West Virginia – Days 1-2: Small Towns, Capitol Cities, and Nature

Brittany Swanson   November 26, 2015   Comments Off on West Virginia – Days 1-2: Small Towns, Capitol Cities, and Nature

For my first stop in West Virginia I went to a town called Shepherdstown. Someone told me it was similar to Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls, and if you know me at all, you know how much I love Gilmore Girls, so I couldn’t wait!

I could definitely see how Shepherdstown and Stars Hollow were similar, however as an outsider small towns are only what they appear. Cute. Nice shops. But I didn’t really get the Shepherdstown charm by just walking through. I’m sure if I lived in Shepherdstown I’d see more of it’s charm and how it might resemble Stars Hollow, but there was no special event or fun display the day I went. So to me, it was just another cute town in another state, which is not to say I didn’t like it, just that I think I’d set my sights a little too high.

Another cute small town USA, Shepherdstown, WV.

Another cute small town USA, Shepherdstown, WV.

Next I drove to Seneca Rocks and Seneca Caverns. On the way I nearly hit a deer. Thankfully, I was on a dirt road so I was only going about 20 mph. I was just driving along wondering where Google Maps was taking me when there was a little baby deer right in front of me. I slammed on my brakes but the poor little deer’s butt disappeared below the front of the car. I sort of freaked out. But the deer was a fighter it kept running and I kept slamming on the breaks and eventually I stopped and he/she ran out of the road. Unfortunately, the deer then jumped right into a barbed wire fence. Very obviously spooked and afraid I was going to attack him/her, he/she jumped into the fence again but this time made it through. I felt so bad. That poor deer was so traumatized. At least it didn’t die.

Anyway, Seneca Rocks were cool, but I when I’d heard of them I figured they’d just be rocks so I was really looking forward to Seneca Caverns, which sounded more interesting. A few more sketchy back roads after almost hitting the deer and nearly two hours of driving out of the way and Seneca Caverns was closed for the season. What? I literally just stared at the CLOSED sign in disbelief for a few minutes until another car pulled up behind me. How the heck did I miss that when planning?! No idea, but I was super bummed. Oh, and of course I was in the middle of nowhere and didn’t have any cell service. Thankfully, Google Maps still shows your location even when you don’t have service or are in airplane mode, so I managed to navigate myself toward Charleston until I finally had service again.

Seneca Rocks, Pendleton County, WV.

Seneca Rocks, Pendleton County, WV.

If everything happens for a reason, then I am super glad Seneca Caverns was closed because if it hadn’t been I might have missed the most amazing sunset. The sky had this beautiful blue to orange gradient peeking up over the mountains. The clouds were fluffy and bright pink on the bottom and purple on top. I kept driving hoping for a place that leveled out so I could stop and view the whole horizon. At one point I actually had tears in my eyes because it was so wonderful. And then it was gone. And I teared up again because it was over.

That night, my host took me to a bar called The Empty Glass where we were supposed to see a Blues band. We got there later than we meant to and waited like thirty minutes but no one was playing anything. Then this guy came by and said there was a $7 cover and asked if we were paying to stay. Since nothing was really happening and we were mildly offended about being asked to pay a cover when we were already inside, we decided to leave. Instead we went to her friends’ wedding after party. It was super fun. The bride and groom seemed cool, though I never actually met them…

My second day in West Virginia I wandered around Charleston. I checked out a really cool bookstore/cafe/art space called Taylor Books. I also went to the Capitol building which is really pretty.

Capitol of West Virginia, Charleston, WV.

Capitol of West Virginia, Charleston, WV.

Then I drove to Fayetteville. My host had said to try Cathedral Cafe for breakfast, but when I sat at the table no one came to give me a menu or anything. I looked around and it looked like everyone else was just sitting drinking coffee. There was a drink and pastry menu on the table, so I wondered if maybe that was all they had and my host just really liked pastries. I continued to sit and wait, just in case, but no one came my way. After about five minutes of sitting there awkwardly, I decided to just order a hot chocolate from the counter like this other guy had and go explore the rest of the town.

Cathedral Cafe, Fayetteville, WV.

Cathedral Cafe, Fayetteville, WV.

It took seven minutes for them to make me a hot chocolate. I kid you not. Seven minutes. For a hot chocolate. And no, they didn’t make the chocolate right there themselves. Seven minutes. Long enough for me to see a waitress go over to a table and bring other people who’d just walked in real menus. Long enough for me to debate about and finally decide to ask to see a menu myself, read the entire menu, contemplate how to have breakfast since someone else had now taken my table, and then decide to just stick with the hot chocolate. And after all that, I still had to stand and wait for three more minutes. Needless to say, they have the worst service ever. Though the hot chocolate wasn’t bad I suppose.

Next I went to see the New River Gorge Bridge. According to the National Park Service, it is “the longest steel span in the Western Hemisphere and third highest in the U.S.”. It was pretty impressive.

New River Gorge Bridge, Fayetteville, WV.

New River Gorge Bridge, Fayetteville, WV.

The map I got at the New River Gorge info center said there was a waterfall not too far away on the same river so I decided to check that out next. Minus the freaking forty minute drive down a mountain on an insanely windy dirt road to get there, Sandstone Falls was awesome. There were only a few people around and the falls and the surrounding area were breathtaking. I took a mini solo hike on the Island Loop Trail, which is really just a fifteen or so minute walk in the woods, but it was marvelous. Then I just sat and watched the falls for a while before I had to head out to avoid doing a ton of driving in the dark on my way to Virginia.

Sandstone Falls, Sandstone, WV.

Sandstone Falls, Sandstone, WV.