Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Everettville Miners Memorial

West Virginia has suffered more than its share of coal mine tragedies. Recent years have brought us the sadness and drama of the Upper Big Branch and Sago mine disasters. Others might recall the 78 men who perished at Farmington in 1968.

Unfortunately, there were many other disasters in our history as well--perhaps the best known being the Monongah explosion on December 6, 1907. I can remember that exact date because I visited the Monongah cemetery in Marion County and saw the oddity of many markers repeating the exact same date of death. Although it was the largest disaster with nearly 400 casualties, few folks know about it today.

We’ve had several other mine tragedies that claimed triple-digit casualties, including Benwood (Marshall County), Eccles (Raleigh County), and Layland (Fayette County). Countless other deadly accidents have taken many other men and yet most have been forgotten. However, one community in southern Monongalia County is working to honor the memory of the Everettville mine disaster victims.

On April 30, 1927, an explosion ripped through the Federal #3 mine at Everettville, killing at least 91 men (some researchers say the total should be 111). It had such ferocity that the explosion blew out from the entrance portal in the side of the hill and destroyed the adjoining tipple, killing another half a dozen workers who weren’t even underground at the time. A few of the miners were trapped underground, but were able to survive for a few hours. They had time to write notes to their loved ones, which were found when the bodies were recovered.

Too often history gets forgotten as those who lived through it pass away. One determined woman who lived in Everettville had not been aware of the mine disaster, but upon finding out felt compelled to memorialize the victims. Carol Thorn organized a group and they formed a non-profit, set up a website, sought donations (including the land from the coal company), and reached out to nearby West Virginia University. History students helped to research the story, and landscape architect majors worked on designs for a memorial and a park at the mine site. A West Virginia historical roadsign has also been placed along nearby Route 19.

A songwriter from Morgantown created a special song for the project. It was based on one of the actual letters written by a miner who had survived the initial blast but was trapped underground. Henry Russell wrote to his wife using only a piece of coal and the remnants of an empty paper bag for cement. The song is a hauntingly beautiful story of a dying man’s last thoughts.

We had the honor to attend the memorial service on a beautiful spring day this past weekend, marking 87 years since this tragedy occurred. The fancy black granite memorial includes the names of 149 men who died over all the years this mine operated, not just the 111 names from 1927. In addition to various speakers, a folk music trio performed the Henry Russell song. The whole ceremony was a fitting tribute to the memories of these fallen miners.

We didn’t know any of the victims and had never been to Everettville. Our only tie was that we love our native state of West Virginia and happened to be in Morgantown when we heard about this event. We wanted to acknowledge and honor these victims, while supporting those who strive to ensure that their memory will not be lost.

[This story appeared in the June 2014 issue of Two-Lane Livin' magazine.]

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Top 10 Books

A friend asked me on Facebook to list my ten favorite books I have read, which is not an easy task for me. I do a lot of reading—Internet, periodicals, newspapers, etc.—but I don’t read as many books as I have good intentions of doing. Perhaps when I retire I will get caught up on my desired book reading.

You will note from my list that I am one of the few who prefer non-fiction over fiction. Even as a child, I was always too interested in learning real stuff that would teach me something than to waste time reading something that someone else just made up out of thin air. I think it started in elementary school because I loved reading biographies (such as the Landmark series published by Random House in the ‘50s and ‘60s). Likewise, I also prefer movies and television shows based on reality over fiction.

Another problem with such a reading list is that as an adult, I’ve listened to more books than I have read. There are a number of books that I have truly loved, such as “Tuesdays with Morrie” or Homer Hickam’s “Rocket Boys” and subsequent books of the Coalwood Trilogy. I especially enjoy listening to authors such as Doris Kearns Goodwin, Tom Brokaw, or David McCulloch reading their own historical books. I also enjoy listening to science books such as “A Brief History of Time” by Dr. Stephen Hawking.

So here is my list of ten books I have read out of many that have impacted me.

1. “Everything in its Path—Destruction of Community in the Buffalo Creek Flood” by Kai T. Erickson – A friend from grad school gave me this book and I really loved the way it took a real disaster and used it as a sociological examination of West Virginia.

2. “Sign-Talker—the adventures of George Drouillard on the Lewis and Clark Expedition” by James Alexander Thom – I call this “semi-fiction.” The author used historical documents to weave together the story of the expedition as one member saw it. [Another favorite of mine in this historical novel genre is “The Frontiersmen” by Allan W. Eckert.]

