harpers ferry, west virginia

Friday, January 13: On a beautiful Friday in January, just before I was to begin teaching a 7-week session at VIU, I decided to drive to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia for a morning outing.  Before this job dropped into my lap, I had made a schedule for myself that included taking a photo outing every Friday.  Despite getting the job at the last-minute and having to prepare two syllabuses and lesson plans, I went out anyway, determined that I wouldn’t allow this job to ruin my personal goals.  In the end, the outing caused me a great deal of stress over the weekend.  It turned out I would never have time for another Friday outing during the entire 7-week session.

I was glad I went even though it took me longer to drive there than the 1 hr 9 min estimated by MapQuest.

At the Visitor’s Center, I was told there was a 2 1/2 mile hike to the river bluff or a shuttle into the town of Harpers Ferry, where I could get some lunch.  I only had time for one or the other, and I was hungry, so I opted for the town.  The town is supposedly closed off to cars, so I was required to take the shuttle despite having my car.  Later, as I walked through the town, I saw cars driving through, so it was obviously NOT “closed off to cars!”

I was dropped by the shuttle on Shenandoah Street, from which I could see St. Peter’s Catholic Church on the hill overlooking the town.

St. Peter’s Catholic Church

I walked down the quiet street, looking at the preserved shops from the 1800s.

Shenandoah Street
Shenandoah Street
Philip Frankel & Co.

At the end of Shenandoah Street, I got a glimpse of the John Brown Museum.  I didn’t go inside because I didn’t want to take that much time.

The story is this:  In October 1859, determined to arm enslaved people and spark rebellion, John Brown and his followers seized the armory and several other strategic points.  The raid failed, with most men killed or captured.  Brown’s trial and execution focused attention on the issue of slavery and propelled the nation toward civil war. (National Park Service pamphlet)

John Brown Museum

I walked up High Street, which has shops and restaurants.  As it was lunchtime and I was hungry, I searched for a place to grab a bite.

High Street

I stopped by the train station to watch some of the trains barrel past.

I ducked into Hannah’s New Orleans Seafood & Southern BBQ for some lunch. It was bright and cheery, and the Bubba Gump Louisiana shrimp fried in Cajun cornmeal was delicious. 🙂

A lunch stop
Tenfold fair trade collection

After lunch, I walked back down High Street.

High Street

I took the path up to Jefferson Rock.   First I came face-to-face with St. Peter’s Catholic Church.

Irish laborers flooded into the Harpers Ferry area during the 1830s to build the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal and the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad.  St. Peter’s Catholic Church symbolizes America’s melting pot tradition and the customs, habits, and religion of the early Irish immigrants.

St. Peter’s Catholic Church

During the Civil War, to protect the church from Union and Confederate shells, Father Costello flew the British Union Jack flag as a symbol of the church’s neutrality.  St. Peter’s escaped the war relatively unscathed. The church was remodeled in 1896 and Mass is offered here every Sunday.

St. Peter’s Catholic Church

Further up the path, I found the ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church, one of Harpers Ferry’s five earliest churches.  Built in 1852 with money provided by church fairs, St. John’s served as a hospital and barracks during the Civil War and suffered considerable damage.  It was rebuilt afterward, but was abandoned in 1895 when a new Episcopal church was built in the upper town.

Ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church
Ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church

Above the ruins sat a pretty house with a grand view.

a fancy house on the path to Jefferson Rock

This is how Thomas Jefferson described the view from Jefferson Rock during a visit to Harpers Ferry in 1783:

“On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain a hundred miles to seek a vent.  On your left approaches the Patowmac [Potomac], in quest of a passage also.  In the moment of their junction they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder, and pass off to the sea … This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.”

Looking from the hill to St. Peter’s and the Potomac River

Around 1860, the U.S. armory superintendent ordered red sandstone supports places under “Jefferson Rock” because it was “endangering the lives and properties of the villagers below.”

Jefferson Rock

Going back down the hill, I passed the ruins again.

The ruins again
Looking down at St. Peter’s and the Potomac
St. Peter’s Catholic Church
The John Brown Museum below

At this juncture of the Potomac and the Shenandoah rivers, George Washington envisioned military strength and chose Harpers Ferry as the site for a U.S. Armory.   By the early 1800s, the rivers powered the armory complex and commercial mills.  The revolutionary method of manufacturing with interchangeable parts was perfected at the Halls Island rifle factory.

Below is Arsenal Square and the John Brown Museum.

The John Brown Museum
The John Brown Museum and St. Peter’s

I followed part of the Appalachian Trail from the end of Shenandoah Street across the footbridge to the C&O Canal and Maryland Heights.

Potomac River at Harpers Ferry
Potomac River at Harpers Ferry
bridge across the Potomac River at Harper’s Ferry
Walking bridge across the Potomac River
Where the Potomac River merges with the Shenandoah

There is a lot of train activity at this juncture of the rivers.

Rail transportation in the United States began in Baltimore, Maryland on July 4, 1828, when Charles Carroll, the only living signer of the Declaration of Independence, laid the cornerstone of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

On the same day, President John Quincy Adams turned the first spade of earth along the Potomac River for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

The race was underway as the progressive railroad and the traditional canal struggled to become the first to connect the Ohio Valley with the east coast.  Harpers Ferry was one of the first milestones of that race.

Trainspotting

Work on the railroad and canal progressed slowly at first, but by 1834 both companies had completed construction to a point opposite Harpers Ferry. The canal had won the race to this point, and it continued up the Maryland side to the Potomac.

