Spring marched into our lives quickly this year and moved up the onset of late-April activities. Most Mountaineers have been plagued with cabin-fever and commenced to get out and enjoy the outdoors with haste. New travel opportunities await you.
Directions for this month's Mountain State Mini (a three-day wild, wonderful West Virginia vacation) take us through the heart of Pocahontas County on Route 119 south from Elkins to Marlinton's edge. A turn to the right will land one on the Highland Scenic Highway, a connector route to this state's wildwood and outdoor recreation fantasy.
The 22-mile roadway is a driver's dream as mountain roads go. A wide, perfectly paved surface with cleared large berms and a long-range vision of what is ahead makes the several mile trip very pleasant. Many take this route for touring, but much more can be packed into a day or night as this area was developed for several purposes including camping, biking, hiking, fishing or searching for rare wildflowers and birds.
Photo by Shannon Bennett Campbell
Mumsey’s Iron Skillet at Richwood’s edge will fill the bill if sweets are on your mind. The display counter features four-layer iced cakes, pies and cookies galore.
Fishing streams are plentiful as one easily finds the North Fork of the Cherry River and the Williams River right along their motor trek. Another stream nearby is the Cranberry River. All are trout stocked regularly. There are no businesses that supply bait, so your favorite lure must be brought from home.
Restaurants are sparse, too. Campers spending a night will want to bring a cooler full of food favorites and outdoor cooking supplies. Part of the Monongahela National Forest and 47,815 acres wide, this is a real concentration of hardwood habitat where birds, small animals and fish rule. No sight of golden arches here.
If a day of hiking is your plan, this place will not disappoint you. Fifteen trails are available and an excellent brochure describing each can be had by calling 304-636-l800 or the Gauley Ranger District at 304-846-2695, Ext. 0.
The Scenic Highway is specially equipped for those who want to view expansive mountain vistas. Several overlooks have been built for photo ops or gazing. While looking out over the Alleghenies, we are reminded of why we are called "Little Switzerland."
Children interested in science or naturalists will be intrigued by the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center opening in mid-April and the origin of exhibits, tours and movies that will make any trip memorable.
The Cranberry Glades Botanical Area commands 750 acres and is the largest area of bogs in West Virginia. A loop boardwalk with interpretive signs allows visitors to have viewing access to more than 60 plant species. For more information, call 304-653-4826 or visit gttp://fs.usda.gov/mnf.
An astute driver on an unfamiliar road will always ask, "To where does this Scenic Highway lead?" Great choices exist as a T-intersection awaits. Pearl Buck's Home at Hillsboro and Droop Mountain Battlefield await you if you go left. If cruising on April 21, my recommendation would be to turn right because you will be headed toward the oldest, and possibly West Virginia's largest, ramp dinner planned for 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Richwood High School. The 74th Feast of the Ramson menu consists of ramps, ham, bacon, brown beans, potatoes, cornbread, desserts and sassafras tea.
Traditionally, 1,200 to 1,400 hungry ramp eaters will join you. Advance tickets may be secured with discounts by visiting www.richwoodchamberofcommerce.org.
In addition to the wonderful meal, an arts and crafts show will take place in the gym across the street from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
As I absorbed the pleasant surroundings during this visit, I was reminded of an old hymn familiar when springtime sunshine and flowers burst forth. "For the Beauty of the Earth" reminds us of God's gifts of nature and how we are called to be good stewards of the earth. Our combined efforts to keep roadways clean and preserve what is lovely is a duty and a service for others.
It is a real blessing in a time when travel prices have increased to have great places to visit throughout our state. The best of adventure and fun awaits us. May you see at least one lamb, calf, bunny or chick during your travels that remind you of new life and will refresh that spirit we celebrate on tomorrow's Easter morn.