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.
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, 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 I think the sign’s information is outdated.
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 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.
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.
As we climb up the road into Fayetteville, we pass a stream with some small waterfalls.
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.
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.
I’m not sure if the character on the front porch is a prisoner or an elf.
The gardens are quite beautiful.
And a little frog welcomes us into the 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.
We find this interesting little book on the coffee table.
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!