Friday, October 18, 2013

A Fayette Photography Foray

Some old college friends of mine from out of state flew into Charleston recently, and wanted to see some photographic scenery of wild, wonderful, West Virginia while they were in town. With only a limited amount of daylight to work with, I took them on a tightly scheduled photographic foray to Fayette County. After their arrival, we started our journey at 4:00 PM. [In case anyone else would like to duplicate our odyssey, I will indicate within brackets the driving times to each major stop—of course, the time you spend at each stop is up to you.]

{45 minutes from Charleston}

After following Route 60 east, our first stop was at the parking lot below Kanawha Falls. Somewhat like Sandstone Falls on the New River near Hinton, this powerful waterfall stretches broadly across a wide expanse of river. It was harnessed for hydroelectric generation many years ago, but much of the water still tumbles over the natural precipice.

A small segment of Kanawha Falls, with the town of Glen Ferris in the distance.

{5 minutes east on Rt. 60}

Cathedral Falls is tucked into the hillside just as Route 60 begins its twisted journey up Gauley Mountain. There is a nice roadside park there, and unless the weather has been dry, this cascade waterfall can be quite beautiful.

Cathedral Falls cascading towards the New River.

{12 minutes further}

The overlook at Hawks Nest State Park is a true West Virginia landmark. Its iconic view has been popular for generations. I explained about the CCC helping to build this and other state parks. I also told the story about the hundreds who died from silicosis after working on the tunnel through Gauley Mountain.

Looking downstream from the Hawks Nest overlook.

The view from Hawks Nest looking upstream at the railroad bridge.

{25 minutes (to New River Gorge Bridge overlook)}

We then doubled back (past a private tourist shop called the Mystery Hole for a second time, which I described for my curious friends) on Route 60 for a couple of miles to get on Route 16 and cross the New River on the Cotton Hill Bridge. As Route 16 climbs out of the bottom of the gorge, it follows Laurel Creek as it tumbles down to the river. Unfortunately, there is not enough room between the hillside and the guardrail to pull off and park, but keep your camera ready while passing by, because there are a couple of large waterfalls on this creek. Near the top, there is also an old mill dam with a bit of room to park.

A quick shot of a waterfall on Laurel Creek along Rt. 16.

Laurel Creek spilling over an old mill dam.

We stayed on Route 16 until it met Route 19 at Fayetteville, where we turned left at the stoplight. The next event was crossing the impressive New River Gorge Bridge. As pictured on the back of the state quarter, this 876 foot tall bridge is an engineering marvel. Upon reaching the other side, we stopped at the visitor center and walked to the overlook to better appreciate what we had just crossed.

The view from the overlook for the famous New River Gorge Bridge.

{4 minutes}

We then went about a mile north on Route 19 and took the Lansing Road exit to the “Adventures on the Gorge” rafting headquarters. Although this area has lots of interesting dining choices, I wanted to eat dinner here at Chetty’s Pub because of its location on the edge of the gorge. This facility has some nice overlooks, and we were able to get some beautiful shots before the sun set.

Looking upstream from the overlook behind Chetty’s Pub.

A view of whitewater on the New River below Chetty’s Pub.

{70 minutes}

As we headed back to Charleston in the dark, we drove back across the big bridge again, then through the town of Oak Hill (I pointed out that Hank Williams had died here), and down to Route 612 by the old Whipple Coal Company Store (unfortunately, it was too dark for a picture). We returned to Charleston via the West Virginia Turnpike with lots of good pictures in hand. Everyone had a great time! Of course, there were still lots more to get on a future trip, such as the grist mill at Babcock State Park, the Hawks Nest tram, a hike to Long Point, the Mill Creek waterfall, etc. There is always more scenic beauty to experience in Almost Heaven, West Virginia!

Sunset over the New River Gorge at the end of a great day with friends.

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[Note: This story was written back in April and was submitted to Spotlight West Virginia Magazine. It was selected for publication in their Fall 2013 issue (see page 15). I must credit my college friend Geralyn M. for the great photos used in this story.]

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