The B&O Railroad, plagued by land disputes with the canal, crossed the Potomac at Harpers Ferry in 1837 and rapidly pushed on.  By 1842, it reached Cumberland, Maryland, and a decade later, the railroad was open to Wheeling on the Ohio River.

the bridge

Business boomed at Harpers Ferry with the arrival of the railroad.  Refrigerated cars brought oysters and other luxuries to the town.  Thousands of travelers visited Harpers Ferry as it became a gateway to the Ohio Valley.

The Civil War shattered Harpers Ferry’s prosperity.  Much of the town was destroyed, and Confederate raiders constantly sabotaged the railroad.  Despite the war, the railroad escaped permanent damage, and the B&O survives today as a main artery of transportation in the United States.

bridge shots

On the other side of the footbridge, I saw the path along the C&O Canal, but I didn’t have time to explore it further.

The C&O Canal was burdened by a lack of building supplies and a scarcity of skilled labor and thus encountered serious financial problems.  It did not reach Cumberland, Maryland until 1850 — eight years after the railroad reached that point.  Plans to continue further westward were abandoned.

Made obsolete by the faster and less expensive railroad, the C&O Canal never attained any great measure of economic success, but it did transport coal, flour, grain, and lumber to Washington for nearly 90 years.  Canal operations ceased in 1924 when a flood devastated the Potomac Valley, leaving the canal in ruins.

the path continues
steps to the other side
playing with color

Today’s view of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers passing through the water gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains has changed little from Meriwether Lewis’ view in 1803.  Lewis hoped to find a similar, accessible trade route on rivers passing through the Rocky Mountains.

The first mode of travel consisted of a primitive ferry established in 1733 by Peter Stephens.  Stephens sold his business to Robert Harper in 1747, and Harper and others carried settlers and supplied across the waters until 1824 when a bridge constructed across the Potomac made ferryboat operations unnecessary.

In less than a decade after the bridge was completed, the iron horse and the mule brought the transportation revolution to Harpers Ferry.

Potomac River at Harper’s Ferry

In 1848, the building now known as John Brown Fort was built as a fire-engine house for the U.S. Armory.  On October 16, 1859, it served as a stronghold for John Brown and his raiders, as they were penned into the building by the local militia.  U.S. Marines stormed the building at dawn on October 18th and captured Brown.  Convicted of murder, treason, and inciting slaves to rebellion, he was hanged in nearby Charles Town on December 2, 1859.

John Brown

The Fort escaped destruction during the Civil War, but from 1861-1865, it was vandalized by souvenir-hunting Union and Confederate soldier and later travelers.  In 1891, it was dismantled and transported to the Chicago Exposition, and in 1895, it was rescued from conversion to a stable and brought back to Harpers Ferry to be exhibited on a farm.  Then in 1909, it was purchased by Storer College and moved to campus.  Finally, in 1968, it was moved by the National Park Service to within 150 feet of its original location.

John Brown Fort
Philip Frankel & Co. with St. Peter’s on the hill behind
Looking up at Jefferson Rock
St. Peter’s Catholic Church

After my fun excursion, it was sadly time to return home and get to work on preparing for my classes.  I could have explored a lot more.  Sadly, it would have to wait for another day.

the january cocktail hour – boy, do i ever need a drink!

Welcome to our January happy hour! Come right in, make yourself comfortable and I’ll mix you up a drink. I don’t know about you, but January has been a rough month, so I really need a drink (or two or three!).  Today I’m serving up a new concoction I discovered at Lolita in Philadelphia: a jalapeno-cucumber margarita.  I’m not a big fan of sweet drinks, so this is perfect and refreshing.  Of course there will always be the old standbys of wine and beer.  I can also offer soda or seltzer water with lime if you prefer a non-alcoholic beverage.  Cheers!

I’m happy to see you.  We can mingle or we can sit, whatever is to your liking.  How are you surviving since the election?  Have you taken a stand in politics or are you sitting on the sidelines waiting for things to shake out? How are your resolutions coming along?  What kind of music are you listening to?  Have you indulged in any daydreams? Have you changed jobs or gone into retirement?  Have you seen any good movies or read any page-turners? Have you tried out any new restaurants or cooked anything wonderful at home?  Have you had any special family gatherings?

Some of you may remember my ambitious plans for 2017: here’s looking at you, twenty-seventeen

Well.  Let’s just say, at least for now, my plans have been slightly waylaid.

downtown Harper's Ferry
downtown Harper’s Ferry

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” ~ Allen Saunders

The day after I signed up for three writing classes at the Bethesda Writer’s Center and one class through Fairfax County Adult Ed on starting a new business, I got a call from Virginia International University, a small private university not far from my house, to have a phone interview.  This was a shock as I had applied and been rejected for a job with them last August.  The phone interview was followed by a request to do a 20-minute teaching demo, which I also did.  They hired me as an adjunct to teach two intensive ESL classes, Mon-Thur (9:00-2:40).  I didn’t have much time to prepare as the classes started on Monday, January 16, on Martin Luther King Day, so I was pretty stressed out.

the town of Harper's Ferry
the town of Harper’s Ferry

When I teach, though I only have 20 contact hours/week, I end up working almost double that amount.  So, now and for the duration of the 7-week session, my time is not my own. Not only do I have to prepare for and mark papers for two classes, but I also am taking one writing class every Saturday for 6 weeks, and I have two more one-day classes I’ve signed up for, one this Thursday and one on a Saturday in March.  The writing teacher gives us writing assignments; we’re supposed to submit a piece for work-shopping every Saturday.  On Thursday night, I finished the two-night entrepreneurship course. In the last class, a speaker discussed franchising for most of the class, which I have no interest in!  It was mostly a waste of time and money.

