www.wvgazette.com Travel http://www.wvgazette.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers WV Travel Team: Show kids W.Va.'s outdoor fun http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141026/GZ05/141029550 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141026/GZ05/141029550 Sun, 26 Oct 2014 00:01:00 -0400 This week we are thrilled to include Amy Shuler Goodwin and her team at the state Division of Tourism as new, regular members of the WV Travel Team. Look for upcoming articles on hidden hot spots and fun things to discover in the Mountain State.

By Amy Shuler Goodwin

WV Travel Team

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - I'm as guilty as anyone - probably more.

I have my phone glued to my body and my fingers are always typing.

My husband, too, is always checking emails, voicemails, etc. Unfortunately, our kids have embraced our ridiculous obsession with technology and "staying connected."

Several weeks ago we decided to get away from the daily grind and reconnect. We took our little guys to camp, hike and bike in the woods of West Virginia.

Not once did they ask for their phones, beg to play a video game or say, "I'm bored" - music to any mother's ears.

I have a hundred photos of our awesome weekend. I have photos of our children splashing into the lake. I have photos of us barreling down killer hills on our mountain bikes. And I even have a photo of my husband and me together - with no children. Yes, a true miracle.

When we arrived home, I downloaded all the photos from the trip and began to dream up the ultimate holiday card filled with snapshots of our awesome adventure! I looked at every photo of our family - all of our new memories together.

But it was a simple photo of my son, Joe, holding a rock he found in a creek that made me pause and reflect. He's growing up so fast. He's so tall he can now look me in the eye. When did that happen?

The photo of this tiny rock started an extensive 15-minute conversation. We talked, and laughed, and made up silly stories. How did this rock get here? Wonder if anyone else ever picked it up? Wonder if a bear ever stepped on it? Wonder if anyone threw it while running from a bear and screaming?! It was funny and fun.

Time flies when you're having fun, doesn't it?

Work obligations have consumed more of my time than I'd like to admit, and there never seem to be enough hours in a day to just go outside and play.

Somewhere in the transition between childhood and becoming an adult, I think many of us have forgotten what our parents said to us almost every day after school and every day in the summer: "Go outside and play!"

How often did you hear those words when you were a child?

More often than not, the order came from my mother when she wanted to get me or my sister, Karen, out from underfoot.

So outside we went, and the adventure began. No agenda. No preset play dates. We played ball in the yard; we waded in the creek, fished with our dad, and rode our bicycles through the neighborhood - until well past sunset and the front porch light came on.

As I've taken on my new role as commissioner of tourism, I'm reminded of how many fantastic opportunities we have in West Virginia to recapture a little bit of that childhood magic. No matter where you live, I'll bet that within a few miles you'll find a great place to fish, a trail to hike or bike, or a roadside park to picnic in.

Three months ago we launched the "Go Outside and Play" campaign to remind folks how much there is to see and do - right here at home - in "Wild, Wonderful West Virginia."

The first event we hosted was "Go Outside and Camp" at Coopers Rock State Forest. We invited people to join us for a day of hiking, biking and fishing. Afterward, we enjoyed the company of in- and out-of-state travelers who joined us for a cookout, live music and ghost stories.

Families camped, hiked and laughed together. They took photos of their little ones dancing to the music and roasting marshmallows. Fact: A 43-year-old can eat as many s'mores as a 3-year-old. Don't ask me how I know this.

In September, our team hosted "Go Outside and Raft." We invited folks to join us for whitewater rafting on the New River as a warm-up to Gauley Season, which started in September.

It's amazing the things you discover about yourself when you tackle a new adventure. In fact, one of our staff members had never been rafting before that day.

Preparing for her first whitewater trip, one of our GoToWV team members, who wanted to remain anonymous (Tina Stinson), was both excited and apprehensive as she enthusiastically put on her personal flotation device and helmet and grabbed a paddle. (Moments later, her guide for the "Go Outside and Raft" adventure kindly pointed out that she had put her helmet on, um, backward.)

It took only one rapid - and she was hooked. She can't wait to plan her next trip.

In the coming months, the GoToWV team will continue making opportunities available for more families across the Mountain State - including "Go Outside and Fly Fish" and "Go Outside and Ski."

Like most moms and dads, I have been spinning my wheels trying to find balance and ways to create great experiences for my kids.

My advice: Go outside and play. It will be time well spent. I promise.

Share your photos and stories on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gotowv and Twitter @gotowv using the hashtag #GoToWV and let's show the world what we're all about!

For more information about activities, events and lodging in West Virginia, visit www.GoToWV.com or call 800-225-5982 (800 CALL WVA).

About W.Va.'s new commissioner of tourism

Amy Shuler Goodwin serves as commissioner of tourism and deputy secretary of commerce for the state of West Virginia. Goodwin lives in Charleston with her husband, Booth. When they are not watching their boys play hockey or run cross country, they can be found mountain biking, camping at one of their favorite state parks, skiing the hillsides of the Mountain State, or hiking with their very large Lab, Gus.

What I believe

I believe in the power a destination can have on you, and I am convinced we can create experiences that make visitors feel that power, whether it is exciting or relaxing. I want our guests in the Mountain State to feel the way I do about our state long after they leave.

Why I love this job:

I grew up in a family business that was then - and still is now - dependent on the tourism community. In junior high and high school I worked in that business, the Hole 'N Run, a golfing and running store in Wheeling. My grandfather and father took tremendous pride in selling top-notch products and, more important, in their commitment to customer service.

I learned many a life lesson working with my father in our store, the most important being that if we did things right, our buyers became loyal customers, and loyal customers always come first. It still doesn't matter if we get a customer as we are locking up the shop. We open the doors and let them know they are welcome anytime, much like what we as the Tourism Division do every day. We work hard to ensure travelers have wonderful, memorable experience.

My special places in the Mountain State:

n Biking the Arrowhead Trail in Fayette County (some of the best mountain biking in the state!)

n Biking the Greenbrier River Trail.

n Eating at Sargasso's in Morgantown or the Secret Sandwich Society in Fayetteville.

n Playing the Crispin Golf Course at Oglebay! I was married on that course 16 years ago! Yes, I have a photo of us on hole No. 1 wearing our wedding best!

n TreeTops Zipline Tour at Adventures on the Gorge.

n With my kids on any ski slope on any side of any West Virginia mountain (Winterplace is our favorite)!

n Anywhere the Christian Lopez Band, from Martinsburg, is playing!

n The Island in the Sky trail at Babcock State Park. (Take an extra bottle of water! It's a steep climb!)

- Amy Shuler Goodwin

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W.Va. wine trail has become a ferment desire http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141019/GZ05/141019346 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141019/GZ05/141019346 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Judy E. Hamilton This is the sixth and final installment in a series of reports about West Virginia farm wineries and the quest for wine and distillery trails that could drive tourism for this emerging industry.

The featured winemakers, ranging in age from 37 to 83, represent an interesting and diverse community of people all drawn to a rewarding but difficult endeavor. They are united in their passion for the craft of making wine, and now, too, in their shared vision for wine and distillery trails they say could help their farms - and their local economies - thrive.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - It can be pretty challenging to get a room full of adults of all ages and from all walks of life to agree on much of anything. But getting them to agree enthusiastically is the stuff of which dreams are fulfilled.

On a recent afternoon, winemakers and distillery producers in the western part of West Virginia met to discuss the creation of a trail that would link wineries and distilleries located within close proximity to each other for the benefit of them all.

There was so much excitement in the air, it was practically tangible.

"We have a gold mine right here," said Bryan George, who owns Vu ja de Vineyards in Roane County.

It's not exactly a new idea. Winery trails have long been established in nearly every state in the country.

There are 277 such trails nationwide, according to America's Wine Trails, which compiles a comprehensive list.

There just aren't any in West Virginia.

"Don't worry; you can make your own wine trail by taking a day to visit a few of this state's magnificent wineries," suggests the website.

That, say many vineyard owners here, isn't good enough.

With 27 farm wineries (and 10 distilleries) listed in the various branches of state government that track such things, somehow there's just never been enough momentum to get a wine and distilleries trail going.

Until now.

After reading the first two articles in the Gazette-Mail series about West Virginia farm wineries, Mark Whitley, executive director of the Jackson County Development Authority, met with winery and distillery owners in the western part of the state on Sept. 16 to begin discussions.

"This is our first wine and distillery trail meeting, but it's something we hope we'll be able to build on from there," Whitley said.

The meeting led to the formation of the Country Roads Wine and Distillery Trail on Sept. 26.

Whitley has developed a mock-up of a "passport" for the trail, which he believes will be beneficial to many other businesses in the Jackson County area, including restaurants, historical attractions, inns and hotels.

"The passport idea is similar to the VIP state park and national park passports, as well as the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky," Whitley said.

By offering passports, wine and distillery trails encourage guests to visit more than one vineyard or distillery to compare samples at each and learn the different techniques used by winemakers and distillers.

"The scenic routes are just beautiful this time of year and we have a lot of visitors from out of state. We felt it was time to get involved to do something about this great opportunity and decided to have a strategy meeting. I've toured most of the vineyards and the distilleries, and their facilities are beautiful. We have so much to offer people. I'm excited about this," Whitley said.

"The Jackson, Roane and Wirt county development authorities are pledging to get it done," Whitley said.

Representatives of the state Division of Tourism and Department of Agriculture attended the meeting and expressed support for the group's efforts.

Whitley also has been developing a proposal for a central retail facility for the wineries in the area.

Owners from Chestnut Ridge Winery, Roane Vineyards, Stone Road Vineyards and Vu ja de Vineyards, as well as Appalachian Mountain Distillery, Hatfield and McCoy Distillery and Herot Hall Farm attended.

"The more of us, the merrier. We're not competitors. We want to help each other," Mark Hatfield, of Hatfield and McCoy Distillery, said.

Phil Holcomb, of Chestnut Ridge Winery, even said he has plans to get a small bus service started.

"I'm purchasing a 10 to 15 passenger vans and will start at one of the bed-and-breakfasts and plan to visit the vineyards," Holcomb said. He plans to develop food and wine packages for the tours.

Holcomb's neighbor and Vu ja de Vineyards winemaker Bryan George has described the region of the state as a "mini Napa Valley," due to the close proximity of three vineyards - Vu ja de, Chestnut Ridge and Roane Vineyards - and with Hatfield's farm winery and distillery soon to open nearby.

There are plenty of concerns to be addressed still - including the lack of road signs for the vineyards.

"North Carolina and Virginia have really nice road signs with a standard logo and the name of the winery closest to the exit," said Anna-Neale Taylor. She and her husband, Paul Taylor, own Roane Vineyards.

Teresa Halloran, a marketing specialist with the Department of Agriculture, has visited several winery, distillery and brewery trails in surrounding states.

"Keeping everyone unique is the key to this trail's success, and I think that everyone can offer a unique experience at each location," Halloran said.

She also pointed out that U.S. wine production and consumption is at an all-time high. According to the Beverage Information and Insights Group's 2014 Wine Handbook, the wine category increased 1.9 percent to 325.4 million 9-liter cases of wine consumed in the U.S. last year.

John Brown, former commerce commissioner under Gov. Gaston Caperton and writer of the Gazette-Mail's "Vines & Vittles" column, said the formation of wine trails in the state is a winner for West Virginia in multiple ways. "When I was commerce commissioner, we worked hard to develop hiking and mountain-biking trails throughout the state, as well as other trails.

"Linking those with wineries would be an excellent idea. It will help the whole tourism experience," Brown said.

He said his involvement with the state's farm wineries began long ago. Brown helped plant the first farm vineyard in 1977 at Fisher Ridge Wine Co. in Putnam County with Wilson Ward and Andy McQueen.

"With the trail systems and state parks we have right now, we could link these so easily. The state basically sells itself when people drive through it and they are looking for tourism opportunities. I think a wine trail would be wonderful," he said.

Brown described visiting Italy and how that country's entire economy is helped by wine tours.

"Wine is such a great thing to pull people together. I view wine as a food. It enhances the meal and the overall experience, as well as the ambiance of civilization, something that is sometimes missing in our modern life," Brown said.

While efforts in the western region of the state are well underway, vineyard owners and distillers elsewhere in West Virginia are also eager to establish trails in their areas. Many are hoping by the time their grapes are ready to harvest next season, there will be a new crop of tourists to fill their tasting rooms.

W.Va.'s vineyard regions

West Virginia has four distinct farm vineyard regions - with 27 farm wineries. Three of them are meaderies that make honey wine. Three of them also have distilleries. Plus, there are seven additional distilleries in the state. The list was compiled from various sources, including the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, West Virginia Department of Commerce, and West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration.

Region 1 - Country Roads Wine and Distillery Trail

Appalachian Distillery LLC, 3875 Cedar Lakes Drive, Ripley, 304-372-7000, appalachian-moonshine.com

Chestnut Ridge Winery, 15 Chestnut Ridge, Spencer, 304-377-5721, facebook.com/ChestnutRidgeWinery

DeFEO Family Vineyard and Winery, 1249 Pee Wee Hill Road, Le Roy, 304-275-3936, defeowinery.com

Fisher Ridge Winery, 109A Fisher Ridge Road, Liberty, 304-342-8702

Hatfield and McCoy Distillery, Colt Run, Spencer, 304-373-8075

Hatfield and McCoy Moonshine, 297 James Ave., Gilbert, 304-664-2821, drinkofthedevil.com

Hips Lips Fingertips Tasting Room, 4524 MacCorkle Ave. SW, South Charleston, 304-545-2136, facebook.com/Hipslipsfingertips

Roane Vineyards, 1585 Reedyville Road, Spencer, 304-927-3200, roanevineyards.com

Stone Road Vineyard, 1800 Morehead Ridge, Elizabeth, 304-481-3591, facebook.com/Stone-Road-Vineyard

Vu ja de Vineyards & Winery, 706 Reedyville Road, Spencer, 304-377-1404, vujadevineyards.com

WineTree Vineyards, 772 Jesterville Road, Vienna, 304-865-0507, winetreevineyards.com

Region 2 - Mountaineer Wine and Distillery Trail

Batton Hollow Winery, 406 Woodstock Drive, Lost Creek, 304-745-5700, battonhollowwinery.com

Cascarelli's Old Country Wine, 7440 Meathouse Fork Road, Salem, 304-782-2768

Forks of Cheat Winery and Distillery, 2811 Stewartstown Road, Morgantown, 304-598-2019, wvwines.com

Heston Farm Winery and Pinchgut Hollow Distillery, 1602 Tulip Lane, Fairmont, 304-366-9463, hestonfarm.com

Jones Cabin Run Winery, HC 71 Box 129F, Tanner

Kenco Farms, 1414 Centralia Road, Sutton, 304-765-7980, kencofarmsmead.com

Lambert's Vintage Wines, 190 Vineyard Drive, Weston, 304-269-4903, lambertsvintagewine.com

Mountain Dragon Mazery Fine Honey Wines, 1516 Morgantown Ave., Fairmont, 304-534-8716, mountaindragonmazery.com

The Broken Tractor Winery, 446 Harner Road, Bruceton Mills, 304-379-8280

West Virginia Distilling Co. LLC, 1380 Fernwick Ave., Morgantown, 304-599-0960, mountainmoonshine.com

Region 3 - New River/Greenbrier Valley Wine and Distillery Trail

Daniel Vineyards, 200 Twin Oaks Road, Crab Orchard, 304-252-9750, danielvineyards.com

Falling Springs Vineyard, HC 66, Box 312, Renick

Kirkwood Winery & Isaiah Morgan Distillery, 45 Winery Lane, Summersville, 304-872-7332, kirkwood-wine.com

Smooth Ambler Spirits Distillery, 745 Industrial Park Road, Maxwelton, 304-497-3123, smoothambler.com

Watts Roost Vineyard, 2245 Blue Sulphur Pike, Lewisburg, 304-645-5308, wattsroostvineyard.com

Wolf Creek Winery, HC 75, Box 36A, Wolfcreek, 304-772-5040

Region 4 - Potomac Highland and Eastern Panhandle Wine and Distillery Trail

Black Draft Distillery, 1140 Kelly Island Road, Martinsburg, blackdraftdistillery.com

Bloomery Plantation Distillery, 16357 Charles Town Road, Charles Town, 304-725-3036, bloomerysweetshine.com

Cox Family Winery, 702 Morgan St., Martinsburg, 304-839-8342, coxfamilywinery.com

Healthberry Farm, 40 Snyder Road, Dryfork, 304-227-4414, healthberryfarm.com

Potomac Highland Winery, RR 6, Box 6980, Fried Meat Ridge Road, Keyser, 304-788-3066, phwinery.com

Robert F. Pliska and Co. Winery, 101 Piterra Place, Purgitsville, 877-747-2737

West-Whitehill Winery, 4484 U.S. Route 220 South, Moorefield, 304-538-2605, westwhitehillwinery.com

Reach Judy E. Hamilton at judy.hamilton@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1230 or follow @JudyEHamilton on Twitter.

