Exploring WV, Part 2: the Greenbrier River Trail, Beartown, Droop Mountain, Renick, Marlinton, and Watoga State Park

“Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.”–Walt Whitman

In the face of COVID-19, travel warnings, and headlines of superspreader events, it may seem impossible to plan a summer getaway.  However, for those of us living in the Appalachian Region, a 205,000 square mile area that covers all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states, including Ohio and Kentucky, travel destinations abound as the wonders of Mother Nature are all around.  Therefore, if you’re willing to rethink what travel can mean and look like, a world of outdoor adventures awaits–all within an easy drive’s reach.

Recently, John, my husband of 31 years, and I, did just that.  We took off towards the Greenbrier River Valley area and explored parts of both Greenbrier and Pocahontas Counties.  Whether you’re planning a day trip, camping, or cottage/cabin excursion–this area of WV offers plenty to see, do, and experience while safely maintaining social distancing.  What’s more, these types of adventures are pocket, family, and/or solo-friendly.

On this most recent summer of 2020 trip to the GRV area, we once more stayed in Lewisburg in a cottage called, “Stone Throw Retreat,” which we found on Airbnb.  During our first full day, which I described in a previous piece, John and I explored Cranberry Glades, the Falls of Hills Creek Scenic area, and stumbled across the birthplace of author Pearl S. Buck.  On our second day, we took the same approach as we had taken on our first–no itinerary. We just hopped onto US 219 and began traversing this scenic and meandering road, deciding where to stop while enroute.

The first place that struck our fancy was Beartown State Park. When John and I first arrived at the 107 acre natural area, located within both Greenbrier County and part of Pocahontas County, we discovered, much to our surprise, that this park has a connection to Huntington, WV!  The land that is now known as Beartown State Park, according to a marker found inside the park, was made possible, in part, through a donation by, “Mrs. Edwin G. Polan of Huntington, in memory of her son, Ronald Keith Neal, a former student employee of the West Virginia State Park System who lost his life in the Vietnam War on April 21, 1967.”

Beartown State Park derived its name from residents local to the area because the land is filled with numerous cave-like openings that look like perfect winter dwellings for black bears known for roaming WV.  Additionally, these rock formations, with their narrow passageways that look like streets, date this so-called ancient-town-of-rock to approximately over 300 million years ago! 

 

The park itself is simple, with a ½ mile carefully constructed boardwalk, zigzagging in, through, and around the rock, as the singular point of interest.  It was clearly built with the idea of preserving the integrity and uniqueness of the land while still allowing visitors to enjoy the  natural rock-like garden.  The walk, in fact, is so spectacular, that I would think it is possible to visit repeatedly and still notice something new each time.  If you’re looking for an opportunity to hear the whisperings of God, John and I highly recommend a trip to Beartown State Park! 

Continuing our drive further northeast along US 219, John and I made an impulse decision to stop at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park.  With full knowledge that monuments to the Civil War are currently under high levels of scrutiny, our decision to visit this mountain had to do more with our genuine desire to experience the view from the top of the mountain, named for its drooping appearance, especially with regards to the perspective from the tower overlooking the GRV.  Little did we know that the park also included eight hiking trails, two picnic shelters, and an old-time playground that harkens back to the type John and I once enjoyed in the late 60s and early 70s!

Located on the border between Greenbrier and Pocahontas Counties, Droop Mountain is considered one of WV’s smaller mountains, rising 3,597 feet above sea level.  Nonetheless, the view from the top was nothing short of spectacular!  The day in which we visited was bright and clear with abundant sunshine blessing the valley below.  The wind whistled through the trees and a feeling of peace settled in our bones as John and I surveyed the numerous WV mountain tops surrounding the valley through which we were traveling.  Gaining a different perspective of the landscape from the Droop Mountain tower, at least to me, was awe-inspiring as I tried to comprehend the passage of time the mountains and the river valley represented–not to mention the greatness of Divine Providence’s hand in forging such magnificence.  The landscape from the Droop Mountain tower is highly recommended.

“In every walk with nature one recieves far more than he seeks”–John Muir

We ended day two with a four mile walk along the Greenbrier River Trail at Renick.   Despite the fact that it was a warm afternoon, with temperatures in the mid-90’s back home in the Huntington area, in the shade of the GRT, the temperatures were much more moderate with a continuous gentle breeze.  Along the trail, we saw several people kayaking the river, flowers blooming, and listened to birds sharing their sing-song.  I couldn’t help but notice that we walked past mile-marker 24 of the 78, or so, mile long trail.  Towards the end of our walk, John and I encountered a couple of fishermen who recommended we explore the other Renick entry point to the GRT in order to see an eagle’s nest.  We decided to make that our first priority for day three.

Thus, our third day began with John and I driving through Renick proper and taking site of what must have been, at one time, a thriving, if not quaint, farming community.  The streets were quite narrow, and most of the homes reflected the bygone days of another era.  It was a peaceful, but short drive as it ended right at the Greenbrier River’s edge as the fishermen from the day before had said it would.

Stepping onto the GRT from this point of entry, John and I trekked four more miles in the opposite direction from the previous day, moving more northward.  Walking in this direction, we were indeed able to spy the eagle’s nest just past an old swinging bridge that was, unfortunately, locked up–or I would have climbed upon it and crossed to the other side for sure!  The nest was located on the opposite side of the river, but even from our vantage point, we could view the vast size of this majestic bird’s nest.  While taking pictures, a biker drove past, then stopped to chat at a socially appropriate distance to share his experiences of pedaling the GRT.  Once our conversation came to a natural end, we finished our walk, and decided to head towards Marlinton, WV, the county seat of Pocahontas County, and attributed as being another excellent location for GRT exploring as recommended by the same fishermen from the previous day.

Back in the car, traveling US 219, we put our sites on Marlinton in hopes of another adventure.  After a long-ish drive, we stopped by Appalachian Sports, a business we recognized from our previous day’s conversation, to learn more about their bike rentals as a potential experience for a future visit to GRT.  While there, we learned that Marlinton is home to the Roadkill Cook-off and Autumn Festival that began in 1991, but had, unfortunately, been cancelled for this upcoming fall due to COVID-19.  However, good news for roadkill lovers, it’s already slated for a return on September 25, 2121–just in time for my birthday! 

While in Marlinton, we drove through parts of Watoga State Park, the largest state park in WV.  Covering 10,000 acres.  WSP offers camping, cabin rentals, an eleven-acre lake for paddle- and row-boating as well as fishing, 15 miles of roads for biking, and 40 miles of hiking trails.  Additionally, there is a lodge, although we never found it, that does offer a commissary and restaurant.  Our navigation through the park was filled with wooded beauty, ample dappled sunlight, and wildlife wonders.  It is definitely another state park that John and I agreed we needed to visit.

“Keep close to Nature’s heart . . .and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.  Wash your spirit clean.”–John Muir 

All-in-all, our exploration of Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties was a wonderful, grounding experience.  We were safely able to vacation while still maintaining social distance.  What better way to get away than in wild and wonderful West Virginia–where an adventure awaits around each curve of its mountainous roads!  

From our home to yours, John and I wish you safe and healthy travels!

Explore WV, Part 1: Pearl S. Buck birthplace, Cranberry Glades, and the Falls of Hill Creek

Pocahontas County has the largest concentration of public lands in WV.  Over 62% –totaling 349,000 acres–is either state or federal property, including five state parks and two state forests.

800 miles of hiking and biking trails can be found in Pocahontas County. 

Although there are approximately 9,000 residents in Pocahontas County, more than a million tourists visit the county each year. 

Eight WV rivers’ headwaters are located in Pocahontas County–All facts courtesy of WV of Tourism Research.

