not just off the beaten path!
I'd bet good money that unless you were born and raised in West Virginia (or at least somewhere in the mountains of Appalachia), you have never heard of ramps (except as something connected with highways or skateboarding). If you are truly brave and adventureous, and you happen to be in West Virginia at the right time in the Spring, I dare you to attend a Ramp Supper and eat ramps.
So what are ramps, you ask? Ramps are wild leeks. They grow throughout the Appalachian woodlands near mountain streams. Ramps are among the first edible foods to appear in the early spring. These wild leeks reek of garlic, only stronger. Only stronger? Who are we kidding? Back in the dark ages, when I was a child, our school principal had a rule--if you ate ramps over the weekend, you were excused from school on Monday...the stink coming off 30 or so ramp-eating children confined to one classroom would have been overwhelmingly distracting...and April is too chilly to sit in class with all the windows open.
Throughout the Appalachian southern mountains, ramps are featured at ramp suppers and festivals. The Feast of the Ramson at Richwood, West Virginia is probably one of the best known and largest. Richwood, in fact, is home to the NRA--the National Ramp Association. But many smaller events take place throughout April and into the month of May. Holding a ramp supper is a time-honored way of raising funds for the volunteer fire department or local church, for instance.
Now, I'm gonna 'fess up here. I've never eaten ramps.... But thousands of West Virginians swear by them! Call the Richwood Chamber of Commerce at the phone number below for the current information on the Feast of the Ramson ramp festival dates.
The West Virginia State Penitentiary has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and was named "One of the Best 500 Places to Visit in the United States" by US News & World Report in 1996.
The West Virginia State Penitentiary was modeled after Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, but is only one-half the size of Joliet's prison. Designed in a castellated Gothic style of architecture, the building has turrets and battlements like a castle. The first phase of the prison was completed in 1876, and later additions in the 1920s doubled the size of the building.
Inmates were given jobs in the prison's backsmith, wagon shop, carpentry shop, brickyard, stone yard, paint shop, tailor, bakery, or hospital. The penitentiary later added a prison farm and coal mine where inmates could work.
A total of 94 men were executed in the penitentiary: 85 were hung between 1899 and 1949, and nine were electrocuted between 1951 and 1959. Others were killed by fellow inmates. It is said that the building is haunted by the spirits of those who died within its walls.
The West Virginia State Penitentiary closed in 1995 after the West Virginia Supreme Court held that the prison's five-foot by seven-foot (one-and-a-half-meter by two-meter) cells amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The inmates were moved to other prisons throughout the state.
Nowadays, 90-minute tours of the penitentiary are available, and allow visitors to experience "Life on the Inside." However, the most popular tours are nighttime ghost tours and hunts. Since the penitentiary closed, there have been sightings of apparitions and reports of voices and unexplained sounds. It is widely considered to be one of the most haunted places in the United States. As a result, several popular television programs dealing with ghosts and the paranormal, including Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, Paranormal Challenge, Paranormal State, Most Haunted, and Ghost Stories have filmed episodes here. This, in turn, has made the West Virginia State Penitentiary a must-see destination for those interested in the paranormal.
A ten-mile segment of the Bluestone River in southern West Virginia was designated a National Scenic River by the National Park Service in 1988. This river was the first of three rivers in West Virginia to enter the Wild and Scenic River System, which protects free-flowing rivers throughout the United States.
The Bluestone begins on East River Mountain in Virginia and flows 77 miles to its confluence with the New River at Bluestone Lake near Hinton, West Virginia.
The section preserved as a National Scenic River flows through the Bluestone Gorge between Pipestem and Bluestone State Parks. These parks offer the best way to access the River. The parks are connected by a great hiking trail through the rugged gorge and along the river. The views are outstanding.
Virginia's Chapel is a small chapel that was built in 1853 by the Tompkins family as a gift for their daughter, Virginia. It was used by both sides in the Civil War, and changed hand a few times over the years. It was restored in the 1980s and is now open to the public.
