Sunday, October 17, 2021

Back to the New River: Thurmond, WV

48 this morning, chilly and clear after a rainy start to the day yesterday. Cool temps predicted all week.

We delivered a set of Fire-King tulip bowls to a buyer in Charleston yesterday--it was much better than shipping those expensive bowls (250.00+), and we got to visit ReStore at the same time, so a win-win for us and the really nice guy who bought the bowls.

Since we were an hour south of home, we decided to take another road trip, back to the New River Gorge and to a place I have wanted to see for years, the abandoned railroad town of Thurmond.

Well, Thurmond isn't exactly abandoned: there are 5 permanent residents there, and several privately owned but unoccupied homes. Still, the area that used to be the main business area is vacant. The state park service took over the area some years back, slowly developing it into a tourist attraction. Then last year the federal government added the New River Gorge as the newest national park, which encompasses Thurmond.

I had thought that since it was cool, cloudy and rainy, there wouldn't be many people in Thurmond, but even so there were quite a few visitors. There were kayakers, bikers, hikers, and we even saw one man fly-fishing. The ranger on duty seemed to think that every visitor knew nothing about the state, which was kind of funny as he tried to tell Larry about mining, since Larry grew up in a coal camp. The ranger had a few details wrong; mining was the reason for the railroad to have been built in the rugged gorge, and when it died out, so did the need for the town.

To say the area is beautiful doesn't begin to do it justice. Here's a partial photo journal of our day; I will probably be posting more, as I took about 300 pictures.

The road follows the tracks. I'd love to be on this section when a train comes.

The road narrows and narrows as it snakes its way to the town. There are plenty of lay-bys for cars to pass each other, fortunately.

The road is also bordered most of the way by the prettiest stream. Rocks and water, so beautiful.

And then the bridge into town. One lane, side-by-side with the railroad trestle.

Below, the New River, home of probably the wildest Class VI rapids on the East Coast.

Once across the bridge and parked, we immediately ventured onto the trestle. I have been having some dizziness due to sinus and allergy  issues, but I held the cables and occasionally Larry so I could get out there.

Far below, the river.

The ranger came out and ran everyone off the trestle, since a coal train was on the way.

Waiting for the train.

And here it comes. This one was at least 200 cars, with two engines in the center to help push and pull the heavy load.

The large concrete tower in the above photos held coal and water for refueling trains back in the steam days.

These pulley wheels on the outside of the coal tower fascinated me. What were they for? Pulling up loads of coal, maybe?

This little one was too cute. Alissa, her name was, and she kept grinning at me until I had to hide behind her parents so they could take a photo of her looking at them. Then she thought I was playing peek-a-boo. There was no danger at this point, of course, the train was long gone.

One of the empty buildings in the town.

And yet another.

It must have been a prosperous place, to merit such a nice bank building.

The whole of the commercial block, all empty these days.

We finally walked back to the big hotel building, which I forgot to photograph, of course. 

I hated to leave but the day was waning, and we had a long drive ahead. These falls were along the road to the town too; I waited for the homeward journey to stop and take photos. 

We stopped in Fayetteville for a late lunch/early dinner. Both of us were starving, and we'd heard good things about the Cathedral Cafe and Book Store, so that's where we went. I have to admit, I was underwhelmed. It was quite noisy, not the quaint environment I envisioned. It was also very busy, which I am always glad to see for small businesses like this, but the cost of two sandwiches, a hard cider and one glass of wine was over 40.00. That's a bit much for our budget; it was good but not superb, and I doubt we'll return. Although...the coffee I got to go was absolutely delicious. But not included in that 40.00 tab. 

We took the slow road home, winding across central West Virginia. The black line in the center shows roughly the route we took, all two-lane or smaller, except for the trip down to Charleston.

It was just about dark by the time we got home, and I have to admit our own road looked pretty good to us.

We will certainly go back to Thurmond, and spend a much longer day. Perhaps in the spring? The ranger said about 12 trains come through every day, and you know that would keep me quite happy. In spring there will be wildflowers to photograph, and Larry wants to fish...and I want to sit on one of those old porches and write. It's a place to inspire imagination, and words.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Late Bloomers

60 and raining this morning, after a very dry week with temps around 80 and nights around 60.

The roses are outdoing themselves now, at the very end of the season. All summer long some of them had only one or two blooms. The red climber has been pretty nearly all summer, but not so the others. But look at them now.

This one is by the front porch, and looks so pretty with the monkshood. A friend gave me the monkshood plant last spring and it's been interesting to watch its development. I believe I need to move it to a less shady location, but I do like having this bloom in September/October.

A better photo of the rose; no idea what its name is.

And I am so delighted to at last have a fall-blooming iris. I ordered these online last year, then could not remember where I'd planted them.  They are thriving, and I can't wait to plant more like them.

Little miniature roses do well here, for some reason. I have a red one that is about 10 years old now, and still booms every year. These pink ones are in the path of some work Larry is doing, but he's been careful not to harm them.

