Taking my Airstream to West Virginia has been a goal since I bought LJ. I lived in West Virginia briefly while in elementary school and is where I developed my love for the outdoors. We were blessed to have a large wooded hill behind our home and I spent hours outside swinging on hanging vines and exploring the woods and streams nearby with our dogs, Bessie and Cleo. I haven’t been back to the town we lived in, Parsons, since I moved away in fourth grade.
This summer, I decided it was time to travel to West Virginia and I found this amazing state park, which is near a ski resort, Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center. There is a beautiful hotel in the state park but also an amazing campground. Canaan Valley is the highest mountain valley east of the Rocky Mountains and is on the edge of the Eastern Continental Divide. As a result, the mountainous edge, at over 4000 feet, and the valley floor, at 3200 feet, are home to a broad range of biodiversity. As I get better at fly fishing, I hope to challenge myself to fishing in the headwaters of the Blackwater River hoping to catch and release some rainbow and brook trout.
This is by far one of the best state park campgrounds I’ve ever visited. All of the sites are paved and many are pull-through because of the way they have everything laid out. Each site had its own metal trash can which was emptied daily by the staff. There were numerous trails, some easy and some challenging, and the views were breathtaking. I can’t imagine how beautiful this place is in the fall. Additionally, I couldn’t believe how many deer I saw while there, even seeing some walking up to our campsite.
Nearby are the small towns of Davis and Thomas. There are local companies in Davis and Thomas for mountain biking, fishing and some restaurants. There is also a small grocery store. Within 20 minutes I was back in Parsons so I parked my Tahoe at the elementary school that I attended, which is now a school administration building. The town still uses the football field, which was well-kept, and boasted the same school colors from the early 1908s. When I was in second or third grade, I was a cheer “mascot” on the football team that my brother played on and I got a little black and gold cheer uniform complete with poms and black and white oxfords (the absolute worst shoes for cheer!).
I spent some time with Goose, my dog, walking around Parsons and trying to remember some part of my childhood. My father was a minister at the Presbyterian Church in town and one of his goals while there was to help them build a new church. He was successful at that endeavor and there is even a time capsule of items built into the church. I remember the local paper took a photo of my dad and my brother filling that capsule at a ceremony. A lot has changed in Parsons from what I can remember mainly due to a huge flood that occurred about 18 months after we moved away. I believe it was Hurricane Diane in 1985 that traveled up the east coast and dumped lots of rain in West Virginia. I remember being so young and living in North Carolina watching the news reports of the hurricane damage and seeing Governor Rockefeller touring Parsons after the flood that devastated the tiny town. I drove to our home that my parents built was still there but it was much smaller than I remember (as it always goes). I even knocked on the door to see if anyone was home (there wasn’t so a peek insight wasn’t meant to be). I really enjoyed this trip down memory lane and hope to take more trips to the West Virginia mountains especially to see the fall colors.
When I returned to the campground, I explored some of the trails. According to their brochure, Canaan Valley Resort and State Park and Conference center boasts “over 23 miles of interwoven adventure”. Upon check-in I was given a map and trial guide with 15 trails labeled in skill from easy to difficult so I’m sure there is a trail for every level of hiker. The trails were visibly labeled with color codes and there were lots of boardwalks when the terrain got swampy. The area is a wetland and you are encouraged to be prepared for wet terrain in all seasons. Even though this area is considered wetland, there were still incredible views of the mountains, wildlife and beautiful flora and fauna.
For those who love to mountain bike, there are over 19 miles of bike trails, ranging in ability from beginner pathways to more difficult single tracks. The Allegheny Trail also passes through the park and provides access to an extensive trail system on Canaan Mountain and beyond. There are other state parks nearby and another ski resort, Timberline. There appears to be lots of off season fun at Timberline and the surrounding community to keep you happy all year round! One thing I would like to try next year is the bluegrass festival, Pickin’ in Parsons. They were getting ready for it when I visited and it looked like a fun event.
Have you been to the mountains of West Virginia? Where would you recommend traveling to next time?