Travel

The Haunting of The Lee Family Cabin at Lost River State Park, WV

The weekend was full, we had plans for fishing, hiking, seeing the Lee family cabin and sulfur springs at Lost River State Park and camp ground near Mathias West Virginia. The drive is several hours of mountain Highways. Up one mountain and down again until you reach the valley of Hardy county. In a matter of minutes you drop from the rocky cliffs and steep grades of the Appalachian Mountains into a valley that is several miles wide and fallows an ancient river bed. The valley is full of dried corn at this time of year ready to harvest for the cattle feed and chickens that are the main source of income in this river basin. Farm after farm leads you from Baker West Virginia to the entrance road to Lost River State Park at Mathias West Virginia. The park is a favorite for those looking for wilderness and a peaceful get away from the big city of Washington D.C. The capital city is only about 1 1/2 hours  from the border of the park. Once inside the grounds you have stepped away from the world of barns and farms into a place of hard woods and mossy rocks. The park has over 3,700 acres for exploration and a haunted cabin owned by the famous Henry Lee family of Virginia ( Robert E. Lee’s father).There are 15 lovely  cabins built by the Conservation Core during the great depression and 12 modern cabins. Making this wooded rustic park a perfect setting for a ghost story and tails of murder and destructive fires

Cabin at lost River State Park in the rain.

Cabin at lost River State Park in the rain.

Rainy day at Lost River State Park

Rainy day at Lost River State Park

Lost River State Park was once a land grant estate starting with several owners from England including Lord Thomas Fairfax slowly changing hands over the years to the Revolutionary war hero General Henry ( Light Horse Harry) Lee. Henry received the  Granted property for superior service in 1796 and the family soon built on the land. First was a cabin that they used as a summer retreat from the hot,humid summers of their Virginia home. Henry had 7 children one of the youngest was Robert E Lee the famous Civil War General. Over the years Henry and his boys continued to build in the shallow valley, he build a resort hotel and had visitors come from D.C  and Maryland to bathe in the sulfur spring water that pours from a historic spring, relaxing in Victorian style. The resort caught fire and burnt to the ground in 1923 and after years of financial trouble for the family the property sold to West Virginia in 1933. In 1934 the park was open and ready for visitors.

Only the cabin and sulfur spring remain on the property and are open to the public. The cabin is a two-story frame and hewn log house with a large stone fireplace and large porch with 4 rooms two on the main floor and two rooms upstairs. There is no drop ceilings in the upper rooms making for a tall vaulted roof that reaches a steep peak. The stair case is in the middle of the house as a room divider with two bedrooms up stairs and living room and kitchen below.

front view of Henry Lee cabin at Lost River State Park

Front view of Henry Lee cabin  with Fire Place at Lost River State Park

We toured the home and were able to see that the rooms in the top story of the house are white washed and the kitchen below also. This seemed rather strange to me although I did not ask right away why a cabin of this age was white washed if it had not been used for anything more than a museum for the last 70 years and a retreat before that. Most cabins would have never been treated in this way if they were not a primary residence. Then I found out the story of why the upstairs rooms and kitchen needed paint.

White Kitchen fire place at the Henry ( light horse Harry) Lee cabin

White Kitchen fireplace at the Henry ( light horse Harry) Lee cabin.

Living area of Henry Lee cabin at Lost River State Park

Living area of Henry Lee cabin at Lost River State Park.

Bed Room of Henry (light horse Harry)Lee cabin at Lost River State Park

Bed Room of Henry (light horse Harry)Lee cabin at Lost River State Park.

vintage clothing hung on back wall of cabin

Vintage clothing hung on back wall of cabin Lost River State Park.

During the late 1840’s a stock trader returning from Virginia to his home in Moorefield, West Virginia came up on an ambush close to the location to the entrance of the park. The trader Charles Sager dismounted and with in minutes the two robbers dragged him the 1/4 of a mile up the hollow between the tree covered hills, through a small creek into the yard of the Henry Lee cabin. All the while the Lee family was away in Virginia not knowing a thing about what was happening. The struggle continued up the steps of the porch to the cabin door… To not attract attention Charles’s robbers pushed him into the cabin that they had already broken into. Then wrestling for his life, Charles climbed up the steep stairs where he was found with no money from the sale of his live stock in Virginia. Being stabbed not once but several times Charles was left to die in a upper bedroom. His remains were found later resting in a huge pool of blood. The blood smeared down one wall and pooled on to the floor where it flowed down the baseboard into the ceiling of the first floor and dripped and pooled again staining the floors of both rooms. The stains from the murder were never removed. That even with scrubbing the blood stains remained and the family could not return to the cabin in such a state. So the walls were white washed and rugs made to hide the stains and allow the family to continue to use the cabin.

So as the Park Naturalist tells the story he suggests that the cabin is still haunted. Maybe it is Charles whose life was take violently that causes the many disturbances in the cabin. On our visit the naturalist did not seem to dislike spending his days talking with guests and making sure we stopped at the Lee Sulfur Spring in the front yard of the cabin. Yet, when I finally did process the photos from our trip the very first photo of the cabin  seems to have some thing wrong with it.  That untreated photo is below for your consideration:

Henry (light horse Harry) Lee cabin Lost River State Park... untouched photo of house with Transparent blob in right hand corner under porch

Henry ( light Horse Harry) Lee cabin Lost River State Park… untouched photo of house with transparent blob in right hand corner of photo.

The next photo I took from the very same location does not show the blob and the rest of the photos are fine. I am not sure what to think. I have had other photos with orbs and rain drops but this is the first that I have ever taken one that just does not make seem like it is the light source. It is interesting to think that this cabin and park have such a long rich history… From Lords, to war heroes, to murder and destructive fires and even healing water spring.