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Monroe farm still mills Bloody Butcher corn http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141019/GZ05/141019378 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141019/GZ05/141019378 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Roxy Todd For the Sunday Gazette-Mail SECONDCREEK, W.Va. - There's a mesmerizing sound of tumbling corn kernels, as Larry Mustain holds out an overflowing handful of Bloody Butcher corn.

In his hand are a dozen seeds of red, purple and yellow corn that have been passed down at Reed's Mill for generations, dating as far back as when the mill first opened in 1791.

The corn is not only enchanted because of its history, but also because its color transforms as it's ground. Spiderwebs cling to the wooden rafters above as Mustain pours the Bloody Butcher corn into an electric stone grinder.

The mill's old water turbine is rarely used these days, although earlier this spring he did get it running briefly, after a heavy rain caused the creek to rise.

Within a few minutes he's made a white cornmeal with bright red flecks sprinkled throughout (like a butcher's apron).

Mustain always keeps the brightly colored hull in his meal. This gives the meal a unique gritty texture.

The butter from a warm piece of cornbread clings to the bits of grit, and there is an earthier, more complex taste than commercially ground cornmeal.

Mustain is a 77-year-old retired schoolteacher who grew up on Second Creek, just across from the mill, and since 1989 he's also kept the mill running since his uncle Aubrey Reed passed away.

"He was 86 when he died, and the last five or six years of his life we'd come and help him, and we'd clean the grain and shuck the corn or shell the corn, and so forth, and he'd maybe grind a hundred pounds of cornmeal."

Along Second Creek, there were once 22 mills that ran by the rushing waters, some were lumber mills, and woolen mills, but most were grist mills much like Reed's Mill is.

Today, it's the only mill still standing. All the others have been closed for decades. The old buildings have all burned or are in disrepair.

Mustain says he used to drive his mother around these old back roads to see the abandoned mills, just before she passed away.

With a heavy heart, she used to sit and stare at the decaying old buildings, expressing a deep nostalgia for her childhood, when Second Creek and nearby Gap Mills were thriving communities, with dozens of prosperous farms. When she looked out at all that had been, and then had disappeared, Mustain's mother would sigh and say, "It's just like 'Gone With the Wind.' It's all 'Gone' now."

But it's not all gone, not as long as Reed's Mill is still in operation. There are still plenty of customers every Saturday, when the mill is usually open (Mustain sometimes opens the mill other days too, if a group or a tour bus calls ahead).

But he is 77 years old, and though he doesn't plan on retiring from the mill anytime soon, he does admit that health issues have slowed him down in recent years.

To complicate the difficulty, Mustain is losing a battle against the geese and deer. Last year, they ate his entire crop of Bloody Butcher corn. He claims the animals prefer the heirloom Bloody Butcher corn to the hybrid GMO corn that grows in all the neighboring fields.

Most of the customers who come to Reed's Mill seem to prefer the heirloom corn too. They claim it has a different texture and taste, compared with the yellow hybrid corn he also sells at the mill.

Families throughout the Greenbrier River valley have been using Bloody Butcher corn from Reed's Mill for generations. The ones who know the difference say that's the only cornmeal they like to eat.

But there's at least one other place in the state to find this special produce.

When his own crops were lost to wildlife this year, Mustain had to search for a local farmer with a similar strand of the Bloody Butcher corn.

He found a nearly identical corn in Craigsville at Spring Creek farm. There, Frances Meadows and her 93-year-old father Edgar Meadows grow a Bloody Butcher corn that's been in their family for at least three generations. Just like the Bloody Butcher Mustain has on his farm, the Meadowses grow an heirloom corn that is basically a white corn inside with flecks of red sprinkled throughout. This year, Meadows sold Larry Mustain about 1,200 pounds of Bloody Butcher to grind at Reed's Mill.

Frances Meadows says her family has been eating this Bloody Butcher cornmeal for generations - using it for corn bread, stuffing and corn pone (the corn pone is her favorite way to eat it).

If you've never had corn pone, the West Virginia variety at least, it's a thicker, sweeter cornbread-type dish. Meadows says her family sprinkles pieces of bacon into theirs.

You pour water over the cornmeal and leave it to firm for a few hours, or even overnight. Then you add the eggs, butter and milk and bake it in a cast-iron skillet.

Another place where you can sample Bloody Butcher is at Cafe Cimino, in Sutton.

Frances Meadows gets Larry Mustain to grind some of the Bloody Butcher, which she sells to chef Tim Urbanic.

Thanks to the specked corn that makes his unique polenta dish, it's a taste you won't find anywhere else but West Virginia.

Corn Pone

2 cups cornmeal

1½ teaspoon salt

2 cups boiling water

½ cup flour

1½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ cup butter, cut into pieces

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

Mix the cornmeal and salt, and pour into boiling water. Let sit overnight, or at least for a few hours.

Add the other ingredients. Cut in the pieces of butter and fold the eggs in gently and mix, but don't beat.

Pour into a greased pan or a cast-iron skillet and bake at 375° until the top is golden brown.

To visit Reed's Mill, call Larry Mustain at 304-772-5665. The mill is open on Saturdays and by appointment. Reed's Mill is located on Second Creek Road. Heading south from Lewisburg on U.S. Route 219, as you cross the Monroe County line, Second Creek Road is on your left. The mill will be on your right about a mile down the road.

This story was produced in conjunction with West Virginia Public Radio. It can be heard at http://wvpublic.org/post/bloody-butcher-corn-field-fork.

Roxy Todd is a Charleston-based freelance writer who writes for West Virginia Public Radio. She can be contacted via email at roxytoddroxytodd@gmail.com.

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Colombian coffee aroma wafts through Gilmer County http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141019/GZ05/141019360 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141019/GZ05/141019360 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Bill Lynch LINN - Duane and Rachel Brown never really meant to get into the coffee business.

"To tell you the truth," Rachel said, sitting at the head of the table in her dining room, slowly sipping from a small earthenware mug, "until we had our own coffee, I didn't really drink it."

But now, she and her husband are drinking a lot of coffee. They're brewing it, grinding the beans, roasting them on their back porch and even occasionally picking the coffee cherries off the trees on their farm in South America.

Duane, a supervisory correctional systems specialist with the federal prison system, and Rachel live near Linn in Gilmer County, which is a long, long way from Colombia, more than 2,500 miles, in fact. But they've been making the trek off and on for several years.

"It's not as dangerous as it used to be," Duane said. "For a while there, you had the rebels and the government fighting. There's still fighting, but not as much."

Duane's son Justin added, "This one time we went, we showed up like a day after a riot in town.

"You learn your limits fast."

Kidnapping, particularly of foreigners, still happens in Colombia from time to time. There are bandits. "There are places you can go and it's fine. There are other places where it's not, and you need to stay away," Duane said.

"It's just bare necessities there," he said. "They don't have as many of the modern conveniences we have." The way of life is simpler, more rural, but the people he's met are friendly. They've been very welcoming and Duane said he loves showing people around.

Duane began visiting Colombia after a mission trip in 1993 with an uncle. In Colombia, he met a local preacher named Edermin Cortes.

"We became friends," Duane said. "But I didn't see him for years and then a couple of years ago, he found me in Bogotá." Duane had been on a trip through the Amazon.

"He told me he was looking to retire from the ministry," he said. As a poor, country preacher in Colombia, Cortes never saved much money, and he had a family to provide for. He asked if Duane might consider buying a coffee farm. They'd go into business together. Cortes and his family would work the land and the two families would divide the harvest.

There were quite a few small farms for sale in rural Colombia. Many had fallen into disuse over the years. The original owners had fled or been killed in one conflict or another.

"He found a little farm near a little town called Supatá," Duane said. "It's eight acres on the side of a mountain - really very small compared to a lot of other farms."

The farm property they bought, in 2011, was registered with a name - "Finca La Despensa" (roughly "the farm pantry") - but the land was overgrown, wild and hadn't been worked in years. Duane said they had to clearcut and replant.

Over the past couple of years, the Browns have traveled back and forth between the U.S. and Colombia to help out with the farm.

"There has been a lot to learn," Duane acknowledged. "The old farmers in Colombia know it all. They can look at the leaves of the coffee trees and tell you what kinds of minerals need to be added [to the soil] - that kind of thing."

He said he's done a little bit of everything. He's picked coffee cherries off the trees (the bean is the seed inside the cherry). He's followed the processing and learned a lot about coffee culture, which is a very different thing in South America.

For his guests or maybe just to show off to some of his friends, Brown makes the coffee in a glass vacuum coffee press that looks like a high school chemistry set, but brews a really smooth cup of coffee.

Colombian farmers aren't as fancy.

"Most people just roast the beans they're going to use right then," Duane said. "They grind the beans, but when they brew, they don't run them through a filter like we do. They just let the grounds settle to the bottom of the cup and toss out the last couple of swallows."

They also add panela - unrefined sugar cane that is boiled, evaporated and sold in heavy, hard, brown bricks, later to be shaved, chipped at or broken into pieces.

"I usually just throw it in a burlap sack and smash it with a hammer," he said.

The pieces are sometimes dissolved in water, which is called aguapanela. People drink that alone or they can use it to brew their coffee.

The panela has a mild, almost caramel flavor.

Colombians like their coffee sweeter, serve it in smaller cups, and often add milk.

Preparing the raw coffee beans is a slow and involved process. The solar-dried beans are run through a hulling machine that removes the outer membrane.

"In Colombia, you're not allowed to have one of these things," Brown said and then corrected himself. "Well, you can, but it's a hassle. The government basically has a monopoly on it. They want you to come to them, but if you have your own, there are licenses and permits and then they come out and inspect the machinery a lot. Most farms don't bother."

After the beans are hulled, Brown roasts them in a heavy metal pan over a wood- and gas-fired grill outside.

"We use cherry wood, from over that way," he said, nodding toward the tree line.

It takes about 20 to 25 minutes at around 450 degrees to roast 4 pounds of beans.

During roasting, the tan beans change color from yellow to light cocoa and then slowly to inky black, depending on the roast. For a coffee fan, the aroma is almost intoxicating and better than a coffee shop.

The beans hiss and pop as moisture is released. They crack, and this is how coffee roasters keep track of how dark their roast is.

Roasts that have a single crack are lighter, while the darker roasts occur after the second crack.

"You have to watch it," Duane said, always stirring and shuffling the beans. Nobody loves burned coffee beans.

After the beans are roasted, the pan is dumped onto a screen set over a cooling table. "You have to cool the beans quickly," Brown explained. "They'll cook for a while, even after they're off the heat."

By himself, Brown can roast about 7 or 8 pounds of coffee beans an hour, which isn't a lot, though he hopes to get Justin and Josh, his two sons, more involved in the process, but both live in Charleston. Justin is an accountant and Josh is enrolled in a nursing program.

He has to get somebody involved. He's just one man and the amount of coffee the Browns will be bringing in will only increase.

"We're an artisan operation," Brown said. "From our first year, we got two or three thousand pounds of coffee. In a few years, when the trees are fully matured, they'll produce around 20,000 pounds of coffee, which we share with the people working the farm - so we get maybe half."

Right now, they're mostly sharing their coffee with their friends, family and the guests who stay at Gobbler's Ridge Lodge, the cozy bed and breakfast they operate in Gilmer County.

It's a little out-of-the-way place, with just one suite for rent, up in the hills and out in the holler, about an hour and a half from Charleston. It's the kind of place to get away to when you really want to get away.

"We get a lot of repeat business," Rachel said.

People visit, they said, from all over the world, but even with regular guests staying for the week or the weekend, that still leaves a lot of coffee. The Browns have trademarked a brand name, calling their coffee Aroma of the Andes, and are looking to distribute at least in West Virginia.

"We want to work with one or two customers who can sell our coffee," he said.

They have approached Tamarack but hope to find someone in Charleston, Morgantown or Huntington willing to work with them.

"We think we have a great coffee, and it's got a real West Virginia connection," Duane said.

For more information about Aroma of the Andes coffee or Gobblers Ridge Lodge, visit www.gobblersridge.com.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5195 or follow @LostHwys on Twitter.

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Fall brings Foliage Festival to Va. music center http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141019/GZ05/141019357 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141019/GZ05/141019357 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Marta Tankersley Hays Staff writer HOT SPRINGS, Va. - Tama Whitelaw remembers coming to the Garth Newel Music Center as a young girl with her parents to experience the music and serenity of the place.

"It still has the feel of a barn, with wooden beams and floors," said Whitelaw, who now acts as an administrative assistant for the site, which continues to offer one-of-a-kind cultural experiences in a relaxed venue.

Built in 1924, it is "nestled on the western side of Warm Springs mountain, with a viewscape that looks down through Dunn's Gap and out across the Allegheny Mountains," said Executive Director Chris Williams.

Just 150 miles east of Charleston, Garth Newel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Registry in 2013, and is an easy weekend destination for lovers of music and art.

The 114-acre facility was the vision of William Sergeant Kendall, a painter and past chairman of the School of Fine Arts at Yale University, and his wife, Christine Herter Kendall.

Its name is derived from a Welsh phrase that means "new hearth." And from its birth all those years ago, it's been a home where music meets nature, patrons enjoy fine dining and casual friendships are built. Each year, more than 60 concerts and four distinct music education programs are hosted at Garth Newel.

This month marks the beginning of their Fall Foliage Festival where audiences will be treated to chamber music concerts featuring the sounds of the Garth Newel Piano Quartet and the Aeolus String Quartet in Herter Hall, the rustic concert hall, originally built as an Arabian horse riding ring.

But the acoustics are wonderful and the atmosphere is cozy and casual, Williams added.

After concerts, tables are set up near the wooden stage where the audience and performers enjoy casual dining and conversation, Whitelaw said.

Herter Hall seats up to 200 for concerts and 140 for dinners. Williams said the hall still had a dirt floor and patrons brought their own lawn chairs to the earliest performances in the 1970s.

"There are tales - and I take them for true - of black snakes that slithered across the rafters and chipmunks that scooted across the stage during performances," he said.

"There's also a tale about a cellist and a black bear."

The tradition of serving wonderful meals following concerts may have begun with one of the music center's founders, violinist Arlene Di Cecco, who is also an "incredible cook," Williams continued.

"During the early days, she'd be cooking dinner for the audience and performing on the concerts - running between kitchen and stage to make sure that everything was just right on both fronts," he said.

These days, Garth Newel has a gourmet chef, Josh Elliott, who was formerly on staff at The Homestead resort and hails from California. He and his staff prepare brunches, picnics, Sunday afternoon tea and dinners for concert-goers.

The Manor House, a 10-room historic home situated to take advantage of the beautiful vistas, is used as a sort of bed-and-breakfast for concert-goers and visiting musicians.

While Garth Newel is dedicated to providing high-quality chamber music in a casual setting, its music education programs are the music center's "anchor," Williams said.

Beginning with a chamber music study program in 1973, it has grown to offer a diversity of programs for all ages.

The annual summer fellowship accepts 15 young artists from major universities and conservatories nationwide for an intense four-week program that culminates in an early August concert.

More than 60 students take part in the Allegheny Mountain String Project, now in its fourth year, where they participate in private lessons and ensemble programs.

The Garth Newel Piano Quartet also conducts workshops and teaches master classes at Appomattox Regional Governor's School for the Arts in Petersburg. Lastly, the center hosts an Adult Amateur Chamber Music Retreat each spring.

The 2014 season continues with Thanksgiving Music Holiday weekend performances and New Year's Eve and New Year's Day celebrations.

"The concert programs are innovative, entertaining and beautifully performed," said Williams. "Meals prepared by chef Josh Elliott are seasonal, locally sourced whenever possible, and accompanied by great conversation."

Concert tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for students ages 13 to 18 and free for children 12 and younger. Concert and dinner tickets are $84 for adults, $69 for students and $59 for children 12 and younger. Rooms at the Manor House cost $110 plus tax.

Full program and guest artist materials are available on the music center website at garthnewel.org.

For more information, call 877-558-1689 or email Whitelaw at tama@garthnewel.org.

Reach Marta Tankersley Hays at marta.tankersley@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1249 or follow @MartaRee on Twitter.

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WV Travel Team: W.Va.'s top tourist haunts http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141015/GZ05/141019465 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141015/GZ05/141019465 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0400 By Mitzi Harrison WV Travel Team CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Travel Channel recently released its list of the 10 most haunted places in the United States, and, impressively, the state of West Virginia took the top two spots with the West Virginia State Penitentiary and the former Weston State Hospital.

But there is a plethora of other paranormal adventures across the state. With activities located nearby and gas prices dipping lower, your budget won't be frightened by your fun-filled adventures.

Top haunts in the nation

At No. 1 on the Travel Channel's list was the West Virginia State Penitentiary, in Moundsville. The Gothic structure first accepted inmates in 1876 and was the final stop for more than 1,000 prisoners. In its 100 years of operation, the penitentiary became known as one of America's most violent correctional facilities, as several riots, fires and escape attempts took place.

Today, guests visiting the Moundsville penitentiary can view the tight quarters, which likely caused some of the tension among inmates. Most of the cells were only 5 by 7 feet.

What makes it so haunted? More than 100 prisoners were executed by prison officials, by hanging or electrocution, in addition to the numerous prisoners murdered by other inmates. According to visitors of the facility, the tortured spirits of the inmates are still heard in the prison from behind the bars.

