Weekend in West Virginia

My husband Dave and I go to West Virginia for a long weekend at least once a year. It has everything we love: small, quirky towns with interesting old buildings; gorgeous scenery with mountains, rivers, and rocks; and lots of pretty hiking trails. Because we can go onto our flat roof and watch fireworks over Downtown or the stadiums pretty much any night of the year because Pittsburgh is so fireworks-crazy, we usually go away for the 4th of July.

We have been to the small town of Thomas many times for the 4th. Thomas is one of those quirky small towns with a restaurant/pub featuring live music and vegan food, the Mountain Made shop that features art from West Virgina artisans, and an Elvis impersonator for their 4th celebration. We love Thomas, but last year we were surprised at the number of hipsters who have discovered Thomas, so it seems the word is getting out about how cool it is.

This year we stayed a little farther away in the tiny town of Beverly, near Elkins, which is about 3 hours from Pittsburgh. We rented the Oak Mountain Hollow Lodge through VRBO.

It has lots of windows to let light in, a loft master bedroom, two baths, and two additional bedrooms in the lower floor.
It is ideal for dogs. There is a big, gated deck that opens into the fenced back yard, so it was very easy to have Django outside with us. The deck had a table, grill, and hot tub. We ate and relaxed outside on the deck all weekend, waching the family of cardinals that visited the bird feeder.

Django crashed out on the deck almost as soon as we got there.
And he hung out with us on the deck whenever we were out.

Of course, he loved the big, fenced yard! We do not have a big, grassy yard, so he had fun running around in it. He also loved taking bones we gave him to the yard to eat. We ask him to lie down on his bed in order to get a treat, and he usually eats his treats on his bed. At this house, he would lie down to get his treat then run into the yard with it. This is a series of him eating a bone in the yard.

Django is a pretty great travel companion. He easily settles down in new places, doesn't know how to jump on furniture (because he lived the first part of his life at the track, he has no idea that it's possible to get on furniture, and we don't plan to teach him) so won't mess up furniture, and is generally calm and well behaved so we never worry about him messing up rental homes. His only problem with this house was the stairs to the loft. You have to teach retired greyhounds to walk up stairs. Django knows how, but these stairs were narrow, steep, open, and a shiny wood. He is still hesitant to walk on slippery surfaces, and overall the stairs were too scary for him, so he had to sleep on his bed in the living room instead of in the bedroom with us. Oh well--he survived!

The lodge sits on 46 private acres, so there are peaceful woods all around with a fire pit area, a picnic table, and trails the owners made through their property. These trails were awesome to take Django on short walks.

There were a lot of pretty wildflowers to see in the fields the trails went through.

This lodge was like a little piece of heaven in the woods, and I highly recommend it, especially if you have a dog. Oh, and as a bonus, there is a resident outdoors kitty who is very sweet, and it is always awesome to meet a sweet kitty.

We got in on Thursday evening and just hung out after getting groceries at the Elkins Kroger (which is severely lacking in grocery store goodness). On Friday, after I did my final one-mile run to complete my Memorial Day to July 4 run streak, we did a road trip through the Dolly Sods Scenic Area. The one thing we don't love about West Virginia is its lack of good road signs. Last year we tried to go to Dolly Sods and got completely lost. This year we were armed with a scenic driving book and a West Virginia road atlas because we knew our phone GPS wouldn't work...and we still got lost! But not until the end.

The first part of the drive was a very long ascent up the Allegheny Front on a gravel road. This would be fine for SUVs, but my poor 2002 VW Golf was not happy.

I had read in the scenic driving book that Dolly Sods is a high-altitude plateau with vistas, plant life, and weather found nowhere else in the U.S. and similar to Northern Canada. I somehow did not equate that with "cold." Because it was so humid last week, I had dressed in my most lightweight skort (with mesh shorts) and a wisp of a tank top for this hike. I brought along a jacket thinking I'd never need it. Well, when we got to the top, we realized that it was cold and extremely windy. Later we read that is is constantly windy on the plateau.

We had just spent a solid half-hour getting banged up by the road to the top, so we definitely wanted to go on the Bear Rocks trail even though we were pretty cold. Luckily, I'd brought a headband, which helped with the wind.

I love this picture of the mossy ground. This was definitely a different landscape than we usually see.

Django squinting into the wind and sniffing the air. He didn't love all the wind or the rocky trail, so he made us turn around and go back before too long.

This is another view from Bear Rocks.

After our little hike, things went downhill--literally, we had to drive back down the mountain. The road doesn't look bad here, but my little car did not like it!
Somehow the road we thought we were on wasn't the right road, and we came out at the bottom at a completely different place than we thought we would. We finally got oriented and made our way back to the lodge. We had spent the whole day driving up and down a mountain so spent the night grilling out and relaxing.

Saturday we decided to go on a shorter drive. Because Django can't handle long hikes in the heat, driving from place to place is ideal for him since he sleeps in the car then wakes up to check out a new destination. Again we headed up a mountain, but this time at least the road was paved. We drove to Helvetia, a small Swiss village that is designated a historic landmark.

After that, we continued on and stopped at the National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, dogs aren't allowed on the trails, so we drove on to Buckhannon, where we got out and explored the little city a bit. This is the courthouse.

On Sunday we left to come back home, but first stopped to walk around Elkins and Weston, which features the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum that you can tour. We assumed dogs couldn't go on the tour, so we'll have to come back without Django since it's only about a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh.

It was such a fun and relaxing weekend. It's just like John Denver said in Country Roads: Almost heaven-- West Virginia!

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