As my family walked down to the sulfur spring in cabins yard we began to talk about how strange it would be to stay the night in the cabin and take a bath in the springs often thought of as Healing Waters. The Resort Hotel that Lee built had used the spring to bring people from all over the south. Many drank coffee made from the spring and bathed in the pink water. It is still believed that even General Robert E Lee returned to the park for a cup of Sulfur coffee or tea after his campaigns during the civil war.  This is all that remains of the spring.  A shallow bath sized pooling area with a Plexiglas cover and this spout for water collection. The spring has never run dry in the 250 years after discovery and people still  gather water for home spa treatments.( we did not collect any of the water due to its overwhelming smell)

Tom getting a handful of water from the Lee Sulfur Spring , Lost River State Park, WV

Tom getting a handful of water from the Lee Sulfur Spring , Lost River State Park, WV

Above view of sulfur water at Lee Sulfur Spring, Lost River State Park, Mathias, WV

Above view of sulfur water at Lee Sulfur Spring, Lost River State Park, Mathias, WV.

On our walk back through the cabins yard I stopped to take more photos and Tom found what he thought was horse shoe tracks at the foot bridge. That same bridge that poor old Charles Sager had been dragged across when he was murdered. My mind sparked at the hoof prints in the mud. Those are the same marks that would have been here 200 years ago when two unknown mounted men attacked and drug Charles through the meadows and gaps behind the Hotel. Where they dismounted at the bridge, pushed and shoved Charles Sager across the wooden bridge and across the yard in front of the spring where the Lee’s house sat. The scuffle that took place outside had to have been the reason that if you believe in ghosts  that my camera picked up the smoky images floating in front of the house. It was the last place the Mr Sager saw before his murder and maybe it is the remnant of his ghost. Who will forever remain part of the Lost River State Park, WV.

I love  ghost stories and will be sharing more over the next month or two as I get time. Happy early Halloween from Mountain Mama!

View of back of Lee cabin Lost River State Park, WV

View of back of Lee cabin Lost River State Park, WV

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Camping, Folk tails, ghost stories, Halloween, rural life, State Park activities, Travel, WV | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Collections, Memories, My favorite things.

Now that the move is over and the boxes put away it is time to try to make a house a home. I have been feeling better and slowly trying to figure out where everything goes. Some things are finally taking shape and others are still in a stage of ” When we get time”. One of my favorite projects every time we move is how and where to display some of the wonderful things that we have collected over the 27 years that Tom and I have known each other.

Over the first 18 years of my marriage, Tom and I raised horses on his parents farm. We breed, trained, showed  American Quarter horses. We raised our older son on farm work and feeding animals. It was a good life, but by the second baby ( 17 years later) it was just more work them I could handle alone. I was the main care taker of the farm and our 9 horses 12 chickens 3 dogs  2 geese and one cat. I just did not enjoy the work any more and Tom just could not be home to help due to his long hours at work and weekend business. So as time passed we sold off all of the horses gave the chickens away and said good-bye to the farm. So as a tribute to my husbands love of horses and his farrier (blacksmith) business I took what most people hide away in tact boxes and Rubber Maid Totes and made him a hall of good memories. The hall grew out of things that we had collected over the 18 years we had the farm and horses. He loves it and so does Cody. Cody has many great memories on the farm and was happy to see that we had not gotten rid of everything when we moved.

Horse decor with trophies and photos

Horse decor with trophies and photos

I was lucky that I had saved my son Cody’s pony blanket, it worked out as a nice backdrop for our trophies.  I also added the spurs that my father made back in the Seventy’s. He was a welder and loved the old west and loved to make things. So the result is a pair of wire edged dragon spurs. I don’t think anyone ever used them on a horse but they sure look nice. The photos are of some of our wonderful babies. Tom and I always loved to work with the young ones and we won a few shows with them.

Horse decor photos of Tom

Horse decor photos of Tom

I also wanted to show off some of his horse shoes and a bandanna that I made him for when he worked in bad weather. I added an old feed sack and a wonderful photo of Tom working on an anvil and farrier school. The bits are ones we have used over the years and make us think of the mares we rode with them.  All these things remind me of some of the best times in our married life and I am glad I could make it for him.

Then I moved into the kitchen and tried to find a reasonable way to display my collection. I guess we all have funny things we collect and mine is dishes and /or plates. I started my collection in the 80’s while traveling and it just continues to grow every year. I have plates from all the places I have visited in Europe and the US. Some are fine china and others are pewter or stone ware but all of them have some kind of connection to a time or place that Tom and I have shared over the years. I am sure many of you have collections of souvenirs, my father had stones from many of the places he went and when he passed he had a large “rock collection”. A friend collects shot glasses from her travels and some collect spoons, or decks of cards. Some times the items in our collections help us remember a place better and sometimes a great story to go along with the item.

 

kitchen wall full of plates

kitchen wall full of plates

jubilee chine from England

Jubilee china from England

 

Delft transfer ware wooden shoe maker

Delft transfer ware wooden shoe maker Holland

Tier Germany Volks Marching plates

Trier, Germany Volks Marching china plate

West Virginia State Park stoneware plate, Holly River State Park image

West Virginia State Park stoneware plate, Holly River State Park image

What do you collect? What kind of memories do they hold for you or are they just for the fun of collecting. How did your collection start. As I said above mine started as a way to remember some of the places I have traveled and grew from that. Let me know that I am not alone in having way to much stuff and not enough room to share it all!

I also want to thank Holly over at Redterrain for the idea of talking about objects we love and why we love them. She has a wonderful Photography blog of her home in Australia and she wanted to know if her readers had some object that we have a deep connection to… and as you can see I just wanted to show her my Plate collection. I love them and they are one of the few things in the this world I would miss if I had to give them up.

Categories: About me, collections, Collector Plates, Dishes, family memories, heirlooms, Home Decor, Horses, Memories, nostalgic, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Country Roads Take Me Home West Virginia, photo review

As things usually go, now that everything is getting settled and the stress from the last year and the move are over, I have a cold. This one has lasted longer than usual and I am just not up to being to creative so I though a trip down some of my favorite West Virginia country roads would make all of us feel better.

Stonecoal Lake, Lewis County West Virginia

Stonecoal Lake, Lewis County West Virginia

In the summer time every thing is green and lush. Many times this is the view you see as you pass by one of our large lakes. This one just happens to cover two counties Stonecoal lake is one of the states largest lakes. It is a lively place with fish and ospreys that sore and deer who drink quietly at its banks.

Old cabin in Cleveland West Virginia

Old cabin in Cleveland West Virginia

Almost every country road here has one of these old cabins. Many are for hunting in the fall and winter and in the summer you would think the cabins are abandoned. This one is one many that I have fallen in love with over the years.