The good news about the Moundsville penitentiary these days is that at least visitors, unlike the inmates of days gone by, know they will be able to leave, and they are likely to be better behaved than the inmates who were originally housed in the prison.

Several tour options are available, ranging from day tours to overnight paranormal investigations. Day tours are 90 minutes long and provide guests a look at the cold, hard history of the prison. In addition, guests see the electric chair, the no-contact visitation room, the cafeteria, the rec yard, the trap door for early prisoner executions, and the cell blocks, several of which feature inmate art.

For those more daring, try one of the overnight Private Paranormal Investigations or Ghost Adventures, where small groups or individuals can visit the facility overnight for a 90-minute guided tour followed by roaming the facility independently, including checking out the North Hall and the psychiatric ward.

AAA Tip: The majority of the Moundsville Penitentiary is not climate controlled, so dress accordingly. Also, the majority of the prison does not have lighting, so bring a flashlight for an overnight stay.

Coming in at No. 2 on the Travel Channel's list of the 10 most haunted places is the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, also known as the Weston State Hospital.

The facility operated as a mental institution from 1864 until it closed its doors in 1994. Today, historic and paranormal tours take guests around the historic asylum and former Civil War post, where spirits are said to haunt the grounds and building.

The hospital is the largest building of hand-cut masonry in the country, and the second largest in the world behind the Kremlin. The building features long, rambling wings originally constructed to provide therapeutic light and fresh air.

The institution was designed to house 250 patients, but in the 1950s the facility housed upward of 2,400 patients in cramped and poor conditions.

Today, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum offers several tour options. For those wanting to avoid paranormal activity, the Heritage Tours offer a glimpse into the history of the facility and showcase the pioneers of humane treatment of the mentally ill.

A 45-minute tour covers the first floor, including the first two wards, in addition to the Civil War section of the facility. The 90-minute tour covers the first floor, but also takes guests back in time to the 1935 fire that destroyed four wards of the asylum. In addition, guests also get to view the staff quarters and Ward F - where the most deviant patients were kept.

Not for the faint of heart, the asylum has had many apparition sightings. Staff and past guests also describe unexplainable voices, sounds and other paranormal activity.

For those wanting to explore the facility's haunted past, several tour options are available. Several overnight October Ghost Hunts take visitors through the main building, or through the Medical Center, Forensics Building and Geriatrics Building. Private Ghost Hunts are also available, where groups can spend the night roaming the building investigating their favorite paranormal hot spots before they are released in the early hours of the next morning.

Harpers Ferry haunts

Harpers Ferry has a violent past, especially during the American Civil War. There are many local legends and historic events, which account for the town's unexplained ghostly happenings and encounters.

One of the best ways to experience the haunted side of Harpers Ferry is by taking a ghost tour. Generally around an hour and a half long, the tours take guests around the several blocks of the historic Lower Town section of Harpers Ferry to view several sites and buildings where paranormal activity has been reported over the years.

The tour and its stories are based on the 1977 book "A Ghostly Tour of Harpers Ferry," by Shirley Dougherty.

The author opened a restaurant in Harpers Ferry in 1968 in a historic building - and while she did not believe in ghosts when she first opened the restaurant's doors, a number of unexplainable paranormal phenomena caused her to start asking questions about the history of the building - and the town - that could hopefully account for the strange things she was witnessing.

You don't have to be a bat or a witch on a broomstick to explore the skies near Harpers Ferry this Halloween. Instead, soar the skies on one of Harpers Ferry Hallows' zip line tours. Guests can arrive in the early afternoon to experience the Aerial Adventure Park's five aerial climbing courses.

Afterward, experience a fall hayride that takes guests to the entrance of the zip line tours, which take place at sunset. Guides lead visitors through eight zip lines, two bridges and five ladders during this three-hour adventure.

AAA Tip: Sunset zip line tours take place on Saturdays throughout the month of October and on Nov. 1.

Paranormal in Parkersburg

One of West Virginia's larger cities, Parkersburg also has a reputation as one of the state's most haunted.

When looking at the region's past, it's easy to see why - local history features everything from a ruined rich family with personal tragedies to a wild city lifestyle and Civil War connections - all of which provide for a spooky good time.

To encompass all the haunted past that Parkersburg has to offer, check out Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours, which show guests the haunts of Parkersburg and surrounding areas, and share the creepy paranormal tales of the region. Guests learn about such haunts as the Banshee of Marrtown, Blennerhassett haunts and the local tale about contact with the alien Indrid Cold.

The Blennerhassett Family may be to thank for some of the most haunted locations in Parkersburg.

Harman Blennerhassett and his wife, Margaret, built a lavish mansion on Blennerhassett Island in the middle of the Ohio River in 1798. The mansion featured 7,000-square-feet of floor space and had 12 grand rooms, many of which were furnished from only the best furniture and art from around the globe. The grounds surrounding the mansion were decorated with two large lawns and a flower garden of 2-plus acres.

In 1806, Blennerhassett became entangled in a military enterprise with Aaron Burr, and as a result, President Thomas Jefferson accused both men of plotting treason in attempting to establish an empire in the Southwest. Blennerhassett was jailed. Eventually he was released from prison - his life and reputation ruined.

The mansion burned to the ground in 1811 in an accidental fire. In 1973, archaeologists located the home's foundation and worked to restore it over the coming decades.

According to local legend, the ghost of Margaret Blennerhassett haunts the reconstructed mansion on the island, in addition to those of her two children, who died at a young age and were buried on the island. Visitors have reported seeing apparitions of Margaret holding her infant, wandering the island with her 6-year-old daughter by her side.

Guests can visit the island and tour the mansion, which is accessible by boat. The grounds are as beautiful today as the day Harman and Margaret moved into their mansion on the island - there are large trees and rich plant life, which can be viewed on the island's nature and bike paths. Guests can also experience a ride in a horse-drawn wagon.

Visitors to Parkersburg to explore the paranormal should consider staying at the Blennerhassett Hotel in downtown Parkersburg. There are two seasonal packages available. One includes a visit to Blennerhassett Island, while the other provides access to the Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tour.

Gas prices not as scary

Gasoline prices have been falling like leaves with the switch to the less-expensive winter fuel blend. The trend is expected to continue as through the end of the year, barring any unforeseen refinery problems or geopolitical issues. Be sure to check the www.fuelgaugereport.com for the latest on gas prices before you hit the road.

Having a spooky good time is just a short trip away and AAA can help make it a reality. Stop in the AAA Charleston office and talk to a AAA travel expert for assistance with lodging, learning about the many AAA member discounts at these destinations, plus planning a tailor-made trip. They can provide up-to-date information on what's new, plus provide information about any special events, such as festivals and shows, taking place during the time you plan to visit.

Mitzi Harrison manages AAA Travel for the Charleston area and divides her time between Cincinnati and West Virginia.

For more travel information on West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and other destinations, stop by the AAA Charleston office or call one of the AAA travel professionals - Janice Adkins, Lia Ireland, Amy Sisson, Becky Wallace and Barbara Wing - at 304-925-1136.

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God and science at W.Va.'s first winery http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141012/GZ05/141019991 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141012/GZ05/141019991 Sun, 12 Oct 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Judy E. Hamilton This is the fifth in a series of articles about West Virginia's growing farm winery industry and the quest for a concerted tourism effort.

LIBERTY, W.Va. - Being called the "patriarch of West Virginia farm wineries" makes 73-year-old Wilson Ward chuckle.

His 35-year-old farm winery, Fisher Ridge Wine Co., is located on Fisher Ridge Road in Putnam County, about a half-hour's drive from Charleston.

Ward said becoming the first farm winery - and the winery itself - involved some luck.

"I purchased the property in 1976. In the spring of 1977, we planted our first grapes. I had an awful lot of support. In addition, I was not the only person who was growing wine grapes in the state. At that point, there were three or four of the other wineries that you would know about - the Forks of Cheat, up in Morgantown; the West-Whitehill, in Keyser; Potomac Highlands - were growing grapes.

"So, there were other people who were just as committed as I was. I just jumped the gun on them, and I was the first one out of the gate. We were the start, but I'm not the only one that's responsible for what's going on here," Ward said of the winery he established in 1979 and the now 27 farm wineries in West Virginia.

Luck and science

Dr. Ward, a Charleston native, practiced dentistry for 47 years in the city, finally fully retiring from the practice last year. Winemaking appealed to the scientist part of his personality.

"If you are a dentist, you virtually have the equivalent of master's credits in microbiology and biochemistry. So what happens? What is winemaking? It's microbiology and biochemistry. I know pH and pKa and solutions and this and that and the other and what happens," he said referring to the familiar measure of acidity, alkalinity and forms of a substance.

"Basically, I was a home winemaker for about eight to 10 years, and I was looking for property with the idea of maybe doing this. You have to understand, when I graduated from dental school, I was stationed with the Public Health Service in California working up and down the coast on a mobile dental unit," he said.

"Well, no surprise, on the coast of California, you find wineries. So I was interested in wine, and that's where it took hold. I graduated from dental school in 1966, and this was when the Vietnam War was getting hot. Many of us went to alternative-type services. I chose the Public Health Service and was attached to the Coast Guard in California. That was the start of my real interest in wines."

Ward returned to Charleston in 1968 and began his dental practice. He also began his experiments as a home winemaker.

"I continually had an idea that maybe I could find something to get it a little farther and you sort of network with friends and this property came up. A good friend of mine mentioned it and we came out and I said, 'Wow. This is a good one.'

"Now, of interest, I had no idea how good this site was. It wasn't through pure knowledge that got me this site. I looked at it and it was like, 'Oh my gosh,' music went off, 'oh golly, golly, golly.' Sometimes that's good and sometimes it's not.

"As it turns out, almost every good wine district has a certain factor and influence. Our influence is that the good things we have are a good amount of air current that comes off the Ohio River plain that dries the grapes off and reduces your fungus pressure. We have good heat summation. About the same as the southern end of Sonoma or the northern end of Lodi [grape growing regions in California]. So our heat summation is just fine.

"Those things combine [with] training - our training is modified because of the high humidity in this area that takes the grapes up high and allows them to dry out and reduce the pressure of fungus, which is the largest single problem in almost the entire Eastern United States," Ward said.

Training is the removal of grapevine wood in such a way as to shape the vine so that it will bear a good crop without breaking or interfering with cultural operations.

"A viticultural district is a recognized distinct area for growing grapes anywhere in the United States. This is the Kanawha River Valley. It's the only wholly contained viticultural district within West Virginia. We have things that we can do here that perhaps other areas in the Ohio River Valley can't," the winemaker said.

"It was becoming fairly obvious in the Eastern United States in the late 1960s through the late 1970s that there was a grape boom and that we could indeed grow high-quality wine grapes in the Eastern United States.

"It wasn't necessarily something that I did uniquely, it was a movement that was going on. As you can see now, we have Virginia and North Carolina. And it's pretty much a plethora in the entire Eastern United States.

"Obviously, 95 percent of all the wine produced now is in California, Oregon and Washington state. However, we can have some pretty interesting stuff here, you know," he said.

Religion and winery laws

Ward said getting the farm winery law enacted in West Virginia in 1981 was a long and arduous process.

There was a perception that as a Bible Belt area, farm wineries would be frowned upon by evangelical Protestant Christians in the state, he said. Some evangelicals reject alcohol as incompatible with their religious beliefs.

"At the time when we were trying to get this legislation passed, there was a tremendous backlash from a minority of people. The Department of Agriculture and [Agriculture Commissioner] Gus Douglass desperately wanted this to pass [but] we had an impediment in the Governor's Office.

"He vetoed the law not once, not twice, but three times. And ultimately, on his third veto, the Legislature, in its infinite wisdom, overrode the veto substantially and then we had the farm winery law. That was not until 1981. It took some time," Ward said, referring to former governor and current U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

"The distributors didn't want it to happen [either]. They wanted to maintain total control. It was just a mess. But the Agriculture Commission is the one that made it happen," Ward said.

He described how Douglass went to each member of the House of Delegates and state Senate to override Rockefeller's veto.

"I've been in business for 35 years and I can't say enough good things about the Department of Agriculture. I tell people outside this state what the Department of Agriculture does for me and they say, 'This is a state agency?' And I say 'Yeah. They can't do enough. If I ask them, they will do it if they possibly can,'" Ward said.

As for his own religious beliefs on drinking wine, the winemaker has a very unique and scientific view.

"You know when the grape ripens it has that sort of sheen, blue, that waxiness around the outside of it? If you take that and you put it under a microscope, it happens to be one microbe in squareness. Do you know the size of a yeast cell? One microbe. So the grape is designed to trap that and make itself into wine. Who would have thought about that to give it as a gift to man? It's enough to make you religious, isn't it?" Ward said with an expression of both humor and wisdom.

Where to go from here?

"The question is now, where do we go from here? There are some things that need to happen. You have a problem in that there is a lot of interest this way and that way," Ward said.

"I really feel strongly that what they need to do is go ahead and open up that agritourism business," Ward said.

He described how North Carolina has allowed the sourcing of grapes from outside its state's borders and how the industry has grown.

Agritourism is a business venture located on a working farm. It provides an "experience" for visitors while generating income for the farmer.

"You've asked the perfect person, because I've been at it so long and I'm so opinionated. The problem is that right now the farm winery bill, as it's written, is very restrictive and there's not very much or very many people who can make the types of wine that they need to make in order to attract a wide spectrum of the population.

"Right now we are getting wines that can be grown here. They are basically what I call 'provincial wines' - Concord, Niagara, so on and so forth - easily grown here, can be converted into wines. But if someone wants to do something more esoteric, commercially [it's hard to] make it happen," Ward said.

"So what we need to do is to establish a second tier of wineries that can utilize anything, any game in town. The problem being now, that under the current law, if they do that, they have a restriction that will not make it profitable. They must go through the three-tier system. A three-tier system means that you must go through a distributor and you have to then go through a retailer and then go to the person.

"Well, if you're a fairly small winery, if I cannot self-distribute my wine to you directly or to whoever; there's not enough money in there to make a profit. So we have to be able to make that available under the small-winery venue. And yes, if they use West Virginia product, they can certainly put that on the label and tout it, but in order for them to have a wide enough spectrum to make it viable, two things: they have to be able to sell to anybody who can buy, and they have to be able to access grapes from a slightly wider venue than is currently available," he said.

As far as establishing wine trails in West Virginia, Ward is a bit skeptical.

"You are going to need a lot more wineries, and you're going to need to modify the law in order to give these people more leeway as to what they can do to make wines," Ward said.

"Part of the problem is, we are so far out in the country. Who in the hell is going to come out here? Basically, realistically, what they need to do is tandem it," Ward said, suggesting that several farm wineries join together to have a tasting room with an outlet near an interstate exit with signage that states "West Virginia farm wineries tasting and gift shop."

Wine, labels and Hollywood

If you think you may have seen a Fisher Ridge Wine Co. wine on a movie or a television show, your eyes are not playing tricks on you.

"Have you ever seen 'Iron Man 2'? Did you see Fisher Ridge Wine? When he [Robert Downey Jr., as Tony Stark] goes down into his wine cellar, he gets 'Pork Barrel Pink.' My daughter is a graphic artist and she does set design for movies," Ward said.

His daughter, Jane Fitts, a graphic designer, has an impressive résumé on the Internet Movie Database of films and television shows she has worked.

She is the owner of fancygraphics in Los Angeles, and specializes in branding, book design and graphic design for feature films, commercials and television.

"Did you see the movie 'He's Just Not That Into You'? Do you remember when he picked up that pen and said, 'Dr. Wilson Ward. Do you have an appointment?'" Ward said with a hearty laugh, describing the blockbuster 2009 movie starring Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore and Bradley Cooper.

Looking over several cases of wine, the winemaker selects one with a label featuring a large pig.

"That's the 'Pork Barrel Red.' She did that one for me. The other one is a classic that my daughter did. That's the syrah, and she did that because she said, 'You need to have one that looks like what real wineries do.' It's a really nice one. My daughter also did the logo," Ward said.

Ward is also quick to show off a signed photo of Andrew Zimmern, star of the television show "Bizarre Foods." He is shown in the photo with a bottle of Fisher Ridge wine being served at Cafe Cimino Country Inn in Sutton during a taping for the show.

"Andy got him to sign this for me," Ward said with a wide smile. His son, Andy Ward, is a photo editor for the Travel Channel.

Being served with food is exactly what Ward intends for his wines.

"We generally make dry and semi-dry table wines. In other words, wines that you would have with or around food. I make some dessert wines, but, again, that also is with and around food. Basically, wines are intended to be had in that fashion," he said, describing his line of wines, including zinfandel, syrah, chardonnay, vidal and moscato.

Going back to the wine labels, he finds another one he's fond of.

"This one was done by a local graphic artist, a very good friend of mine, Sharon Harms. Isn't that great?" he said, referring to the 'Hog Wild' wine label on a bottle of viognier/chardonnay table wine. It features an image of three perfectly pink pigs that almost appear to be smiling.

He and his wife are fond of art and have the original painting by Harms in their home.