Luckily the semesters are very short at 7 weeks, and I only have five more to go.  Also, as I’m an adjunct, VIU can either offer me a position next session or not, and I can choose to teach classes or not.  After seeing how much of my time is consumed, I’ve decided to either teach only one class, or none at all, in the next session.  It’s hardly worth it when I divide what I make per contact hour over the hours I actually work, plus take taxes off the top.  I’d rather focus on my personal goals.

That being said, the students are enjoyable.  I do love being in the classroom and interacting with my students, but I don’t enjoy the time I have to spend outside class hours to prepare.  As I am often a perfectionist, I can let the preparations get out of hand, and I never seem to know when to stop.

The Terrace Garage - Harper's Ferry
The Terrace Garage – Harper’s Ferry

On top of this, I applied back in December for The English Language Fellow Program, which sends experienced U.S. TESOL professionals on paid teaching assignments at universities and other academic institutions around the world.  It was quite an extensive application process; I had to write numerous essays about various aspects of teaching.  They don’t even look at an application until all references are turned in, and I knew my Chinese reference would hold me up.  Finally, in early January, after much prodding from a friend on the ground in China, my former supervisors submitted their references and I was contacted to have a Skype interview, which I did. The next day, I was informed that I’m now in the applicant pool and will be considered for programs worldwide.  Though there is no guarantee that I’ll get a fellowship, at least I’m happy I made it into the pool.  This would be for the 2017-2018 academic year.

So, this is why you haven’t seen much of me in the blogosphere. My classes end March 2, so I should have more time after that.

Wax Museum and Scoops
Wax Museum and Scoops

As for other random stuff in January, I’ve been to see three movies: Hidden Figures, Julieta, and La La Land.  I enjoyed them all, but I especially loved Hidden Figures because I grew up in southern Virginia near Langley during the early years of the NASA space program, and the fathers of many of my friends worked at NASA.  I also enjoyed the light-hearted romance and music in La La Land, as it gave me a welcome escape from the dark times our country is facing since January 20.

view above St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia
view above St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia

By the way, I made up a January playlist on Spotify that you might enjoy.  I call it: of true detectives and highway vagabonds:

  • “Far From Any Road” – From the HBO Series True Detective / Soundtrack
  • “Highway Vagabond” – Miranda Lambert – the weight of these wings
  • “The Angry River” – True Detective (From the HBO Series)
  • “Inside Out” – Spoon – They Want My Soul
  • “Do You” – Spoon – They Want My Soul
  • “You Know I’m No Good” – Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
  • “Hold On” – Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls
  • “Gocce di memoria” – Giorgia – Spirito Libero
  • “Somebody’s Love” – Passenger – Somebody’s Love
  • “What I Am” – Edie Brickell & New Bohemians – Shooting Rubber Bands at the Stars
  • “Love of the Loveless” – Eels – Meet the Eels: Essential Eels Vol. 1
  • “Tighten Up” – The Black Keys – Brothers
  • “City of Stars – Ryan Gosling – From “La La Land” Soundtrack
  • “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” – Emma Stone – From “La La Land” Soundtrack

I haven’t had time for much else of interest, but I did go on Friday, January 13 to Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia for a bit of an outing.  It was before my first week of teaching and I was determined to do an outing each week on Friday (since I’m off); I’ve been trying hard not to let the job run me!  However, the following Friday was the inauguration and I didn’t want to go out in the traffic (and I certainly had no desire to attend the inauguration) and last Friday (the 27th), I had a mandatory teacher meeting (which I don’t get paid for, by the way).  So, it seems the job is running me after all.  The pictures scattered through this post are from Harper’s Ferry; I’ll write a blog post about it later.

The Small Arsenal - remains of a weapons storehouse in Harper's Ferry
The Small Arsenal – remains of a weapons storehouse in Harper’s Ferry
tree along the Potomac River
tree along the Potomac River

I finished reading several books this month.  My favorite was Nabokov’s Lolita, which is shocking by way of subject matter, but wonderful in terms of prose.  I listened to the audio book, and I felt thrilled with so many of Nabokov’s passages, just for his amazing use of language, that I had to go out and buy the book so I could reread many of the passages I listened to.  I plan to write about this in a separate post.  I also enjoyed City of Veils, by Zoë Ferraris.  It takes place in Saudi Arabia and is a murder story, not my usual cup of tea, but I love it because it portrays the nuances of Saudi culture.  I also listened to the audiobook Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents by Elisabeth Eaves, which I enjoyed because she traveled to places like Egypt and Yemen, echoing some of my own travels.  And everyone knows from my recent posts about visiting museums, that I also enjoyed the small book: How to Visit a Museum, by David Finn.

As for the aftermath of our election, I don’t want to ruin our cocktail hour, so I’ll write a separate post about it.  All I can say is I’m extremely proud of all the women who marched in the Women’s March on January 21, and I’m proud of the protestors at airports and at the White House who are protesting the Muslim Ban.  You can count me as part of the Resistance!!  We will NOT stand down.