Mr and Mrs Tenney's barn Ten Mile West Virginia

Mr and Mrs Tenney’s barn Ten Mile West Virginia

Like cabins when driving country roads you will always see lots of barns and most of them are still in use. The foundation of the barn is from the 1800’s and has been recently updated with a new roof and siding.

Vine covered shed with wild roses in Middleburn, West Virginia

Vine covered shed with wild roses in Middleburn, West Virginia

There is just something so beautiful about this old tool shed. Taken over by time and flowers it shows the beauty I see every time we drive a back road. The mix of the old with the new.

Hunting Bus  Hacker Valley, West Virgina

Hunting Bus Hacker Valley, West Virginia

One of the many junked cars, trucks, buses and tractors that have been left to return to the wilderness. I find many of them so fascinating. This one got cut in two about a year after this photo and dragged away to the scrap yard. I kind of miss seeing it when we going fishing farther up this old dirt road.

Seneca Motors, Seneca. West Virginia

Seneca Motors, Seneca. West Virginia

Are you seeing a trend here? I like old rusty stuff. The thought did cross my mind to show off the wonderful rock formations in the Seneca Valley but I have yet to get a good photo of them so maybe next year. instead I fell in love with the town and its river and its old-fashioned stores and friendly people.

 

 

Jim Devricks, Mowing his hay fields.

Jim Devricks, Mowing his hay fields.

Mini Donkeys in Ireland, west Virginia

Mini Donkeys in Ireland, west Virginia

If you travel around West Virginia on country roads long enough, you will get to see this scene replayed a thousand times every summer. The summer measures out by mowing,bailing and feeding of the hay to the thousands of animals West Virginians love.

Randy Brown tiny Sago rd. Chapel, Buckhannon, WV

Randy Brown tiny Sago rd. Chapel, Buckhannon, West Virginia

Another huge part of life in the mountain state is church. I have heard that there are more churches in West Virginia then there are people. I have no idea if that is true, but I have never seen  more churches in my life. This is the smallest chapel east of the Mississippi River and only has 4 pews and a small parking area. This is the only chapel that I know that is open 24 a day 7 days a week. I pass it on the way to Christopher’s school and always think of the family who built it as a memorial in 1964.

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Almost every one in West Virginia has taken time to fish in a farm pound. You may even find a snapping turtle or a muskrat making their home in the muddy edge. My older son caught a huge bass in a pond like this one when he was little.

Moss covered rock along Ten Mile creek. Ten Mile, West Virginia

Moss covered rock along Ten Mile creek. Ten Mile, West Virginia

The mountains of West Virginia are deep and lush and every things covered in moss and leaves. It is the story book forest of Hansel and Gretel.Where a person needs bread crumbs to find a path back home.

The Mystery Hole near Hawks Nest, West Virginia

The Mystery Hole near Hawks Nest, West Virginia

side view of VW bug at the Mystery Hole

side view of VW bug at the Mystery Hole

As you can see from the photo of the Mystery Hole, Mountaineers love to laugh and try new things. This wonderful road side attraction is actually one of the funniest experiences a person can have. Travel back to the 60’s and have the world turned up side down ( Literally) on you.It takes several minutes to regain your bearings after a trip to the mystery hole.swiss helvietia flagg

Cobblers Shed along the road in Helveisha, West Viriginia

Cobblers Shed along the road in Helvetia, West Virginia

There are lots of immigrant towns in West Virginia. Most are built by Swiss, Italian or Irish families and many have wonderful architecture. This one is one of my personal favorites. Helvetia a Swiss settlement in the mountains where they have a wonderful restaurant that serves town made cheeses, honey and cured meats.

I-79 south Gassaway area

I-79 south Gassaway area

Even our highways twist and turn and have the feeling of entering another world. As the sun and clouds rise on an early fall morning,I just could not help but enjoy the view of the clouds rising through the trees. Even our interstates have the feel of a country road.

Moundsville State Prison, front entry, Moundsville, West Viriginia

Moundsville State Prison, front entry, Moundsville, West Virginia

Then if you are lucky enough to find a town you may find that their some of the most beautiful stone buildings hiding in our towns and cities. Where you can take a break from the long rides on the twisty roads and explore the history of these wonderful buildings.

 

Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum , Weston West Virginia.

Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum , Weston West Virginia.

In West Virginia you really have no idea who you may meet along the country roads. As we drive I find it is always better to travel with friends. I hope that my little road trip gave all of you a little better idea about why John Denver wrote his song about my state. Just remember it is always better to share a country road with friends even if it is the Muppets.

Moving right along with the muppets

Moving right along with the Muppets

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Farm work, Hardwood forest, Monongahela National Forest, Moundsville State Penitentiary, photo review, Photos, Seneca Rocks, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Flying with a 6 year Old and a Set of Crutches…. REALLY?

So I did it ! Not in the cool comfortable style of young urban hipster, but in the aging mom with a 6-year-old and crutches type of flying. OK, it was worth every effort that me and my family had to put into the trip but I would not volunteer to do this again. Things went down hill quick at my last Dr appointment on 31st of Oct. The Dr said he would remove the stitches and give me my walking cast at this appointment  and that did not happen. It left me broken-hearted.

me in my bandages after surgery

me in my bandages after surgery

As this photo shows, I traveled from Pittsburgh PA to St Louis MS with an Ace bandage, splint and a set of crutches . I had already bought my reservations and car rental when I found out that I was not going to get my walking cast. I left the Dr office thinking I would reschedule my trip, even if this was my birthday trip.I would just wait until the crutches were gone before I traveled. Well with out travel insurance the cost to rebook my flight was going to increase my ticket price from $470 for two tickets to about  another $500 dollars, putting my trip in the $1000.00 range with car rental.I just  could not see paying 500 more dollar for a weekend trip.So after talking with my family we rearranged everything so that my husband would drop us off curbside at the airport, my brother would pick us up and drop us off again when I returned home and finally a close friend volunteered to pick us up from Pittsburgh when we arrived home. I would only be responsible for getting a wheelchair to navigate the air ports and getting Christopher through security, boarding and unloading. Believe me, that was enough to worry about while on crutches.