Friends and family

The winemaker jokes that he has no intention of retiring from winemaking because, "It's a great preservative!"

He said being with friends and family is the main focus of the enterprise.

"We have a good time here. That's the important thing," Ward said.

Hiring people has never been an issue, he said, because he has many friends who like to pitch in during the bottling process.

"It takes five people to run the line. Normally, we will have 10 people here so that nobody gets overworked. We pay in wine. And we have no trouble getting help," Ward said with a mischievous smile.

"We are a small winery, a really small winery. We sell our 1,800 to 2,000 cases a year and I don't aspire to be much bigger. We have everything paid for. We make a little bit of money. We do fine," he added with obvious pride in his 35-year-old farm winery.

Fisher Ridge Wine Co. doesn't have a website or even a Facebook page, but Ward says he is just a phone call away from anyone who wants to stop by for a tour and wine tasting.

For more information about Fisher Ridge Winery, call 304-342-8702.

For additional information about the artists who make the wine labels, visit www.fancygraphics.net for Jane Fitts' graphic art company, and for information about artist Sharon Harms, visit www.imageassociatesllc.com.

Reach Judy E. Hamilton at judy.hamilton@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1230 or follow @JudyEHamilton on Twitter.

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Road-trip to Wisconsin, motorsport fans http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141012/GZ05/141019988 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141012/GZ05/141019988 Sun, 12 Oct 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Terry Robe For the Sunday Gazette-Mail CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Next Saturday, the star-spangled Captain America chopper that blew up at the end of the 1969 biker movie "Easy Rider" will be on Lot 1121 at an auction of Hollywood memorabilia in Los Angeles. It's expected to sell for a million dollars or more.

Also on the block: Elvis Presley's racing jumpsuit from the movie "Speedway." Imagine, your own piece of the King for an estimated $18,000 to $22,000.

For most motorsport fans, iconic items like these are out of reach. But anyone with $18 ($12 for seniors) can visit the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.

From Charleston, you can get there in nine or 10 hours - not counting a stop at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum - and fall's a pleasant and affordable time to visit southeast Wisconsin.

If you're a member of the Capitol City WV Chapter #5439 Harley Owners Group and you haven't been to the museum, what are you waiting for? And if motorcycles aren't your thing, a trip to the place they call HOG Heaven might change your mind.

The $75 million Harley-Davidson Museum opened in 2008 in Walker's Point, just across the Menomonee River from Westown, the western half of downtown Milwaukee.

William S. Harley was 20 years old when, in 1901, he designed an engine to power a bicycle. Four years and many improvements later, five motorcycles were built in the 10- by 15-foot backyard shed of Harley's buddy, Arthur Davidson. A dealer in Chicago sold three.

In 1906, after setting up a factory on West Chestnut Street (now West Juneau Avenue), the company produced about 50 motorcycles.

Today, with its headquarters on that historic spot - though the plants are in Menomonee Falls and Tomahawk, Wisconsin; Kansas City; and York, Pennsylvania - Harley-Davidson makes well over 300,000 bikes a year.

The two-level museum has several hundred gorgeous examples from all periods of the company's history, starting with Serial Number One, the oldest known Harley-Davidson motorcycle in existence.

There's a gallery dedicated to clubs and competitions; the Engine Room, where you can view specs and listen to rumbles; a wall of 100 graphically distinctive fuel tanks; a station where you can design your own custom bike; and an area themed "The Eagle Soars Alone," about the return to independence after 12 years (1969-1981) of AMF ownership.

One of the highlights is "Rebels and Outlaws," a video that stitches together dozens of scenes from movies dealing with motorcycle culture, notably Roger Corman's 1966 film, "The Wild Angels," in which Peter Fonda, as Hells Angel Heavenly Blues, famously declares: "We want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the Man."

Three years later, Fonda rode a machine called Captain America into history.

Before exiting to visit the shop and restaurant, you pass through the Design Lab, with an exhibit about Project Rushmore, the "motorcycles for the next leg of our epic journey."

Finally, there is the showroomlike Experience Gallery, where you can sit on and be photographed with the latest models.

Attention true Harley aficionados: If you'd like to be among the 20 participants in the Holiday Dream Experience (Dec. 3-6) - including lunch and a museum tour with museum Vice President Bill Davidson, private tours of H-D headquarters and the Menomonee Falls factory, three nights at the nearby Iron Horse Hotel, and more - the deadline is coming up fast.

Priced at $2,490 for two, the package is an example of how motorcycle culture has changed since "Easy Rider." The median age of Harley owners is pushing 50, and their median income is way up.

The market - not just American, but international - wants more comfort and technology, and is able to pay for it (lower-end prices for new bikes run between $8,000 and $10,000).

Admit it, you always wanted to go to South Dakota for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and make 450,000 new friends.

Next year (Aug. 3-9) will be the rally's 75th anniversary. The good news is, even if you can't tell a Street Bob from SpongeBob, there's still time.

An hour north of Milwaukee, in Elkhart Lake, is another motorsports mecca. Road America's 4.048-mile track is essentially unchanged since September 1955, when Phil Hill won a 148-mile race driving a Ferrari Monza.

Following the rolling contours of a section of Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine, the track bills itself as "America's National Park of Speed."

Road America's major events - such as NASCAR Nationwide and Pirelli World Challenge races, and the Hawk with Brian Redman vintage car competition - take place between May and September.

But the Road America Motorcycle School has three more sessions of its basic rider course in 2014 (Oct. 25-26, Nov. 1-2 and Nov. 8-9). If you already know how, you can ride your motorcycle around the circuit's 14 turns on the two remaining Motorplex open track dates (Oct. 19 and 26).

Other Road America offerings include ATV-riding (Off Road Experience, Nov. 8), karting, zip lining, and - in February, March and April - Winter Autocross.

Road America was created after open-road sports car races - which took place in and around the village of Elkhart Lake in 1950, 1951 and 1952, growing in popularity every year - were banned. In 2006, the Historic Race Circuits were placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and historical markers were installed at key points.

The village's history as a summer resort for residents of Milwaukee and Chicago dates to the late 1800s, when large hotels went up by the lake. One of the largest, rebuilt and refurbished in 1995, is the AAA four-diamond Osthoff Resort, a gleaming white vision complete with spa, restaurants and cooking school (chef Scott Baker will lead full-day courses on Nov. 1 and 15 and Dec. 6 and 13, with shorter workshops on Nov. 14 and 29 and Dec. 5).

The Osthoff hosts an Old World Christmas Market (Dec. 5-14) and other holiday activities.

A short walk from the Osthoff and the neatly kept shops and homes of Elkhart Lake are two other grand hotels, Siebkens Resort and Victorian Village. All three offer a variety of accommodations at attractive fall and winter rates.

Terry Robe is a freelance travel writer who frequently writes for the Sunday Gazette-Mail. Email Robe at terryrobe1@gmail.com.

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Randolph County honey winery creates a buzz http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141005/GZ05/141009758 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141005/GZ05/141009758 Sun, 5 Oct 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Judy E. Hamilton This is the fourth in a series of articles about West Virginia's growing farm winery industry and the quest for a concerted tourism effort.

DRYFORK - The word "mead," for many of us, may conjure up images of medieval England, where characters from Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" are roaming in a scenic field. With three meaderies in the state - which produce wine from honey - some winemakers are hoping those faraway images soon will be replaced with scenes of West Virginia hillsides.

Ben McKean is one of those optimistic winemakers hoping for a tourism trail to bring attention to his 80-acre honey and mead producing farm, Healthberry Farm and Honey River Meadery, located in Randolph County.

McKean's apiary, where bees are raised for their honey, is quite expansive.

"I have 90 hives, 60 in production. The hives are on other farms as well in the Dryfork River valley. I'm on seven other farms as well as this farm. We'll produce about 2,500 pounds of honey this year," McKean said.

With each hive averaging 50,000 bees, he tends close to 5 million honeybees.

Part of the raw honey he produces in made into mead, melomel and pyment - types of honey wine.

"I bought the farm in 1993. It was an abandoned farm. The honey business was established in 1995. The winery was established in 2012. This is a winery in it's infancy," he said, explaining that the meads are aged for two years before they are bottled.

In addition to varietal meads, McKean makes a mead that is fermented with grape juice called pyment and meads made with other fruit juices called melomel.

"Our word medicine comes from the word 'mead.' Mead is an ancient drink. It's the first alcoholic beverage. Humans were drinking mead before written language. It's 10,000 years old or older," McKean said.

"This full bottle of mead has about a pound of honey in it. I'd say close to three-quarters of a pound per bottle," McKean said.

To be defined as mead, the product must be fermented from at least 51 percent honey. According to the International Mead Association, there are about 200 meaderies worldwide and approximately 60 in the United States.

When McKean, a Maryland native, graduated in 1990 with a degree from West Virginia University, he decided to continue his education at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1993.

However, during his graduate studies, West Virginia was never far from his mind.

"As a farmer, I had just come out of college with a master's degree in sustainable agriculture and a bachelor's in forestry from WVU, and wanted to settle in West Virginia and make my living farming. I was also pursuing healthy lifestyles," said McKean, 48.

His father had two beehives as he was growing up and he was intrigued by the practice, but it was a chance meeting in 1994 with the late Ferenc "Frank" Androczi that changed his farming future.

McKean saw a winery sign near Buckhannon, followed it, and met the man who would change his life as a farmer.

"I actually learned and apprenticed with the late Frank Androczi from Little Hungary Farm Winery. He made honey wine at his farm in Buckhannon and he was one of the first wineries in the state. I apprenticed with him for years and he became a dear friend. This is where this model was planted for me.

"I think he'd be proud to see I'm actually seeing it through. He was very knowledgeable. Straight from Hungary. Passing on the Old World tradition of winemaking, which we follow here. We age our wines two years. We bottle them without sulfite. They are all raw wines with honey and water or honey and fruit juice. Nothing is heated or treated with any chemicals at any stage of the process. So it's truly the Old World style of wine," McKean said.

The old-fashioned European-style winemaking McKean does was learned from a master winemaker.

"The apprenticeship I did with Frank at the winery was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. It was considered an Old World winery and it is a heritage art. It's a dying art. It is not found in society much today. They gave us full funding to do an apprenticeship because it was a traditional art. Frank was 85 when he died. He started his [meadery] operation probably at 60," McKean said.

Androczi's model of honey wine fit right in with McKean's own ideas of sustainable agriculture and his desire for a healthy lifestyle.

"It was a perennial crop system; honey has numerous health benefits as does the mead - in moderation of course, since it is alcoholic. It had all these interesting attributes. The beekeeping, the health of the honey, not tilling soil to produce really appealed to me," McKean said.

"Honey is renowned over the ages. It really contains every element the human being needs to live. It's a natural antibiotic, for one. No bacteria will grow in honey whatsoever. It will never ever spoil. They found honey in the Egyptian pyramids that was still good. That's one of the only foods that you can say that about.

"It's very good for boosting the immune system. Very good for the heart and circulation. It's excellent topically as an antibiotic on the skin and it moisturizes it. All in all, they are finding benefits every day. This is raw honey going into raw mead. It's full of live enzymes and trace minerals, vitamins that are hard to get in an everyday diet. There are amino acids. Great probiotics. This is a probiotic wine, a living wine. This is what I love about it. It's so healthy and intriguing," McKean said.

McKean said honey wine predates traditional wine, and pyment is the mother of grape wine.

"This is where the grape wine came from. Humans started mixing fruits with their meads and discovering they fermented too. Getting their favorite fruit melomels - grape became one of their favorites in Europe very quickly - and someone said, 'Wow, the grape melomel is so good, let's try just the grape juice.' Voilà, red wine. Today's wine industry was born from that moment, that realization," McKean said.

"We do add fruits to some of the wines. That's where a mead becomes a melomel. These are old European traditions. A mead is strictly honey and water. So when you drink that, all the flavors in that wine are coming from the honey itself. We do varietal meads, depending on the season, which flowers are in bloom when we harvested the honey. So we have different flavors that way," McKean said.

His varietal honeys and meads include basswood, aster and goldenrod.

He uses only fruits grown on his farm and other West Virginia farms.

"We do a raspberry melomel where we grow whole raspberries ourselves and a blueberry. The blueberries from a friend's blueberry farm near Fairmont, Bunner's Ridge to be exact. Then the pyment is a grape melomel and those grapes are grown near Petersburg, which I just got day before yesterday.

"All West Virginia products. We grow everything except the grapes. One thing I learned at Frank's winery is that growing the grapes is very difficult. They are allowed to ferment on their skins for a week to 10 days to really get the red color and tannins out of the grapes.

"It's a traditional style of making a red wine. So, this will be pressed out next week. Then the honey - we'll use the dark honey - will be mixed in with the juice, and then it is actually aged in an oak barrel. The pyment is aged in oak. This is the traditional wine that Frank Androczi taught me to make. This is really in honor of him that we make this," McKean said.

"It's delightful. It's my passion," McKean said of apiculture, otherwise known as beekeeping. It is the maintenance of honeybee colonies, commonly known as hives, by humans.

The practice is an ancient one: In 2007, 30 intact beehives dating back to the mid-10th century and early ninth century were found by archaeologists in the ruins of Rehov, Israel, according to beelogics.com.

"I've been working for years with the bees, getting better at beekeeping. Getting better at working a larger number of hives. And just reinvesting money of selling honey into expanding and getting new equipment to where I can do this winery. So, this is a product of something I've been after for every bit of 15 years now. I finally have enough hives and have expanded with enough equipment to make it a reality," McKean said.

He estimated that one-third of the human food supply depends on insect pollination, most of which is done by bees.

"West Virginia is prime for honey production. We have so many wild plants and trees that are good nectar producers and are great for producing honey. The Department of Agriculture is supportive of honey producers.

"It's our state insect, the honeybee. We don't have some of the problems that are plaguing bees right now. West Virginia is an excellent place to keep bees. The reasons are: We have low pesticide use; there's not large agriculture here; there's rugged terrain and it's hard to farm here, so this is something farmers can do, produce honey," McKean said.

Our state, he said, is an excellent place for bees to live and for the ancient practice of beekeeping.

"Beekeepers are moving to West Virginia because it is hard to keep bees in the states they are in now for different reasons - disease, pesticides, killer bees down south, the Africanized bees," McKean said.

"Honey production is very difficult in large quantities. It takes a very skilled labor. It's very hard work and it's difficult to tend to bees and keep them. Modern-day equipment has helped, but there is still a lot people need to know to do to keep them alive and producing," McKean said.

He said he keeps his bees happy by keeping them healthy.

"One big concept is making sure they have enough honey to survive the winter. They are so efficient at producing and storing honey that they produce excess. So the one major thing that we do is really try to make sure they have enough honey to survive the year.

"I also try to put their hives in a place where the bears can't find them. That is one of their major predators. And, we keep the bees away from any areas that may have pesticide use at all.

"That's what we like about this area. There's lots of wild plants. I keep current in raising bees and beekeeping, so I keep current on diseases and pests that are attacking honeybees and how to effectively treat them."

The Healthberry Farm and Honey River Meadery owner is excited about the possibility of a concerted effort to promote the state's farm wineries.

"It's good for everyone. It's a model that has been done all around the country. It promotes tourism. People go to more than one winery and it makes it interesting.

"I have a dream of a 'Mountain Meadery Tour.' I really would love to see honey [in West Virginia] become like maple syrup is to Vermont," McKean said, noting there are two other licensed meaderies in the state: Kenco Farms, near Sutton, and Mountain Dragon Mazery, located in Fairmont.

"A wine trail would bring people to the region for another reason. People are looking for wineries. They are looking at putting together a trip through the state, and they can look at a map and see what they can hit along the way. I've done that in winemaking areas. You go to one and pick your favorite and buy a few bottles and go to the next and pick your favorite bottle. People end up buying at all the stops. It's very beneficial to everybody," McKean said.

The versatile beekeeper said he is in favor of any activity that brings visitors to a farm.

"[I support] the agritourism model - going to wineries and learning about grape growing, and people can come here and learn about beekeeping. The importance of bees, too, as pollinators, not only for our health but also to pollinate crops and to pollinate all kinds of plants in our environment that we rely on," McKean said.

He said until such an agritourism trail is developed, he is hard at work promoting his products at festivals and local businesses.

"The TipTop Cafe in Thomas sells our mead and the local store Camden's Corner in Dryfork carries all our products and I sell it here. I can do tours of the honey farm and do honey tastings here, and the purchasing of mead and other products," McKean said.

"I'm super-excited about the label and how it worked out. I started with a dream of something very colorful, something very playful. I developed it for the honey first of all. Then from there, I developed the wine label so people could recognize one from the other.

"I mentioned to the artist that I'd love to have a skep, with is an old-fashioned basket-style beehive in the mountains with a honey river flowing out of the entrance. It's old tradition that in heaven there awaits rivers of honey and mead. I read that and it gave me that idea," McKean said.

Like everything else with his business, the winemaker wanted to utilize the skills of a West Virginia artist.