The Falls at Hills Creek in Pocahontas County, WV

We wanted to celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary with an excursion. However, there was (and is) no escaping the new reality of COVID-19–although, at the time of planning, cases appeared to be on the decline. Still, questions had to be asked.  Is it safe to take a vacation?  What risks are we taking?  If we do decide to try one, where do we go and for how long?  

Populated areas were immediately ruled out.  Additionally, we felt we should travel only a few hours away in case we needed to make a quick return trip home.  We kicked around several locations within our three state region in which COVID cases were low.  Then, I read the book, The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb about the Greenbrier County ghost, and I knew where to visit. 

The book that inspired our trip.

Returning to Lewisburg, WV, designated one of the country’s coolest small towns, was the perfect fit for my husband, John, and I.  It is only 2 ½ to 3 hours away from the Tri-state area, it is a friendly town, close to out-of-doors/nature attractions, and home to several of our favorite eateries.  We could spend most of our time, weather permitting, bonding with the beautiful WV landscape, but still come back to town in time for dinner. (Again, at the time of trip planning, WV had very few COVID cases, and numbers nationally were on the decline. Little did we know . . .)

Originally, John had hoped that we could find a cabin along the Greenbrier River and its namesake trail, but all of the small cabins within our pocket-friendly budget appeared to be booked through most of the summer.  Instead, John happened upon a charming bungalow on Airbnb called, “Stone’s Throw Retreat” located, well, a stone’s throw from downtown Lewisburg.  It was super clean, comfortable, and well-appointed for our day-trippin’ needs.  Plus, the host, David, was attentive, communicative, and most helpful.

Nestled on a hillside, the bungalow was the perfect leaping off point for this trip. Located just off US Rt 60, and only two or so blocks from US Rt 219, aka, The Seneca Trail, “Stone’s Throw Retreat” allowed us to quickly escape town and head out to the less populous, and-oh-so-scenic, WV mountain side.  On a personal note, I did chew through an entire pack of gum during our trip to stave off car/motion sickness from the kiss-your-bottom curves winding up and down the mountains, but it was well-worth it–even if John bemoaned driving slower than he preferred to help assuage my heaving stomach, swimming head, and popping ears!

On this trip, we explored both Greenbrier County, and its next-door neighbor, Pocahontas County.  Both of these scenic counties offer plenty of options for out-of-doors explorations.  However, unlike other trips, we made very few plans regarding which sites we planned to explore!  In fact, with the exception of two locations, most of the locations we traversed were spur-of-the-moment decisions based upon what we saw along The Seneca Trail.

On our first full day in Lewisburg, we decided to explore parts of Pocahontas County, with the ultimate goal of hiking the Falls of Hills Creek Scenic Area.  This was a suggested spot by Jamie Surgeon, an employee of Del Sol, the restaurant in which we dined the evening of our arrival.  (Del Sol has a strict mask and disinfectant policy with large areas of empty tables in order to distance diners, and of course, offer take out options as well.)  What a great suggestion this turned out to be!  While in Pocahontas County, we spontaneously made the choice to visit two more places that were in route.

Our first spontaneous stop of the day was at the Pearl S. Buck birthplace in Hillsboro, WV.  This picturesque country home is located alongside The Seneca Trail. Unfortunately, due to COVID19, the museum and home were closed.  However, it was still wonderful to stand there and honor the memory of a noteworthy female author who began her life in WV and won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Peace Prize. Additionally, the road alongside her homestead was lined with beautiful wildflowers in all of their blossom glory seemingly bowing their heads in the breeze in homage to Buck’s memory.

 Next, we made the impromptu decision to visit Cranberry Glades Botanical Area.  This protected area of bogs is the largest in WV.  Bogs, which are unique and ancient acidic wetlands, are typically found in northern regions of the US or, more commonly, in Canada.  Many of the plants, located in these four bogs, are said to be descendents of seeds from nearly 10,000 years ago, and a few of the bog plants are even carnivorous!  The half-mile boardwalk, constructed for visitors to view this unique landscape without harming it, was under construction for repairs/maintenance at the time of our visit, so we were only able to see part of the bogs.  Nonetheless, the sounds, pure air, and scenery were peaceful, serene, and certainly worth visiting!

Last stop of this day was the intended, Falls of Hills Creek, and we were certainly glad we saved it for last.  For one reason, it is stunning–not just in the vivid greens and varying luscious shades of chocolate, but also in the surround sound of rushing water, the caress of a breeze brushing skin, and the comforting scents of earth!!  However, the second reason for making it the last stop of the day, was that while it was a delightful descending hike into the bottom of a breathtaking gorge with its cascading falls, it’s uphill all the way back!  Trekking downhill, the temperature dropped, the deeper into the vegetation and ravine we plunged; unfortunately, that was not the case on the way up!

The Falls of Hills Creek Scenic Area is located on 114 acres and contains three waterfalls–each more spectacular than the previous–with the last falls offering up the greatest torrent of white water tumbling off rock.  In fact, the lowest falls has a height of 63 feet making it the second tallest waterfall in WV.  Whereas, the first falls are 25 feet in height, and the second falls are nearly double in size at a height of 45 feet.  Who needs a calming app when you can simply hike in WV to see, smell, and listen to such tranquil sounds?  Seriously, this lovely place was well worth the hike!   (Thank you, Jamie, for the recommendation!)

Next week, I’ll share a few other magical places worth visiting–even if just for a day excursion–along The Seneca Trail!  You most certainly do not have to stay in home like we did, WV is full of places to camp and/or take day-trips.  Get away from the blaring news, headlines, and the never-ending barrage of negative social media, and instead, reconnect with nature and its Ultimate Creator.  Your heart will smile and your spirit will feel revived.

From our home to yours, John and I wish you safe and healthy travels!

It Only Takes a Spark: Words Ignite

“Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.”–Samuel Johnson

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Many of my recollections are beginning to take on a dream-like quality, such as the time I was home with Madelyn, our daughter, who was a toddler at the time.  Maddie was sick with a virus.  Continuously, I trotted Maddie to the bathroom, so she could throw up or upstairs to change her diaper.  It seemed impossible that a human so small could continuously produce so much vomit and repeatedly fill diapers.

Things had calmed momentarily, and we were cuddled up together on the couch, when I could feel her stomach begin its heavings.  On instinct, I began my rapid try-not-to-jar-her trot, but still boot-scoot-hurry to the bathroom, so Maddie could once more throw up.  Unfortunately, I could tell there was no stopping the oncoming rush of fluid.  I halted at the kitchen sink, the closest receptacle I could think of, and held her tiny, shaking body there, as she retched into the sink.  (Not the most sanitary choice, I know, but I chalk it up to sleep deprivation.)

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That’s when I felt the primal niggle.  My brain had noticed something important.  Glancing out the kitchen window, I saw flames spewing forth from the roof of our neighbor’s home.  Orange, red, blue, and yellow flames licked hungrily at the sky.  Black ashes rimmed with orange and red sparks soared toward our house.  I am sure if this had been a movie, the camera would have zoomed in on my widening eyes as the recognition of what was happening began to sink in.  

Fortunately, our neighbor’s were not harmed, their house, though damaged, was repairable, and our house was fine.  The sparks fell silently like dark, angry snowflakes, and without fuel, their brightly burning edges dwindled on the gray concrete on our driveway. 

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

As a teenage girl, I loved the song, “Pass It On.”  