3. “The Persistence of Vision” by John Varley – A guy I worked with at NASA was a big science fiction fan, and he was surprised that with my interest in space stuff, I had never got into the science fiction world. He insisted that I read this book (a collection of Varley’s works). I read and liked it a lot, and I still have fond memories of it, but it didn’t flip the switch to make a science fiction fanatic. I simply prefer non-fiction to fiction.

4. “The High Frontier” by Gerald K. O'Neill – I was in college when I read this paperback about the potential for space stations and colonies. Some may call it fiction, but I see it as more reality based (even though it hasn’t happened yet). This book gave me hope for the long-term future and I still dream about the possibilities.

5. “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman – A fascinating and scientifically based story of what would happen to NYC (and other civilized areas) if humans were to suddenly disappear from Earth (how we disappear isn’t important—this is about the aftermath).

6. “Lee—The Last Years” by Charles Bracelen Flood – A professor at WVU loaned his copy of this book to read. I am a descendent of several Union soldiers, so I probably have a bias against the Confederates, but this biography gave me a whole new respect for Robert E. Lee.

7. “Rebels at the Gate” by W. Hunter Lesser – A well done book focusing on the first years of the Civil War. Most folks don’t realize how the eyes of the nation were on West Virginia during those early days. My uncle recommended this book and loaned me his copy to read.

8. “Schrapnel in the Heart” by Laura Palmer – This book is about the letters and mementos left at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. The author delves into the sad stories, resulting in a book that stays with you a long time.

9. “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” by Frederick Douglass – I read this book and participated in a discussion group about it at our local library. It was very eye-opening to read his story, and even more enlightening to share reactions with other community members. Someday I will do more of these group readings.

10. An unknown book from our local library that I read about helicopters probably when I was around middle school age. It had detailed explanations about how helicopters work and how to fly them. I still remember this book to this day, because it gave me the self-confidence that if I ever had to fly a copter (for whatever reason), I could probably figure out the basics. Whenever I get the rare opportunity to look inside a helicopter cockpit, I try to assess how I would fly it. I guess you could say this book gave “flight” to my imagination.

Note that some folks who know of my interest in motorcycles and intellectualism might have suspected that Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” would have been on my list. I did read it, but was extremely disappointed in it—I had high hopes for it and yet I just didn’t connect to it like I thought I would. I am glad that some folks like it, but to me that book was just too plodding for my tastes.

I should also use this opportunity to share my favorite “Read Aloud” book. At various times (such as during my tenure on the school board), I have read books to elementary school classes. My favorite book for such occasions is “The Rest of the Story” by Paul Harvey. These short stories are very entertaining, and are all true!

Finally, one book that I cherish is my copy of the Jeffersonian Bible from the Smithsonian gift shop. Thomas Jefferson “cut and pasted” (with a blade and glue, not with a computer as we have today) the Gospels to clarify the life and morals of Jesus. I didn’t put it on my “top ten” list because I haven’t read it from cover to cover, but it was a gift that means a lot to me.

So after more than a thousand words, I guess I’ve nearly written a book just to tell my ten favorites!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

My Rustic/Regal Weekend

I left work a bit early last Friday afternoon to meet Anna at her brother's place for a couple of days. On my way to Fayette County, I crossed over the Kanawha City Bridge in Charleston to travel MacCorkle Avenue and reminisce about my college days at UC. Staying on that side of the river, it is known as West Virginia Route 61.

At Pratt, I turned up Paint Creek Road to continue explore this intriguing waterway (see my recent essay about Paint Creek). There are several pulloff areas along the road to enjoy this creek. I went as far as the entrance to the West Virginia Turnpike before doubling back.

The highlight for me were the two historical markers commemorating Holly Grove, the site of a tent colony established by striking miners after being forcibly evicted from their houses owned by the mining company. The coal mine owner and others ran an armored train up the Paint Creek valley, which was outfitted with an early machine gun. They shot up the tent colony. Fortunately, the miners (some of whom had served in World War I) had dug out the area under their tents--a bit like having your own foxhole. As a result, only one miner was actually killed (although others were wounded). This event had the potential to be an infamous massacre of miners, women, and children, but fortunately most were spared.

