west virginia: the new river gorge bridge & fayetteville

Friday, November 4:  It takes us a good long while to get to the New River in West Virginia after leaving the Skyline Drive. We finally arrive at 4:00, just in time to get a glimpse of the river and the New River Gorge Bridge and to take a long winding drive down to the river bed and then climb back up on the other side.  It’s a good thing daylight savings time doesn’t begin until Sunday morning.  Otherwise it would be dark by 5:00.

The New River is about 360 mi (515 km) long. The river flows through the U.S. states of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia before joining with the Gauley River to form the Kanawha River at the town of Gauley Bridge, WV.  We’ll plan to visit the point where these two rivers meet when we drive back home on Sunday.

Despite its name, the New River is considered by some geologists to be one of the oldest rivers in the world (Wikipedia: New River (Kanawha River)), even older than the Appalachian mountains through which it flows.  Local legend claims only the Nile is older.

The New River Gorge
The New River Gorge

As it flows through West Virginia, most of the New River is designated as the New River Gorge National River. It is one of our country’s American Heritage Rivers, designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to receive special attention in furthering three objectives: natural resource and environmental protection, economic revitalization, and historic and cultural preservation (Wikipedia: American Heritage Rivers).

The New River Gorge Bridge
The New River Gorge Bridge

The New River Gorge Bridge, completed in October of 1977, reduced a 40-minute drive down narrow mountain roads and across one of North America’s oldest rivers to less than a minute. According to the U.S. Park Service website, it is “the longest steel span in the western hemisphere and the third highest in the United States.” A sign at the overlook says it is “the world’s longest single-arch steel span bridge.  At 876 feet above the river, it is America’s 2nd-highest bridge.”  I think the sign’s information is outdated.

The New River Gorge Bridge
The New River Gorge Bridge

Though the tree-covered slopes look the same from top to bottom, they actually vary with slope, moisture and soil type.  The river bottom, a water habitat, nourishes water-loving plants and animals.  The gorge’s slopes, steep and well-drained, support a mixed deciduous (leaf-dropping) forest.  Secluded shaded side-drainages harbor patches of hemlock-rhododendron.  Evergreens eke out a living from the dry rocky soil on the ridge-tops.  On the flat plateau, a deciduous oak-hickory forest thrives on stable soil.

The New River Gorge
The New River Gorge

The steel used in the bridge is Cor-ten steel, which rusts slightly on the surface.  This surface-rust inhibits deeper rust, protecting the steel and eliminating the need to paint.  It also provides the color which darkens with time.

under The New River Gorge Bridge
under The New River Gorge Bridge
silhouettes
silhouettes
a rock for climbing near the New River Gorge
a rock for climbing near the New River Gorge
climbing rock
climbing rock
silhouette of The New River Gorge Bridge
silhouette of The New River Gorge Bridge
The New River Gorge Bridge
The New River Gorge Bridge

On the third Saturday of October, the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce hosts “Bridge Day.” On this one day a year, the famous bridge is open to pedestrians.  Thousands of people are drawn to participate in a wide variety of activities, including food and crafts vendors, BASE jumping, rappelling, and music. Bridge Day is West Virginia’s largest one-day festival, and it is the largest extreme sports event in the world.

We follow a one-way winding road from the visitor center down to the river bottom, where we cross over a small bridge.  Mike has fun being Mike.  We get a good view of the big bridge from the little bridge, and then we head up the other side of the gorge.

The New River is odd in that it flows north; this doesn’t usually happen in the American east.

The New River’s shape and form are also odd.  It has great bends that cut deeply into the earth, unusual in eastern North America where meandering rivers are normally broad and flat. Here, the New River slices through ten million years of rock layers.

The New River Gorge Bridge
The New River Gorge Bridge

As we climb up the road into Fayetteville, we pass a stream with some small waterfalls.

a smallish waterfall on the drive up
a smallish waterfall on the drive up

Finally, we arrive at The Historic Morris Harvey House Bed & Breakfast, our home for the next two nights.  The house was completed in 1902 for Morris and Rosa Harvey. This 3-story, 14-room Queen Anne-style house has five guest areas, seven fireplaces and two antique bathrooms with clawfoot tubs.

After the death of Morris Harvey, the house stayed in the Harvey family until 1931. From 1931 to 1953, it served as the parsonage for Methodist ministers. For the next 40 years, there were various owners.

The Historic Morris Harvey House
The Historic Morris Harvey House

In 1993, the owners Elizabeth Bush and her husband George Soros renovated the house extensively, including replacing the seven original oak fireplaces with Italian tile. Since 1994, the house has served as a bed and breakfast inn. The inn is currently owned by Bernie J. Kania Jr. and his family.