St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia
St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia

I hope you’ll share what’s been going on with you.  As always, I wish wonderful things for all of you. 🙂

twenty-sixteen

In twenty-sixteen, I:  Gazed in WONDER at the Renwick.  Traipsed around the City of Brotherly Love, ate Philly cheese steaks, and admired the Mural Arts decorating the city’s walls and parking lots. Inspected the crack in the Liberty Bell and imagined our forefathers in Independence Hall.  Toasted to Mike’s 62nd birthday. Worried about our youngest son’s lack of direction.  Partially de-cluttered our house, using The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (the Kon-Mari method), successfully weeding out clothing, accessories, kitchen appliances and books.

Flew to Dallas, Texas and then drove to Oklahoma City to attend a friend’s second wedding.  Walked on the grassy knoll and along the route where JFK was assassinated.  Stood beside larger-than-life statues of George W. Bush and his dad at the George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum.  Walked among tulips and sat with Benjamin Franklin at the Dallas Arboretum.  Stood under a rearing horse and saw a fake rodeo at the Cowboy Museum.  Grieved near a field of empty chairs for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Stood by as contractors demolished our deck, laundry room and kitchen and then slowly built them again, in much nicer form.

Attended my first husband’s book talk in April at Politics and Prose in D.C., where he discussed his newly published book, Mathews Men.  Celebrated our daughter Sarah’s graduation, with a B.A. in English, from Virginia Commonwealth University in May.  Enjoyed a spread of bagels at Sarah’s house, and later dinner and dirty martinis at Lucy’s, with both families in attendance. 🙂

Wandered through tulips and sunflowers at Burnside Gardens in Virginia.  Visited four gardens around Philadelphia for my second trip to that city this year.  Imbibed in Cabernets and Pinot Grigios at several Virginia wineries.  Let our son’s lease in Richmond expire and watched with trepidation to see what he’d do next; fretted because we didn’t know where he would go or what he’d do.  Felt relieved when we found he took off for a Tribal Design retreat in Vancouver and finally went Hawaii, where he is now leading tours for a hostel in Maui.

Drove around the Ring Road in Iceland over a breathtaking 11 days (in search of a thousand cafés).  Climbed around, behind, and to the tops of waterfalls. Admired sweeping vistas from our Polo VW rental.  Hiked to the edge of ashy glaciers.  Poked around inside turf-roofed houses. Ate cod, cod and more cod, as well as langoustine, lamb and gas-station hot dogs.  Drove over 2700 km and walked 166,100 steps, or 70.4 miles.  Returned home with walking pneumonia, from which it took three weeks to recover.

Laughed at the “Kurios” of Cirque de Soleil.  Had a family reunion at our renovated house for my dad’s 86th birthday in September, where everyone except Adam attended.  Enjoyed sushi and sake with my sister Stephanie, who came from California.  Drove along the Skyline Drive amidst flame-colored leaves to West Virginia in early November to celebrate my 61st birthday and our 28th anniversary.  Enjoyed delicious pizza and craft beer at Pies & Pints. Strolled through the eerie ghost towns of Thurmond and Nuttallburg.  Hiked along the Endless Wall.

Barely survived our contentious election and felt heartbroken over the results.  Boycotted Facebook for a month and a half.  Realized I have nothing in common with 62 million Americans.

Read/listened to 35 books/audiobooks (meeting my Goodreads goal!), my favorites being All the Light We Cannot See, State of Wonder, Circling the Sun, The Ambassador’s Wife, and The Glass Castle.  Saw 39 movies in the theater, especially loving Joy, Eye in the Sky, A Hologram for the King, The Man Who Knew Infinity, The Music of Strangers, Dheepan, Hell or High Water, The Light Between Oceans, Sully, Girl on the Train, A Man Called Ove, Manchester by the Sea, and Lion.  Dined on Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, French, Japanese and Italian food.

Weighed 5 pounds more at year-end than at the end of 2015, despite continual attempts to lose weight.  Took Pilates and dropped out because of utter boredom.  Walked nearly 251 hours during 276 @3-mile workouts, or about 813 miles of dedicated workouts.

Passed the Virginia Real Estate Licensing Exam but never signed with a broker. Sent my novel to 23 agents to no avail.  Applied for 32 jobs, 23 abroad and 9 stateside.  Came up empty-handed on the book publishing and the job front.  Got discouraged.  Completed a Memoir class and wrote seven chapters of a memoir.  Dreamed about how my future might look.

Celebrated Thanksgiving with Alex and Sarah, and Christmas with only Alex (Adam was in Hawaii through the holidays, jumping off waterfalls, body surfing and leading tours). Felt dismayed at our shrinking family gatherings.

Returned to Philadelphia (third time’s a charm!) to see “Paint the Revolution” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Admired the Gates of Hell and Crouching Woman at the Rodin Museum.  Wandered through the Magic Gardens of mirrors and mosaics and found objects.  Walked and walked through the outdoor gallery of Mural Arts to shake 2016 out of our psyches. Drove home through Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, amidst the clip-clop of horse-drawn buggies and faded laundry flapping on clotheslines.

Cleared our heads in preparation for 2017, when we are hoping for love, peace, healing, direction, confidence, boldness and endless adventure. 🙂

west virginia: gauley bridge, kanawha falls & blackwater falls state park

Sunday, November 6:  After another wonderful breakfast at the Historic Morris Harvey House in Fayetteville, we check out and begin our long drive home, planning to make several stops along the way.   We’re doing a loop, so we’ll cover new territory on the way back.  Not far from US 60, we see Cathedral Falls in a blur as we zoom past; Mike turns around so we can have a look at this waterfall that drops 60 feet down rock walls in a narrow grotto.