I stayed on the south side of the Kanawha and followed Route 61 to Montgomery, which I had traveled in the past. However, for the first time I stayed on Route 61 beyond Montgomery rather than crossing over to Route 60 on the north side of the river at Smithers. It was interesting to see the backside view of the old Union Carbide plant at Alloy. [By the way, other interesting views from Route 61 include a unique head-on look at the locks and dam at London on the Kanawha River as well as a more complete view of the large mining operation west of Smithers.]

Soon thereafter, the highway came to an abrupt switchback turn, and began climbing out of the Kanawha Valley. Eventually it follows Loup Creek, a beautiful mountain stream, with several scenic views.

Route 61 ends at Oak Hill, where it intersects Route 16. I've written before about Route 16--one of my favorite roads in West Virginia. It runs from the Ohio River at St. Marys (near my home) to the Virginia state line beyond Homer Hickam’s hometown of Coalwood.

Anna had not been able to get away from her work as early as she had hoped, so I found myself with time to kill before we met. Other stops during that Friday in Fayette County included such iconic sites as the New River Gorge Bridge overlook and the Grist Mill along Glade Creek at Babcock State Park.

I also made a stop at Class VI outdoor adventure center (where we have ziplined and rafted several times) to check out their new TimberTrek Aerial Adventure Park. It is a forest of trees interconnected with cable-based passages through a variety of obstacles. I'm debating whether I should try it out someday. It appears to me to be more strenuous than regular ziplining or even the Via Ferrata. While there, I also walked over to the Class VI overlook into the gorge, and remembered stopping there on last year's trip with my college friends.

Then it was time for me to leave the main roads and venture miles into the back country where her brother and sister-in-law live. It is so far out in the country that they have no cell service there. They have electricity and other amenities, but it was a weekend "off-the-grid" for my smartphone (Facebook survived just fine without my monitoring and occasional contributions).

One of the highlights of the weekend was hiking through the woods on the side of a hill looking primarily for morel mushrooms, but also for ramps. We were ultimately unsuccessful, but it was still a joy (and a workout) to hike through the forest. Also while visiting them, I always enjoy inspecting the creek on their property (which eventually feeds into the Gauley River), looking for crawdads, minnows, and other interesting aquatic life.

On this particular trip, we provided some help on the farm. Five cows got loose on Saturday by damaging some fence, and we scampered up and down the wooded hillside herding them back to the pasture. This led to some quick fence repairs at the field where they had wintered, and then to the electrification of the fence at the pasture where they would be moved for the spring. After working to secure the fencing at the new field, it was time to move the herd on Sunday.

This project involved marching the cattle about a mile down the little road to the other field. In those old western movies, a cattle drive is always done on horseback. But we did it with a four-wheeler, a pick-up truck, along with Anna and me walking alongside. It was quite an operation and we were glad to be able to help out.

It was a wonderful visit with family in a beautiful part of the state on a sunny, blue-sky weekend! However, on this particular Sunday afternoon, we didn't drive straight home. We had made plans to extend our weekend a bit longer. We were going to make the jump from rustic to regal by staying a night at the luxurious Greenbrier Resort. I bet we were probably the only guests there who had spent the day on a “cattle drive” before checking into the hotel. It is worth a separate story all its own, but I'm going to just append these two together.

I've always had mixed emotions about the Greenbrier. I'm proud that it is in West Virginia, and I admire its long history. I've also come to appreciate their contributions to the menu at the Tamarack Visitor Center along the West Virginia Turnpike--in particular, their fried green tomato sandwiches. I just never thought that I'd ever end up staying in such an expensive place. I worried that it was a bit too "hoity-toity" for my tastes (and wallet).

Several years ago, a native West Virginian who became a billionaire in the coal business purchased the Greenbrier, and has been using his talents to take the resort to new levels. For example, Jim Justice worked with West Virginia's Jerry West to remake the fancy restaurant here in his honor (by the way, Justice is also coach of the Greenbrier East High School's basketball teams).

He worked to get a major golf tournament established here, and also got the Legislature to approve a casino and a medical institute for the Greenbrier. He is building football fields where the New Orleans Saints will hold their summer training camp this year. He has done many other things to improve and promote the Greenbrier as well as our state. One way has been to offer occasional discount programs to West Virginia residents.