So in the next 24 hours I packed a 6-year-old and myself for a flight across the Mississippi river to see my mom and brother. The curb side drop off is wonderful at Pittsburgh International Airport.The minute a ticket counter gentleman saw me open my door Larry was grabbing a wheel chair to get me checked in. He did everything he could to get me through check in quickly and talked with Christopher in the nicest way. He arranged for a porter to get me through security and did all of my paper work so I could rest comfortably.He put my faith back in the human race… because he didn’t even work for American Airlines.. he was from US Air.

The TSA is actually not to bad for people in wheel chairs. I got to skip the long lines that are the reason we are all at the airport  two hours early.The agents helped Christopher walk through the metal detectors by himself and wait for me on the other side. He was sooooo goood about all of this. They wheeled me through a side door and we waited on a female agent to do a pat down. Yes, I got the dreaded pat down. This was the first time in all the years that I have flown that  I was one of the millions who get the pat down every year. It was not any worse than a police pat down. Really what are people whining about… the ladies from the TSA were polite, clean, and explained everything that they planed to do and were professionals.I was able to perform everything that they needed me to do while sitting (thankfully). I now wonder what all the fuse is over  when someone has to get a pat down… I have been touch more in a crowed train or elevator… really people unless you are hiding something in you underwear this is not a big deal.

Christopher playing a game at Pittsburgh airport

Christopher playing a game at Pittsburgh airport

I was then taken to my concourse and gate ready to board. Now remember I wanted to fly non-stop because of Christopher. I thought it would be faster and easier on us both to not have connections. That meant I chose to fly a commuter flight. You know the airplanes that have only three seats per row with one single on one side and two seats on the other. Well I am not a small woman and I had completely forgotten how small the loading ramps and aisles are on these small flights. I could not walk with my crutches across the loading ramp or inside the plane, so I hopped to our seats. Christopher needing the window seat was kinda bewildered at the fact that we were all shoeing him ahead of me into the plane.He kept looking back at me with eyes that said where are we going now. I just kept saying “go buddy, go!” until we reached our seats and he was able to get comfortable in the window seat.

This was Christopher’s’ first flight that he actually remembers and it was so funny watching him discover the seats, the lights and A/C and even his seat belt. He was sooooo excited he actually squealed when he realized that we were off the ground and flying above traffic and houses. He was so glad when we were able to get through the clouds and see the bright blue sky above the rain in Pittsburgh.The trip was clam and he played and looked out the window for the next hour and a half.

We landed in St Louis and unloaded last off the plane.Hop hop hop back out off the plain into a wheelchair on the jet way. The crew worked fast and racing me back to the gate and concourse, leaving Christopher to run after us,… scaring us both. Everyone in St Louise was in a hurry and my country bumpkin mind-set was just not ready to race anywhere. Christopher was a little confused too, I needed to make a phone call, we needed a minute to acclimate to the new airport and Christopher needed to get caught up to my wheelchair. Sadly, the next thing I knew we raced down a ramp  and into a long hall at top speed where finally the lady porter asked if Christopher could ride on my chair because he just could not really keep up. “Aaaa Ya, sure just put him in my lap” I said as she power pushed us farther down the hall into baggage claim.

Once we retrieved our bags and got into my brothers car I finally relaxed. I was safe and Christopher was a sleep just a few minutes into our 2 hour drive south to Rolla. It had been a long time since I have left the comfort of my mountains, it had been a longtime since I had to ride in bumper to bumper traffic on a 5 line highway. St Louis even on a beautiful Saturday afternoon was a mess with accidents, reminding me why I hated living in the Denver Metro Area all those years.Then I remembered that this was what the Missouri called mountains and laughed. This mountain girl who lived 22 years at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Boulder Colorado, and the 24 years in the hills and valleys of North Central West Virginia found the description of the Mountains of Missouri a joyful joke. So beautiful yet not a mountain in sight.

Meadow View in Rolla Missouri

Meadow View in Rolla Missouri

We all arrived at my brother’s house to a roaring fire and I was so sore and tired that I was thankful that we had no plans to go anywhere or see any more family that night. Christopher and I had a warm quite bed in the Ozarks and we had managed to stay safe and together all the way. It was a good night  and I was glad I had made the trip even on crutches.

the Lowrey family home in Rolla MS

the Lowrey family home in Rolla MS

Categories: Birthday, Family, family fun, grandma, Healing, health, Ozark mountains, St Louis, Travel, traveling | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Have Books and Friends that Travel

Chandelier of Louise Bennett Library

Chandelier of Louise Bennett Library

Some of you may know that I am a member of a small book club that started about three years ago. That we have a monthly meeting with a new selection every month to discuss. It is one of things that I look forward to each month. We usually meet at our historic county library that I just love but with the many things that have been going on in my life I was just not able to go a couple of times this year and the book club met at my home. Wonderful that I have book loving friends that will travel.

 

 

front of Louis Bennett Library

front of Louis Bennett Library

a 4 story mansion donated to the city of weston  for use as a llibrary

a 4 story mansion donated to the city of Weston for use as a library

 

Woman who live in the country are sometimes limited in their ability to socialize. Distance and lack of events makes it hard for us to get together in places other than church or school functions. So my little book club is a wonderful place to build relationships and share ideas. Country living just makes our trip to get a good book a little longer. From my house it is about 25 minutes to a book store but for my friend Sandy it is closer to an hour to get to a place that sells real paper books. So when my friends found out about my foot surgery and my lack of ability to walk comfortably they were happy to stop at my house instead. In true county fashion the girls showed up with sweet treats to eat during the meeting and Sandy had even gone out of her way and made our family a pot of warm beef stew for dinner that night. Really aren’t all problems better when some one shares their home cooking with you!

Janice, Sandy and Christopher at our Thanksgiving Book club meeting

Janice, Sandy and Christopher at our Thanksgiving Book club meeting

Our book club reads lots of regional authors and we try to support  West Virginian’s who continue to try to share a positive image of our area. One of those authors Joshua Dyer who has written a novel titled “Finding November” about not only our county ( Lewis county West Virginia)  but about a fascinating time period, the  Great Depression and finding the meaning of family and love. He and other authors from Appalachia like our latest author Lee Smith and her book “Saving  Grace”  explore the hardship of living isolated from the outside world and how the traditions of this region are some times surprising and wonderful all at once. In the future I hope to add some posts about some of these traditions to add  my voice to these authors attempt to share and explore life in the rural mountains.