The Morris Harvey House has been placed on the Register of Historic Places by the Department of Interior and has appeared in numerous newspaper and magazine articles, including the book “Historic Inns of West Virginia,” according to the B&B’s website.

The Historic Morris Harvey House
The Historic Morris Harvey House

I’m not sure if the character on the front porch is a prisoner or an elf.

a strange character on the front porch of The Historic Morris Harvey House
a strange character on the front porch of The Historic Morris Harvey House

The gardens are quite beautiful.

garden at The Historic Morris Harvey House
garden at The Historic Morris Harvey House

And a little frog welcomes us into the house.

Welcome to The Historic Morris Harvey House
Welcome to The Historic Morris Harvey House

The Harvey Room, where we stay, has a toilet but no bath; we have to share the bath with one other room.  It seems to have a peacock motif.  I love the Italian tiles on the fireplace.

We take a bottle of wine down to the sitting room and enjoy our wine with some crackers and cheese that Mike thought to bring along.  Again, I love the tiles on the fireplace, along with the chess board.

I play around with the camera awhile, trying to get a decent picture of the chess pieces.

chess board
chess board

We find this interesting little book on the coffee table.

Strange Dreams
Strange Dreams

I like the thoughts in this little book, many of which I can apply to specific situations in my life now.

After we drink our wine, we head out to have dinner at Pies and Pints.  Though there are other restaurants in town, it’s clear this is the only game in town.  It’s packed.  We choose to sit at the bar rather than wait 20-30 minutes for a table.  We order a Spinach Salad (Spinach, red onions, Gorgonzola, red grapes & sunflower seeds, tossed in-house vinaigrette or creamy Gorgonzola) and a Mushroom Garlic Specialty Pie (Roasted mushrooms, feta, roasted & fresh garlic, caramelized onions, olive oil & fresh herbs).  I have a Blue Moon and Mike an Ayinger Beer.

As we sit at the bar, we strike up a conversation with an Arapaho guy, Jeremiah, around 40, who works with the National Park Service and is from New Mexico. His family is in Standing Rock and he wishes he could be there with them. He is also of Two Spirits, as Native Americans recognize seven genders. What an amazing guy and I’m so happy to have met him.

Here it is, the weekend before our election, and all I can think is that I love America’s diversity and can’t understand why people want to destroy what makes America great!

an anniversary trip to west virginia: the skyline drive of shenandoah national park

Friday, November 4:  We’re on our way this morning to Fayetteville, West Virginia to get away for a three-day weekend before the U.S. election on Tuesday.  It’s a trip to celebrate my birthday (Oct. 25), belatedly, and our 28th anniversary (Nov. 13), early. We decide on our way down south, we’ll drive a portion of Skyline Drive from Front Royal to Thornton Gap.

The view from Skyline Drive
The view from Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive is the scenic roadway that winds 105 miles through Shenandoah National Park, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia just west of Washington, D.C.  There are only four entrances to the park; we take the northernmost one, getting off at the next one south.  We have a long way to go to get to our destination in West Virginia, but we want to see some of the fall colors.  Thus we take the slower route for about 28 miles.

Skyline Drive views
Skyline Drive views

We’re so glad we do because it’s a gorgeous day and we’re rewarded with some marvelous vistas.

the valley from Skyline Drive
the valley from Skyline Drive
dappled valley
dappled valley

Forty percent of the park (almost 80,000 acres) is designated as a wilderness area; it represents one of the largest wilderness areas in the eastern United States and has about 500 miles of hiking trails, according to Shenandoah National Park – Skyline Drive: What to See.

autumn colors
autumn colors

It’s surprising to see so much color on the trees in early November; usually the trees are further past their prime at this time of year.

broad sweeping colors
broad sweeping colors
the valley
the valley
me along Skyline Drive
me along Skyline Drive
orange galore!
orange galore!
a tree amidst flames
a tree amidst flames
stark tree
stark tree
profile
profile
etchings
etchings
hillsides in flames
hillsides in flames
white bark trees
white bark trees
overlooking the valley
overlooking the valley

We enjoy our drive immensely, stopping at the numerous pull-outs for sweeping views.

a dramatic scene
a dramatic scene
rich orange hills
rich orange hills
a beacon of orange
a beacon of orange
valley views
valley views
views along Skyline Drive
views along Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive
a stand of trees
a stand of trees

Finally, we exit the beautiful park and head south on Interstate 81, in route to cross the state line into West Virginia.