“It only takes a spark/ to get a fire going/ and soon all those around/ can warm up to its glowing/That’s how it is with God’s love . . .you want to pass it on.”–Kurt Kaiser

Photo by Tomáš Malík on Pexels.com

Words are sparks.  Tiny, miniscule notations of black and white either written or unleashed as phonemes by the tongue, teeth, and lips of a speaker. Eyes or ears take in the message.  Brain receives the message, attaches it to the current mental scaffolding of the reader or listener, and the process of comprehension and interpretation begins.  Input, analysis, and potentially, output.  Information computed, more sparks formed, knowledge is available to pass on.

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

Words can be exhilarating.  Finding just the right words increases one’s ability to express a more precise and exact message.  Communication, I would argue, can be down right intoxicating.  Babies can spend countless moments babbling for pure pleasure. Once babies  grasp a few words, however, and realize that those few intonations can command the attention of another human, they want more.  Like a fire blazing in the hearth, the flames of linguistic command demand more fuel in their desire to communicate and exert some measure of control.

The birthplace of Pearl S. Buck, Hillsboro, WV.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the birthplace of Pearl S. Buck.  The site itself was closed, but as I stood along the old homestead’s fence line, I imagined Pearl as a baby within those walls.  As I understand it, Buck and her family lived in that home for only a few months.  Nonetheless, my inner narrator could envision her mom singing to her as diapers were changed, and I could hear the voices of both parents talking to baby Pearl throughout the day.  Her parents could not have known that one day Pearl would become a prolific writer, winning both a Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize for the way her writing promoted empathy, compassion, and understanding. They were simply passing on to their daughter the power of communication, and through their ultimate missionary work, modeling beneficial ways words can be used.

Like the floating sparks of the long ago house fire, ashes can soar fiery red, greedily seeking fuel for which to consume, or they can burn down into a pile of harmless ash.  In fact, an accumulation of ash, such as that left over from burning wood in a hearth, can be used as fertilizer for plants as it is full of lime, potassium, and other trace minerals that promote plant production.  Likewise is the potential for the messages we speak and write–fuel for the fire or fertilizer for nourishment.

Tweet. News. Memo. Email. Instagram. Facebook. Snapchat. Tik Tok. Rumors. Innuendo. Gossip. Reporting. Posting. Blog. Website. Novel. Novella. Fiction. Nonfiction.  The list goes on.  Big words. Little words. Powerful words. Meaningless words. Hurtful. Helpful. Salacious. Compassionate. Implication. Understanding. There is no end in the ways in which words can be conveyed.  

All of us contain a divine, expressive spark, a creative candle intended to light our path and that of our fellows.”–Julia Cameron

Photo by Gantas Vaiu010diulu0117nas on Pexels.com

It’s not only the words, but the intent behind those words that has power.  The heart of the message; the heart of the speaker; the heart of the writer; the heart of the listener.  We were all Divinely created from a Source I still struggle to understand; but I can tell you this, Dear Reader.  The more I understand about the amazing, resilient human body and its magnificent potentiality, the more I believe, with all my heart, that we were each lovingly created for a Divinely designed purpose.  Those purposes are unique as each individual, but all of us have the same potential as Pearl S. Buck.  It all comes down to our hearts.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity.  And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.–James 3:17-18

Wildflowers peacefully swaying in the WV breeze.

While we may not all possess the ability to win prizes as Buck once did, we can all pray and focus on increasing what Christians call, the fruits of the spirit, that all major religions likewise focus: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  With these as kindling within the heart, we can be lit from within.  Our words, both written and spoken, can then be used to either light the way for others, warming them with the glow of thoughtfulness, or used as a tool for harm–burning bridges that otherwise could have been crossed through effective and empathetic communication.

Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com

I am reminded of the 15 or so years in which I taught Kindergarten aged students.  At the time, the practice was for the parents of soon-to-be-entering-school kindergartners to attend an orientation meeting.  During this meeting, each Kindergarten educator discussed with parents the classroom policies and procedures and addressed any concerns shared by parents. At some point during this meeting, we talked with the parents about the importance of their word choice and attitude towards beginning school.

We explained the power of possessing a positive, enthusiastic disposition towards this major childhood milestone by displaying an aren’t-you-a-big-kid-now attitude, rather than sharing sad tales of I-can’t-believe-my-baby-is-going-to-leave-me.  Parents were reminded that their child tended to mimic the parents’ perspective. As with most forms of communication, it is not only the word choice that creates influence, but also the intent behind those words that is often passed on.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

As I write these words, I am challenging myself as well as you, Dear Reader, to kindle those fruits of the spirit, so that our words may be more reflective of those ideals.  I fear that without sensitive hearts, we will all suffer the rapid burn of uncontrolled tongues or dashing fingers and thumbs across keyboards. 

 As the saying goes, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”  And, while my individual words may never win any literary recognition or publication, I pray to improve so that my writing, my social accounts, and my day-to-day interactions reflect more of a positive light.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Fertilizer or fire.  Peace or Agitation.  Forgiveness or resentment.  Upliftment or downtrodden.  Written or spoken, our words matter. 

With human’s ability to create fire, darkness was shaken, and life was Divinely elevated, but at the flames’ edge remains the darkness.  

May our words pass on light, warmth, and illuminate a path out of darkness. 

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

The Nature of Outdoor Exercise

“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to man when he goes for a walk.”–Raymond Inmon

Photo by Retha Ferguson on Pexels.com

If you have worked from home during this quarantine period, you have most likely experienced some form of frustration, isolation, emotional upheaval, or perhaps even anger, depression, and/or anxiety.  Add to the pandemic crisis a strong sentiment of public unrest due to social injustices and inequalities, as well as high unemployment, and it is no wonder that mental health issues are on the rise.  How does one cope with all of these stressors in a healthy manner?  Based upon my research, there is no one right answer.

Many mental health experts tend to agree on the fact that we should all maintain and/or create a routine for sleeping and waking, hydrating, eating healthy food, and some experts will even emphasize the importance of taking a daily shower and not working in pajamas all day–which is amusing to me on a number of levels. Others suggest the importance of finding a creative outlet, reading those been-meaning-to-read books, gardening, cooking, organizing closets, and so forth–anything that feels productive and useful.  Still, others highlight the importance of exercise and spending time in nature as ways to maintain and/or strengthen mental health.  While all of those are noteworthy and worth exploring, due to the months-long quarantine period, I rediscovered the soul-healing power of exercising in the great outdoors.  

I’ll be honest, Dear Reader, and I suspect I am not alone when I write this, I have a history of battling bouts of depression, or my dark side as I humorously like to call it.  Usually, it’s seasonal or situational, never long lasting, and fairly easy from which to recover.  However, the quarantine period was different.  In fact, the months of March, April, and May, felt dark, difficult, and downright disheartening, and I was employed!  I have to wonder how much more devastated I would have felt if I had lost my job.

Initially, I would joke that as an introvert, I had been preparing to quarantine my whole life.  However, I quickly discovered that the new demands of trying to integrate work into home life, along with a couple of other major life shifts, made it hard to establish a routine, much less stick to one. I tried meditating every morning; then I tried practicing yoga every morning.  Still, no tangible routine ever formed that significantly pushed away the mental darkness. 

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One event that nudged away a few clouds were the days in which my husband, John, and I cut off the work day by a certain time, and then drove to a local walking path for a 30-40 minute walk. Unfortunately, so much of our local spring was, more often than not, wet, rainy, cloudy, and cool–exceptionally cool given the time of the year– for these afternoon excursions.   This was compounded by the fact, like many Tri-State residents, that we do not live in a neighborhood conducive to walking, we always had (have) to drive to a path.  