I had missed my chance to take advantage last year when I first learned of the promotion for West Virginia residents. However, when I heard that he was offering a special in April and May with an $89 room rate (note, however, that there is also a $35 daily "activity fee" that all guests must also pay) plus a free ticket to one of the big concerts (Maroon 5 or Jimmy Buffett) he sets up at the State Fairgrounds in nearby Lewisburg during his golf tournament, we decided to give it a try. We've always enjoyed Jimmy Buffett's music (plus, his college roommate taught at UC), but had never been to one of his concerts. Now by coming back to the area in July, we would get the chance!

There were a few other reasons why I had become more interested by the Greenbrier. I had read a fascinating book about Robert E. Lee's final years after the Civil War, which told of how much he loved spending summers here and gave a glimpse into the history of White Sulphur Springs. Also, my college mentor, Dr. Evelyn Harris, was quite fond of the Greenbrier. Finally, the fact that it was to be the secret hiding place for Congress in the event of a nuclear attack was very intriguing.

It was about 6:00 PM when we finally arrived, having taken a scenic ride across the Midland Trail (U.S. Route 60), down Sewell Mountain, and along Meadow River through Rainelle, Charmco, and Rupert before getting on the Interstate. Eventually we arrived at the Greenbrier where we registered, parked in the self-parking lot (we had to walk a lot further, but saved paying for the valet parking), and finally made it to our room.

It is grand old hotel that is decorated to the hilt. It is a far cry from my typical Holiday Inn Express (but the Greenbrier doesn’t offer free cinnamon rolls for breakfast). Rather than deal with the dress code expectations and the expensive prices, we decided to walk—through the impeccably landscaped grounds and past the famous sulphur water springhouse where it all began—back to our car and drive into downtown White Sulphur Springs to eat.

Using our smartphones to see what our dining options were, we decided to try a place called "50 East" (a rather odd name for a restaurant along Route 60, but it is based on the actual address--50 East Main Street). We enjoyed a gourmet pizza (jerk chicken, artichoke, mushroom, and banana peppers) which was quite tasty--and much more reasonably priced than anything at the resort. Afterwards, I had Wendy's Frosty for dessert (I decided to ignore my diet and be decadent since we were splurging by staying at the Greenbrier) while Anna made a quick stop for a few things at Dollar General. As you can see, we don't quite fit the consumer profile for most of the Greenbrier's clientele.

We got back in time to head down to the Greenbrier Theater in time for their main movie of the night (after all, I wanted to recoup some of my $35 activity fee). It just happened to be last year's remake of "The Great Gatsby" starring Leonardo DiCaprio. How ironic was it for my one night at the Greenbrier Resort to be spent watching a movie about the excesses of rich people during the Roaring '20s?

I was in junior high when the original "Gatsby" movie with Robert Redford came out. I was beginning to pay attention to current culture and Gatsby was getting lots of buzz, so I decided that I was going to read the book. However, I am much more interested in non-fiction than I am in fiction, so I got bored with the story and never finished it. In part because of my "failure" to finish the book, I never bothered to watch the original movie or the recent remake when it came out last year. So more than four decades later, inside the luxurious Greenbrier, I finally learned the story of "The Great Gatsby."

We enjoyed sleeping in rather than going to work on Monday morning. Eventually we got showered and dressed, packed up all our stuff, schlepped it down the hill to the car, and returned to officially check out. However, our time at the Greenbrier was not over yet. We had made reservations for the 10:30 historical tour of the Greenbrier, as well as the 1:30 tour of the secret bunker under the ground where Congress would continue to operate if a nuclear war had begun. Not only were we interested in these educational tours, the first tour was also another way to recoup that $35 activity fee!

The historical tour was very interesting, but it only covers the ground floor of the hotel. There is so much history here that I bet it would be impossible to cover everything in a whole day, much less the hour or so that this tour lasted. I’m really glad we did it, because it gives you a very good background on the hotel (for example, I learned there are 600 rooms in the hotel and 100 guest cottages on the grounds, and that it employs about 1800 people) as well as its furnishings. We got to see such highlights as the chandelier from “Gone with the Wind” and the painting of Princess Grace from Monaco. We learned much more about famed New York designer Dorothy Draper and her successor, Carleton Varney (who has been a UC supporter).