Virginia's Chapel is located on Route 60 in the town of Cedar Grove, West Virginia. Cedar Grove is located east of Charleston, West Virginia's capital.
Located about one mile (1.6 kilometers) east of the tiny village of Aurora in eastern Preston County, 133-acre (54-hectare) Cathedral State Park protects the only remaining stand of virgin timber left in West Virginia. Although West Virginia is covered by extensive second-growth forest (more than any other state east of the Mississippi River), to visit the park today is to experience what most of the Appalachian Mountains were like prior to extensive logging carried out from the early 1800s to the early 1900s.
Most of Cathedral State Park is made up of ancient hemlock forest, and many of the trees attain heights of 90 feet (27 meters) and circumferences of 21 feet (six meters). Clumps of these enormous hemlocks (which are a type of fir tree) form cathedral-like cloisters throughout the forest, hence the name of the park. Although hemlocks are the dominant species of tree, over 170 species of plants have been identified in the park, including more than 30 other species of trees, (17 types of which are deciduous), nine species of ferns, three species of club moss, and more than 50 species of wildflowers.
The land that now makes up Cathedral State Park was purchased by Branson Haas in 1922 in order to protect the giant trees from the logging that was going on at the time. He sold the land to the state in 1942 with the provision that it perpetually remain untouched by ax or saw. Due to the importance and rarity of trees of the size found in the park, Cathedral State Park was designated a National Registry for Natural Historic Landmarks by the United States National Park Service.
Visitors to the park can hike along the numerous trails to experience the cathedral-like atmosphere under the trees, enjoy the two rocky streams that flow through the park, picnic in the designated areas, try to identify the different types of plants, view wildlife (which includes many kinds of birds and mammals such as squirrels, raccoons, deer, and an occasional bear), or participate in planned activities
The 1,174-acre (475-hectare) Cranesville Swamp Preserve is mostly located in eastern Preston County in northeastern West Virginia. However, a small portion of the bog and preserve is also situated in Garrett County, Maryland. (The "swamp" is technically a bog). The land was purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 1960 to protect the bog's unique environment. In 1964, the Cranesville Swamp Preserve became one of the first National Natural Landmarks in the nation.
The Cranesville Swamp Preserve contains one of the few boreal muskeg bogs in the southern United States, a habitat type that is more generally found in northern New England and southern Canada. The muskeg bog can only exist in such southern latitudes because of what is called a "frost pocket." The area's topography and weather combine to create a microclimate similar to that found much farther north. The bog sits in a natural "bowl", or valley, that collects moisture and cooler temperatures. The surrounding hills channel the prevailing westerly winds into the bowl which deposit a great deal of precipitation, making the bog one of the wettest and coolest places in West Virginia.
A muskeg bog is mostly made up of peat, which is formed as sphagnum moss (a type of plant abundant in muskeg bogs) dies and decays. Peat forms an acidic, nutrient-poor soil that can only support acid-tolerant trees such as eastern hemlock, red spruce, and tamarack (also called larch). In fact, the Cranseville Swamp Preserve is home to the world's southernmost stand of tamarack. Other plants commonly found in the preserve include alders, various sedges, cranberry, and round-leafed sundew, a type of carniverous plant that thrives in acidic soil.
Many species of birds and animals that are generally found farther north can be seen in the bog, including northern saw-whet owl, nashville warbler, black bear, porkupine, and snowshoe hare.
Visitors to the Cranesville Swamp Preserve can take a self-guided tour along the preserve's five miles (eight kilometers) of trails that pass through upland deciduous and evergreen forests, and closely examine the muskeg bog from the 1,500-foot (457-meter) boardwalk.
The historic stone building that houses the Old Stone Tavern was built between 1825 and 1827. The building was designed by Henry Grimes and was constructed of rubble stone. The ground floor consists of one large open room. There are three rooms on the second floor with an attic above. It originally served as a private residence, but in 1841 it was opened to the public as an inn and tavern, serving travelers along the Northwestern Turnpike. (The Northwestern Turnpike is a historic West Virginia road and is notable as being one of the first roads to cross the Appalachian Mountains). The Old Stone Tavern was kept by George Houser, Hiram Hanshaw, and William Grimes. It was the first tavern in the Union District on the Northwestern Turnpike.