Image from St. Mary’s Proctorville Walking Path

One day, I began randomly googling exercises for back injuries as well as walking-to-running training plans for those recovering from a back injury.  Nearly ten years ago, I had begun running as a form of exercise and found that while I was not particularly fast, I thoroughly enjoyed being outside on trails, paths, or sometimes side-walks as well as following goal-setting plans.  In fact, I loved it so much that I ultimately ran several half-marathons, a couple of 15-milers, and even completed two marathons–one in honor of my 50th birthday.  All of that came to a screeching halt when I injured three discs in my lower back.  

Image from Kanawha Trestle Rail-Trail.

It had been nearly four years since I last ran, but as I sat there that day, reading on-line, I began to wonder if perhaps I could run again.  Maybe slower and for shorter distances than last time, but what if . . . .

Images from Kanawha Trestle Rail-Trail

While researching, I also found a wealth of information regarding the benefits of exercising outside–especially as a way to cope with stress.  Some of the benefits of outdoor exercise include:  improvement of sleep; increased absorption of Vitamin D, increased productivity, creativity, and problem solving; alleviation of stress; reduced anxiety; boosted mood, and lowered blood pressure. Furthermore, for me, a training plan provides some semblance of a routine as well as the sense of accomplishment with each completed workout, especially when everything else in life feels chaotic. 

Images from Kanawha Trestle Rail-Trail

Then, as serendipity would have it, I ran across an on-line board that answers questions and provides reading material that solely focuses on recovering, healing, and preventing back injuries.  In one post, I read an article that referred to a book and walk-to-run training plan from 2011 called, Run Your Butt Off.  Quickly searching for it, I found and read the plan as well as the author’s notes.  This plan is fully available on-line; you do not have to buy the book, although I did purchase a used one later. 

The gentle and positive words of the authors of this plan have inspired my butt to get outside for exercise.

As I read the kind and encouraging words of the plan’s author, I  began to believe I might have stumbled onto something doable. While it is a 12-week plan, the author strongly and repeatedly encourages exercisers to work through the plan at their own pace, stating that most newbies take longer than 12-weeks.  With those heartening and gentle words, I decided to give the plan an honest try. (Full disclosure, the book also focuses on good eating habits, but who couldn’t benefit from a little nutritional 101, especially with the quarantine pounds many of us, myself included, have packed on.)

Images from Kanawha Trestle Rail-Trail

Without belaboring the details, those proverbial clouds are thinning, and the mental clarity is brightening once more. Sure, the gradual progression from walking to running feels good, but it’s the getting outside in nature and the people/critter-watching that are really at the heart of it.  Yes, I keep my distance from others, and I do have my mask nearby, but I typically do not wear it while exercising.  (The research seems to be mixed regarding whether one should or should not wear a mask, but all agree that social distancing is still the rule regardless.)  Seeing trees, smelling grass, feeling the uneven surface of a path under my feet, hearing the call of the red-winged black-bird, and even tasting the fresh air of each inhalation–I feel a renewed connection.

Image from WWI Memorial Path, Ritter Park, Huntington, WV

Several years ago, I learned that each person’s heartbeat is unique.  No two people’s hearts beat at the same rhythm. Add to that tidbit, the wonder and magnificence of each creature, each blade of grass, each birds’ song, each rock’s shape–all are distinctive and all are connected by the universal pulse of the Divine Creator.  Being outside and immersed in nature, I am reminded that I am connected to a bigger picture.  I am in awe of the wide-screen image of mankind, all of God’s creatures, Mother Earth, and the universe beyond; and in those moments, my mind is as free as the pitter patter of my own heart and two feet. 

Photo by Daniel Reche on Pexels.com

Whether walking, running, biking, kayaking, fishing, or simply enjoying a cool breeze in the shade, I hope you make time to get outside and soak up some of the sweetness of the natural wonder that is our world.

As seen on positiveaffirmations101 on Instagram

P.S.

Dear Reader,

Word Press, the company with which I use to produce this website/blog, recently updated, and I don’t quite have the hang of how to edit and arrange pictures. Please bear with me over the upcoming weeks as I learn to re-navigate this wonderful platform.

Politeness is the Flower of Humanity

 

“Politeness is the flower of humanity.” – Joseph Joubert

 

“In the Spirit which draws us into honest engagement with one another, including those who may be very different from us in various ways, God calls us to wake up and learn how to love and respect one another, period.”–Carter Heyward

 

There is a woman with whom I work. Her genuine smile rarely ceases.  Even when she is expressing disagreement, frustration, and anger, she is able to articulate it in a way that is both respectful and without a hint of anger in her voice.  Whenever I am feeling particularly moody, I chastisingly ask myself why I can’t be more like her.

 

While I like to think of myself as an overall kind and polite person, I fully recognize I have a long way to go in the thoughtfulness department.  Perhaps, that is one of my drivers for writing regularly–my own quest for greater understanding and personal growth. One thing I know for certain, on those days when I feel less than my best self–I see my co-worker’s smile, and I feel inspired to dig a little deeper to shake off whatever annoyance or struggle upon which I have focused.  And, perhaps, that is the key: focus.

 

adorable angry animal animal portrait
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

There is an old saying that states, that which we focus upon we become. Thus, maybe I need to ask myself on those days, where is my focus, and what can I change?  How can I begin to cultivate more inner joy like my co-worker seems to possess? As fate would have it, the Universe kindly provided me with a lesson.

 

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Photo by Bekka Mongeau on Pexels.com

 

John, my husband, suggested that we take advantage of an upcoming three day weekend and head out of town for a couple of nights.  Sometimes just a change of scenery can reset and rejuvenate our spirits. Besides, John knows me all too well, when I am home, I typically focus on work.  Therefore, my only request, upon his suggestion was that we not travel too far in order to return home with enough time for me to–yes, you guessed it– get caught up on my weekly weekend chores, so I didn’t have to start the next week feeling frantic and rushed.

After a bit of price comparisons on various travel sites, we ultimately settled on returning to Charleston,WV and the Four Points Hotel.  We have personally found the staff at this hotel to be exceptionally friendly and helpful. Furthermore, we love the location along the Kanawha River within walking distance to the downtown Charleston Historic District.  

 

 

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Due to an extreme drop in temperatures, we decided to remain within the hotel grounds for dinner that evening.  While the hotel does have its own restaurant, it also has another eatery on the opposite side, Recovery Sports Grille.  Many of the hotel staff members had recommended this spot on previous trips, but we had never before tried it. Therefore, with temperatures hovering in the teens, we gladly walked the short distance to the restaurant, using it as an opportunity to view the beautiful local artwork and photographs displayed along the warm interior route.

 

 

Once seated in Recovery, we met Britney Stamper, our waitress/bartender, for the evening.  John and I learned years ago that sitting at the bar often renders the best service, plus it typically gives us insight into the areas in which we are visiting.  While we didn’t, per se, gain additional insight into the Charleston area, we did learn a great deal about Charlotte, NC, an area in which Britney had lived for several years with her family.  By the end of the evening, we gained a greater awareness of another town we now plan to visit, ate fantastic food, and thoroughly enjoyed connecting, if only for a couple of hours, with another human whose varied life experiences expanded and enhanced our own. 

 

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Britney Stamper, at Recovery Sports Grille

 

 

Throughout the rest of the weekend, we were able to meet other people from all walks of life.  For example, while browsing in the Historic District, I wandered into The Consignment Shop. While I had discovered this store on a previous visit, I had not met the owner. However, on this visit I was able to meet her.   We shared a lovely conversation through the process of checking out, bonding over aging, being a woman, and other life experiences. I exited the shop smiling at the sense of connection.