"I talked to an artist in Morgantown, Meg Juckett [of Elm Leaf Design] and she helped me design this, and we just chatted back and forth on the Internet to make this label. It was her idea to have the bees carrying buckets of honey, which I just loved. Then I said, 'How about a bee in a canoe on the river, and then, for the wine, we put the bee on a barrel?' I'm big into rivers and paddling, so we had to incorporate that somehow," McKean said of the personified bees on the label.

Originally, the label had the name of the farm on the label, but he was told that was against the federal regulations.

"It's funny - for the original wine label, I had 'Healthberry Farm' at the top of the label - that's who we are. The federal government doesn't want anything on the front that has anything indicating health benefits," he said.

Initially, he was perturbed that he couldn't have "Healthberry Farm" on the front label, but then he realized he had a good name for his wines.

"'Honey River' - boom - immediately the Honey River brand was there, and I'll be pursuing this as Honey River Meadery," McKean said.

The river theme is a natural for a man who is a whitewater rafting guide on the Youghiogheny River, a 134-mile-long tributary of the Monongahela River.

When he isn't busy beekeeping or rafting, he writes songs and plays in a band named Follow Your Bliss with his girlfriend, Erika May.

He said he also looks forward to visits from his 14-year-old daughter, Cora McKean, and they enjoy "skiing, biking and paddling" as a family.

All fine activities for a man whose motto is "Bee healthy, bee happy!"

For additional information about Healthberry Farm, call 304-227-4414, email healthberry@frontiernet.net, or visit www.healthberryfarm.com. The business has a Facebook page.

For additional information about the honey and mead label designer, Elm Leaf Design, visit elmleafdesign.com.

Reach Judy E. Hamilton at judy.hamilton@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1230 or follow @JudyEHamilton on Twitter.

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WV Travel Team: Find magic at Lost River State Park http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141005/GZ05/141009757 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141005/GZ05/141009757 Sun, 5 Oct 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team HARDY COUNTY, W.Va. - Deer were the first visitors to what is now Lost River State Park in the eastern segment of the state. They were attracted to the onsite spring for its abundance of minerals.

Colonial settlers called it Howard's Lick because of that traffic and for the first owner, John Howard. In between were the American Indians, who considered the spring to have healing powers.

Contemporary visitors go for the scenery and outdoor activities, but for me, there was a tantalizing whiff of magic. The light smell of sulfur filled the air and silence was deep and pervasive on an afternoon just before the fall equinox.

A profusion of ferns climbed a hillside overlooking the glen. A shallow grotto of dark rock marks the path to the Civilian Conservation Corps-built spring house with its witch's hat roof. Mushrooms were scattered along the stream. Need more evidence?

Adding to the feel of the place, there is the name - Lost River - and a genuine, eerie story buried in the history.

During the early 20th century, when the resort at the sulfur spring was booming, H.S. Carr, the owner and a widower, was set to take wife No. 2.

On the day of the wedding, the resort burned down. Did wife No. 1 resent a new lady of the resort? Did the new lady of the resort decide the hardworking life of an innkeeper's wife was not for her? No one really knows, but the fire marked the end of the resort era on "Light Horse Harry" Lee's acres in the mountains along the Lost River Valley. By 1934, West Virginia had acquired the land, and the CCC was building a small, family-oriented state park on nearly 4,000 acres.

The spring's history rivals that of the other Blue Ridge resorts of the 19th century.

Henry Lee, father of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, was a prominent patriot, political leader and soldier in his own right. He originated the famous description in his funeral oration for his friend George Washington: "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen."

Unfortunately, Lee was not a good businessman and was on the verge of losing his military grant of 44,000 or so acres around the spring to debt before he could develop it. He eluded his creditors and transferred the property to his four sons.

Eventually the other brothers ceded to Charles Carter Lee all the property that falls within today's West Virginia. He built a hotel and spa on the site of the spring.

By 1879, the Lees had sold the property to investors who enlarged the hotel, renamed it Lee White Sulphur Spring and launched its golden age, complete with hot and cold sulfur baths.

Today, the spring remains, but the only bathhouse is a changing area for the commonplace outdoor swimming pool, where the main hotel once stood.

Let's digress to Lost River for a few sentences. The park is located at the headwaters of Lost River, a body of water that longtime hype by no less a personage than George Washington has disappearing under Sandy Ridge then re-emerging several miles further east - renamed as Cacapon River.

Under that name, the river twists and snakes its way north to enter the Potomac just west of Berkeley Springs. We explored for ourselves hoping to find a giant hole like Stephen King created in "Under the Dome," where the Lost River plunged into oblivion.

The re-emergence as the Cacapon River is reputedly on private property a couple miles northeast. Geologists, being folks who may study stone but don't seem to want their words engraved in it, state that eroded voids in the limestone bed of the river cause some of the water to be diverted through the cracks. In extreme low-water conditions, all the water may be diverted. Pressure builds up underground causing it to emerge with force, forming the Cacapon River. We found no giant hole, no spouting geyser, nothing really lost - just an early rebranding campaign.

While I'm in debunking mode, let's visit Trout Pond, located on the eastern edge of the Lost River Valley in the George Washington National Forest.

Based on some arcane official definition of what makes a lake, this nearly invisible sinkhole is deemed West Virginia's only natural lake. The splendors of Stonewall Jackson, Sutton, Cheat, Summersville and other recreational lakes are fabricated - created by the Army Corps of Engineers by damming raging rivers for flood control.

The national forest folks followed suit and turned Trout Pond's fame into a recreational area with a campground and hiking trails by damming a river and creating the appealing Rockcliff Lake, complete with a sand beach.

Outdoor adventure is the primary draw for visiting Lost River State Park. An active park concession stables and miles of trails shared by horses and human hikers make horseback riding an important amenity.

There is even an unusual arrangement that allows guests at an adjacent private campground to ride their own horses at certain times on park trails. The attraction is so popular that some campsites at Lost River Campground have their own corrals.

Some of the 25 miles of hiking trails are also shared with mountain bikes. Trail sharing hierarchy is clear that horses are the boss and always get the right of way. There is no written word on who yields to whom between bikers and hikers.

We attempted one of the major hikes, a climb up a mountain to the 3,200-foot-high Cranny Crow overlook with a spectacular viewshed at the summit of Big Ridge, one of the highest in the area. I was motivated in part by the responsibility of capturing a panoramic photographic of the long, straight mountain range that marks the eastern edge of the Lost River Valley and the George Washington National Forest.

But, I must confess, I was also propelled up the mountainside to get cell service. The amiable park superintendent, Mike Foster, told me the hike was not the 11 miles I calculated, but only 1.5 miles if we took the trail up from the stables.

Another park worker spilled the beans about the cell service.

It is almost impossible to believe that in this time when WiFi/cell service is deemed a necessity of life, not only the state park but the whole Lost River Valley is a black hole.

The insider tip got me two locations besides the administration building and its serviceable deck. One was a two-mile drive to an intersection of Shenandoah Road and County Road 12 over the mountain to Moorefield. The other was straight up to Cranny Crow.

The choice seemed obvious, but I allowed madness to prevail and forgot that I am not one of those people who hike up mountains for fun.

Here's what happened. We twisted and turned up the trail. Every 20 feet or so, I asked my husband, Jack, how far he thought we'd gone, how much farther we had to go. I kept checking for a cell signal.

Arriving at the peak was not meant to be. We made it to a shelter close to the top - or at least closer than the log we rested on after one particularly steep section. There was an opening in the trees and a photo opportunity capturing the same general view we would have found at the top. I deemed the mission complete.

I was impressed at how quickly the walk down went.

While there wasn't cell service, and there was a peaceful sense of being out of the hectic pace of contemporary life, the hike did have its moment of harsh reality. As we came down the mountain trail, there was a loud rumbling as a C-5 military cargo plane roared through at treetop level. We speculated they were flying formations in training.

I lifted my camera to take a photo through a break in the trees then decided Homeland Security would probably have my name, address and picture by the time I got home. You'll just have to use your imagination on this image. I'll provide pictures of magic and fairies.

For many folks, there is more to getting away than simply being outdoors. There's eating and shopping, the top two activities of travelers. Lost River State Park does not provide either. Nearby Lost River/Lost City metro area - an alluring state of mind without any "official" municipal existence beyond a post office - has both. Lost River has an Artisan Co-op and Museum as well as an elaborate yoga studio, B&B and country store.

Since it was midweek, we couldn't try the award-winning Guest House at Lost River. We ate on the main road at the Lost River Grille, which boasts a diverse menu ranging from chicken fried steak to chicken piccata and a cauliflower steak for vegetarians. We were there on a Tuesday and enjoyed a bustling dining room indulging in 49-cent wings and half-price burgers.

For breakfast we selected N&S Restaurant, just south of where the park road enters W.Va. Route 259 through the valley. I snatched up a packaged-to-go, homemade giant cinnamon bun as we walked in and selected a booth. Needless to say, it never made it out of the restaurant.

They also make their own pies. The orange juice comes in a convenience-store bottle, and you need to request a glass.

In-state visitors coming from the mass of West Virginia to the west travel through Moorefield to get to the valley. From the east, which provides the vast majority of park visitors, Wardensville and the new W.Va. Route 55 are the gateway.

For those who give trendy titles to towns, Wardensville is definitely "emerging chic," with a new municipal government and the cool downtown Lost River Brewery. The year-old Lost River Trading Post is the acknowledged center of ferment and change. It's a combo cutting-edge gallery space, made-from-scratch bakery and shopping opportunity for everything from local arts to the largest collection of craft beers in town and must-have oddities.

The original wood floors are restored and polished, and the owners are enthusiasts ready with information and guidance on everything to do and see.

Driving time from Charleston - about four hours.

For more information on Lost River State Park, call 304-897-5372 (don't be surprised if the park superintendent answers) or visit www.lostriversp.com. For information about the area, check www.visithardy.com.

Jeanne Mozier, of Berkeley Springs, is the author of "Way Out in West Virginia," considered a must-have guide to the wonders and oddities of the Mountain State. She and noted photographer Steve Shaluta recently released the second printing of the coffee table photo book, "West Virginia Beauty, Familiar and Rare." Both are available in bookstores throughout the state and from wvbookco.com.

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Morning Glory Inn blooms near Snowshoe http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141005/GZ05/141009834 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141005/GZ05/141009834 Sun, 5 Oct 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Bill Lynch SLATYFORK - For husband and wife Rod Molidor and Karin Anderson, getting the certificate of award from TripAdvisor for their Morning Glory Inn seemed like an acknowledgment that had been a long time coming.

"We've been here 17 years," Anderson said. "But it's still really nice they noticed us. Not everybody gets the award - it's just the top 10 percent."

The award is given to hospitality businesses that consistently achieve outstanding reviews on the TripAdvisor website.

The Morning Glory Inn was supposed to be a second act for Molidor and Anderson. The pair, originally from Chicago, spent 20 years working in the food and beverage industry, the last eight of those years as managers at Snowshoe Mountain Resort.

"We'd moved around a lot before," Anderson said.

"Been in Arizona and then Wyoming," Molidor added.

When they first arrived in Pocahontas County, they divided their time between Snowshoe and the Grand Tetons Lodge, in Wyoming. They spent summers out west and winters in West Virginia before finally coming to stay here full time in 1996.

Molidor managed food and beverage for the resort, while Anderson was one of the dining room managers.

It was a lot of stress, particularly for Molidor, who oversaw 315 employees.

"We both worked a gazillion hours and never saw each other," Anderson said.

"So I decided to get out of that rat race," Molidor said and then chuckled. "I got us into our own private rat race."

With the help of Molidor's brother, they built Morning Glory Inn in 1997.

"He was the main carpenter," he said. "I was his apprentice, but I did the landscaping."

Working on the place in their free time, which was scant to begin with, they started construction in the spring of 1997 and finished in December.

"We opened up Jan. 1, 1998," Anderson said.

Located about a mile and half down the road from Snowshoe, they caught on with travelers who weren't all that interested in the bustle at the resort.

Most of their guests, they said, are in their mid-30s to late 50s.

"The kids tend to stay up close to the bars," Anderson said. "They want to be where the party is, but we get some of them down this way. We've had groups of snowboarders turn up on our porch."

When they do, sometimes they seem a little bewildered, she said.

"We're not what they're used to or what they expect."

Still, they're close enough to the ski resort to be an alternative, though they don't really see themselves as competitors to Snowshoe - just neighbors.

"If they're full, they'll send people our way," Molidor said. "We've done the same and sent people to other places around the area."

Morning Glory Inn has six spacious guest rooms with vaulted ceilings and plenty of windows.

The guest rooms are tastefully decorated, and they haven't covered every square inch with antique bric-a-brac and delicate doodads for people to gawk at or worry about breaking.

"Clutter isn't comfortable," Anderson said.

There's a dining room, a living room and large kitchen.

With 8,000 square feet, there's plenty of room for guests to move around in, but with only a limited number of available beds, even when the inn is full it doesn't get too crowded.

The focus, they said, is on comfort, but the Morning Glory doesn't go in for a lot of frills.

"We're not so la-di-da," ­Molidor said.

But they have a room that's cleared for pets, which has its own entrance.

Morning Glory Inn tries to be more personal than most hotels. They get to know their guests better, learn their names and learn about them. They help them navigate their trip to the area, and pitch in if they need a little help with making dinner reservations or getting a tee time, which is nice since cellphones don't work in Pocahontas County.

They don't have hot tubs or saunas or a pool out back, but it's quiet.

"Everybody gets their own bathroom," Anderson said. "People ask about that sometimes. At some bed and breakfasts you have to share, but we're an inn. Every room gets a bathroom."

And everybody gets breakfast.

Breakfast is what Molidor and Anderson call "deluxe continental." For two hours every morning, they serve fruit, yogurt, homemade banana bread and homemade granola.

Sometimes they do scrambled eggs. Sometimes they do pancakes.

"Simpler is easier for us," Anderson said. "We used to do the whole full breakfast thing, but it just got to be too much for us to keep up with - and people really seem to prefer this."

They love their inn, but acknowledge it was a lot more work than either of them ever imagined.

"We're strictly a mom-and-pop kind of operation," Molidor said. "We do everything, and there's always something to do, something that needs fixin', cleanin' or something."

Aside from the guest rooms, the commons area and the 13 acres surrounding the inn they have, Anderson takes care of her 93-year-old mother, who lives with them in their apartment inside the inn.

"We have our own living room," Anderson said. "We have our own bedroom and it's not one of the guest rooms. It's away from everyone."

They said they're both "people people," but if they had to spend their time 24/7 with strangers, even paying strangers, they'd both lose their minds.

It's better for the guests too.

"Part of what some people like and what some people don't like about bed and breakfasts is that it feels a little like staying at grandma's house," Molidor said. "It's homey. When you're in the living room, you feel like you're in someone's living room."

"This," he said, pointing to the large room with the couch, the fireplace and the television, "is not our living room."

Owning an inn, they said, isn't so much a job as a lifestyle. It's next to impossible for both of them to leave the property when they have guests staying at the inn.

"We take April off," Anderson said. "That's after Snowshoe has closed down and the skiing has stopped and everything is just kind of brown. Nobody wants to come up here then."

They also get a week or two off in early November, after peak foliage has passed, Cass Scenic Railroad has finished its final run and before ski season begins, but the area has become a destination through much of the rest of the year.

"We'll see as many people in July as we'll see in January," Molidor said. "The difference is, in January, it's all on the weekends, and in July, we'll get them on Tuesday or Wednesday. You never know."

When they do get away, they take vacations. They go see their children and grandchildren in Chicago, but during the long winter season, they can feel a little bottled up sometimes.

After 17 years of running an inn and 47 years of marriage, Molidor and Anderson said they'd like to move on to something else. Out front, near the road, there's a big "for sale" sign that's been up for a while.

"We're in our late 60s," Anderson said. "We'd like to turn it over to someone else and move on to the next stage in our lives."

They aren't in a hurry, though.

"It takes about five years to sell a bed and breakfast or a place like this," Molidor said.

And they want to find the right people to sell to.

"We built something special here. We'd like to see it go in the right hands," Anderson said.

For more information about the Morning Glory Inn, visit www.morninggloryinn.com.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5195 or follow @LostHwys on Twitter.

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WV Travel Team: Counting on Airline fees http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140928/GZ05/140929314 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140928/GZ05/140929314 Sun, 28 Sep 2014 00:07:36 -0400 By Ted Lawson WV Travel Team West Virginia's Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation, formally called for response from the airlines in August.

His demand: Disclose how you inform customers about extra fees that are added to the cost of their flight tickets.

Thus, the hot-button issue of airline ancillary fees was raised formally in the Senate.

Widely discussed in the travel industry, ancillary fees include additional charges for items such as checked baggage, seat selections, food and beverages, in-flight WiFi, and even carry-on baggage in some circumstances.

Critics argue that individuals purchase deceivingly low-priced flight tickets, only to find their overall travel price inflated by hundreds of dollars unexpectedly.

The airlines contend that they have different business models with some offering customers the choice of paying for services they value, helping to keep base fares low.

However, as any well-traveled person knows, price and value are not the same.

From the burgeoning commercial airline industry beginning post-WWII and running through the pre-deregulation of the late 1970s, air travel was considered a luxury. As such, offerings on board encompassed a broad range of extras by modern airline standards, seeming more in-air cocktail lounge than transportation.