Also known as the Brookside Inn and the Red Horse Tavern, the Old Stone Tavern has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Nowadays, the building is occupied by the Red Horse Tavern, a privately owned night spot that is open to the public.
The Old Stone Tavern is located about one mile (1.6 kilometers) east of Aurora on U.S. Route 50.
Originally called the Weston State Hospital, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was built to house and treat the mentally ill from throughout the region. The building was designed by architect Richard Andrews, who followed the Kirkbride plan for mental institutions. This plan called for long wings in staggered formation which assured an abundant supply of therapeutic light and fresh air. The building is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in the United States, and the second-largest in the world, after the Kremlin in Moscow.
Construction began in 1858 and was completed in 1881. However, patients were first admitted into finished sections of the building in 1864.
During the American Civil War, Weston was seized by Union troops. The unfinished asylum was converted to Camp Tyler, an important military post which controlled the roads in the area. The completed south wing was used as barracks, and the main foundation served as stables.
Originally designed to house 250 patients, by the 1950s the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum had over 2,400 patients, who lived in overcrowded and terrible conditions. By the 1990s, advances in the treatment of the mentally ill made the asylum obsolete, and it was closed in 1994. The closure of the asylum seriously affected the economy of Weston, since most of the small town's inhabitants worked there or otherwise relied on it economically in some way.
Nowadays, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is becoming a tourist attraction. Historic tours are offered, but the most popular tours by far are nighttime ghost tours and hunts. Since the building closed, there have been numerous sightings of apparitions and reports of unexplained voices and sounds. This prompted four popular televisions programs, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, Paranormal Challenge, and Ghost Stories to film episodes here, making the asylum a must-see destination for those interested in the paranormal.
With exterior dimensions of 12 by 24 feet (four by seven meters) and two pews with seating for only 12 parishioners, Our Lady of the Pines bills itself as the "Smallest Church in 48 States." This slogan for the tiny Roman Catholic church was coined in 1958, the year in which the church was consecrated. At that time, there were 48 states, so it is probably the smallest church in all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii which were admitted to the union in 1959.
Our Lady of the Pines is situated on beautifully manicured grounds which include a small pond, and is surrounded by pine trees. It was built by Lithuanian immigrant Peter Milkint with the hope that the world would come to see his church. Although the world did not come, it still attracts over 30,000 visitors per year, and is a popular roadside attraction.
Our Lady of the Pines is located in the tiny village of Silver Lake in eastern Preston County.
Located near Fairmont in northern West Virginia, Pricketts Fort State Park was established in 1975 to preserve the site of an eighteenth-century fort that had been built to protect nearby settlers from attacks by American Indians.
The 22-acre (nine-hectare) park features a visitors' center with a museum shop, an outdoor 400-seat amphitheater, a picnic area, nature trails, and a boat ramp on the Monongahela River.
The centerpiece of the park, however, is a historically accurate reconstruction of the original Prickett's Fort. Prickett's Fort was built in 1774 on a small rise overlooking the confluence of Prickett's Creek and the Monongahela River to serve as a refuge from American Indian war parties. At the first sign of a threat, up to 80 families from the surrounding area would converge on the fort to take refuge within its walls until the danger passed.
The recreated fort was built in 1976. Each of the four walls is 100 feet (30 meters) in length and 12 feet (four meters) in height, and there is a blockhouse on each corner. Sixteen small cabins, some with earthen floors, line the inner walls, and a meeting house and storehouse fill the common area in the center.
The fort serves as a living history site, where interpreters recreate life of the late eighteenth century through period costumes and demonstrations of a variety of colonial crafts. Visitors can watch blacksmiths, spinners making cloth, weavers, and a gunsmith, the state's only public demonstration of the gunsmith's craft as carried out in the eighteenth century.