 

 

Later that weekend, John and I met two engaging young people at Pies and Pints, a favorite dining establishment.  While dining there, we could not help but find ourselves drawn into their conversation as one employee celebrated and congratulated the other’s acceptance into nursing school.  Again, their short life experiences were certainly different from ours, but that did not hinder us in our conversations as we were able to find common ground.

 

 

Additionally, during breakfast, both mornings, we learned about Bruce, who may (or may not) be the morning manager of the hotel restaurant.  (We are uncertain of his exact title.) What John and I do know is that Bruce has been part of the Four Points staff during each of our visits, and he is the friendly face with whom we chat during our late morning meals.  It is easy to talk with Bruce, and it is clear from our conversations that he is kind, thoughtful, and devoted to his girlfriend and family.   

 

 

As we said our good-byes to Bruce, he confessed that he usually doesn’t talk much to his customers, “But, I really do like talking to you guys,” he added with a crooked smile, and I found myself smiling in return.

His comment remained with me throughout that day, and it later occured to me the lesson within his comment.  Perhaps, inner joy comes when we focus on others. Reflecting on my co-worker, she possesses a strong focus on others’ needs as well as a genuine and sincere curiosity.  I began to realize that I had spent so much time trying to measure up to what I perceived was “wrong” with me and “right” with her, that I had forgotten she has also talked privately about her own inner battles and demons.   However, in spite of any inward struggles she may be experiencing, when she comes to school, her light is on, open, and ready to engage, much in the same way John and I were engaging during our weekend away. Hmm . . .

In the final assessment, I fully recognize I still have many shortcomings, and there remain numerous areas in my life in which I still need to  improve. That recognition, in and of itself, may not be a bad thing. Perhaps, if I thought I had “arrived,” or had no more ways to improve, maybe that would be a bigger problem.  Instead, I will humbly accept that I have more inner work to do, need to focus on others’ needs more, and must continue to remain open to the lessons and sources of inspiration Divine Providence keeps providing me.

 

“Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Welcome 2020 Bluegrass Style: Another visit to Lexington, KY

  “New year—a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story? Ultimately, we write it. The choice is ours.” –Alex Morritt

 

“And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.”–Rainer Maria Rilke

 

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Hosts Dawna and Dave added thoughtful touches to celebrate the New Year.

 

 

By now, it has become fairly clear that John, my husband, and I are truly enamoured with Lexington, KY.  Part of the reason could be due to the fact we both have family roots tied to the Bluegrass state. It could also be the part Appalachian/part southern hospitality that puts us at ease–including the great food.  Then again, it could be its size as Lexington is big enough to have a few “big city offerings,” and likewise small enough to not feel overwhelming. Plus, like home, it still has plenty of hills, farmland, and areas of natural beauty.

 

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John and I are beginning to wear down a path from our home in Chesapeake, OH to Lexington, KY much like this worn path I discovered while walking the local neighborhood park in which our Airbnb rental was located.

 

 

Our previous Airbnb hosts, David and Dawna, had incentivized a return visit.  We had only recently stayed in their Uptown Retreat, a cozy accommodation perfect for couples, for a few days during Thanksgiving week.  Therefore, we made a fairly last minute decision to see if these same gracious hosts had a few days of availability for the New Year’s holiday.  As luck would have it, Uptown Retreat was not available, but The Corner Pocket, a larger two bedroom/two bath property–complete with pool table, was available, and a very reasonable price point.

 

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The Corner Pocket comes complete with a pool table.

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Jelly beans anyone? Complete with your own supply of pennies . . .winning!!!

 

While the rainy, chilly weather was a bit of a bummer, The Corner Pocket, did not disappoint!  It was meticulously clean with a full size, fully stocked updated kitchen. As they did with their Uptown Retreat property, David and Dawna offered plenty of thoughtful touches to make renters feel right at home, including plenty of snacks, coffee, tea, toys for kids, cards/games for all ages, three large flatscreen TVs with access to all your favorite subscription channels, plenty of paper and toiletry products, and so much more.  They even had an old fashioned, coin operated candy dispensing machine loaded with jelly beans, and a cup full of pennies! Plus, the property is located in an attractive, well-kept residential area with plenty of places to walk, jog, and/or ride bikes, and it is conveniently located to nearby downtown Lexington as well as multiple shopping/dining attractions. Plus, did I mention how attentive David and Dawna are to their renters? While they live right next door, they respect your privacy, but if you find you need anything, they are Johnny-on-the-spot.

 

 

 

 

Since the weather, except for the first full-day, was not conducive to out-of-doors explorations, we took advantage of the time to hunker down a bit in the comfortable accommodations and to also explore several of the Lexington shopping areas.  These areas included Lexington Green, Fayette Mall, The Summit at Fritz Farms, and Hamburg Pavilion. Each of these attractions offered numerous shopping, dining, and entertainment options. While each location had its own personality and appeal, depending upon the established and desired purveyors, all were attractive, offered ample and convenient parking, and were easily traversed.  

 

The first day in Lexington offered delightfully sunny, albeit chilly, weather.  This gave me time explore the neighborhood and discover a delightful walking trail/park.

 

As self-ascribed foodies, John and I, with our divergent food interests, were once more like kids playing in a food park wondering which ride to choose–our known favorites or new thrills?   It pleases John that Lexington offers plenty of the three Bs: beer, bourbon, and barbeque. Meanwhile, I prefer more plant-based options; and, due to celiac disease, I need gluten-free offerings (ruling out beer and bourbon for me).  No need to worry in Lexington!  

We did stop by a local favorite, Pies and Pints; however, we forgot to picture of most of our food!

 

Of course, we patronized our old favorite, Pies and Pints, (gotta support a WV based business) and our new favorite, Carson’s, in which bar-tender/waiter extraordinaire, Kyle Ostrander, was once again at our service!  Dining at Carson’s, John was able to enjoy a mouth-watering, massive plate of ribs, mac n cheese, and fries. Meanwhile, I was able to once more get my tummy filled with their wedge salad (with a few modifications for me) and, from their Vegan and Gluten-free menu, Chickpea Curry–so, so good!

 

Kyle Ostrander, of Carson’s, provided excellent service and good conversation. I enjoyed both Chickpea Curry and a Wedge salad while John enjoyed ribs and all the sides!

 

While exploring The Summit on New Year’s Day, John discovered a restaurant called, World of Beer!  We were greeted and waited upon by Owen Weyl and Kasey Belleman. These two good-natured and gregarious souls were warm and welcoming, especially considering they were working on a holiday!  They offered outstanding suggestions and tips. John warmed up with a bowl of chilli while I noshed on their Spring Greens and Kale salad. Thanks to Owen and Kasey, as well as our yummy food, this is sure to be spot we will want to visit again!

 

Owen Weyl and Kasey Belleman of World of Beer provided outstanding service      while we ate lunch at World of Beer at The Summit at Fritz Farms.

 

Inside World of Beer.

Spring Greens and Kale salad for me and a bowl of chili for John. 

 

We traveled to Wild Eggs for brunch the following day.  Janelle Foltz was our waitress, and we had a blast chatting with Janelle as she is a new transplant from Florida who loves to hike.  (Of course, shared several spots in KY in which we loved to explore, but we also could not say enough about all of the offerings found in good ol’ WV and OH.)  And, yes, by the way, the food was delectable, once again, at Wild Eggs! John enjoyed the An Ace of a BLT–avocado, cheddar, egg, bacon, lettuce, and tomato eat-with-a-fork super-sized sandwich that was served with a side of cheesy, chorizo and bacon grits.  Meanwhile, Janelle brought me the Gluten-Free menu, and, with a few modifications, I was able to dive into the Surfer Girl, veggie-loaded and sprout topped, egg-white omelette served with a fruit cup and surprisingly tasty gluten-free bread! YUM!