Another miniature, happily co-existing with rosemary.

And a third, also in the same flowerbed. These are all new this year.

This one is from a bouquet Larry picked for me. It's from the only knockout rosebush I have left out of 9 we planted a long while back.

And these are the drift roses I planted last year, which are also doing well in their place beside the stone wall.

A random zinnia. The zinnias and cosmos are still blooming like mad in the veggie garden.

Speaking of late bloomers, some books I've been reading lately are by some late-blooming authors.
Effie Leland Wilder was a southern author who had her first book published when she was 85 and went on to write several more before passing away at age 98. Her books are set in a retirement home and are funny and touching. Then there's Not That Kind of Girl, by Mary Wesley, who first published at age 71. It's interesting so far; neither of these authors write what might be called great literature, but both write well and are good reads.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Monday, October 11, 2021

New River Gorge

I started this post yesterday but never finished it. Stuffed pepper soup canning got in the way. This morning it was nice again, 62 when we got up, and warmed up to 80. Today I'm canning cabbage soup, but maybe I can take a few minutes to finish this post.

10.10.2021 60 this morning and fine. Warmed to the upper 70s, just a perfect day.

So yesterday we went adventuring to southern West Virginia's New River Gorge. This is the location of the latest--and only-- national park in our state. The area isn't new to us, but it has been years since we just explored there. We had a fantastic day. Although it was showering when we left, we were determined. The Mystery Hole was going to be open and I wanted to mark this place off my bucket list.

Our first stop was Kanawha Falls at Glen Ferris. I should note that we traveled US Route 60, aka The Midland Trail. It snakes along the edge of the Kanawha River to Gauley Bridge where the New and the Gauley converge to create the Kanawha. Its a beautiful drive past a lot of West Virginia history, like the salt works at Malden, Booker T. Washington 's childhood home and more. 

The falls were beautiful, full of water.

This and the photo below are part of what was once a hydroelectric plant that took advantage of the powerful falls. I wish this facility could be made operable again; it would be a good source of clean power.

We then drove east to Cathedral Falls which were actually pretty dry as the area is suffering from lack of rain. There were quite a few visitors here, as people were getting out to enjoy the great weather. 

Next stop was the Mystery Hole. At last! The Mystery Hole is one of those quirky state treasures that everyone wants to see. A tourist-trap kind of place from the 70's, it survives as a kind of cult classic. The place was closed for several years, and although I tried several times to visit, the limited hours when it re-opened always foiled my attempts. Was it worth 8 bucks? Yes, just for the pure fun of it. It's certainly odd to see a man sit on a chair that is several feet off the floor, among other oddities. I can now check the Mystery Hole off my bucket list.

Then we went on to the Hawks Nest State Park overlook, where one can look over the steep canyon edge to the New River far below. 

A picnic lunch at the pleasant grounds of the park. We seemed to be the only picnickers on Saturday; the main part of the picnic grounds and the shelter were being used by the wedding that was in progress while we were there.

Does this viewer look like an alien to you?

Do you see that dam in the photo below? That is an operating hydroelectric plant, and to the right of it you will see the entrance to the infamous Hawk's Nest tunnel, where over 700 men, mostly African-Americans, lost their lives to silicosis. The power plant and the tunnel was meant for the trains that would carry coal to Union Carbide's plant at Alloy, WV. That plant is still in operation, we were surprised to see, producing non-ferrous metals. 

We will see that dam, and the railroad trestle in the other photo, again, from a different angle.

We had heard about jetboat rides on the New River being offered by the park, so we went to the lodge to book tickets. We had a 2 hour wait so we used it to visit the New River Gorge National Park and walk down to the overlook where the famous bridge could be seen. We were pleased to hear at least 5 languages being spoken by park visitors who had come from many countries to see the bridge and other natural wonders in this unique area. The park is the newest in the national parks system, and is the only national park in West Virginia.

Finally it was time for our boat ride. 

Larry meets Captain Jack.

We shared the trip with 4 gay men from Cincinnati and a family group of Indian natives from Maryland who conversed in both English and Madras, pronounced by our fellow travelers as Madree. It was once again satisfying to see such diversity in the visitors to our state. It is something West Virginia needs a lot more of.

The boat ride took us both up and down the river. We passed under the railroad bridge you saw in the above photos; I actually rode over that trestle on the train in 2019. 

A poor photo, but this is the power plant, and the big square is the former entrance to the Hawk's Nest tunnel. 

Then it was downriver to see the iconic bridge. 

The jetboat was fun, but very loud.

The scenery was simply stunning. Small primitive fishing camps, reachable only by boat, dotted the banks and the cliffs of the Gorge rose almost perpendicular on either side as the green river flowed beneath us.

Then it was time for the return trip home. We ran into some rain that cleared to reveal this stupendous sky. We arrived home before 9, exhausted but happy. 

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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