At the Horse Park I was about 550 miles from home. I could have made it, although it would it have been a long day. I’m not in any real hurry to get home, I just need to be back by 4:30 tomorrow afternoon to get my CSA share, but before that there’s no real compelling reason to go home. I decided to slow down and take my time a bit more – 330 miles today to Douthat State Park in Clifton Forge and then 200 miles tomorrow home. This will give me a chance to maybe take a short hike tomorrow AM or just have a lazy morning for my last morning out!
Today’s miles were fun because it was a mix of uncharted territory and places I’ve been many times! I still had about 2 hours of Kentucky before crossing into West Virginia. After I got outside of Lexington KY turned to farmland, although this time there were horse farms and tobacco farms thrown in with the corn farms! Way to shake things up Kentucky!
As we got closer to the West Virginia line the hills started getting bigger and there were more trees! I was struck by the differences in approaching the mountains here vs. in Colorado. In Colorado you are going along and it’s seemingly flat emptiness (it’s not really flat, you are gaining elevation, it’s just not rolling!). In Eastern Colorado it’s barren and sandy and dusty. There’s lots of sagebrush and low growing bushes, probably some tumbleweed! Then you start the climb sharply, usually through a canyon with sheer rock walls, lots and lots of rock. You keep climbing steadily through rocks and evergreen trees and suddenly you are above treeline! The approach into West Virginia and Virginia was more gradual, not nearly as dramatic! The hills just started getting bigger and bigger and suddenly there were hills all around you. The mountains are much smaller out here – the one elevation sign I saw was 2,700 - and they are covered with trees! Not just evergreens either – green, leafy deciduous trees! This makes them look fuzzy compared to the Rockies!
Once we crossed into West Virginia I recognized almost every exit! We’d driven this section of I-64 many times on our way to and from Williamsburg when we lived in Cincinnati. Milton, Hurricane, Nitro, Scott Depot, Institute, Dunbar, crossing the Kanawha River, the dome on the State Capitol Building in Charleston, all things that made me smile and remember being here other times!
I stopped for lunch at Tamarack. Tamarack is an Arts and Crafts showcase at a Service Plaza on the West Virginia Turnpike. They have food from The Greenbriar, which is an exclusive resort in White Sulphur Springs. I ate a sandwich in the van thinking I’d treat myself to Cherry Cobbler. The cobbler wasn’t as good as it could have been. It had your basic cherry pie filling, which was entirely too sweet, and a decent crust. I’d wanted ice cream on it but they didn’t have any vanilla so since I’d already paid for the ice cream I ended up getting pistachio – which was the only flavor they had that I thought would be ok with cherry cobbler. The ice cream wasn’t that good – the nuts were gummy! Disappointing on the treat front, but I did enjoy walking around and looking at the products they had for sale!
After Tamarack I was headed to Lewisburg, a cute little town with cute shops, but I got a bit sidetracked. I was back on I-64, Lewisburg was about an hour away, and I saw a HUGE brown NPS Service sign informing me that The New River Gorge National River Grandview Visitor Center was at the next exit. New River Gorge huh? That sounds interesting. I’ve got time. Let’s check it out! Off I went down a narrow West Virginia road into the unknown! It was only 5 miles back to the visitor center! There was a nice volunteer at the visitor center who told me all about the park – there are several parts of it, all with different views of the gorge. There are also several spots where you can put in and take out boats on the New River…hmmm…can the Sea Eagle handle the New River? I just might have to find out!
I walked out to the viewpoint and enjoyed looking down on the river, the mountains and the train tracks – there was even a coal train heading up the gorge. It made me think even more about the differences between here and Colorado. We looked at many canyons and gorges in Colorado. They were all rock. This gorge is rather gently, or at least seemingly gently, sloping hills, covered with trees, leading to a wide river. A stark contrast to say, Black Canyon of the Gunnison! I’d thought Colorado was like West Virginia on steroids, and in many ways it is. But, in many other ways they are totally different places!
I didn’t hang out at the New River Gorge long because I still wanted to make Lewisburg before heading to the campground. Turns out I should have stayed at the Gorge. Lewisburg is a cute little down with some interesting shops, the problem was that most of them closed at 5. I got there at 4:50. There was a bike shop, a yarn store, an outfitter, and a used book store. They were all closed. boo. I was able to find a place to park and I walked around a bit so that was nice.
I headed out from Lewisburg about 6 and crossed the Virginia State Line around 6:30! I’d done it! I’d driven from Virginia to Colorado and back! As soon as I crossed into Virginia I got the notion that I should just press on and go home. It was only 200 miles. I could be there by 10:30. I quickly realized that I’d be miserable by the time I got there and that in order to do anything at home (including crawl into bed) I had to unpack the RV first. My whole life is in here now and it’s gonna take at least an hour or two to get everything moved back into the house. It was way easier to enjoy one more night camping and then deal with “moving out” of the RV tomorrow! Besides, I’d been wanting to visit Douthat State Park and now was my chance!
This park is smaller than I expected, but it’s very nice! It’s a narrow road in with lots of trees! I’m not sure I’ve ever really noticed the trees before – after a month of not really seeing trees they are novel! The campground is very nice – great big sites like at Lake Anna – but it’s kinda far from the other stuff in the park. It was dinner time when I got here so I didn’t spend long exploring. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have time for a quick walk on one of the trails before I take on the last 200 miles.