So with my new book club selection packed safely away in my carry on,I am ready to head to St. Louise for my birthday. I am spending some time with my Mother and Brothers family. I am so glad that I have  some thing to read in the airport that will remind me of my home and the friends that I have made. The trip is a short one, but a much-needed break from the 4 months that Grandma Powers lived with us and the couple of weeks that I have been trapped in this cast. The idea of spending time in the Ozarks with a good book and with family is just what a tired girl needs.

 

 

 

Categories: Birthday, Books, Family, Louis Bennett Library, Ozark mountains, regional authors, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Night Train to the Stars.

 

green bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory

One of the best things about West Virginia is the amount of wilderness, meaning fewer people and less civilization. Making West Virginia a perfect place to do star-gazing, and Radio Astronomy. Hard to believe that hidden in the woods of West Virginia at Green Bank is The National Radio Astronomy Observatory. These are the type of telescopes that inspired the movie ” Contact” with Jodie Foster. Where the Astronomers are listening to the world of outer space. At Green Bank they also encourage visitors to enjoy their reflective telescopes to see all wonders of our galaxy. So when my son said he wanted to plan his 6th birthday around trains, camp fires and the stars how could I say no.

Cheat Mountain Salamander train ride to the stars

Cheat Mountain Salamander train ride to the stars

One of the offerings that Astronomers from Green Bank give to visitors is the option to do a Star Gazing event once every year on their property that is only accessible by train. No high way, no logging road, no hiking trails on the 13,000 square miles of US Government land. Access is just a historic railroad track built about 2 century’s ago to transport coal from the high lands of Pocahontas County to the lower flat land of the Ohio Valley. The idea for a short ride on a local  tourist train was a perfect way to transport visitors to the remote location to take photos, learn more about Astronomy and ride into the past on a restored diesel train and cars.  Add in the fact that they allow you to have a camp fire and roast marsh mellows you have a great time planed for everyone who takes the night train to the stars.

As this was Christopher’s birthday adventure we made an afternoon and evening out of the trip. We started our train themed fun in Elkins, West Virginia at The Depot Restaurant that uses train themed photos and paintings as the decor. All while being able to walk the grounds of a fully functional and restored 1800’s Depot. This is also the main office for the Cheat Mountain Salamander, the New Tygart Flyer, Mountain Explorer trains. For more information about the trains and their trips Contact www.Mtn-Rail.com. The grounds around the Depot showcase a traditional turn table and tussle style bridge that leads to loading dock of the Depot.

Christopher 6th birthday dinner at the depot restaurant  balcony

Christopher 6th birthday dinner at the depot restaurant balcony

view of train bridge from The Depot Restaurant.

view of train bridge from The Depot Restaurant.

 

train bridge over the Tygart River, Elkins West Virginia

train bridge over the Tygart River, Elkins West Virginia

After a nice walk to the bridge and the river we shopped some at  Delmonte Market across the street from the depot.We found a large selection of hand-made and country themed gifts and toys. This was one of the hand-made items in the beautiful store. Recycled bottles with Decoupage flowers and lights what a nice way to use dried flowers.

flower bottle lamps at Delmonte Marker

flower bottle lamps at Delmonte Market

After the shopping we headed south on Rout 250 to Huntonsville then through two very small towns to the Monongahela National Forest to the  Cheat River Bridge where we found our loading area and started the evening ride up to Linen WV.

restrooms and depot at cheat mountain

restrooms and depot at Cheat Mountain

Christopher looking out the window of our train car

Christopher looking out the window of our train car

We then rode the train for about 45 minutes to a small dirt landing. We disembarked the train and walked up into a field that surrounded us on 3 sides with nothing but trees. A fire was lit, roasting sticks for marsh mellows gathered and the sun began to set as the Astronomers set up their equipment. While we waited for the sun to set I got this last photo of our train before it disappeared into total darkness.

night train parked at Linen landing WV. Darkest location in the state of WV

night train parked at Linen landing WV. Darkest location in the state of WV

by 8:30 pm we were in total darkness and this is what the train looked like.

 

the night train at linen WV in total darkness

the night train at Linen WV in total darkness

What happened next was astonishing, I have always loved the night sky, moon and the many planets, but I was not prepared for what I was about to see. The limited light from a moonless sky was enough to move around comfortably with out walking into anyone and the telescopes had small red lights to help us locate them in the field. I was just amazed that in total darkness the stars  were soooo bright!

I do not have the words to really describe what it was that we were able to see. From tree-lined horizon to horizon there was nothing to block our view, no lights were visible in our valley meadow. The only light was from the stars themselves because we had arrived here on the New Moon making it easy to see the most distant stars with out aide. As Tom and I found a spot for our folding chairs with our backs to the restored train landing we both looked up to the Northern sky to see the slowly dotted sky  fill with a cloudy dust of the Milky Way. Each individual star suspended in space, slowly became two than ten than twelve hundred. The numbers and colors slowly expanded into the ribbon of the Milky Way from one horizon to another. This  river of clustered stars outshone almost every star in the sky. With Millions if not billions of tiny lights glimmering it is impossible to not feel alone and part of a larger whole all at once.  The big planets shown with the red-orange of Mars and the cold blue of Vega. The constellations blinked in perfect form, each one leading the eye from one white pin point to another until you discovered that you were looking at the opposite horizon watching Scorpio slowly descend below a wall of trees. We sat in total darkness for 2 hours barely speaking and those that did speak whispered as if to use an adult tone would somehow effect the reverence for the  stars. We took turns looking into the telescopes and watching the Astronomers point out constellations with a laser pointer. Yet, every time we returned to our seats to enjoy the smell of a smoldering camp fire and the billions of bright white stars in the sky, we felt nothing but Peace. It was the most enjoyable two hours I have had in years.

milky Way Crop

Milky Way Crop

This time in the woods reminded me of the years that Tom and I would set up a camp site in the back yard to our older son Cody.We let him camp in our pasture behind the house on a hill. It was fun for me to lie on my back and look at the stars with him when he was 8 or 9. We shared a moment of happiness at its most simple. This trip expanded this feeling of happiness to something deeper and larger. It was very moving and fueled my interest in astronomy again.

