BY ALDONA BIRD
I grew up mostly in West Virginia — my family settled down in Preston County when I was a child — and have spent much of my adult life here as well. Despite living in this beautiful state for decades, I’ve only recently begun to explore and see what West Virginia offers outside my little hollow.
When the pandemic started and I turned to more outdoor socialization, I visited Snake Hill nature preserve for the first time. Even though it is only a 20-minute drive from my house, I’d never checked it out — I have plenty of hiking space around my home, so I never much bothered to go further afield for a walk.
I believe I am in the minority in not having visited this nearby place. But if you, dear reader, haven’t been, I highly recommend going. Hiking through the woods is pleasant, and stopping at one of the overlooks is an incredible treat.
Take a picnic and a friend, and settle down on a rock with a view.
In addition to hikes, my friends and family and I began going to swim in the Cheat River almost every week over the last couple of summers as another way to socialize outdoors and enjoy the season while staying safe.
We found an easily accessible spot along the river between Rowlesburg and Kingwood, requiring a little climb down some rocks to get to the water. We had choices of swimming right below the pull off spot, but more often we walked a little way down river along the rocks to a scenic and more secluded area.
With picnic in hand, swimsuits on and friends around, we created the picture-perfect vacation day.
Some of my favorite memories from the last two years are of my daughter enjoying summer days in the water, delving into the mud on the river bank to become a “mud monster.”
The views up and down the river, while swimming or sitting on a rock are as breathtaking as an overlook view of our rolling mountains.
Last year, as friends and family and I were climbing over rocks at the end of our afternoon on the water we spotted a bald eagle flying along above the river. It was the closest view I’ve ever had of an eagle, and its elegance and power in the beauty of the setting took my breath away.
Some of my other favorite summer excursions (from pre-pandemic times) include trips to Cranesville Swamp and Saturday evenings at Chestnut Ridge Park for its summer concert series.
Recently I visited Cranesville Swamp again, when the mountain laurels and cranberries were blooming and blueberries were ripening. It was another lovely walk surrounded by interesting plants — an ideal afternoon for me.
Last year I visited Seneca State Forest for the first time, and stayed for a couple nights in one of the cabins — another experience I recommend.
The state park is in the radio dead zone near Green Bank, so it was a technology-free weekend. I went in early winter, and enjoyed both the fireplace in the cozy rustic cabin and hikes in the chilly air — including up to the Thorny Mountain Fire Tower, with it’s panoramic views.
It is all too easy for me to not explore the state, because I enjoy the nature right outside my front door so much. But whenever I do leave home to explore this stunning state I am always glad, and reminded of how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place.
ALDONA BIRD is a journalist, previously writing for The Dominion Post. She uses experience gained working on organic farms in Europe to help her explore possibilities of local productivity and sustainable living in Preston County. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.