 

Surfer Girl, veggie-loaded and sprout topped, egg-white omelette served with a fruit cup and surprisingly tasty gluten-free bread and An Ace of a BLT–avocado, cheddar, egg, bacon, lettuce, and tomato eat-with-a-fork super-sized sandwich that was served with a side of cheesy, chorizo and bacon grits while we dined at Wild Eggs.

 

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Janelle Foltz, an avid hiker and out-of-doors adventurer, was our fabulous waitress at Wild Eggs.

 

One really nice touch that David and Dawna offer at their Airbnb rentals is plenty of information, brochures, pamphlets and menus of popular Lexington and surrounding area attractions, restaurants, and establishments.  Additionally, in a booklet they created for each rental is a listing of their local favorites, one of which is a restaurant called Nick Ryan’s.  

 

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Dawna and David provide plenty of reading material regarding area attractions.

 

Located in what appears to be a former home, Nick Ryan’s is a beautiful restaurant with an expansive food and drink menu that appealed to both John and me.  Our super-sweet bartender/waitress, Skylar Mays, a UK senior, was attentive, affable, and at-the-ready with suggestions if asked. In fact, it was Skylar who said we would love our appetizer, The Trio Dip.  It was a classic combo for John and me including beer cheese, red pepper hummus, cucumber dip, tortilla chips, baby carrots, and celery sticks. No need for a dinner salad after this! What’s more, John was surprised to discover he liked all three dips, not just the beer cheese. 

Nick Ryan’s is a beautiful restaurant located in what appears to be a former home.

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Skylar Mays, a UK senior, was an affable and attentive waitress.

 

Meanwhile, for dinner, John savored the Local Smoked BBQ Pork Butt.  This dish offered generous chunks of pork butt, slow smoked in-house, and it was served open-faced on Texas toast with BBQ sauce, country green beans, mac-n-cheese, corn fritters, and cole-slaw. While I dug into the Quinoa Vegetable Bowl overflowing with sauteed, seasonal vegetables on a bed of quinoa, and topped with sweet chilli sauce.  Given the atmosphere, attentive service, and ample, and scrumptious food, Nick Ryan’s is sure to be another Lexington restaurant John and I will want to visit again.

 

The Trio Dip was our appetizer, John enjoyed the Local Smoked BBQ Pork Butt, while savored the Quinoa Vegetable Bowl.

 

Local art adorned the walls of Nick Ryan’s.

Once more, Lexington proves to be a close-to-home getaway for food, shopping, and adventure.  There are numerous out-of-doors and historic adventures/attractions still beckoning us, and of course, John has yet to visit any of the local Lexington distilleries and/or breweries.  In fact, he’s already spied a beer trail walking tour, Lexington on Taps tour as well as the Brewgrass Trail. Of course, with the Rupp Arena at the heart of downtown, University of Kentucky, nearby horse farms, and numerous other attractions, Lexington has much to offer visitors.  Hmm . . . I wonder when we can return?

 

 

 

Thanksgiving in Lexington, KY 2019–Relax, Unwind, Enjoy Great Food

“Traveling – It leaves you speechless, then turns  you into a storyteller” – Ibn Battuta

I am not a glutton–I am an explorer of food.”–Erma Bombeck

 

Quite honestly, I am not sure how it finally all came to be decided, but in the end, it was a romantic, food-laden adventure.   In fact, I would argue, sometimes, last minute plans end up making the best adventures because you haven’t had time to think about and attach to certain outcomes.  You just pack a bag, hop in the car, and see what unfolds! That is what happened to John, my husband, and me this past Thanksgiving.

 

John and I are not traditional Thanksgiving meal fare people. I know, I know, for many people, Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday; and, I get it.  Focusing on the big three–food, family, and friends–is never a bad thing, I wholeheartedly agree. To be certain, I have baked my fair share of turkeys over the years–including baking the neck and giblet bags within the turkey!  What can I say? Fortunately, that year, I had a brother-in-law, Tony, who took good care to help me out without making me feel like a complete and total idiot–even though I was!

 

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Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

 

Despite the fact that turkey, dressing, and all the other traditional trimmings aren’t really John’s and my thing, we do love our food, and we do love to travel–even if adventuring fairly close to home! Thus, years ago, we began the family tradition, when our daughter, Madelyn, was fairly young, to combine travel and food during Thanksgiving week.  We tended to travel to mountainous destinations in nearby North Carolina, West Virginia, or Kentucky, and we usually kept the driving distance no longer than 6 hours. However, for the past couple of years, Maddie, now in college, has tended to venture separately with friends, included trips to Chicago and New York City. Therefore, this year, we were unsure if she would be joining us or not.  Furthermore, I preferred not to be out of town the entire week of Thanksgiving.

 

Conversations regarding Thanksgiving travel waxed and waned among Maddie, John, and me.  

 

“Are you interested in traveling with us?”

 

“Where would you want to go?”

 

“What days did you say you wanted to travel?”

 

“You know, we could go . . .”

 

“You know, we need to make a decision soon.”

 

Even the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, we still had not fully decided what to do!  Talk about indecisiveness–mostly on my part. In the end, we settled on Lexington, KY–a short three night, two hour trip.  John and I had discovered this town’s appeal this past spring, due to a family experience at the UK Medical Center. Therefore, why not head back to Kentucky’s warm hospitality?

 

Hospitality is exactly what we discovered on Airbnb.  We found what appeared to be a cozy apartment hideaway, reasonably priced, and tucked into an old residential Lexington neighborhood, only minutes from downtown.  However, due to a hacking experience the previous spring, our Airbnb account was not properly functioning. That is when hosts, Dawna and David Gaither, stepped in and offered direct Airbnb contact information, so that we could talk to an actual person, and get our account up and operating once more.  This was only the beginning of Dawna and David’s hospitality.

 

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Their “Uptown Retreat,” as it is called on Airbnb, is comfortable, cozy, and full of thoughtful touches for one or two travelers.  This spacious two-room apartment offers a retro kitchenette, wood-burning fireplace (complete with wood to burn), sauna, full bath, and laundry.  Plus, Dawna and David stock it up with beverages, snacks, toiletries, plenty of linens, coffee/tea, as well as comfortable bedding. Plus, they responded promptly and courteously to all text queries, and we were stunned by the fact they checked on us regularly to see if there was any more they could do to make our stay more pleasant!  John and I would highly recommend both the hosts and this location–absolutely perfect!

 

 

 

Now for the food . . .

 

Pies and Pints is always a favorite dining establishment.  I cannot say enough about their Simple Salad and their Black Bean Pie with gluten-free crust, which even John agrees is tasty!  And, yes, I splurged on cheese for this visit! John loves the rotating tap of local breweries and the Make-Your-Own-Pie choice since he’s a straightforward pepperoni, sausage, extra cheese kinda guy.  During this visit, we were fortunate enough to have Devon waiting upon us again, as he did this past spring, and his service and the food/beverages did not disappoint! Yum, yum, yum!

 

 

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Next stop, Wild Eggs for brunch the following day with Ms. Janette Gomez as our waitress extraordinaire. When I explained that I really did not want to eat meat, wanted little to no dairy, and I needed to eat gluten-free, she did not sweat one bit!  She helped me find several dishes from which I could choose, and she even suggested ways to make my ultimate choice filled with even more of what I love–vegetables! Add to that a carafe full of unlimited flavored coffee, an adorable atmosphere, that included mixed drinks if we had wanted them, an eclectic menu, and John’s big ol’ “Yellow Submarine” sandwich, we left Wild Eggs feeling full, happy, and definitely wanting to return again the next time we are in the neighborhood..