After the morning tour, we took a quick walk-through of the casino just to check it out. Neither of us had ever been bit by the gambling bug, so we didn’t play anything—we just wanted to check it out while we were there. Then we hopped into the car and drove into town for another cheap meal, this time at April’s Pizzeria in White Sulphur Springs (a decent $5.99 pizza and salad bar lunch buffet). Upon our return to the Greenbrier, we took a little driving tour around the cottages, homes, and other facilities on the grounds, before parking and heading back inside.

Our final activity was the $30 bunker tour (unlike the history tour, this one is not included in the Activity Fee). During the Cold War, the Greenbrier was chosen as the gathering place for all Senators and Congressman, where the government would continue to operate in the event of a nuclear attack. It was secretly built underground with huge blast-proof doors, thick concrete walls, diesel generators, water and food supplies, and everything needed for the 535 members of Congress, their families, and select staffers to survive a doomsday scenario. Fortunately, it was never needed, although the 1962 Cuban missile crisis came close to seeing it activated. The tour was a fascinating look back at the Cold War era (although just like our recent tour of the Toyota factory, cameras are not allowed), and was led by a retired local teacher who did a marvelous job.

One of the things I liked about my stay at the Greenbrier was how friendly and helpful everyone was. For example, we walked out to the front of the hotel to take pictures, and one of the groundskeepers (his name was Lonnie) walked over and offered to take pictures of both of us with the hotel in the background. So many employees would walk by you in the hallways and greet you with a big smile! It made me feel good to see all of these fellow West Virginians who were being so friendly to all the visitors.

In a way, the Greenbrier is a bit like a cruise ship that somehow ran aground in the mountains of West Virginia. The smiling and helpful staff, the luxurious furnishings, the interesting excursions that are offered, the casino, the little shops, etc., are all reminiscent of my experiences on cruises. However, the Greenbrier has more of a stately elegance—it harkens back to the grand cruise liners of old, such as the transatlantic crossings of the QE2, rather than a Carnival “fun ship” in the Caribbean.

I’m grateful that thanks to this special $89 offer, I was able to stay at the Greenbrier and experience its beauty and history. I’m glad it is located in West Virginia, and that it is a good ambassador for our state to so many visitors (many of whom are important people who would not otherwise come to visit West Virginia). It is important for outsiders to see the rugged beauty of our mountains and forests, and for them to see the goodness of our people.

Who knows—I might even come back and stay again someday! There is certainly much more to see and do than we were able to fit into this short visit. Until then, I hope Mr. Justice and the hard working folks at the Greenbrier continue the good work they do.

One of the massive vault doors for the bunker that was hidden behind some "busy" wallpaper (the only photo allowed on the bunker tour).

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

North Bend Rail Trail

The North Bend Rail Trail (NBRT), the 72 mile former B&O railroad line from Parkersburg to Wolf Summit (a small community just west of Clarksburg), has been getting some good news lately. Grant money has been secured for maintenance to the eastern portion of the trail in Doddridge and Harrison Counties. Meanwhile, Parkersburg and Wood County officials are working towards connecting the current western terminus at Happy Valley Road to the “Point” at the confluence of the Little Kanawha and Ohio Rivers. It won’t happen immediately but at least they are making some progress.

There are about a dozen railroad tunnels and about three dozen bridges on the NBRT, which help to make the ride interesting (as if the natural scenery, wildlife, and history were not enough on their own). In Ritchie County, the trail runs through the edge of North Bend State Park, and thus was added to the park’s responsibilities.

The trail crosses under Route 50 at Ellenboro, Smithburg, and Bristol, and can be seen at numerous other locations along the highway (see the picture below for an example). When the leaves are off the trees, if you know where to look you can see the “black hole” where it veers from the roadside and into a tunnel on the side of a hill near Sherwood.

The area around North Bend State Park has always been the most heavily used (and best maintained), from Cairo (a quaint old town) on the west to Ellenboro (with its modern wooden bridge over Rt. 16) east of the park. It is convenient for folks to come to North Bend for easy access to the trail at the point where for over 130 years the westbound trains would emerge from a tunnel to cross the Bonds Creek bridge. Now bicyclists can choose to venture either direction from this point, and can even enjoy an ice cream snack at either Cairo or Ellenboro before pedaling back to the park.

