50 Hikes 50 States–West Virginia

My last hike in Ohio found me by myself in the woods. For the next hike on this 50 Hikes 50 States Project, I headed to West Virginia to hike with one of the favorite men in my life, my husband. This was the third hike in our weekend hiking trio of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia and the one which held the most anxiety.

I expected this hike in western West Virginia to be decorated by hunters, gun shots and orange hunting vests. Rather, it was one of the most quiet and calming hikes I’ve had. It gave me a chance to think about all the people I know from West Virginia.

My Family Roots Go Deep in West Virginia

Three brothers who loved each other.

My roots go deep in West Virginia. Although my parents, high-school sweethearts, dated and married in this wild, wonderful state, they left as soon as they could. But that didn’t mean we didn’t go back as often as we could for holidays and family events. These visits let me know my relatives; they are a colorful and lively bunch.

I’m lucky enough to have had the same batch of relatives for the first 31 years of my life. I had grandparents-a-plenty. My great grandmother passed when I was 31, my last grandmother passed when I was 50, just a few years ago. I couldn’t have been luckier in the grandparent, aunt, and uncle department. A few of these folks who loved me stay high in my mind for the advice and unique sayings they bestowed on me. These sayings are true West Virginia, through and through.

Drink RC. Not Coke.

Granny counting her poker winnings.

We’ll start with my great grandmother, Virgie. Born in 1899, she was a woman suffragist who worked for the right of women to vote alongside her Democrat-boss husband who passed out bottles of liquor from his liquor/meat shop to people who voted correctly. The last thing she always said to me when hanging up the phone, “Be good to your mother.”

Two granddaddies lived their best lives every day. One, who retired from RC Cola, never drank a Coke in his life. The other loved to tell two stories. He was a church-going Catholic who giggled every time he mentioned how the Summersville Dam got its name. He always said that when building a dam, the city planners like to name the dam after the local town. But the local town was Gad. And they couldn’t name the dam, Gad Dam, so they named it Summersville. His other famous saying, “If they flatted out the state of West Virginia, it’d be bigger than Texas.”

Playing nickel poker has always been a big past time of my family. We’d all sit around the table, everyone else smoking while I gasped for air, learning the proper way to call cards. My dad’s younger brother taught us the proper names for poker cards: Cowboy, Lady, J Hook, Railroad, Niner, Frog Eye, Pump Handle, Boot, Nickel, Boat, Tres, Deuce, Bullet.

My dad’s youngest brother shared a few sayings, too:

  1. Money cannot buy happiness, but it’s more comfortable to cry in a Mercedes than in a Honda.
  2. Forgive your enemy but remember the fool’s name.
  3. Help someone when they are in trouble and they will remember you when they’re in trouble again.
  4. Alcohol doesn’t solve any problems. Bu then again, neither does milk.

Of Course, Dad Reigned

Yet, my dad probably had the two sayings that stuck with me long and hard:

  1. You can live in your car but you can’t drive your house. (Spend wisely.)
  2. I don’t believe in allowance; it’s a privilege you get to live here.

Most of these families memories have now passed, but their personalities stay thick in my mind. I’m sure everyone has characters in their families. All I can say is that, as my cousin says, “You can pick your boogers, but you can’t pick your family.”

Hiking West Virginia

Thus, I found myself hiking in West Virginia, which brings me to another story, this one from my dad, about why I was anxious about hiking in West Virginia. November is hunting season. Although I don’t have any statistics to support my statement, I imagine there might be more hunters in West Virginia than hikers. What’s my proof?

My dad owned a factory near Morgantown. He tells a story about when he first walked into the factory, he sat down with the Human Resources Department. They wanted to figure out the holiday schedule for the employees and when they’d have their days off. Absenteeism during the month of November always ran high. After investigating the data, so he says, everyone was “calling in sick” in November and coming back to work with fresh venison for lunch. Thus, he changed the holiday schedule. No one got any time off at Christmas and New Year’s. Instead, the whole plant took off November. Absenteeism dropped and morale went up.

No Hunting on The Lost Trail

The hubs and I arrived to Beech Fork State Park at noon. Only a few folks camped in the campground, and the ranger stations were closed. We found a bulletin board with a map which pointed us to our designated hike, The Lost Trail, behind campsite 104 in the Moxley Branch Campground. A 3.5-mile, moderate loop along a creek and up over a mountain sounded like the perfect hike to reflect West Virginia.

To  my surprise, the first sign I saw at the trail head was, “No Hunting.” I breathed a sigh of relief and zipped my jacket up over my orange shirt. A crisp 45-degree day invited us onto the trail, and off we journeyed. Most of the tree leaves had fallen, but the elms held their golden leaves, providing an intriguing view into the forest. After driving three hours to get here, our legs found a nice rhythm up and down steep, although not too strenuous, hills on a dirt path covered in fallen leaves.

At the top, we enjoyed a sit on well-placed benches overlooking the Beech Fork Lake, created by the Army Corp in 1979 to manage flooding. It was here that I really noticed the quiet and calm that the trail offered. We took in deep breaths, and I shared with the hubs a bit about my crazy family.

We finished our hike and had to dash ourselves back to the airport by way of a quick stop in Chipotle. Next time, though, I think we could find a fun vegetarian place in Huntington.

Next up, we head to New Orleans to tackle Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

What You Need to Know about This Hike (click for interactive map)