Cathedral Falls
Cathedral Falls

We reach the town of Gauley Bridge, a small town in Fayette Country, West Virginia, where the New River meets the Gauley River and forms the Kanawha River.  We can see the church steeple in the town through the bridge over the Gauley River.

The Gauley River Bridge
The Gauley River Bridge

The New River widens where it meets the Gauley.  Across the way, we see a little building on a small rocky peninsula.  I’m not sure what it is, but it seems to bask in a pretty and sunny spot.

the New River meets the Gauley River
the New River meets the Gauley River
island oasis
island oasis

In the town of Gauley Bridge, we find a mural of a railroad crossing with a train barreling through.  It seems railroads played a big part in the coal-mining history of these West Virginia towns.

Mural in the town of Gauley Bridge
Mural in the town of Gauley Bridge

We drive 2 miles southwest of Gauley Bridge to the town of Glen Ferris. Here, we get out of the car to admire Kanawha Falls, which stretch across the 100-yard wide river.

Kanawha Falls
Kanawha Falls
Mike at Kanawha Falls
Mike at Kanawha Falls
me at Kanawha Falls
me at Kanawha Falls
Kanawha Falls
Kanawha Falls
park at Kanawha Falls
park at Kanawha Falls
Kanawha Falls
Kanawha Falls
Kanawha Falls
Kanawha Falls

We continue on Route 39, where we stop at a small overlook in the Gauley Bridge National Recreation Area.

overlook: Gauley River National Recreation Area
overlook: Gauley River National Recreation Area
Mike at the overlook
Mike at the overlook
overlooking the Gauley River
overlooking the Gauley River

It’s quite an uneventful drive for a long while.  Though it’s about 10:30 when we leave the overlook, we don’t arrive at Blackwater Falls State Park, near the town of Davis, until 2:30, four hours later.

For centuries, this pristine wilderness stood virtually undisturbed by man.  Native American foraging parties most likely confined their use of this area to the summer months due to harsh area winters.  Accounts of non-natives being in this area go back as far as 1736. It isn’t known who the first non-natives were to see Blackwater Falls. However, it was David Hunter Strother, going under the name of “Porte Crayon,” who, beginning in 1853, wrote a series of articles for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine about his adventures into the Blackwater Region.

Blackwater Falls State Park, established in 1937, takes its name from the Blackwater River.  The falls plunge five stories, then tumble through an eight-mile long gorge.  The “black” water is a result of tannic acid from fallen hemlock and red spruce needles.

Blackwater Falls State Park
Blackwater Falls State Park

The lighting here isn’t great for pictures this afternoon.  It is a pleasant walk to the falls anyway.   Apparently, early visitors to the area scrambled down the boulder-strewn path and climbed over fallen trees to view the falls.  Luckily, our way is made easy by the boardwalks that include over 200 steps.

Blackwater Falls State Park
Blackwater Falls State Park

The first boardwalk was built in 1961 and then replaced 25 years later in 1986.  Construction of the current walkway began in August 2004 and was completed in December of the same year.

Blackwater Falls
Blackwater Falls

The boardwalk follows the natural contours of the slope down to the waterfall; the wood in the walkway blends nicely with the natural surroundings, as if it grew there.  Famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright referred to this process as organic design (according to a sign at the park).

Blackwater Falls State Park
Blackwater Falls State Park
Blackwater Falls
Blackwater Falls
Blackwater Falls
Blackwater Falls

After looking at Blackwater Falls from every overlook and every possible angle, we take the short walk to the 20-foot Elakala Falls.

Elakala Trail
Elakala Trail
Elakala Trail
Elakala Trail
Elakala Trail
Elakala Trail

The Elakala Falls tumble into a canyon bordered by moss-covered rocks and rhododendron thickets.

Falls of Elakala
Falls of Elakala
Falls of Elakala
Falls of Elakala
Falls of Elakala
Falls of Elakala
me at the Falls of Elakala
me at the Falls of Elakala
Falls of Elakala
Falls of Elakala
canyon walls at Elakal
canyon walls at Elakal
ferns on the Elakala Trail
ferns on the Elakala Trail
view from the bridge over the Elakala Falls
view from the bridge over the Elakala Falls

We walk through the large Blackwater Lodge and Conference Center, and then stroll out back for a view over the gorge.

view from behind the Blackwater Lodge and Conference Center
view from behind the Blackwater Lodge and Conference Center

We still have quite a drive ahead of us to get home, so we get in the car for our long haul home, stopping at the Whole Foods Seafood Bar near our house for a delicious dinner and a glass of wine to top off our day.  Our 28th anniversary weekend has come to an end. 🙂

west virginia: the endless wall

Saturday, November 5:  Before it gets dark, we’re determined to hike the 2.4 mile moderately difficult Endless Wall Trail along the New River. The trail passes through forest, crosses Fern Creek, then zigzags along the cliff edge.

the forest trail
the forest trail

It takes a while to walk through the forest to reach the cliff edge, where we have great vistas of the New River Gorge.

first glimpse of the Endless Wall
first glimpse of the Endless Wall

This trail has been voted #1 National Park Trail in the U.S. by USA Today readers.

The Endless Wall
The Endless Wall
hardy tree
hardy tree
The Endless Wall
The Endless Wall

The overlook at Diamond Point provides a great panorama of the gorge and a good turnaround spot.

trees along the cliffs
trees along the cliffs
The Endless Wall
The Endless Wall

Besides the fantastic views, the trail offers access to some of the best rock climbing in the eastern United States.