As families and scientists prepared to re-board the train the temperature had dropped to 45 degrees. The air was cold and we could all see our breath but no one complained. We filed to our seats for the short 45 minutes back down the mountain and no one raised their voices. We spent the time laughing with strangers and reminiscing as if we are all long-lost friends… We were all happy, including the sleepy birthday boy.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Birthday, Cheat Mountain Salamander, Christopher, Green Bank NRAO, Monongahela National Forest, trains, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Just a funny story…. And God Created West Virginia

My brother sent this to me years ago and the author is unknown, but the feeling is still the same. I Love the idea that God made all things with foresight and the West Virginia was part of his plan.

New River Gorge Bridge with fall folage 2000 by jolynn powers

New River Gorge Bridge with fall folage 2000 by jolynn powers

And God Created West Virginia

God was missing for six days. Eventually, Michael, the Archangel, found him, resting on the seventh day.

He inquired, “Where have you been Lord?”

God smiled deeply and proudly pointed downwards through the clouds, “look Michael. Look what I’ve made.”

Archangel Michael looked puzzled and said, “What is it?”

“It’s a planet,” replied God,  “I’ve put life on it… I’m going to call it Earth and it’s going to be  a place to test  Balance.”

“Balance?” inquired Michael, ” I’m still confused”

God explained, pointing to different parts of the Earth. “For example northern Europe will be a place of great opportunity and wealth, while southern Europe will struggle. Over here I have place a continent of white people, and over there is a continent of dark people.Balance in all things.

God continued pointing to different countries. “This one will be extremely hot. While this one will be very cold and covered in ice.”

The Archangel, impressed by God’s work,then pointed to a land area and said,”What is that one?”

” That is West Virginia, the most glorious place on earth. There beautiful mountains, rivers and streams,lakes and forests. the people from West Virginia will be handsome, modest, humorous and they are going to travel the world. They will be extremely sociable, hardworking, high achieving, and carriers of peace and producers of good things.”

Michael gasped in wonder and admiration, but then asked, “but what about balance God?” You said there would be balance…”

God smiled, “Right next to West Virginia is Washington ,D.C. Wait till you see what idiots I put there.”

Hope that we can all laugh at what happens in Washington. All of us here In West By God Virginia Do!

Categories: Appalachina Mountains, funny stories, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Five Jim Beam Alternatives for the Patriotic Bourbon Drinker

what a sad thought that two american family run institutions are sold to the highest bidder

Categories: Maker's Mark, Travel | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Happy unbirthday party at Moundsville State Penitentiary, Moundsville West Virginia

prisoner art work inside family meeting area of Moundsvill state Penitentiary, Moundsville, West Virginia

prisoner art work inside family meeting area of Moundsville state Penitentiary, Moundsville, West Virginia

The un-birthday has been a family tradition of ours for at least 18 years although I did not know that was the term until recently. A fellow blogger Lori at www.waldorfmoms.com  had written about her sons lack of birthday party due to his allergies to glueton and dairy. The traditional american birthday includes cake and ice cream both things he can’t have in the traditional form so they went on a trip instead and eat fruit, vegetables, rice and fish.

veiw of Moundsville State Penitentuary, Moundsville, West Virginia

veiw of Moundsville State Penitentuary, Moundsville, West Virginia

In my case I just hate birthday parties, I am not a hostess at heart. So my children and husband  have learned to do other things instead of renting a hall, buying cake that no one really likes anyway and eating pizza.The whole processes is just UN-FUN for me. So when Cody was little we just started to doing other things for his birthday. Tom didn’t seem to care so the tradition started to travel, explore and seek new things on the one day in the world that is truly yours. I picked the Moundsville Prison Tour as our UN-Party location this year. I love a good murder mystery and ghost story so this is the perfect place to hang out for the afternoon of my birthday.

custom made front entry door for Moundsvill state prison

custom-made front entry door for Moundsville state prison

We took the tour and learned a lot about the huge Gothic structure and about inmates that lived in the prison. The Prison opened in 1876 with 251 inmates who actually help build the buildings and reached a max capacity of almost 2000 in the late 7o’s. Riots and federal laws changed and by 1996 at the closing of the institution their were around 600 to 700 inside the 5 foot thick walls. The history of the penitentiary is a mix of executions, murders and Charles Manson stories.

Cell in high security area of Moundsville state Penitentiary, site of worst murder in thier history

Cell in high security area of Moundsville state Penitentiary, site of worst murder in their history

94 inmates lost their lives to executions inside the grounds of  the prison 85 hung and 9 died by electrocutions. The hangings were frist thought to take place inside the frist building on the property The Wagon Gate and later moved to an outdoor gallows that later became the recreation yard for some of the most violent criminals. The gallows disturbed inmates who spent hours every day looking at them and were eventually removed.

frist structure at Moundsvill state penitentiary.. used as housing and sight of hangings

first structure at Moundsville state penitentiary.. used as housing and sight of hangings

trap door in the wagon gates ceiling moundsville prison

The prison boasts 36 recorded Homicides inside the prisons walls. Most being prisoners against prisoner but some assaults were against state employees who were over taken while performing their duties.  The prison has its own cemetery with simple markers for the bodies of those whom no one came to clam.The highest death tolls taking place during the 3 riots that occurred at the prison. The one in 1986, last 5 days, resolved only after the governor of West Virginia ( Arch Moore) came in person to  the prison grounds.

door into the location of the worst prison riot location at Moundsville

door into the location of the worst prison riot location at Moundsville

It was also this prison that the most notorious prisoner of all, Charles Manson wanted to call home in the late 80’s. The prison displays the original letter that Manson wrote to the then Warden. The letter explains that Manson would like to return home to West Virginia to serve his remaining time in jail. Yea, he and most of his family were from an area near Wheeling and close to Moundsville. The website  Charlie. com  http://www.charliemanson.com/places/lb-moundsville.htm

has a wonderful photo spread of the letter on their website and more information about his past. While our tour group spend time in the “Yard” our tour guide also informed us that Charles Manson lived with his aunt and uncle from about age of 5 to 15, as his mother was also incarcerated most of his youth. Really, are any of us surprised over this information. The tour guide informed us that Charles’ mom had arm robbed a gas station in the Charleston area of West Virginia and was in a prison in the southern part of the state for 10 years.  How crazy is that; puts a new spin on the words”criminal family”.