Countless reviews of historic data place the median price of a roundtrip ticket in 1955 from New York to Los Angeles at approximately 5 percent of what was then the median annual income for an individual American.

With the median individual American's income now falling around $32,000, a comparable fare accounting for inflation would be a staggering $1,600.

Or is that price so staggering?

Compared to the Golden Age of Flying's "luxury" pricing of $1,600 in modern terms, the nearest seating even remotely close in space and comfort would be in business class, which begins at a price point of approximately - $1,600. For this business class fare, there would generally be no checked baggage fee, no fee for seating assignment, no fee for food and beverage, no fee for WiFi and no fee for in-flight entertainment. And so, nearly 60 years later, the verdict: it still costs approximately the same price for approximately the same services.

At the economy class level is where the ancillary fee industry hits hard. Although the hypothetical flight from New York to Los Angeles might seem enticing with fares as low as $375, passengers at this class are faced with a veritable shopping list of options - all which come at a price.

On top of this low fare, they will typically need to pay an additional $50 for checking their baggage roundtrip, they may be required to purchase preferred seats on the craft with prices beginning around $100 for the trip, and they will be required to purchase any food at sometimes exorbitant a la carte rates.

If the passenger in the economy class wishes to add luxuries such as WiFi, in-flight entertainment, alcoholic beverages, or multiple checked bags to their trip, they could be faced with costs of double their initially quoted ticket price.

Unbundling services and offering low-cost flights with high-cost add-ons has become big business for airlines, with $31.5 billion dollars of ancillary revenue being generated globally in 2013.

For most airlines, ancillary fees are now accounting for more than 30 percent of overall revenue, with that percentage expected to rise in 2015.

Not surprisingly, "value" airlines offering cut-rate flights, often to beach destinations, have the highest percentage of their revenue generated by ancillary fees. Many of these airlines even charge for carry-on bags and basic beverages such as water and coffee.

In sum, when a traveler purchases a value airline ticket, all they are paying for is transportation to a destination. Independent studies show that often, value airline pricing ends up higher than the pricing of major carriers when passengers wish to include even the most basic amenities such as bringing baggage.

Nonetheless, despite a seemingly exhausting list of pay-per-option choices at the Economy Class level, unbundling services did open up lower fares to consumers. However, with a trending rise in overall ticket costs as well as increasing airline domination of hubs and limitation of routes, it is more critical than ever for travelers to understand the real price of their flights.

With global ancillary revenue to airlines growing more than 1,200 percent in the past five years to create a secondary 35.1-billion dollar industry, ancillary fees are here to stay.

Ted Lawson is the president and CEO of Charleston-based National Travel and a member of the WV Travel Team who contributes regularly to the Life & Style travel page.

Follow National Travel on Twitter at @NatlTravel and on Facebook. For questions or comments on this article, direct email inquiries to vacationplanner@nationaltravel.com or 304-357-0800.

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W.Va. urged to fight for international tourists http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140922/GZ01/140929816 GZ01 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140922/GZ01/140929816 Mon, 22 Sep 2014 17:53:52 -0400 By Paul J. Nyden West Virginia has a lot to offer international tourists, and the state should keep trying to attract travelers from foreign countries, according to one speaker at a state tourism conference on Monday.

"International visitors are a marketing opportunity for the U.S.," said Amir Eylon, vice president of business development for Brand USA. "International visitors typically spend between four to six times as much money compared to domestic visitors" while visiting the same areas.

Eylon - who worked 12 years for the Ohio Office of Tourism before moving to Brand USA in June 2012 - spoke to the West Virginia Governor's Conference on tourism at the Charleston Marriott on Monday morning.

The goal of Brand USA is to promote international travel into the United States. The nonprofit organization, created under the federal Travel Promotion Act, brands West Virginia "the outdoor recreation capital of the East."

Eylon encouraged his audience, made up of about 300 people from around the state who work to attract local and international visitors to West Virginia, to continue working closely with his groups. The activities of Brand USA are financed at no cost to taxpayers through a combination of private investments and funds the federal government collects from international visitors come to visit under the Visa Waiver Program.

Not surprisingly, Canada and Mexico send the most visitors and tourists to the United States every year, Eylon said. Other countries sending many tourists include the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, China, Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa and Australia,. he said.

"Global travel is booming. Expenses are expected to double to $2.1 trillion by 2020," Eylon said.

Places like West Virginia, Eylon said, have "key attractions, such a natural features, outdoor activities, landmarks and good cuisine.... Whitewater rafting and bridge jumping also attract a lot of visitors."

Last year, Dulles Airport, a short drive from West Virginia, had nearly 7 million foreign visitors land at its facilities. Today, Dulles Airport has planes that fly to more than 70 countries every day.

"Air China recently started nonstop service to Dulles," Eylon said.

Brand USA also publishes Discover America to help attract visitors. Discover America's website - www.discoveramerica.com - maintains sections provide tourists information about every state in the country.

"Whether you prefer relaxation or exhilaration, the outdoor recreation capital of the East offers spring and summer adventure that will suit you perfectly," Brand USA says about West Virginia.

"Are shopping and dining more your taste? Come enjoy some truly unique shopping and a culinary destination that is a complete departure.

"And when it comes to arts and entertainment, the Mountain State holds many surprises, from world-class venues and major productions to small-town acts that remain true to age-old mountain traditions. Why not plan your escape today?"

On Monday, Eylon also promoted natural sites and parks, mentioning that 2015 will be the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service under President Theodore Roosevelt.

"West Virginia's rugged and rolling landscape awakening in spring provides a breathtaking backdrop for unforgettable outdoor adventure," states "Discover America."

"Whitewater rafting, rock climbing, rappelling and caving are available in abundance. Over 375 miles of train tracks have been converted into trails for walking, hiking, biking and horseback riding. The rail trails (30 in all), with their gentle or level grades and wide rights of way, are easily accessible and are among the most stunning and scenic in the country."

The Charleston conference was co-hosted by the West Virginia Division of Tourism, West Virginia Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus and West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.

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'Traveling 219' shares highlands highway heritage http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140921/GZ05/140929993 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140921/GZ05/140929993 Sun, 21 Sep 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Douglas Imbrogno CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The New Deal Federal Writers' Project from the 1930s and early '40s is long gone, but it inspired a West Virginia heritage tourism and history project that is going strong.

The Federal Writers' Project aimed to tell history from "the ground up," talking to ordinary people about their lives and the histories, tales and stories centered on their home communities.

Gibbs Kinderman wanted to do the same for the people and towns along U.S. Route 219, a sinuous road that traverses southeastern West Virginia, heads northward and takes in a bit of Maryland, for the project's geographic scope.

That led to www.traveling219.com, a Web-based project that shares its written words, audio, photographs and video with local newspapers and West Virginia Public Radio.

"I thought it would be neat to replicate part of what was done in the '30s and early '40s along the 219 corridor in eastern West Virginia, which is where I live," said Kinderman, who used to work with Allegheny Mountain Radio but is now retired.

The idea is to document the history of communities and average people, Kinderman said. "Not the history of battles and elections, just the living history of these communities."

VISTA and AmeriCorps volunteers have fanned out along the length of the road and gathered up oral histories, historic and contemporary photographs, tales and more.

The website's contents are divided geographically into four categories: Deep Creek Lake to Elkins; Elkins to Marlinton; Marlinton to Lewisburg; and Lewisburg to Rich Creek.

"We decided we were going to revisit some of the communities and some of the stories along 219 and tell some of the old stories and bring some new stories to bear, too, of what's going on in people's lives now," Kinderman said.

Roxy Todd first came to the project in 2010 as a VISTA and AmeriCorps volunteer. She had help in gathering up stories from along the road from other VISTA and AmeriCorps volunteers Emily Newton, Jessie Wright Mendoza and Dan Schultz.

The project takes in about 200 miles of U.S. 219, mostly in West Virginia, but also includes a bit of where the road crosses into Maryland's Garrett County in the north and also Rich Creek, Virginia, just across the river from Monroe County in the south.

The result is a treasure chest of Mountain State tales and history from Greenbrier, Monroe, Pocahontas, Randolph and Tucker counties, so long as they're within hailing distance of the road.

"Our main objective is to promote extraordinary stories of ordinary people," Todd said.

"Most of it includes things like music, food, history. But some of it's just about everyday life that people remember people growing up. So, thematically, it's just about the heritage."

One recent story featured Ed and Agnes-Hannah Friel recalling their childhood spent growing up around the Mill Point Federal Prison Camp, where both had parents working as federal prison officers.

The Mill Point camp was opened in 1938 for low-level federal prisoners. It was located high in the mountains in what is now part of the Cranberry Wilderness of the Monongahela National Forest in Pocahontas County.

Several tales of cougar hunting and sightings are included on the site, such as this recent addition:

"We recently came across mention of Francis McCoy - known as 'the strongman of the mountains' in the 19th century - who supposedly killed the last panther in West Virginia in 1887. The story relates that McCoy and his friend, Col. Cecil Clay of New York, who had lost one of his arms in the Civil War, treed and shot the panther on a hunting trip up the Williams River.

"After falling from the tree, the panther began to maul their hunting dogs, before McCoy killed the cat with his hands! While researching this story, we found the following Pocahontas Times article from April 1976 when a cougar was shot and killed in the southern part of the county."

Another entry quotes from former Charleston Gazette and Gazette-Mail outdoors writer Skip Johnson's book "West Virginia Mountain Lions: The Past, Present, and Future of the Long-Tailed Cat," published posthumously this year by the West Virginia Book Co. Johnson is quoted from the book as stating: "Romantics among us can dream the scream of a panther on a dark night will echo once again over rolling hills and hollows."

Turkeys may be a lot less enigmatic than panthers, but one of Todd's oral histories from 2013 features a photo and recollection of a little-known practice these days: turkey drives. The entry features a most curious photograph dated 1900 of a huge batch of turkeys being herded down Route 219.

Quoting from the site:

"You don't see people raising turkeys now. When I grew up, everyone had turkeys," recalls Layuna Rapp, who grew up on a family dairy farm outside of Frankford.

The turkeys [in the photo] were probably being driven down the road from a farm in Greenbrier or Monroe County to be sold at the stockyards or to be shipped by train from Ronceverte.

Layuna Rapp remembers the turkey drives down U.S. 219:

"They'd clip the wings of the turkeys so they couldn't fly away. And then they could just drive them on the road, and they'd take them down, put them on a train. Cause they didn't have any trucks to truck them out of here. Some drove them to Ronceverte.

"We had a train station in Renick. It would take your animals to Hinton or to Ronceverte. We had a stockyard in Ronceverte. It took all day to go 30 miles, with cows, because you had to stop every little bit and let them rest. Turkeys the same way. People on their farms were trying to get their turkeys down to the railroad station. And they had to let the turkeys eat and play along the road awhile, so they wouldn't get too tired getting to the train."

The Traveling 219 project won a 2014 award from the American Association of State and Local History as one of the outstanding state and local history projects in the country.

The project initially got off the ground with grants from the West Virginia Humanities Council and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. They've gone on to do some successful Kickstarter campaigns to keep it going.

Todd recently joined West Virginia Public Radio as a free-lance contributor. So, while she will help produce some new stories, a fresh Kickstarter campaign will start up in late October to fund new additions to the 219 project by prominent West Virginia folklorists Michael and Carrie Kline.

The project has also experienced an influx of new material through its active Facebook page, www.facebook.com/traveling219, which has more than 2,500 likes.

Between the website, the stories in area papers and on West Virginia Public Radio and daily Facebook posts, Todd estimates that the Traveling 219 content has reached millions of eyeballs and ears.

"It is for the general public, especially heritage tourists, but it includes people who are from West Virginia and who know the area," Todd said. "It's also to encourage people who live along 219 to realize that great opportunities of travel are right within their back door. Instead of going to Florida for spring break, we'd love it if people took a week in Monroe County or Tucker County.

"So that's part of our goal, is local tourism and heritage tourism."

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WV Travel Team: Finding fall http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140921/GZ05/140929995 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140921/GZ05/140929995 Sun, 21 Sep 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Mitzi Harrison

WV Travel Team

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The chill in the air we're all feeling is a telltale sign that fall is finally here. Gone are the dog days of summer, and now we're all engrossed in football, chili cook-offs and that dreaded yard work.

Along with the cooler temperatures comes one of the literal highlights of fall - the changing leaves that dress treetops in bold shades of red, orange and yellow.

According to the Farmer's Almanac, our region should be right on schedule for peak fall foliage. West Virginia, Ohio and Eastern Kentucky should experience their boldest colors between Oct. 5 and 21, while areas such as inland Virginia and North Carolina should peek somewhere between Oct. 12 and 28.

So what exactly makes for the best fall foliage? The U.S. National Arboretum says temperature, sunlight and soil moisture influence the quality of our annual fall foliage display. In order to get the most vivid colors, a wet growing season followed by a dry, cool and sunny autumn is required. However, if these conditions are interrupted by an early frost, bright and vivid leaf colors may be thwarted.

There are several great ways to experience the beautiful fall colors this year throughout the region, and whether you prefer to take a leisurely train ride, dominate a corn maze or take in regional history, there are plenty of options for scenic fall fun this season.

New River train excursions

West Virginia is lucky to have some of the best opportunities to view fall foliage right in our own back yard, and one of the best ways to see the highlights of the fall color is to hop aboard a New River Train excursion. Running Oct. 18, 19, 25 and 26, this day-long trip runs between Huntington and Hinton and provides stunning views of landmarks and scenic locations throughout West Virginia.

AAA Tip: Book seats for the fall excursions early, as the train will typically sell out both weekends.

The New River Train excursion rolls through Teays Valley and follows the Kanawha and New rivers into Hinton. Not only will passengers get to experience beautiful scenery and color, but major landmarks such as the state Capitol, Kanawha Falls, Sandstone Falls and the New River Gorge Bridge are seen throughout the trip.

In addition to the breathtaking scenery, there is also a one- to three-hour layover in Hinton where passengers disembark to enjoy the Railroad Days Festival. The streets of Hinton are filled with vendors selling a variety of crafts, from rings to furniture. No festival is complete without great food, and Railroad Days does not disappoint. Be sure to try the chicken and dumplings, funnel cakes and beans and corn bread.

Warren County, Ohio

Located just outside of Cincinnati, Warren County features scenic rolling hills that surround the Little Miami River Valley. With a drive time at just over three hours from Charleston, there are a bevy of ways visitors can experience fall in this quaint, southwest Ohio county.

The Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad has been a fixture in Warren County since 1881, and today passengers can take a historic ride through the countryside just outside of Lebanon, Ohio. A GP7 locomotive, one of the oldest still operating, powers four open-window commuter coaches built in 1930 in addition to one open-air car along a nearly 4½-mile journey.

While standard one-hour train rides are available, the Pumpkin Patch Express will give any family some much-needed fall fun. Climb aboard the train for a trip to Schappacher Farm in Mason, Ohio. Enjoy viewing a real working farm and master the corn maze. The kids will love petting the farm animals and selecting their own small pumpkin to take home.

AAA Tip: Schappacher Farm is cash-only, so plan to bring some extra money if you plan to partake in any extra activities, such as hayrides.

Upon returning to Lebanon from any rail excursion, be sure to get a bite to eat at the Golden Lamb - recognized as the oldest continuously operating business in the state of Ohio. Established in 1803, the Golden Lamb has been host to many famous guests, including Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and 12 American presidents.

While rooms are still available for overnight stays, the Golden Lamb is known for its traditional American fare, including fried chicken, lamb, prime rib and scallops.

Sometimes the best way to see the trees is to be in them - and there is no better way to do this than zip lining. Ozone Zipline Adventures is located just northeast of Lebanon and provides great views and lessons in nature and history. With different packages available, two tour guides escort each small group above the Little Miami River Valley, at heights of up to 200 feet.

The views are spectacular and guests also get insight into the fossils, American Indian earthworks and conservation of the area. Tours range from 2½ hours to five hours and feature at minimum seven zip lines and seven sky bridges.

If seeing the fall colors while zipping through the trees is your speed, then you will also enjoy visiting Kings Island, a thrill-seeker's paradise. Also nestled into the hills of the Little Miami River Valley in Mason, Ohio, Kings Island offers several rides that take you into the forested hills of southern Warren County.

AAA Tip: Be sure to purchase your AAA member discounted tickets in advance at your local AAA office.

One of the most popular rides at Kings Island is The Beast - the world's longest wooden roller coaster. Reaching speeds of up to 64 miles per hour, The Beast traverses the wooded hillsides as it takes riders through tunnels and down steep drops, which provides some picturesque fall scenes, albeit at rapid speed.

Another good fall vantage point from Kings Island is from the top of the park's iconic Eiffel Tower. Approximately a one-third-size replica of the original tower in Paris, guests who take the 30-second elevator ride to the top will be treated to an 18-mile view (on a clear day) of the Little Miami River Valley and southwest Ohio.