 

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That evening, it was time to visit Carson’s–John’s favorite spot (so far) in Lexington.  While we had dined there this past spring, we recalled that the menu had so many items that we wished to try, this visit seemed like the time to return and try a new dish.  I went straight to their vegan and gluten-free entrees, while John debated which meat-centric dish he wanted to enjoy. During our conversation that evening, I asked John if he ever got tired of finding restaurants with gluten-free and vegetarian options for me.  His reply left me thinking.

 

 

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“I figure, if a place takes the time to think about creating a few good food choices for those desiring vegetarian and gluten-free options, then they probably take just as much care, if not more, creating great meat based dishes.”

 

Hmm . . .maybe he’s on to something!  To be certain, that has certainly defined the majority of our dining experiences!  One thing is for sure, we found our meals tasted unbelievably delicious at Carson’s with courteous, and overall, prompt service that left us wanting to return a third time!  My Tofu Stir-fry was loaded with all the colorful veggies I love, and John’s Sweet and Spicy Rib Entree was loaded up with what could be called, bone-sucking good ribs! We did not leave hungry that night.

 

What did we do about Thanksgiving Day?  John still had one-half of his Yellow Submarine sandwich from our brunch at Wild Eggs, and he also had half of his ribs from dinner, but I did not have any leftovers.  Therefore, after a long walk around the neighborhood’s peaceful lake and homes, we visited Whole Foods Market’s food and salad bars. John loaded up on containers full of green salad and Mac n Cheese to round out both his meals for the day, while I loaded up on an eclectic mix of containers: mixed berries, salad, tofu, assorted grilled and roasted vegetables, quinoa chili, and, of course, dark chocolate!  Once back at the apartment, we burned a fire all day long, took in the football games, relaxed, and enjoyed each other’s company in our pleasant and snuggly setting. Now that’s a trip for which to feel grateful!

 

 

From my home to yours, John and I wish you safe, happy, and delicious travel experiences, and we certainly recommend givings Lexington, KY a visit when looking for a close-to-home adventure.  You won’t go hungry or be disappointed!

 

 

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The Resort at Glade Springs, another WV Gem

“There are cookie-cutter resorts, and then there are endless possibilities that define your experience at The Resort at Glade Springs. You won’t believe the options you have – from the dizzying array of recreational activities to lodging and dining choices. You envision your perfect vacation, and we’ll make it come to life.”—The Resort at Glade Springs website

 

“The vacation of a lifetime awaits you at our resort in WV. Reconnect with your family in a place that’s close to home, but a million miles removed from your hectic life.”— The Resort at Glade Springs website

 

It began as a classic misty mountain morning in Appalachia as John and I drove along the WV turnpike.  Sunshine, muted, but still golden, slowly seeped through the milky mist as our vehicle moved us closer to our first destination, Grandview, part of the National Park, located in Glen Jean, WV.  While Grandview was originally part of the WV State Park system, the National Park system took over its care and upkeep in 1990. John and I knew we would be joining members of the Brown Dog Yoga team for a morning hike as part of the activities planned for our instructor retreat; however, we truly had no idea what a dramatically scenic area we were about to experience.

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Brown Dog Yoga (Ashland, Barbrousville, & Huntington) first annual instructor retreat.

 

Overlooking the New River, Grandview offers visitors, at Main Overlook, 1400 feet above the river, some of the most incredible views of a seven-mile section of the New River.  Additionally, the sights from Turkey Spur Overlook were just as dizzyingly stunning during our crisp, early fall hike. In fact, Grandview offers five hiking trails, ranger led walks/talks, a visitor center that is opened seasonally, summer outdoor dramas, and picnic areas with playground and shelters.  The trails over which John and I trekked with the group were long, rocky, and a bit slippery from rain the day prior to the hike. Nonetheless, the magnificent views of the New River for which we were continually rewarded made every step worthwhile, not to mention the fun, friendship, and fellowship felt along the way.

 

 

After more than two hours of hiking, our group made its way to the next stop, Dogwood Court, located in the resort at Glade Springs, home of our fearless BDY leaders, Rich and Katrina Mailoux.  John parted at this point, and made his way to our room at the resort. Meanwhile, the BDY team was treated to the Mailoux’s warm hospitality and homemade lunch. Furthermore, we were uplifted with two separate motivating presentations with team building activities in between, one of which was participating in the Glade Spring’s Escape Room offering us a challenging adventure as well as abundant opportunities for good natured ribbing and laughter.

 

 

 

By 6:00, I parted ways with the group to rejoin John Glade Springs.  Although John had forewarned me that our room, “an executive suite” was a bit dated, I was delighted to find it to be spacious, comfortable, and immaculately clean.  While we were not located in the actual Inn, we found our section of eight buildings, each named for a different tree, to be quiet, lined with plenty of walking paths, dog-friendly, and within walkable distance to the main inn.

 

 

While I was bonding with the BDY team, John had showered, rested, and enjoyed lunch at Bunkers Sports Bar, one of the restaurants on premise at Glade Springs.  Overlooking the driving range, John happily watched a college football while noshing on an over-sized barbeque sandwich with a side of house made chips that he said were a crunchy delight!  However, for dinner, rather than try another one of the other on-site restaurants, John suggested a highly-recommended restaurant that he thought I would especially enjoy, The Dish.

 

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John’s lunch at Bunkers located within Glade Springs.

 

The Dish, located in Daniels, WV—mere minutes from Glade Springs—was created, according to their website, “by a group of partners who wanted to offer healthy food choices . . . of natural, whole ingredients.”  In fact, their menu proudly boasts, “Real food tastes better and is better for you.” Using much locally grown/raised fruits, vegetables, eggs, and beef, the menu of The Dish asks patrons to allow time for the preparation of their meals as nearly everything on their menu is made from scratch.   If that’s not enough, their menu’s food offerings are wide and varied, offering choices that are gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan as well as all plenty of meat-based entrees the carnivore-loving diner.

 

 

 

We entered the restaurant with high hopes, and we were not disappointed!  We began our meal with made-from scratch Roasted Red-pepper Hummus Dip topped with a bit of feta served with artichoke hearts, olives, as well as toasted pita-points for John, and carrot/celery sticks for me.  This yummy-looking appetizer was beautifully plated, and it tasted divine! 

 

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For our main course, John ordered Chicken Parmesan Pasta with a side salad, and I chose the Black Bean Burger (bunless) with a side of grilled Brussels sprouts.  Our taste buds were dancing the happy dance for sure! John’s chicken was cooked to perfection with its panko breading, melted provolone, and house made marinara.  He ate it all up—which is saying a lot as he is not a big chicken eater. Meanwhile, my gluten-free black bean burger, made with black beans, corn, red pepper, and quinoa, was served on an emerald bed of greens, topped with chipotle aioli and sliced avocado—so very delicious.

 

 

I thought I was finished for the evening, when I recalled spying a gluten-free dessert on their menu—a rare, rare treat for me.  I decided to fully indulge and order the Gluten-Free Butterscotch Blondie, served with a sauce that reminded me of a scratch made sauce my mom used to make when I was a teen for my birthday.  I took it back to our suite, thinking I’d only eat half, but as the menu states, this dessert was “total deliciousness.” In fact, it was so unbelievably good, I ended up eating the entire generously cut piece!  

 

 

The Resort at Glade Springs has unbelievable offerings.  From three golf courses to fly-fishing adventures; from numerous hiking trails to disc golf, from a fitness center with indoor pool to an out-of-doors pool and playground; from volleyball, horseshoes, bowling, corn hole, tennis, and horseback riding to shopping, dining, lounging, spa offerings, Escape Room, Haunted House,  and cinema, (and I still haven’t listed all of offerings) Glade Springs is an affordable, WV gem for which John and I will most certainly make a return visit, especially since it’s only two hours away from home!  