Christopher and I hanging out in a padded cell at Moundsville state Penitentiary

Christopher and I hanging out in a padded cell at Moundsville state Penitentiary

After spending time inside this chain linked high security area of the prison, I now know that most criminals were generally housed like animals early in the 20th century.  I am not sure how I feel about it really, creeped out yes, but deep inside I wonder if you act like an animal, people generally just see you as one also. Making it very hard for the justice system to “want” to improve things. The cells are very small measuring 5′ by 7′ with three inmates in each one. Looking very similar to the dog kennels that we all see at the local ASPCA or pound. The most violent inmates eat in their cells, used the toilet in their cells and slept in them. Two hours a day these violent criminals gained accesses to exercise in caged area within the high walled yard.

The small exerice area for the worst criminals inside the walled yard at Moundsville State Penitentiary

The small exercise area for the worst criminals inside the walled yard at Moundsville State Penitentiary

Christopher and Paige playing in the large "yard" at the prison

Christopher and Paige playing in the large “yard” at the prison

The Capel inside the "yard' at Moundsville state Penitentiary

The Capel inside the “yard’ at Moundsville state Penitentiary

 

For those who were the most unfortunate solitary confinement was actually in the basement of the main building. The “Hole” was really a hole, deep, dark and dank. I did not attempt to explore the area and was not sure if it was even allowed but some looked into the boiler room and holding areas. If it was any worse than what I already shared with my family above ground it must have been one step from hell. Loud boiler fires roaring, the creaking of hot pipes,sounds of men shoveling loads of coal into the hole and into the boiler. Darkness that was unending, no natural light passing through anything like a window. Mice, rats and roaches and who knows what else would slither into the basement for warmth in the winters. A hole in the floor for you bodily functions. Nothing at all like our world of light and freedom.

vistitor looking into basement area / solitary confinment area of administration building at moundsville Penitentiary

visitor looking into basement area / solitary confinement area of administration building at Moundsville Penitentiary

back of main gate, home of wardon and family, administration building. Moundsvill State Penitentiary, Moundsville West Virginia

back of main gate, home of warden and family, administration building. Moundsvill State Penitentiary, Moundsville West Virginia

 

I found the whole experience moving but not in the way I expected. I had come to see the cells of the TV shows and movies I had seen in the past. I came to see what incarceration meant, I left in confusion. I saw where guards lost their lives and others lost dreams because of the violence inside the castles walls. I walked through community shower halls where men got washed down like cattle to the slaughter. I stood on the bottom floor of four stories of cells packed with 600 men looking out on to a wall of nothingness. I viewed works of art and murals that took hours to paint and great skills to make, wasted on the walls of this institution. I knew that prison life was not some thing I ever wanted experience,but grown adults made choices everyday to return to this system of living. They would return over and over to having nothing and being nothing to the outside world. I learned how some families survived this place and how men had visits from their wives and children through walls and windows always watched by an armed guards. I wondered how their conversations went.

Shower "hall" below three stories of overlooking cells. regular inmate cell block moundvills state Penitentuary

Shower “hall” below three stories of overlooking cells. regular inmate cell block Moundsville state Penitentiary

4 stories of cells in regular cell block home to about 600 prisoners. Moundsville prison, Moundsvill, West Virginia

Gaurds gun used in the visitor are of prison

Guards gun used in the visitor are of prison

inmate art work one of several painted inside new caffiteria

Finally the most disturbing thing of all was the view from the front gates of the prison. The homes built not 300 yards from the fence that surrounds the castle. Families lived in rows of 1940 and 1950’s homes, all with in the reach of hundreds of damaged lives.  To my shock there is an elementary school within three blocks of the leaving the penitentiary property. I find that just so strange. Why, in the middle of very rural West Virginia did some city planner think  this was a good idea.  From what I gathered on our tour, inmates escaped at least 4 times and one escape was of 15 men. The escape of the 15 men took place in 1986 during the day and after that elementary school was in use. This to me was the most disturbing part of the entire trip. You drive through a typical residential area, then arrive at the parking area across from the prison. The neighborhood is in good shape,although old and is homey and seems very happy to have the tourists stopping in to get ice cream at a locals ice cream parlor.

community of Moundsville, West Virginia taken across the street from the prison.

community of Moundsville, West Virginia taken across the street from the prison.

Front view of the Big Dipper icecream parlor

Front view of the Big Dipper icecream parlor

 

Christopher eating at the Big Dipper ice cream parlor across from the prison, Moundsville, West Virginia

In the end the beauty of the building alone is worth the trip to see it. The community surrounding the relic is friendly with restaurants and small shops. Yet, after seeing inside the prison a person can not help feeling differently about the majestic structure. It is a prison and  it is nothing more than creepy and sad. Our country still has no better way to remove the most violent from society then the prison system. This tour really shows off where we started in the containment, control and rehabilitation of our criminals. This was one of the most educational and emotionally driven un-birthday trips ever. My family never even thought about doing the haunted tours and paranormal investigations that they also offer at the prison but here is the link to their website for more information about tours and spectacle events. http://www.wvpentours.com/tours_dailytours.htm.

I will try to return to the prison again. I aim for a less busy day next time and maybe I will be without the 3 and 5 year olds. I didn’t get enough time to see the letter from Manson and I wanted better photos of their electric chair but over all it was worth every penny and I highly recommend the trip to anyone.

Categories: Birthday, family fun, Moundsville State Penitentiary, State Park activities, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

7 long years I waited for this bottle of Maker’s Mark Bourbon

this is my ambassitor bottle with my name on the bottle

this is my ambassador bottle with my name on the label

The story of this bottle started almost 7 years ago in Lexington, Ky at the Kentucky Horse shoeing school over Fathers Day weekend.  Although I am not much of a drinker I do like to have a little spirits around for cooking and celebrations. Tom on the other hand has been a whiskey and bourbon fan most of his life.So, while  attending Farrier school in Lexington,Tom found out the locations of several of the local distilleries and asked us to join him on a tour while Cody and I visited.