The Endless Wall
The Endless Wall

Looking into the distance, we can see the “endless” cliff walls following the curve of the 1000-foot deep gorge.

The Endless Wall
The Endless Wall

If you look closely in the picture below, you might catch a glimpse of some hardy souls climbing the sheer cliffs.

rock climbers
rock climbers
The New River
The New River
The Endless wall along the New River Gorge
The Endless wall along the New River Gorge
rocky overlook
rocky overlook
Mike at the Endless Wall
Mike at the Endless Wall
me at the Endless Wall
me at the Endless Wall
the Endless Wall
the Endless Wall
sheer drops
sheer drops
the Wall
the Wall
overlook
overlook

We make our way back through the forest to the road, where we have to walk along the two-lane highway for about a half mile to reach our car.  It’s a little dangerous along this road, with pick-up trucks speeding along at breakneck speed.  It would be nice if the National Park Service built a path along this road.

walking back through the forest
walking back through the forest

Back in Fayetteville, we find an interesting wall mural showing white water rafters, the marquee for the Fayetteville Theatre and a sign for Fayetteville Physical Therapy (cropped out in this photo).

Street art in Fayetteville
Street art in Fayetteville
Fayetteville
Fayetteville

We head back to the Historic Morris Harvey House, where we walk around the impressive gardens and then relax in the sitting room with a glass of wine.

In the evening, we head out to dinner at the almost-empty Gumbo’s Cajun Restaurant.  We’re told we can’t order drinks because the restaurant has lost its liquor license.  I’m of a mind to leave, but we sit through a mediocre dinner, wondering why we didn’t just return to the lively Pies and Pints, where we ate a delicious dinner last night.  As a matter of fact, after our very unsatisfactory meal, we return to Pies and Pints, which is as crowded as it was last night, and order wine and dessert.  It’s a fabulous top-off to a busy day.

Tomorrow, we’ll have to return home to Virginia, but we plan to make a few stops along the way.

west virginia: babcock state park & the nuttallburg coal mining complex and town historic district

Saturday, November 5:  After lunch we head to the east side of the New River to visit Babcock State Park.  The visitor center is closed for the season, but we can still walk around the Glade Creek Grist Mill and the paths leading to the rental cabins.

The light is such that it’s difficult to get decent shots of the Grist Mill, so of course I’m disappointed.  The Glade Creek Grist Mill is a new fully operable mill built in 1976 as a re-creation of Copper’s Mill, which ground grain on Glade Creek long before Babcock became a state park, according to West Virginia’s official site for Babcock State Park.

Glade Creek Grist Mill
Glade Creek Grist Mill
me at the Glade Creek Grist Mill
me at the Glade Creek Grist Mill

Today’s mill was created by salvaging and combining pieces from three mills which once dotted the state: the basic structure from Stoney Creek Grist Mill near Campbelltown in Pocahontas County, dating back to 1890; the overshot water wheel from Spring Run Grist Mill near Petersburg, Grant County; and pieces from the Onego Grist Mill near Seneca Rocks in Pendleton County.

Glade Creek Grist Mill
Glade Creek Grist Mill
Glade Creek Grist Mill
Glade Creek Grist Mill
Glade Creek Grist Mill
Glade Creek Grist Mill
Glade Creek Grist Mill
Glade Creek Grist Mill
Glade Creek Grist Mill
Glade Creek Grist Mill
Glade Creek
Glade Creek

The Glade Creek Grist Mill produces freshly ground cornmeal when it’s operational, available for purchase.  Today, the season is over, so the mill isn’t operating.

Glade Creek Grist Mill
Glade Creek Grist Mill
Glade Creek Grist Mill
Glade Creek Grist Mill

We walk along a paved path behind the mill and find a lot of cozy-looking cabins, hunkered down in the midst of moss-covered boulders. Firewood is piled up in preparation for the cold months ahead.

trail at Babcock State Park
trail at Babcock State Park
Babcock State Park
Babcock State Park
Parting shot of the Glade Creek Grist Mill
Parting shot of the Glade Creek Grist Mill

We finish our little walk, stop for a parting view of the Grist Mill, and head up the road to Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex and Town Historic District.  We drive quite a distance down a two-lane winding road and then walk a bit along a wooded trail.

approaching the Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex and Town Historic District
approaching the Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex and Town Historic District
Fall leaves
Fall leaves

Nuttallburg was one of fifty towns that sprang up along the New River to meet the nation’s growing need for coal.

John Nuttall arrived here in 1870, and anticipating that a railroad would be built to run along the river here, built two mines and a town to serve the miners and their families.

Born in England in 1817, John Nuttall worked in mines — starting at age 11 — for most of two decades.  When he came to America in 1849, he worked in a silk mill for seven years, saving enough money to open his own coal mines.

The large metal structure in the picture below is Nuttallburg’s tipple, where coal was sorted, stored, loaded into rail cars, or transferred to the site’s coke ovens.  The name tipple comes from the practice in some mines of tipping ore cars to unload them.

Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex
Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex

The mine evolved over its 85 years of operation, with management changing hands along the way.  At one point, the mine was owned by Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company fame.

In 1873, the C&O Railroad was built and Nuttall began to ship coal.  He prospered until he died in 1897 and passed the company along to his heirs.  They operated it until 1920, when the Fordson Coal company leased the mine and modernized the facility.  This led to a steep increase in productivity.

Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex
Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex

In 1928, Maryland New River Mining Company took over, renaming it Dubree No. 4.  In 1954, the Margie Coal Company acquired the mine but quickly sold it to Garnet Coal Company.  Garnet operated it for four years but closed it permanently in 1958.  The mine sat vacant until the Nuttall estate transferred ownership to the National Park Service in 1998.  In 2005, Nuttallburg was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The railroad track in this picture is the C&O Railway’s main line.  Without the railroad, there would have been no Nuttallburg.  By carrying coal to market, the railroad made coal mining in the New River Gorge possible.

Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex
Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex

The large structures seen here today, the tipple and the conveyor, were built during Henry Ford’s ownership in the 1920s.  He was attempting vertical integration, a practice whereby an industry controls all aspects of production, from raw materials to finished product. Ford needed coal to power his automobile factories.  By purchasing coal mines, including Nuttallburg, he hoped to control his coal supply.

Ford’s plan didn’t quite work as planned because he didn’t control the railroads.  He sold his Nuttallburg rights in 1928.  During the eight years he ran the mine, he sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into upgrades, including the tipple and the conveyor.  Because of these upgrades, Nuttallburg is recognized today as a nationally significant National Historic District.

Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex
Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex – the Tipple

New River coal was highly desirable because it had a high carbon content and contained little waste.  The railroad carried it from here to many destinations.  Nuttallburg coal heated homes and fueled iron furnaces, train engines, and factories throughout the East.  Because New River coal emitted little smoke, the U.S. Navy valued it as ship fuel, since enemy submarines were less likely to spot ships with little smoke (from a placard at the park).

Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex
Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex

The large structure that climbs the slope was a 1,385 foot-long conveyor, one of the longest such conveyors ever built.  An innovative and expensive device, it carried coal from the mine entrance high up the gorge wall to the tipple.  The tipple was the operation’s centerpiece.

Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex
Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex

Completed in 1926 under Henry Ford’s ownership, and his son Edsel Ford’s management, the conveyor employed a state-of-the-art “button and rope” technology that replaced an obsolete, more dangerous, labor-intensive system.  The conveyor minimized breakage; New River coal was very “friable,” or breakable, which increased operation costs.

Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex
Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex
pile of equipment at Nuttallburg
pile of equipment at Nuttallburg
Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex
Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex – the conveyor
gleaming trees
gleaming trees

The long, low masonry structure shown below is a bank of 80 coke ovens and is the only structure that survives from Nuttallburg’s earliest days.  Workers used these ovens to convert coal into a hot-burning fuel called coke.  Coke is made by baking coal under a regulated flow of air.  Raw coal is loaded through the top of the oven, the oven is sealed and allowed to burn for several days, then the coke is pulled from the bottom.  Impurities (volatiles) have burned away, leaving only high-carbon coke, which burns hotter than coal.

Used extensively by iron furnaces, coke was highly marketable, and added value to the coal mining operation.

Coke ovens at Nuttallburg
Coke ovens at Nuttallburg

Workers produced coke here for nearly 50 years, but changing markets and new technology made coke ovens obsolete.  Historians believe these coke ovens have been idle since about 1920.

Coke ovens
Coke ovens
The Tipple
The Tipple
the Tipple
the Tipple
the conveyor
the conveyor

After leaving Nuttallburg, we drive back up the long winding road to the main highway, passing some mountain streams along the way.

stream along the road to Nuttallburg
stream along the road to Nuttallburg
stream along the road to Nuttallburg
stream along the road to Nuttallburg
stream along the road to Nuttallburg
stream along the road to Nuttallburg

We’re heading for the Endless Wall Trail, a 2.4 mile loop which is supposed to offer great views of the New River Gorge.

 

 

west virginia: the almost-ghost town of thurmond

Saturday, November 5: During our fantastic communal breakfast prepared by Bernie at The Historic Morris Harvey House, we meet several couples who are either traveling through or staying in West Virginia for the weekend.  We keep our conversation light and carefully avoid discussing the upcoming election, which is sure to cause disagreement. West Virginia is definitely Republican territory, and we’ve seen many signs for Trump-Pence in people’s yards.

We have a lot planned for today, and though the weather forecast calls for sunshine and temperatures in the low 60s, it is quite foggy this morning.  I’m never happy about fog, but I guess it does lend an appropriately eerie atmosphere to our first destination, the almost-deserted town of Thurmond.

We enter the town on the one lane bridge adjoining the railroad bridge, which crosses the New River.  The town, nearly deserted now, is preserved by the National Park Service, but in its day it boasted opera houses, two banks, two hotels, saloons, restaurants, clothing stores, a jewelry store, a movie theater, several dry-goods stores, business offices, and over 400 residents.  As of the 2010 census, only five people lived in the town.

CSX railroad line bridge over the New River
CSX railroad line bridge over the New River

According to the National Park Service website: During the first two decades of the 1900s, Thurmond was a classic boomtown. With the huge amounts of coal brought in from area mines, it had the largest revenue on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. Having many coal barons among its patrons, Thurmond’s banks were the richest in the state. Fifteen passenger trains a day came through town — its depot serving as many as 95,000 passengers a year. The town’s stores and saloons did a remarkable business, and its hotels and boarding houses were constantly overflowing.

The 1987 movie Matewan was filed here, depicting miners’ struggles in the early 1900s.

The two-story Thurmond Depot was built in 1904 after the original station was destroyed by fire.  The upper level housed the signal tower and the offices of the dispatcher, train master, and conductor.  The lower level served travelers coming and going from Thurmond.  The ticket agent’s office, baggage room, waiting rooms, restrooms and a snack/news room were at track level.