 

Once again, traveling in WV does not disappoint.  It truly is wild and wonderful! From our home to yours, John and I wish you safe travels and abundant adventures!

 

          Images from Glade Springs.

           Images from Small Talk Cafe Coffee Shop.

 

 

 

Once More, Charleston, WV Makes for a Relaxing, Pleasant Anytime Getaway

            “I think it’s nice to age gracefully.  OK, you lose the youth, a certain stamina, and a dewy glow, but what you gain on the inside as a human being is wonderful:  the wisdom, the acceptance and the peace of mind. It’s a fair exchange.”—Cherie Lunghi

 

            “My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.”—Michael J. Fox

 

            Walking down the sun soaked sidewalk absorbing all of the Vitamin D goodness, I felt full of vigor and vitality.  Sleep had been quite restful the night before, lasting nearly eight hours—which was remarkable for me. My morning workout at the hotel’s fitness center felt great; and the late, but freshly made breakfast that followed afterward with my husband also at the hotel, was tasty, hearty, and nutritious.  All in all, I was feeling full of positivity as John, my husband, and I walked hand-in-hand toward the quaint, brick covered sidewalks of Capitol Street, Charleston, WV.

 

Workout in Four Points’ fitness center in Charleston, WV; breakfast with John in the hotel’s restaurant, which included oatmeal and fruit for me and bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich for John; and then, out for a walk with John along quaint Capitol Street.

 

           As we walked by the window of one shop, I caught a glance of John and me in the window.  Wait. What? What the heart and mind feels, I am learning, compared to what the eye sees, are often two different narratives.  The two people holding hands in the shop window looked middle aged, but John and I were in our thirties, right? Wrong! The window shouted quiet loudly back at me.  Hmm . . . 

 

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          Charming Capitol Street in Charleston, WV.

 

            It was the weekend after my birthday.  John had offered to take me out of town for a couple of days, but realistically, I did not want us to drive too far for a number of reasons, including our upcoming trip with St. Joseph Catholic Middle School seventh graders on their annual trip to Camp Magis that was looming ahead in three days.  Ultimately, we settled on Charleston, WV for my birthday get-away.

          

            Yes, I know that technically, Charleston, WV is only an hour away from home, but I was working late Friday at school with my writing club.   On Monday, we would be riding on a school bus for three to four hours traveling to Huttonsville, WV with our students. Besides, who wants to be in a car for several hours after a long week/day?  

 

             As one of my Brown Dog Yoga co-workers Janice, pointed out, “You won’t have to make the bed, cook, clean, or worry about laundry for a couple of days, who cares how close, or far, away?  Just go and enjoy your birthday weekend with your husband!”

 

            Thus, we arrived at our destination, Four Point by Sheraton in Charleston, WV, late, tired, and very hungry on a Friday evening.  We had stayed at Four Points previously, a year or so ago, and we had found the service, cleanliness, and the location of the hotel ideal for our purposes.  Beautifully situated on Kanawha Blvd. overlooking the Kanawha River, Four Points is within walking distance of numerous restaurants (several of which are personal favorites), bars, and shops.  We stowed our car safely in their garage and never drove again until the return trip home on Sunday.

 

                       Four Points by Sheridan in situated alongside Kanawha Blvd. 

 

            Once situated in our room, we were ready to walk to dinner.  The weather could not have been more perfect with a clear, starry sky overhead, and temperatures moderately hovering in the low seventies/high sixties—perfect for walking.  Ambling hand-in-hand, we made our to a familiar sports bar & grille, Adelphia.

 

Although several of the multiple TVs in Adelphia were on baseball and news channels, John was also able to watch the Friday night college football game in which he was interested.

 

            Featuring pub grub, Greek food, a patio, and plenty of TVs for John to keep up with college Friday night football games, we found Adelphia’s patio to be packed on such a pleasant evening, while the bar side of the restaurant was not quite full.  We were able to find a seat at the bar, our favorite spot to sit when it’s just the two of us when traveling as we typically experience excellent service and usually gain insightful information regarding the area in which we are staying. 

 

            As a plant based eater, (I rarely consume meat.) with Celiac disease that requires me to eat gluten-free, married to a meat and potato kind-a-guy, dining out is always an interesting adventure.  John typically has no trouble finding numerous choices on the menu; whereas, I often have more limited food options. This was the case for me at Adelphia.  

 

                     Salad, Nachos Grande, and Bon & Viv Seltzer for me. 

 

        Obviously, there were several salads from which I could have chosen (and have chosen on previous trips), but it was birthday for heavens’ sake.  I eat salad nearly every day of my life! In the end, John quickly settled on the super-sized, “Homewrecker Hot Dog, a half pound of kosher beef footlong hotdog served with chili, cheese blend, diced red onion, and coleslaw” along with a side of onion rings, but I was not so quick to decide.  I finally settled on a side garden salad to begin dinner and chose nachos grande for my meal, as nachos are kind of a weakness for me.

 

  The Homewrecker footlong hot dog, onion rings, and a beer for John.

 

          John absolutely, positively loved every single bit of his hot dog as worried aloud if his stomach would be upset in the morning.  Meanwhile, I was a bit disappointed. The cheese sauce reminded me of Cheez whiz—something I had tasted maybe once or twice in my life, and never really like (I know, I know!).  While I did not see any meat in the chili (for which I was grateful), it still seemed to have a greasy flavor/mouth-feel. (It could have been an off night for the restaurant.) On the bright side though, Adelphia did offer unflavored Bon and Viv hard seltzer on tap!  Plus, they offered to flavor it with 12, or more flavors of Mio liquid water enhancement. At only $2.50 per 16-ounce glass, it was a deal I could not refuse!

 

          The next we enjoyed a stroll along Capitol Street with Taylor’s Book Shop, Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream, Rock City Cake Company, Pies and Pints to name a few.  In fact, I discovered a really nice shop, The Consignment Company, directly beside Ellen’s, that boasted high-end clothes, shoes, and bags on a sign in their window.  Must. Go. Explore.

 

The Cosignment Company, on Capitol Street in Charleston, WV, is a great place       for bargain hunters!

 

          I walked out of the store having spent less than $50.00 for three items, all with their original price tags still on them!  (Gotta love bargains!) We began to make our back towards the hotel and sauntered alongside the sparkling waters of the riverfront watching several leisure boats, with music blaring and passengers laughing, glide along the placid waters with ease; and, we were regaled by small children enthusiastically embracing their play in a small park as we thought of our own daughter when she was that age as the memories streamed forth like the waters of the Kanawha River coursed along beside us. (Sigh.)

 

                     Some sights along Capitol Street  . . .

 

                      Sights along Kanawha Blvd. . . .

 

          That evening, we dined at a local favorite for meat and veggie lovers alike, Pies and Pints!  What I love about Pies and Pints is that they also offer a gluten free crust, so even I can eat pizza pie!  While the gluten free crust is not house made, it is by Kinnikinnick Foods, I find this crust to be reliable tasty with a decent texture.  I savored every bite of my choice, the Black Bean Pie, taking half of mine back to the hotel for the return trip home the next day. However, John was unable to enjoy his Pepperoni, Sausage, and Extra Cheese Pie as it proved to be too salty—something he had never before experienced on prior dining experiences with Pies and Pints. (Possibly off-night in their kitchen as well.)  Additionally, we both relished our after dinner treats we picked up at Rock City Cake Company—John, a fresh made cream horn; and, me, three large chocolate covered strawberries! Yum!