The weekend of January 20th was to be the moment I finally learned to embrace winter. Gone would be the sun-deficiency induced darkness that dramatically pervades my being somewhere in mid-December. No more winter blues inspiring deluded fantasies of moving to Dallas or Fort Lauderdale or some other God forsaken place come mid-January. No, 2017 would be the year I finally conquered the winter madness that befalls poor me every single year.
The plan was to take up snowshoeing and/or cross-country skiing. Overweight? Out-of-shape? No experience whatsoever? Didn’t matter. These winter friendly activities would be my light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, my raison d’etre during the bleak Mid-Atlantic winter (OK, not that bleak compared to North Dakota or upstate New York or Minnesota). Anyway, I would ski joyfully and serenely (and effortlessly, of course) through the snow-frosted red spruce forests of the West Virginia, finally embracing winter in all her frigid glory. But. It wasn’t to be. The weekend of January 20th ended up being in the mid ’60s and completely devoid of snow. I think even the downhill slopes must have been soggy mud slides. And this is a place that gets about 180 inches of snow in a typical year!
So we made due and changed course (we had to because it was too late to cancel the hotel without losing money). Instead of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, there was a lot of eating and drinking and a little bit of hiking (very little bit). We stayed in a resort in the Canaan Valley in Tucker County, about a two and a half hour ride from Northern Virginia. Even thought I wasn’t able to become a winter person this time around, this place, the Canaan Valley, is one of my favorite places in the world — beautiful parks, two neat little towns (Davis and Thomas) and an ecological system more like that of Northern New England or southern Canada. If you haven’t been there, you like nature (or beer), and you live in the Northern Virginia area, I highly recommend it. So here’s our weekend, in pictures.
My sister and her husband Mike posing for an L.L Bean shoot in the Dolly Sods Wilderness in Monongahela National Forest. As you can see, not a trace of snow, even at 4,500 above sea level. This hike probably would have been undoable with snow.
Walking across Birdknob in the Dolly Sods Wilderness. Because of the elevation and geography of this area, Dolly Sods is considered a Subarctic tundra climate (at least that’s what Wikipedia says) — you see mostly shrubs, bushes and pines at these altitudes.
This is probably the greenest hike I’ve done in winter; vegetation along much of the hike consisted of red spruce, mountain laurel and other evergreens. In summer, the trail is dense with blueberry and huckleberry bushes. It’s hard to appreciate from the picture, but the entire trail was wet and muddy (probably all that melted snow), which made for some tricky footwork for those of us not wearing waterproof boots.
I was surprised by all the bright green moss on the ground. It was an uncharacteristically warm winter day, so that probably had something to do with it. I felt like I was out exploring on the first day of spring rather than in the middle of winter.
No need for jackets here.
Downtown Davis. It looks like a depressing mountain town, but there’s actually quite a bit to do for such a tiny town. We had breakfast at the Bright Morning Inn, which was cozy and sunny, and really, everything you’d want and expect in a country breakfast place (well, except for the price…it was surprisingly expensive). There’s also a bike shop, a brewery and a couple of other restaurants in town.
Hellbenders Burritos. This became our group’s favorite spot, mostly due to the beer. They serve giant, eclectic burritos, which they advertise as distinctly non-authentic Mexican food. I think we ate here two or three times over the span of two days.
Morning fog at Canaan Resort State Park.
A foggy morning drive between Canaan Resort and Parsons. We ended up turning around because I got nervous about the really poor visibility.
Thomas, WV: This is where the whole Bernie crowd part comes in. This is Gallows Bound, originally hailing from the metropolis of Winchester, playing at the Purple Fiddle. For reasons I can’t fully explain (maybe the Scottish great-grandmother I never met?) I love — and feel a deep connection to — bluegrass and mountain music. This was a great little venue in the artsy town of Thomas. Our fellow concert-goers were mostly hipster-looking young people. I think every single person was white, and I’m pretty sure there were quite a few broken hearts when Bernie lost the primaries. I’ve always wondered if I could get used to a place where the politics are liberal but the racial diversity is non-existent (or close to it); living in Northern Virginia, I’m used to an (almost) minority majority population where being “different” is actually pretty common, and there’s some comfort in that.Whenever I fantasize about moving to Montana or Alaska or Maine or some other low-diversity place, I’m always held back by the fear that I will feel unconnected to the community, even though, technically speaking, I could choose to blend in if I wanted to.
Being the liberal East Coast elites that we are, we stopped by Thomas Market, a meticulously curated small natural foods/organic market in downtown Thomas. This town in particular seems to attract the organic-eating, yoga-loving, nature-seeking earthy crowd. However, I don’t want to paint a picture of Tucker County as a rare progressive haven in the Appalachian Mountains — Trump won the county with close to 74% of the vote. Even in this tiny county of just over 7,000 people, it seems there’s a serious rural vs. urban divide…(though can we really call a town of 586 urban???)
Downtown Thomas. It doesn’t look like much from the picture, but it’s actually pretty nice and artsy for a town of 586. The other side of the town looks like it was bombed. According to the historic signs scattered around town, it was actually a fire that left the front of the town looking like it witnessed the apocalypse.
Breakfast at Tiptop. It’s not cheap, but the food was good (and wholesomely-bent) and the ambience was cozy-chic and familiar in that urban café kind of way.
My husband trying moonshine for the first time at the Whitegrass Café, one of the coziest restaurants I’ve been to. I thought the food was a bit overpriced, but overall, the ambience was great and we had a really hygge time. This restaurant is run by a local cross-country/snowshoeing center, and it was here that we were to start our careers as Nordic all star skiers, if only there had been snow. This restaurant was unlike anything I’ve experienced, and I highly recommend it to anyone who happens to be in the area.
Scenic vista on solo scenic drive I took on Sunday morning. This area of West Virginia gets up to 15 feet of snow per year and there are at least three different ski resorts in town. Unfortunately, we happened to come on an uncharacteristically warm and snow-free weekend.
Categories: U.S Travels, West Virginia