In 1995, the building was restored by the National Park Service for use as a visitor center.  Sadly, it isn’t open this morning, making the place really feel like a ghost town.

Thurmond Passenger Depot
Thurmond Passenger Depot

We walk along the railroad tracks despite the warning in the Park Service brochure to “use extra caution when crossing the road and the railroad line” and to “Cross only at the designated railroad crossing and do not walk on the track line.”  The track is still a CSX mainline, with over a dozen trains passing through Thurmond daily.  We’re lucky enough to have one come through while we’re here, but we’re not on the track at that time!

We come first to the U.S. Post Office building.  In its prior life, it was a commissary built by Fitzgerald & Company to provide supplies to the hundreds of railroad workers in Thurmond in 1929.  When fire destroyed the Lafayette Hotel and the town post office, this building became the Post Office.  In the late 1900s, it housed the last business in Thurmond — Thurmond Supply.

Commissary turned Post Office
Commissary turned Post Office
CSX Railroad line
CSX Railroad line
U.S. Post Office
U.S. Post Office

There isn’t much happening in the town this morning, but we do see festive signs of Halloween in front of the post office.

We approach the Mankin-Cox Building, which marks the southern end of the commercial district.  Built in 1904, this building is the oldest in the district.  The Mankin Drug Company was on the right side and the New River Banking & Trust Co. was on the left.

Welcome to Thurmond
Welcome to Thurmond
Mike on the CSX Railroad line
Mike on the CSX Railroad line

There are hundreds of engraved paving stones in the walkway that commemorate the happenings in Thurmond.  You can see a few of them below.  Click on any of the photos for a full-sized slide show.

We see a wooden house set on a hillside above the commercial district.  I’m not sure if it’s inhabited today.

a house on the edge
a house on the edge
The Mankin-Cox Building
The Mankin-Cox Building
New River Banking & Trust Co.
New River Banking & Trust Co.
New River Banking & Trust Co.
New River Banking & Trust Co.

We continue our short walk past the commercial district and find the tall coaling tower.  Tracks ran underneath the coaling station to allow as much as 500 tons of coal to drop via chutes into the coal tenders of the engines.  The tower was abandoned by CSX in 1960.

the railroad tracks
the railroad tracks
Storage shed
Storage shed

While we’re at the far end of the town, we feel the earth reverberate under our feet and hear a rumble in the distance.  Before long, a CSX train roars through the town, reminding us of the lost spirit of the town.

a train roars through
a train roars through
the train
the train
Mike and the train
Mike and the train
me and the train
me and the train
the train
the train

We come upon the Fatty Lipscomb House, built around 1900 and used as a boarding house.  For a number of years the Littlepage family lived on the first floor and rented the second.  At least through 1984, it was used as a guesthouse for whitewater rafters.

Fatty Lipscomb House
Fatty Lipscomb House
stairs to the Fatty Lipscomb House
stairs to the Fatty Lipscomb House

The James Humphrey Jr. house was built around 1920 and was said to have been the train master’s house, according to a U.S. Department of the Interior National Register of Historic Places.

We make our way back to the Depot, getting a view from across the tracks, climbing to the second level, and then checking it out from the railroad bridge.

Thurmond Passenger Depot
Thurmond Passenger Depot
Thurmond Passenger Depot
Thurmond Passenger Depot
Thurmond Passenger Depot from the railroad bridge
Thurmond Passenger Depot from the railroad bridge
The New River
The New River
Conductor's Office
Conductor’s Office
Railroad bridge over the New River
Railroad bridge over the New River

With the Great Depression, several businesses in Thurmond closed, including the National Bank of Thurmond.  The town’s economic vitality waned after two large fires wiped out several major businesses.  In addition, roads improved and Americans began to favor automobile travel. The C&O Railway changed from steam to diesel locomotives in the 1940s, leaving many of the rail yard structures and jobs obsolete.  The town is still incorporated and hosts a reunion for former residents each year, according to a National Park Service pamphlet, “Thurmond: Heart of the New River Gorge.”

We make our way down Route 25 for 7 miles, where we catch glimpses of a stream feeding the New River, along with a pretty series of waterfalls.

stream feeding into the New River
stream feeding into the New River
Waterfall
Waterfall
waterfall
waterfall
a waterfall along the way
a waterfall along the way
waterfall
waterfall

We return to the town of Glen Jean, scattered with a few stately buildings.

stately building
stately building

For thirty years, from 1909-1939, the Bank of Glen Jean provided financial power for the mines, towns and people along Dunloup Creek.  The McKell family provided the land on which the bank stands and William McKell served as the bank’s president for its entire existence.  When William McKell died, the bank closed.  During the next 50 years, the building changed hands ten times.  In 1986, The Nature Conservancy purchased the bank and donated it to the New River Gorge National River to be preserved as a visitor center and park offices.

Bank of Glen Jean
Bank of Glen Jean

Our next destination is Babcock State Park on the east side of the New River.  Since we’re on the west side of the river and have to pass through Fayetteville to cross the New River Gorge Bridge, we stop for lunch at the Secret Sandwich Society.  Here, we share a Truman sandwich: Turkey, peach jam, blue cheese spread, and crispy onions on a toasted baguette.  We order a side of pimento cheese fries.

The Truman Sandwich and Pimiento Cheese Fries at the Secret Sandwich Society
The Truman Sandwich and pimento Cheese Fries at the Secret Sandwich Society

Now the sun has broken through the fog, and we’re on our way to Babcock State Park.