"God bless my mother. All that I am or ever hope to be I owe to her."
-- Abraham Lincoln
Nancy Hanks was born on February 5, 1784, in Hampshire County, Virginia in a log cabin along Mike's Run at the foot of New Creek Mountain in what is now Mineral County, West Virginia. Nancy grew up to marry Thomas Lincoln. One of Nancy and Thomas's sons, Abraham Lincoln, became the 16th President of the United States. The site of Nancy's birth has been marked by the Nancy Hanks Association, which placed a simple stone monument to mark the spot in 1933. Near the monument is a reconstructed log cabin, like the one in which Nancy Hanks was born.
The site is well off the beaten path. To find it, follow the signs which point off U.S. 220, just a few miles south of the Maryland/West Virginia state line in northeastern West Virginia. You will take a narrow, winding road through the mountains for more than six miles to find the memorial on a dead end one lane road, in a beautiful remote rural area. On one side of the road is the stone monument with a brass plaque, and on the other is the log cabin. When I was there the cabin was open, however the site is unattended and there are no interpretative displays. Still I found it somehow moving to stand for a few minutes, alone in this quite, out-of-the-way spot and contemplate the life of the remarkable woman who gave birth to one of Americaa greatest leaders.
Grave Creek Mound is the largest conical burial mound constructed by the prehistoric American Indians of the late Adena Period. The Adena People were part of the group of prehistoric cultures known as "mound builders," named for their practice of building burial mounds. Consisting of several different cultures spanning 20,000 years, the mound builders lived in areas that include present-day Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, and parts of New York and Pennsylvania.
Construction of Grave Creek Mound took place in different stages from about 250 B.C. to 150 B.C. The mound is 69 feet (21 meters) high, 295 feet (90 meters) in circumference, and involved the moving of 60,000 tons (54,430,000 kilograms) of earth.
The mound was used as a place to bury the dead. There were multiple burials at different levels in Grave Creek Mound.
Grave Creek Mound is located in the town of Moundsville, about ten miles (16 kilometers) south of Wheeling.
Those of us who know something of the history of this country will recognize that The Potomac River, The Shenandoah River and The Blue Ridge Mountains have historical connections to our development. We may have a vague sense of their importance, but until they are seen, the majesty is not known.
Just outside of the town area at Harpers Ferry all three of these come together and the result is nothing short of awesome. The photois of The Potomac River at Harper's Ferry. Added to the natrual charm of this area are the beautiful rivers flowing through it.
Fishing and canoeing come to mind here. These rivers are within walking distance of the the town. Even if hiking or other sports are not your thing, a walk though this place will be wonderful for the senses.
The entire state of West Virginia is off the beaten path. Despite its physical beauty, West Virginia is not a place that Americans typcally go out of their way to visit. One reason is that they usually associate the state with poverty, coal mining, and uneducated hillbilles. Yes, it is a poor state, and yes, there are some very ugly coal strip mines, and yes, the poor people living in some of the remote mountain areas may not have college degrees. However, the state is worth visiting for its beautiful scenery, historic towns, and friendly people. West Virginia is especially good for outdoor sports, such as whitewater rafting,canoeing, kayaking, as well as hiking. West Virginia is also inexpensive and uncrowded relative to the rest of the USA.
We visited the Radio Observatory literally in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia. You can go on a free tour of the place and learn a lot about radio transmissions and outer space. We enjoyed the tour , even without finding out there really are aliens.
The entire area is in something called " The Quiet Zone" where no cell phones work, and people routinely have their microwave ovens confiscated because they are interferring with the radio signals.
US 340 & Union St., Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, 25425, United States
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
This was a gem of a motel but it was a bit tough to locate. The motel was off the I-79 exit but...more
80 Old Nicholette Road, I-77, Exit 170, Mineral Wells, West Virginia, 26150, United States
Good for: Couples