From Lexington we traveled about an hour south to the small town of Loretto, Ky.  Off  in the middle of no where  sits one of the worlds best Bourbon distilleries. It is hard to find but worth every effort to find it. Maker’s Mark is known as “Top Shelf Bourbon” meaning top of the line and its grounds and tours reflect this effort to produce the best of the best. It is one of the most beautiful historic places I have ever visited.  Tom and I became ambassadors to the distillery on the visit and pledged to share our love of Mark’s Mark  with the people we knew and talked to. Included in our ambassador package was the ability to put our names on a barrel ( on a Brass Plate) and fallow that barrel through the whole process of creation and finally 6 to 7 years later come back and pickup a bottle or two of the aged bourbon that was in that barrel. At the time it was just one of the many perks to the ambassador program but was so far off in the future that I never imagined us back at the distillery getting those bottles.

Ticket sent from Marker's Mark announceing our bottles were ready to pick up

Ticket sent from Marker’s Mark announcing our bottles were ready to pick up

Well that all changed when  Maker’s Mark sent  us notification that our barrel had aged and been taste tested and was in the bottling process. They informed us that  we  could pick up our bottles for a few months this year, April-Sept and the remainder of the barrels would be bottled and sold with the regular bourbon.When I looked at the dates that the bottles were available, I was in shock and over joyed,April 1st 2013 was the frist day that the bottles were available and this is my oldest sons birthday.This date was also  just days after Toms 49th birthday and ended with Easter too. Our trip plans incorporated  all of these events and I was ready to head back to Kentucky and get my hands on bottle of bourbon that was waiting in a barrel all those years for me.

The Printing Houe of Maker's Mark and a sampleof the look of all the produceing buildings

The Printing House of Maker’s Mark and a sample of the look of all the buildings

racks of aging barrels of Maker's Mark bourbon

racks of aging barrels of Maker’s Mark bourbon

This time Cody and Jamie (my daughter-in-Law) were both of age so a family trip just seemed in order. We made our reservations and plans and headed to Bardstown,Ky for a long weekend. It turned out that if you like Whiskey, Bourbon or Scotch, Bardstown is the place to be. Bardstown is located in the middle of Bourbon country, near distilleries for Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, Four Roses, Maker’s Mark and others. It was just 16 miles to our destination and  we were able to see the towering aging sheds of many distilleries along the drive. Those 5 and 6 story sheds just appear out of  fields all around the Bardstown area. At a sharp turn in the small country road you enter the Makers Mark property. Visitors arrive at the   Gate House, Toll Gate and the beautiful Tobacco barn. All that appear to take you back in time to the early 1800’s. The grounds of Maker’s Mark are also on the National Register of Historic Places, including the “Quart House” the oldest liquor store in the US.

oldest liguare store in US ... also has a drive up window for wagons and later cars

oldest liquor store in US … also has a drive up window for wagons and later cars

 

 

The Gate House handled security for the distillery in the 1800’s and now houses a nice little cafe the serves southern pulled pork BB-Q and slaw…. you will never see BB-Q with out slaw in the south. The food was great  and a beautiful place to eat on a sunny afternoon.  The tour then leads you from building to building showing visitors every step in the process from crushing the corn to the fermentation tanks to the beautiful and over sized copper stills… (  sadly that picture did not turn out). To the tasting rooms and finally the gift shop and dipping area.  The grounds are open for photography and you are able to roam the grounds as long as you please.

Fermentation tank with corn wheat and barley

Fermentation tank with corn wheat and barley

Gate house ... with barn and toll gate

Gate house … with barn and toll gate

The Cyprus tanks pictures above are 12 feet deep and several hundred years old and are still in use everyday. Maker’s Mark allows visitors to taste the ageing mash and it is remarkably sweet and reminds me of Sugar Corn Pops. The above photo is of the frist stage of fermentation where the yeast is bubbling away the sugars in the corn, wheat and barley. This part of the tour is my favorite and this time I got to see one of the tanks empty and was really surprised with what 300 gallons in a 12 foot tank really looks like.

Before Tom and I picked up our bottles we enjoyed the tour tasting  and eventually dipped our bottles in the famous red wax that is a company trade mark. This was the highlight of the tour and they did not have the tasting room on our last visit. Here we got samples of the whole process. From 130 proof  “WhiteDog”… or in other words …”Moonshine”  that is not aged at all, just pure grain alcohol to regular Marker’s Mark bourbon  90 proof, then an over aged all most to flavorful whiskey that is not very palatable, to the best of the best Marker’s Mark 46 110 proof, a new and very tasty addition to the Maker’s Mark family.

tasting glasses full from left to right.. Moonshine( whitedog) Maker's mark , over aged bourbon. Maker's Mark 46

tasting glasses full from left to right.. Moonshine( whitedog) Maker’s mark , over aged bourbon. Maker’s Mark 46

The photos that fallow are of the bottling process and photos of us dipping our own bottles of Markers Mark.

4 workers dip the red wax tops on the "46" bottles

4 workers dip the red wax tops on the “46” bottles

bottles of "46" getting filled

bottles of “46” getting filled

 

Me with my two bottles of Makers Mark... waited a long time to these

Me with my two bottles of Makers Mark… waited a long time for these.

 

 

 

This trip to Markers Mark was  better than I had remembered it.  The tasting room addition  is great. When we originally visited  Maker’s Mark the distillery was in  a dry county… NO liquors allowed  at public places. For  over 100 years of their production no one could get a taste until they left the distillery grounds. The law recently changed and  the free tasting added if you are over 21 with a current ID. The tour is a great historical look back and very educational for anyone wondering about this areas traditions of Bourbon, Whiskey and Moonshine making.

Tom and Cody after dipping a few bottles of Makers Mark

Tom and Cody after dipping a few bottles of Makers Mark

I hope that if any of you are in Kentucky, you stop at your favorite distilleries and enjoy some of the history and love!  I found  waiting those seven years to come back and enjoy Maker’s Mark again worth every minute.

Jolynn Jamie and Christopher and Paige at Maker's Mark

Jolynn Jamie and Christopher and Paige at Maker’s Mark

Categories: Easter, family fun, fermentation, Kentucky, Maker's Mark, Travel | Tags: , , , | 28 Comments

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