Central Kentucky

Traverse the sharply rolling hills of central Kentucky, which afford very pleasant scenery, and, of course, views of famous horse farms, to view some spectacular fall color. From historic settlements to trips through coal country by rail, central Kentucky offers a variety of ways to experience the autumn season.

Harrodsburg is in the center of Kentucky in Mercer County, and ranks as the state's oldest town. Established in 1774, downtown Harrodsburg features a variety of shops in its historic district with a streetscape reminiscent of an earlier time.

The town also boasts several historic pre-Civil War homes, churches and businesses. Shops such as Kentucky Fudge, a great stop for a sandwich and ice cream, show the original architecture of a bygone era.

A 10-minute walk from the historic downtown will lead visitors to the Beaumont Inn, the oldest family-operated bed and breakfast in the state of Kentucky. Well-appointed rooms are available for the night, but the real draw at the Beaumont Inn is the traditional Kentucky cuisine in the Main Dining Room restaurant.

Be sure to try the famous yellow-legged fried chicken, 2-year-old Kentucky cured country ham, their corn pudding and cornmeal batter cakes.

Those visiting Harrodsburg won't want to miss Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, a National Historic Landmark where 19th-century buildings have been preserved into a living history museum. Walking tours showcase 14 restored buildings, an extensive collection of Shaker furniture and household items. Guests can also view daily demonstrations, including woodworking, farm working, spinning, weaving and more. In addition, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill also offers riverboat excursions on the Dixie Bell, a sternwheeler ship. Rides occur daily through October and provide beautiful views of the scenic Kentucky River.

While in Mercer County, quilt enthusiasts will enjoy the barn quilts spread throughout the county. This show of public art features nine different barn quilts, and driving between each of the barns will allow the opportunity to take in central Kentucky's rolling hills.

Also in Mercer County and just outside of Harrodsburg is Devine's Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch. Located at the historic James McAfee farm, the facility showcases the oldest stone home east of the Mississippi River and a 100-acre working farm.

According to the Devine's, this year's highlight is the corn maze which pays tribute to family, friends, veterans and active-duty members of our armed forces who have fought for the freedom that we enjoy. In addition, visitors can enjoy a pumpkin patch, petting zoo, hayrides and fresh produce.

About two hours south of Harrodsburg in south-central Kentucky is the town of Stearns, home of the Big South Fork Scenic Railway. The 14-mile rail journey departs from Stearns and weaves through the beautiful wooded hills of the Daniel Boone National Forest and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. The excursion is full of scenic vistas, beautiful forests and mountain streams viewed during the three-hour trip.

AAA Tip: For the best views try to get a seat on the left side of the train.

The train descends 600 feet into the gorge prior to stopping at the Blue Heron Coal Mining Camp, a National Park Service outdoor interpretive site. During the stopover at the mining camp, take a self-guided tour of the grounds to learn the history of coal mining in southern Kentucky, as well as to view the fall color on the hills surrounding Blue Heron.

Pack your bags, let's go!

Seeing some spectacular fall color is just a short trip away and AAA can help make it a reality. For more information on West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and other destinations, stop by the AAA Charleston office or call one of the AAA travel professionals - Janice Adkins, Lia Ireland, Amy Sisson, Becky Wallace or Barbara Wing - at 304-925-1136. They can provide up-to-date information on what's new, details on lodging, AAA member discounts and any special events, such as festivals and shows, taking place during the time you plan to visit, plus assist in planning a tailor-made trip.

AAA Mobile app

As you plan your fall travels, don't forget to download the AAA Mobile app. Whether you're already on the road or at home planning a trip, AAA Mobile will help make travel easy, including giving you access to maps, directions and navigation, hotel, restaurant and discount listings, top destinations guides and more. Download the AAA Mobile app for your smartphone or tablet today or learn more by visiting AAA.com/mobile.

Mitzi Harrison manages AAA Travel for the Charleston area and divides her time between Cincinnati and West Virginia.

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Fairmont-area winery offers unique experience http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140918/GZ05/140919227 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140918/GZ05/140919227 Sun, 21 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0400 By Judy E. Hamilton FAIRMONT, W.Va. - Visiting Heston Farm Winery and Pinchgut Hollow Distillery is a multilayered experience - beautiful scenery, tasty wine and bourbon samples, delicious food and children's play areas - and that is exactly what husband-and-wife owners Mickey Heston and Julie Smith were aiming for when they opened the winery on Heston's family farm in the spring of 2011.

"People want something new and different," Smith said of the 220-acre farm vineyard with a tasting room, restaurant, outdoor pavilion, corn crib gazebo, picnic shelter, entertainment stage, playground areas and miniature train, atop a bluff overlooking the Tygart River near Fairmont.

"We are trying to do something special for the state. We are very proud of what we have here and you just wouldn't believe how many come here and the first thing they do is whip out their cellphones and then they'll get on their phone and send the picture and say, 'You're not going to believe this. This is West Virginia. This is amazing for anyplace.'

"So we are really trying to establish a world-class reputation. But also that it's fun and welcoming. It's a big deal for us. It's a heart-felt journey," Smith said.

For 60-year-old Heston, his winemaking journey has been a long one.

"Since I was a teenager, I've made wine and beer. About 20 years ago or so, Julie had a long-term project in San Francisco and I was able to go there fairly frequently. We would go to the Napa Valley and look around. I looked at the farms. I looked at everything they did out there and I thought I could do that.

"I didn't think I could do it that day, but I thought it was learnable, and I thought it was something I'd like to do.

"I really have a passion for wine. There's a lot of winemaking on an amateur level in this area, especially in north-central West Virginia. You've got this Italian heritage, so, growing up - I'm not Italian myself, but I have many Italian friends, and their fathers and grandfathers - it's something you are exposed to and pick up. It's a lot of fun and there's a lot of camaraderie too," Heston said.

He has worked for most of his life in his family's Fairmont coal mining construction business.

Family fun and beauty

The Heston Farm "experience" includes not only the opportunity to taste 11 wines and 10 whiskeys made on the property but also farm-fresh food in the unique indoor and outdoor dining areas, decorated with vintage farm equipment, rustic tools and antiques.

All that and it's family-friendly too.

"One of the things that surprises people is the environment that we have here. We spent a lot of time looking at the different wineries in California and saying, 'Where do we see families? Where do we see places that might be too sophisticated so that people are afraid to go into the building?' and 'What would fit in West Virginia?'

"So we spent a couple of years really looking at different features we liked at these different wineries and then came back and started talking through what we wanted here. We clearly wanted a family-oriented type of environment. We wanted to create an ancestral sort of place where people could come and feel at home. We feel glad that we've been able to create that," Smith said.

The fun environment and the beauty of the site are major attractions for the winery.

"Our farm is very scenic. We are on the Tygart River. The landscaping, the large events we can have here, the weddings, the family reunions, most importantly, we are located within two miles of I-79, but you feel like you are transported to the middle of West Virginia because we are surrounded by woods here," Heston said of things that make the farm winery special.

His family has farmed the property since the 1800s.

The business and its surrounding beauty are attracting out-of-state visitors. The couple said they have fun checking out the parking lot for different state license plates.

"About 50 percent of the cars in our parking lot are from out of state, which is really exciting because it's pulling people in and they get a chance to see the magic in West Virginia and what we have here," said Smith, a 56-year-old Minnesota native.

She came to the state to obtain her Ph.D. at West Virginia University and co-founded CLG Inc., a global consulting company in Morgantown.

Succeeding together

As one of the 10 wineries along West Virginia's stretch of Interstate 79, Heston Farm Winery is looking for ways to attract more visitors.

"Everybody talks to each. Everybody who has a winery in West Virginia gets along. It's a good group of people. If one of us succeeds, we all succeed," Heston said.

"From Day One, everybody has been very helpful to us. We've worked very collaboratively with other wineries. We share tips with each other at festivals. We will refer people to each other when they are here and encourage them to try the other area wineries when they are in north-central West Virginia.

"I understand that we are one of the few states that doesn't have that [a concerted effort to promote wineries], and I think it's critical that we get that going. We've got relationships with some of the hotels and inns around here and they bundle together wine packages and you could easily bundle together a package where people could come in for the weekend and go to two, three, four wineries in the area. I think it would be very helpful if we could do that," Smith said.

"The idea would be to get more wineries in West Virginia, and then we could become a destination. It's the same thing with the distilleries. Kentucky has a bourbon trail down there. ... That market's out there, it's just not being tapped in West Virginia," Heston said.

Becoming a destination

"We are one of the few that is lucky to become a destination spot. We have lots of plans for growth. We are talking to a potential hotel developer. The other thing is, we are going to be putting up walking trails for our wine club members. We've got river access, so there's lots of things we can do down there.

"We've been looking at zip lining and other sorts of things we know we could do here. Next month, we sponsor a zombie run throughout the farm. There's all sorts of unique events we can do out here because of the space we have here. We have a Saturday-night band here during the summer months. We are open year-round, and we have large Christmas parties here during the winter, and we also have business meetings and art classes here," Smith said.

The addition of the Foxfire Restaurant, in December, has added to the versatility of the winery, which employs between 30 to 40 people, depending on the season.

"We have a full-scale restaurant here too. When we first started, we thought we were just going to have a very small kitchen. We quickly outgrew that and found that people wanted to stay in the courtyard longer and they wanted to eat. So we ultimately listened to the customers and ... we opened Foxfire Restaurant, which gave us all sorts of flexible use for the facility," Smith said.

The restaurant offers weekly specials along with a full gourmet menu, including vegetarian and gluten-free options by chef Ron Baker.

Wine is still No. 1

With all the various events happening at Heston Farms, it might lead one to think that wine production has taken a back seat. Nothing could be further from the truth. Heston is quick to set people straight on the importance of wine production and the distillery to the farm.

"We grow grapes here. We have about 6 acres plus a few more planted this year. It's hard to grow grapes in this area. Last year, I lost just about every grape I had with the too-early frost. That happens, but we buy from anybody we can in West Virginia and then sometimes we have to go north into Pennsylvania or into Virginia if need be to pick up what we don't have here. But the goal is to buy West Virginia grapes," Heston said.

"We lab test everything. We send everything to Virginia Tech. They have a lab there. Unfortunately, WVU doesn't have one. Wine is really big in Virginia. We send everything there before we bottle to make sure everything is good and we sell it here at the tasting room. We sell quite a bit here and we sell it to stores all over the state. We are in Walmarts and Little Generals," Heston said.

Heston said he particularly enjoys giving tours of the facilities and listening to people's reactions in the tasting room.

"Everyone is, in their own way, an expert in what they like. But with wine, what I've learned is that what you really have to do is take a bottle and look at it, what does it say it is, and then taste it. It doesn't matter whether you like it or not, personally, if it is what it says it is and everything is correct, then that's a good wine. I check my wines all the time and they are always as advertised," Heston said.

The labels

He is so hands-on with his business, he even designs the labels.

"I come up with the idea and do rough sketches and then we have New Life Arts from Morgantown do the art. Every label means something to me. Like with the "Dolly Llama" label, I have a llama here named Dolly. When my daughter was in high school, I bought llamas, and Dolly was always our favorite. My daughter now lives in Atlanta and I still have the llamas. There's not much you can do with llamas except feed them and pet them," Heston said, as he described the semisweet white wine, a blend of Vidal blanc and Traminette grapes.

"We have Jade on this label. She's a military dog that retired here at Heston Farm. She did explosive detection in Iraq," Heston said as he described Jade's Sweet Reward, a wine made from Vidal blanc and DeChaunac grapes and comparable to a white zinfandel.

Heston explained that Jade greets every one who comes to the farm. She's a friendly dog, but "What she's really doing is sniffing for bombs," he said with a laugh.

"Bastion the bull, he had the good luck of being born on the very same day as my grandson, Sabastion. So, he will die on the farm. He'll never see a slaughterhouse. He'll just live to old age and die here.

"My grandson is 10 going on 11, and Bastion is as big as a buffalo right now. He's about 2,500 pounds. He's a big old fellow. He's got a few cows and has a few babies every year," the winemaker said as he described Bastion's namesake wine, a semisweet red blend of cabernet Franc and DeChaunac. Heston said it was perfect for pizza night or an outdoor barbecue.

"I have a little red train here. It came from a drive-in theater amusement park. The Little Red Train wine label has a couple of our dogs in it. We are very animal-friendly here," Heston said as he described an extra-sweet red wine.

The distillery

If you prefer spirits to wine, Heston has 10 Pinchgut Hollow Distillery whiskeys he is happy to share with visitors. All are made from family recipes handed down to him. He uses his own crops as well as buckwheat from Preston County.

Heston loves to tell the stories of his family's history with "moonshining." He is especially proud to be the only maker of buckwheat whiskey in the country.

Heston Farm's whiskeys are barrel-aged for 30 days, while its premium artisan whiskeys, Mason Dixon and Copperhead, are aged for two years.

A satisfying life

A year ago, Heston had thyroid surgery that was complicated by a hemorrhage and a heart attack. He lost his ability to taste for nine months and to talk for two months.

"I was at the Mayo Clinic when all this happened," Heston said. "It's a heck of a thing to finally get your dream job and have that happen."

Fortunately, Heston feels he is making a good recovery and is happy he is able to do the job he loves and give winery and distillery tours again.

"I can tell you a satisfying thing. We have a family business. My father started it, coal mining construction, and I can tell you all the years I ran it, nobody ever come up to me and said, 'Oh man, what a good job you are doing today.' If you were doing all right, nobody said anything. If you were doing something bad, they'd complain. But here, every day, people come up to me and say, 'Man, I love this or I love that.'

"I tell people that some days I feel like Walt Disney. It's kind of very fulfilling to do something like this," Heston said.

For additional information about Heston Farm Winery and Pinchgut Hollow Distillery, call 304-366-9463, email emilyh@hestonfarm.com, or visit hestonfarm.com. Heston Farm also has a facebook page.

To see images of the winery and distillery labels, visit newlifearts.net and go to "Design Packages" on the website.

Reach Judy E. Hamilton at judy.hamilton@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1230 or follow @JudyEHamilton on Twitter.

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WV Travel Team: B&Bs complement fall festivals http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140914/GZ05/140919862 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140914/GZ05/140919862 Sun, 14 Sep 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Toni Harvey

WV Travel Team

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Planning a weekend getaway to your favorite West Virginia fair or festival? Create a complete experience with West Virginia hospitality at a West Virginia Bed and Breakfast Association property.

Relax on the 70-foot wraparound front porch in a hand-crafted rocker at the Warfield House Bed and Breakfast in Elkins. Contemplate and decide whether pig racing, the chainsaw carver, the Fun Time Train or the arts and crafts show will be your favorite event at this month's 78th Mountain State Forest Festival.

Situated on the corner of Elkins City Park (where many festival events take place), the Warfield House offers a West Virginia home away from home and a great place to stay while attending one of West Virginia's oldest festivals.

Built in 1901 and on the National Register of Historic Places, the Warfield House has been lovingly restored and decorated to reflect the ambiance of its era with original woodwork, stained glass and a terra cotta fireplace. The spacious Lavender, Rose, Vineyard and Honeysuckle rooms are furnished with wonderful antiques, and each has its own unique personality.

A full breakfast is served to guests each morning with as many organic, local and natural ingredients as possible. The menu changes; however, the lively conversation around the table always remains the same.

Innkeeper Peggy Kleysteuber will be happy to have you stay for two nights or the whole two weeks for the Mountain State Forest Festival. For more information, contact the Warfield House Bed and Breakfast at 703-628-4043 or visit www.warfieldhousebedandbreakfast.com.

Randolph County and Elkins open their doors to visitors from far and wide for the two-week Forest Festival. For another one-of-a-kind Elkins experience, stay at the Graceland Inn, on the beautiful campus of Davis & Elkins College. The iconic historic home, which is also on the National Register of Historic Places, offers tastefully and beautifully decorated guest rooms with antiques or reproductions from the Victorian era.

Enjoy a continental breakfast each morning as you start your day. Unwind on Graceland Inn's grand porch after a busy day at the festival's Bass Fishing Classic, strongman contest or 10K run while overlooking miles and miles of spectacular and scenic mountain vistas. For more information, call 304- 637-1600 or visit www.gracelandinn.com.

Rejuvenate after a day of discovery and shopping at the 39th Annual Mountain Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival at the delightful Inn at Moler's Crossroads in Shepherdstown. The Inn at Moler's Crossroads is beautifully decorated with artwork, furnishings and artifacts that reflect the owners journeys from around the world.

Admire your day's purchases - a new photograph from Vista Landscapes or a Parrish Farms Artworks antique postcard encased in glass - or figure out how many West Virginia fruit and berry jams will be used as gifts or how many will be consumed while sitting in the great room, screened-in porch or one of many picturesque outdoor spaces.

The Inn at Moler's Crossroads offers four distinct guest rooms with state-of-the-art technology: the Indigo Suite, the Sanctuary Room, the Lilac Room and the Sunflower Room. A scrumptious breakfast is served in the elegant dining room decorated in crimson and gold. For more information, call 304-876-8215 or visit www.innatmolerscrossroads.com.

The historic Laurel Lodge, Harpers Ferry, www.laurellodge.com, or the Thomas Shepherd Inn, Shepherdstown, www.thomasshepherdinn.com, are also wonderful properties to enjoy and be pampered after a day at the Mountain Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival.

