directions. The latitude /
longitude is 37.95866 / -81.16557 for checking on GoogleEarth or the like.
- The two New River Gorge Visitors Centers are quite
good. The folks at the southern one were exceedingly helpful and went out
of their way to help us.
- The weather in mid to late June and very early July
seemed really good. Just getting warm, but not too hot and sticky. It
seems the snow season can be really long and the hot, humid summers aren’t
for us, either. The fall colors should be really good – that’s why the Cass
Railroad charges extra during that season!
- At Cass, watch out for early tours that may not be
announced. We didn’t know about a 9:30 AM shop tour that we really would
have liked to take and the 10:30 tour was going to take two hours, so we
would have missed our noon train. How we (and other visitors!) would have
liked to know about the 9:30 AM tour!
- The Kimball War Memorial which is the first memorial to
African-American WW I soldiers keeps very short hours – you’ll have to schedule
closely or get lucky to get into the museum.
Across the street from
the War Memorial is another interesting railroad tunnel. Note how the
tunnel was enlarged at the corners.
- The Mountain Made shop in Thomas, WV has an
interesting collection of locally-made items, mostly high-end wood, glass,
etc. It’s in an interesting set of old factory buildings. But, be careful,
it’s hard to find – the signs are nearly inconspicuous and it’s a few blocks
off the “main drag.” See
www.mountainmade.com for info. This was the lowest-cost place to buy
WV-made marbles that we found on our trip – a bag for $1.50.
- The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is very interesting.
The free (!) bus tour of the antenna arrays is well done. The museum is
full of interactive exhibits that help explain microwaves, antennas, the
origins of the universe, etc. (Nothing here for the “intelligent design”
folks!) There’s a nice small food service that has a couple of interesting
items such as shrimp curry. The big antenna has a surface area of
2-1/2 acres -- blow up this photo to get an idea of the size of the human
- West Virginia is proud of its progressive history:
formed from anti-slavery leanings during the Civil War, early to have court
decisions reducing differences in education in public schools between blacks
and whites, quick to adopt integration post Brown v. Board of Education,
etc. See the pamphlet “Justice in the Mountains.”
- The Hawks Nest State Park site is where the infamous
tunnel for water for hydroelectric use was dug…
- Two State Parks have aerial tramways – down into the
park, rather than up to peaks! The one at Pipestem and the one at
the chandelier at the State Capitol
- The State Capital in Charleston is a nice place to
visit. The staff is really friendly and it was even open on July 4 – just
wander in. There are some historical exhibits and some brass plaques from
the U.S.S. West Virginia which fought in WW II.
- Just south of Charleston is South Charleston! There’s
an interesting Native American mound there with good interpretive panels.
There are also a couple antique collectives just a block away.
West Virginia advertises “under budget.” Generally,
your dollar will go far in WV. Motels were what we’d consider “typical” costs,
but generally tourist activities and the state park cabins were quite
A good, free Civil
War Trails booklet is available.
Look for the
Midland Trail Guide, too.
In late June
and early July we were pleasantly surprised not to have any problems with
flies or mosquitoes. Can anyone assure us that is the case later in
While the rest
of the country is in financial difficulty, West Virginia seems to have more
than its share of problems. Residential and business properties are
for sale in many, many places.
Seneca Rocks is
another interesting place to visit. It was recently featured on Covert
Washington-Carver was an early Negro 4-H Camp.
There are observation towers at a number of State Parks
If you're having a family reunion in West Virginia, there's a "Genuine West
Virginia Reunion Kit." See the info on how to get one! (We found out
There are many, many of the historical marker signs around the state. They
really help explain the history of just about everything.
At Droop Mountain, there's an original drum that was recovered shortly after the
This page will be
updated as I get a chance to add more. Check back. Enjoy!
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© Michael Von der Porten
05/22/12 12:37:42 AM