Escape from Paradise

America’s National Park Service Turns 100!

Babcock millStill holding on to summer, we are now working on the list of places to visit during fall season. One of these will definitely be “Wild and Wonderful West Virginia”, for some high altitude mountain air. You can only imagine what the foliage will look like once the colors begin to turn up there. I can say that I have fallen for Southern West Virginia almost as quickly as I fell for the mountain man I had met 2 years ago. I admit that there is a rustic charm to this mountain state and its people that remind me of the Montauk of 30 years ago. We were fortunate to visit some of these wild and wonderful parks and places for you this summer.

The National Park Service turned 100 on August 25th, 2016 and kicked off a second century of stewardship of America’s national parks, engaging communities through recreation, conservation, and historic preservation programs. But WV’s state park system offers 36 parks and 2 rail trails since the dedication of the Droop Mountain Battlefield as the first state park on July 4th, 1928. The most special park to me was Babcock State Park, as I had seen stunning photos of a rustic gristmill towering over cascading waterfalls and wanted to take my own. Babcock is situated along the New River Gorge on 4,127 wooded acres in Fayette County. Located near the park headquarters, the Glade Creek Grist Mill is among the most photographed tourist sites in the state. Completed in 1976 by combining parts of three other West Virginia mills, it is a replica of the original Cooper’s Mill that was located nearby. The park’s website describes the Glade Creek Grist Mill as a living, working monument to the more than 500 mills that used to be located throughout the state. A must see site.

New river gorge bridgeAnother place in Southern West Virginia that we consider a ‘must see sight’ is Summersville Lake, a reservoir formed by a rock-fill dam on the Gauley River in Nicholas County. It is the largest lake in West Virginia, with 2,700 acres of water and over 60 miles of shoreline at the summer pool water level. The lake (maximum depth is 327 feet) also serves as a recreation area for fishing, boating, and rock climbing. It is a paradise for snorkeling and scuba diving because of the clarity of the water. Divers are able to swim under overhangs, through rock gardens and along cliffs that plunge into the depths. Summersville Dam alone is worth  the stop. This superb dam is 2,280 feet long and at 390 feet tall it is almost as high as a forty-story building. It is the second largest of this kind in the eastern United States. It is important to note that the water levels in the lake are controlled by a series of releases from the Summersville Dam and are publicized well in advance. They are extremely popular as they provide an incredible surge of water on the Gauley River, which is also a mecca for whitewater rafting that draws people from all over the world.

Summersville damAnd one more reason to visit WV this fall is the annual “Bridge Day”, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. This event has been on my bucket list for a very long time, because when you walk out onto The New River Gorge Bridge during Bridge Day, you’ll be standing over one of the oldest river gorges on earth. By most accounts, the New River Gorge is about 345 million years old. That makes it the top contender for being the first river in North America. But watching the BASE jumpers leaping, rappelling and skydiving 800+ feet into the New River Gorge will take your breath away.

As you are discovering these three amazing destinations you may want to choose a comfortable base to return to each night that allows you to relax between your adventures and maybe even get a round of golf in. You are guessing that my husband is a golfer? Glade Springs Golf Resort, is set in the midst of a gorgeous 4,100-acre property in the lap of the Appalachian Mountains and specializes in golf, ski, fly-fishing and equestrian but also offers a full service spa, state-of-the-art conference and meeting facilities, and perfect lodging accommodations for guests visiting Southern West Virginia. With three 18-hole championship golf courses, they are ranked among the top 100 best resort golf courses in the country. The state capital of Charleston is just an hour’s drive from the resort, while our home in Beckley is only 15 minutes away. There are daily flights through ViaAir from Charlotte (CLT), North Carolina to the Beckley airport (BKW) only 5 miles from the resort, and Yeager Airport in Charleston offers flights to and from many national airports.

However, as you are driving through this area you are going to see road signs advising travelers not to miss “TAMARACK” and you shouldn’t! You would be missing an opportunity to discover and taste “The Best of West Virginia”, locally produced foods and crafts specifically from West Virginia, all in one place. The TAMARACK is a tourist destination located at Exit 45 above the Beckley service area of the West Virginia Turnpike. It features a red peaked roof and landscaped grounds that draws close to a million visitors annually. This sizeable arts and crafts center is celebrating its 20th anniversary and is run as an economic development project of the West Virginia Parkways Authority. It promotes West Virginia craft products, such as wood, glass, textiles, pottery, metal, jewelry, as well as specialty food items, fine art, and West Virginia books and recordings. Try a lunch or dinner from the all day buffet, featuring some of the favorites of Greenbrier’s cuisine. Check Tamarack’s schedule of events for a list of their famous gourmet wine and beer pairing dinners. Until next month from another amazing location.

Love, Ingrid

Award-winning TV Host, Publisher, Travel Writer, Producer, Author and Ambassador of