Whether the Preston County Annual Buckwheat Festival, the Wardensville Fall Festival or the West Virginia Roadkill Cookoff and Harvest Festival, there is a WVBBA property nearby waiting to welcome you as their guest. WVBBA members set the standards with regular inspections to insure quality facilities for all of our guests throughout the state in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia. Visit the West Virginia Department of Tourism website to find listings of state fairs and festivals and complement your choice with the perfect WVBBA bed and breakfast at www.wvbba.com.

Toni Mathias-Harvey is president of the West Virginia Bed and Breakfast Association. She and her husband, Ted, welcome guests at The Inn at Lost River, General Store & Café, in Lost River.

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Autumn means activities in West Virginia http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140911/GZ01/140919817 GZ01 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140911/GZ01/140919817 Thu, 11 Sep 2014 16:48:04 -0400 By JOHN RABY Associated Press

Autumn's arrival in West Virginia means the leaves and the weather will be changing - and the fun is just getting started.

Celebrations of the legend of Mothman, parachute-jumping, roadkill and leaf-peeping highlight a fall full of free events in the Mountain State. All that's required is a map to get there.

Some things to consider:

FOLIAGE FIX

Great photo opportunities await as West Virginia's diverse forests burst in red, orange and gold. The change begins in higher elevations in late September, and runs from mid- to late October in most other sections of the state. A weekly fall foliage map can be found at http://www.wvforestry.com .

Recommended drives in late September are from Harman to Spruce Knob, from Webster Springs to Valley Head, the Highland Scenic Highway in Pocahontas County, and in the Monongahela National Forest along state Routes 28-55 to the Dolly Sods Wilderness.

FESTIVALS GALORE

From apples to wine, there are 40 festivals around the state from now until the end of November.

None are more unique than in Point Pleasant, where nearly a half-century after the first reporting sighting of a mysterious creature with glowing red eyes, residents will again embrace the legend of Mothman on Sept. 20-21. There's even a statue and a museum about him in the Ohio River town that has seen its profile rise ever since the 2002 film "The Mothman Prophecies."

But nothing puts the wild in "Wild, Wonderful West Virginia" like the annual Roadkill Cook-off on Sept. 27 in Marlinton. Any wild game is game - as long as it doesn't come from the side of the road. For those with the stomach for it, there are dishes such as squirrel gravy over biscuits, deer sausage and teriyaki-marinated bear.

Admission to these types of events is usually free, though of course you'll pay for food, merchandise, and guided tours or special activities.

BRIDGE DAY

Get an up-front view on Oct. 18 as hundreds of parachutists leap off the 876-foot (267-meter) New River Gorge Bridge to the riverbank below.

The event in Fayetteville attracts BASE (Building, Antenna, Span, and Earth) jumpers from around the world and more than 100,000 tourists every third Saturday of October. It's the only day of the year that pedestrian traffic is allowed on the third-highest bridge in the United States.

For the jumpers, timing is key: The average fall lasts only a nail-biting six seconds before a parachute must be opened.

HELLOOoo DOWN THERE

If exploring scenic vistas on foot is an option, then take a hike! West Virginia offers thousands of miles of trails for walking.

Popular landmarks include the sandstone peaks of Seneca Rocks, located about 160 miles (260 kilometers) southwest of Washington, D.C. The 1.3-mile (2-kilometer) trail to the top is steep but manageable by anyone who's reasonably fit. Other more challenging routes up attract adventurous hikers and rock climbers.

Less than an hour away are both the five-story tall Blackwater Falls and Spruce Knob, where an observation towers lets visitors enjoy views from the highest peak in the Allegheny Mountains at 4,863 feet (1,482 meters).

Visitors to the southern part of the state can soak in Grandview with aptly named overlooks of the New River below. The area has 6 miles (10 kilometers) of hiking trails, and there are eight campgrounds without hookups within the New River Gorge national park system that are free on a first-come, first-served basis.

A short drive from Grandview along Interstate 64-77 in Beckley is Tamarack, a retail center that showcases West Virginia handmade crafts, arts and specialty foods.

The state also has more than 375 miles (600 kilometers) of train tracks that have been converted into trails for walking, biking and horseback riding. Among the more popular are the 77-mile (124-kiilometer) Greenbrier River Trail, the 72-mile (116-kilometer) North Bend Rail Trail and the 24-mile (39-kilometer) Allegheny Highlands Trail.

FACTORY TOURS

Free tours are offered at the Blenko glass factory in Milton and the Homer Laughlin China Co. factory in Newell. Blenko has been making hand-blown products since 1893, including glass for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Homer Laughlin, makers of Fiestaware, gives one-hour tours that are scheduled in advance.

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W.Va. wineries looking for ways to grow http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140907/GZ05/140909658 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140907/GZ05/140909658 Sun, 7 Sep 2014 00:01:00 -0400 This is the first in a four-part series about West Virginia wineries

By Judy E. Hamilton

Staff writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Grape harvest in West Virginia begins this week. It's also the perfect time - with autumn just around the corner - for tourists and residents to begin making plans for weekend travel to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage and seasonal colors the state is renowned for exhibiting.

Many of those plans might include travel along a "West Virginia Wine Trail" - if one existed.

Instead, the growth of farm vineyards and winery businesses across the Mountain State in recent years might unintentionally be one of West Virginia's best-kept secrets.

Wine trails are groups of wineries located within close proximity to each other that engage in cross-promotion designed to benefit all of them.

By offering passports, access to special events, discounts and other incentives, wine trails encourage guests to visit more than one vineyard in a single outing, comparing wines sampled at each and learning the different techniques each winemaker uses.

Those same visitors will often visit local restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and local attractions - contributing to the economic development of the area.

Depending on who you ask in state government, the number of farm vineyards here ranges anywhere from 15 to 27. The West Virginia Department of Agriculture website lists 20 wineries on its website. The West Virginia Tourism website lists 15 wineries on its website. The West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration lists 27 active farm wineries.

Doug Arbogast, an assistant professor and rural tourism specialist with the West Virginia University Extension Service, says developing a wine trail in the state is essential to the state's economic development.

"This is something we've looked into, but no one has taken a lead on this. Many of the state's winery lists are out of date," Arbogast said.

Last year, the WVU College of Business and Economics conducted a study on establishing a wine trail in West Virginia, much like the Napa Valley in California or Kentucky's distillery tours. Arbogast noted that the states with winery, distillery and brewery trails enjoy a tourism boost that extends to the communities surrounding the spirits businesses.

"Beds and breakfasts, hotels and restaurants prosper too. It's a win-win situation," he said but added that finding a person or agency to spearhead the effort is lacking.

"Most all wineries that have tasting rooms and gift shops want to be on some kind of trail. Many wineries are not located near main roads or towns. It requires signage - and that has been the holdup. The wineries need help from the Department of Highways and the state [Division of Tourism] for funding. A study needs to be done for the location of said signs and work to begin," said Jerry Deal, owner of Forks of Cheat Winery and Distillery in Morgantown, who also heads a "very loosely connected" group of winery owners in the state.

Jane Bostic, a heritage marketing specialist with the Division of Tourism, said the agency is interested in developing a wine trail but that it requires local tourism groups to get involved.

"Our lists are only as good as the information people send to us. We reach out to the local convention and visitors bureaus. I don't know how to get a more complete list. Some of the convention and visitors bureaus are great; others, not so much," Bostic said.

Likewise, Teresa Halloran, a marketing specialist with the Department of Agriculture, wants to have "spirits trails" developed throughout the state. She pointed out that in addition to wineries, the state has had a surge in distillery and brewery businesses.

"Our wineries list is not real up to date. The West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration probably has the best list," Halloran said.

She attributes the growth in the farm winery business to several factors.

"I think people are drinking more wine, is why the industry is growing. If you go to the Kroger Ashton Place, you'll see how large their wine section is. People are realizing the health benefits of drinking wine, and I think restaurants are seeing a surge in wine consumption too. We have such a wide array of wineries in the state," Halloran said.

"We are really working with the Division of Tourism to set up a tasting trail in different parts of the state, so people can have a weekend getaway and stay in bed and breakfasts. Developing spirits trails is a win-win situation for everyone," she added.

Amy Shuler Goodwin, deputy secretary of commerce and commissioner of tourism, said she is in favor of putting resources into the development of wine trails and spirits trails in the state.

"The wine and spirits industry has really blossomed in West Virginia in recent years. I think it's a response to the increasing popularity of agritourism in the region and country as a whole.

Nowadays, travelers don't just visit a place - they immerse themselves in the culture. And that entails experiencing the local flavors and farm-fresh offerings of the place they are visiting. With the wineries, not only is their product pleasing to the palate, there is also a fun educational aspect. Guests can tour a vineyard and see how the grapes are grown and processed, and then stick around for a tasting," Goodwin said.

AmericasWineTrails.com has identified 277 wine trails across the United States, many of them in neighboring states: Virginia has 20 wine trails, Pennsylvania has 12, Maryland has seven, Ohio has six, and Kentucky has two.

For additional information about West Virginia wineries, visit:

n www.wvtourism.com/spirits/wineries.aspx

n www.wvcommerce.org/travel/thingstodo/wvdining/wineries/default.aspx

n www.wvagriculture.org/Brochures/Foods_and_Things/Wineries.htm

n www.abca.wv.gov/wine/Pages/FarmWinery.aspx.

Reach Judy E. Hamilton at judy.hamilton@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1230 or follow @JudyEHamilton on Twitter.

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At Burning Man: Unto dust you will return http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140907/GZ05/140909665 GZ05 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140907/GZ05/140909665 Sun, 7 Sep 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Ryan Quinn BLACK ROCK CITY, Nev. - I had imagined my first trip out west would be to a site or city I'd seen on some Travel Channel special, like the Grand Canyon or even Las Vegas.

I ended up in a Nevada desert city lit up like a Christmas tree and arguably quite debauched (I prefer "epicurean") - but it was roughly 500 miles from the Strip.

After a drive of 30-plus hours, on Aug. 22 a friend and I took an exit near Reno, Nevada, onto a desolate road winding through an Indian reservation past Pyramid Lake, whose blue waters clashed against an increasingly arid landscape. Our slow drive finally passed the last permanent civilization before our destination: Gerlach, a 200-person town (still had a casino; it's Nevada) temporarily infested with glow stick vendors and ticket scalpers in a last gasp of capitalism.

The road ended on the bed of another lake, Lahontan, in the Black Rock Desert. Unlike Pyramid, it dried long ago, leaving what I and tens of thousands of others have come to call the "playa."

It was upon this seemingly lifeless landscape - it was big news when a mouse was spotted scampering through camps - that an estimated 69,000-person city would rise, revel and rave for about a week before its denizens celebrated the burning of its great monuments and then abandoned it, leaving little trace it ever existed.

It would be like Nero burning Rome, except everyone would join him on the fiddle. By the end of the week I'd find myself wearing a prom dress, carrying a stuffed rabbit named Brown Eye, and talking with God from a "Talk to God" phone booth in a desert filled with the most spectacular sculptures I'd ever seen.

God, by the way, has a Middle Eastern accent.

"Sorry about the accent," he said after introducing himself.

"It's kind of what I was expecting," I said.

I didn't tell him I had earlier hailed Satan to my neighboring campers for a cherry Pop-Tart. A woman also flashed me for swearing allegiance to the Dark Lord, but when you've already been around beautiful, naked mostly Californians for a week, it's the free food you really still get excited about.

This was Burning Man, a massive arts festival/extended party/ode to freedom and often anarchy (one slogan is "safety third") where people volunteer to help build a temporary city and great art - like the titular wooden idol called the Man - appreciate it, and then burn much of it to the ground in celebration.

The founder of the event said this year's 100-foot-tall Man was three times larger than last year's, but when I first saw it as we drove onto the playa (pronounced PLY-yah), it was like a child dwarfed by the surrounding mountains and the unceasing torrent of dust before it, threatening to swallow it whole. My asthmatic lungs pumped just enough oxygen to my brain for it to worry about whether my inhaler was in a bag somewhere.

Perhaps from oxygen loss, I quickly forgot about particulate matter and enjoyed myself settling into our camp, just one dot in a large semicircle surrounding an open desert core containing sculptures including the Man in the middle. The semicircle opened into even more uninhabited desert, the "deep playa," where there is even more art to explore.

Our neighbor, Pickle (many Burners have "playa names"), quickly introduced himself to us and us to capitalism's replacement at Burning Man: gifting. You're not supposed to buy stuff or even barter with others, but give freely in hopes others will also give. This fosters a vividly wacky and pleasurable society without the inherent selfishness of market forces.

The ticket, however, was $380, the parking pass $40, and it takes a lot of other spending for an Appalachian with surprisingly no camping equipment to reach a desert in Nevada and survive there for more than a week.

The gifting system perhaps makes the private property you bring in even more important because you can't expect to buy or easily find many important things, like propane and especially water, and it's a long drive to the nearest store.

There's no bring-your-own-beer policy because there's a free bar on almost every block, but Burner bartenders do ask you bring your own cup, even when they're gifting far more expensive concoctions like Irish Car Bombs to large crowds.

Though you can't get everything free, the offerings are immense, from simple necklaces to public hammocks and tents to sleep in (great after parties and treks across the city) to services like yoga and karaoke and street performances, many of which surround the event's obsession with fire.

Epic theme camps also invite you in with draws like a skate park; a "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome"-inspired caged arena where adversaries swing toward each other on ropes to smack each other with bats; an Orgy Dome that hosts unicorn parties and is exactly what it sounds like (except, disappointingly, not much of a dome); and huge open-air dance clubs like Opulent Temple with well-known DJs pumping music to crowds of thousands illuminated by light shows and pyrotechnics.

The largest clubs are located as far as possible from most campers, but bring earplugs and bluegrass music regardless because the techno and dubstep pervades all and doesn't sleep.

I personally enjoyed the seemingly oxymoronic karaoke and hammock camp and the trampoline camp, where, after jumping for a while, a woman invited me to trade my shirt at the nearby clothing exchange for the prom dress.

Pickle and his camp, Menace to Sobriety, kept gifting simple by inviting us to climb up on his wobbly scaffolding tower (remember: safety third) to watch sunsets over the mountains and drink beer and bourbon.

Across the street, a nude man wearing a picture frame around his privates invited people inside the Genital Portrait Studio. If you're worried about your kids seeing nudity, don't bring them, though our camp had some children and it was a personal highlight to see them also hail Satan for a Pop-Tart.

I gifted by volunteering for a local newspaper, The Black Rock Beacon, where news meetings revolved around sizzling bacon, reporters in their underwear interviewed people with even fewer clothes on, and getting out a daily paper in a desert (including serious stories, like on this year's fatality) in between parties with dusty ancient Macintosh laptops was a struggle.

I suggest new Burners help deliver papers for The Beacon - every camp seems to offer you a drink or something else, and you'll likely be stumbling by the end of the route. You can also volunteer to help build the giant works of art.

I couldn't stay for the final, signature burns of the Man and the Temple of Grace. But I could for the burn of Embrace, a 57-foot-tall sculpture of two figures, Alpha and Omega, holding each other. Their skin was made of thin strips of Douglas fir that organizers worried would create abnormally dangerous embers (safety third!), so the burn was set for 7 a.m. Friday, when there would hopefully be fewer watchers and lower winds.

Before the two figures disappeared from this world, I and thousands of others got to tour the inside of their abdomens, which rose from the desert, see the hearts in their chests and climb stairs to view murals painted in the domes of their heads, where you could look through the eyes of one onto the face of the other.

We endeavored to stay up all night Thursday to see it burn, so I donned my dress and went out into the desert to enjoy the illuminated art, including desert lily pads that would change colors as you hopped from one to another.

My friends and I wandered from the rave of the Opulent Temple to the silence of the ornate, 70-foot-tall Temple of Grace, where people meditated and prayed before a shrine that rose from the ground to almost touch the wooden chandelier hanging from the temple ceiling.

The shrine was laden with pictures and other mementos to dead loved ones. Within days, the whole temple would become a funeral pyre.

The art cars - basically mobile parties held on bus chassis formed into pirate ships, large sheep, dragons, etc. - rumbled across the playa at the 5 mph speed limit, congregating around sculptures or just with each other to create spontaneous parties, lit by pyrotechnics and fed by their own music.

After we watched a spectacular sunrise in the middle of the playa, ravers were still dancing in front of art cars as a huge circle gathered around Embrace.

For a Beacon article, I had interviewed Embrace's lead artist, who said the abnormal morning burn fit the theme that all our relationships disappear, everyone we know eventually dies, yet the sun still rises the next day. But as the first flickers of flame lit in Alpha and Omega's eyes, and smoke began pouring out of the holes atop their heads, and their skin quickly ignited in the largest flame I had ever seen, a flame that birthed huge tornadoes of dust that spun one after another into the crowd, the already risen sun was no consolation that I would never have this beautiful moment again.

But I intend to visit the playa again, so I don't miss another one.

Reach Ryan Quinn at ryan.quinn@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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