I was very familiar with the Wood County portion of the trail, having ridden as far as the Eaton tunnel and back numerous times. I had also taken family and friends to North Bend for rides through Ritchie County. However, several years ago I decided I wanted to explore the whole trail.

I started by riding all the way to Cairo and back to cover the entire western end of the trail. Then I drove to Ellenboro one Saturday morning and rode to West Union and back. On another Saturday, I parked my car in downtown West Union (after exploring the beautiful old courthouse there) and rode to the eastern terminus. Upon completion of that trip, I had ridden on the entire trail—but not all on the same day.

Then a friend of mine was driving to Morgantown from Parkersburg, and agreed to give me the transportation I needed to try riding the NBRT in a single day. She met me at the Happy Valley end where I left my car, and took me and my bicycle to Wolf Summit that morning. I spent the rest of that beautiful day alone on a 72 mile westward trek back home. It was a glorious adventure! I was tired when I made it to my car, but the sense of accomplishment was worth it!

Now whenever I am driving along Route 50 where it is possible to view the NBRT, I remember what it was like that warm summer day, looking at the traffic whizzing by as I pedaled my way home. If you get the chance, you should give this bike trail a try (but you don’t have to do it all in one day).

In a scene easily visible from Route 50, Tenmile Creek and Marshville Road both squeeze underneath this bridge carrying the North Bend Rail Trail near the eastern terminus in Harrison County, WV.
[A shorter version of this story appeared in the May issue of Two-Lane Livin' magazine (]

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Paint Creek—Finally

As a kid, it was always a big event to travel on the West Virginia Turnpike (the real road, not the little cars that kids could drive at Camden Park in Huntington—although that was fun, too!). My turnpike experiences usually happened during our once-a-summer vacation at the beach.

Growing up around two farm ponds and near a couple of creeks, I have always been fascinated with water. I especially enjoy fast flowing streams. I loved watching out my back seat car window while heading south on the Turnpike at Cabin Creek first (famous as the home of basketball legend Jerry West), and then (after passing through the old Memorial Tunnel) eventually Paint Creek. I was enamored with the rapids visible on Paint Creek as it danced downhill alongside the highway.

As a kid, I told myself that someday when I was adult, I was going to get off the turnpike and explore that creek. Later on as a college student, Paint Creek took on a new significance when I learned about the labor struggles in the coalfields, including an infamous incident when a passing train machine-gunned the tents of striking coal miners along Paint Creek. It was also in college that I learned of the colorful character Mother Jones, and she had trudged along this very creek.

Unfortunately, it seemed that (just like my busy father) I never had the luxury of extra time during my adult travels on the Turnpike. However, I recently found myself with the opportunity to finally get a close-up view of at least a small portion of Paint Creek.

I jumped off onto Route 612 at the Mossy Exit, and quickly encountered three historical markers next to the creek. It turns out that there is a Paint Creek Scenic Driving Tour, complete with markers providing historical information. I soon turned off Route 612 onto the small county road that follows the creek upstream to the community of Pax (the next turnpike exit roughly six miles south).

There were a number of pull off areas along this county road, and fishermen were utilizing some of them (I later learned that Paint Creek is one of the waterways that the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources stocks with trout each spring). The creek is even prettier when you are meandering along the little road close by the water instead of flying by at 70 MPH up on the four-lane. There are lots of rocks of all sizes, laurel thickets, deep green pines, and white barked tree trunks, as well as the constant downhill cascades of the water itself.

I learned from the historical markers that long before the Turnpike, Paint Creek was also a major "highway" for American Indians. Its gradual ascent from the Kanawha River at Pratt to the Appalachian highlands near Beckley was widely used by many tribes. They often stripped the bark from trees to provide a background to paint colorful drawings about their trip or their hunting successes. When white men first discovered this creek, they referred to it as "Painted Tree Creek" which later was shortened to Paint Creek (I had always wondered how it got its name).

Although I only had enough extra time to see a small portion of Paint Creek (plus a quick side trip to nearby Plum Orchard Lake), I saw enough to pique my interest. I have since explored the website for the Paint Creek Scenic Trail ( and will definitely be back to see the entire route, from Beckley to the Kanawha River—and I won’t wait near as long to act on that vow this time.

A glimpse of Paint Creek just upstream from the Mossy exit. By the way, this story was also published (with a better picture of Paint Creek) at 4Fayette.