Whether you believe in the severity of Coronavirus or not, we all need a day-trip every now and then. So here are some exploration ideas for Highland County residents and visitors, alike, that provides a day of adventure with limited exposure to others.
Lewisburg, West Virginia
Walking around downtown Lewisburg, even without entering any shops, and exploring nearby roads is a fun-filled day. A friend and I once took an impromptu trip to the little West Virginia town. It was on a Monday. Apparently, Lewisburg shuts down (for the most part) on Mondays. But we weren’t discouraged. We walked the charming streets, read historic markers, and even found a sidewalk piano and played a tune! The entire time, we barely came into contact with anyone and stayed in the fresh, moving air.
Blackwater Falls State Park
This 57-foot, cascading waterfall earned its “blackwater” title from the tannic acid of fallen Hemlock and Red Spruce needles that tint the waters to a dark amber. Located approximately 75 miles from Monterey (just under a two-hour drive) in Davis, West Virginia, Blackwater Falls State Park offers falling waters, scenic overlooks, a comfortable lodge, camping, geocache adventures, boating, biking, swimming, nearby train rides, and 20 miles of hiking trails.
For more information on West Virginia State Park COVID-19 Travel Alert Updates, visit www.wvstateparks.com/travel-alert/
Would you like to see orchids growing wild in a unique area? Located 67 miles from Monterey and a drive through (or stop in at) the town of Marlinton, West Virginia, the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area and Nature Center features sphagnum bogs similar to those found in the Arctic Tundra. Follow a half-mile boardwalk to see Bishop’s Cap, Pitcher Plant, or Jewelweed growing near Red Spruce, Hemlock, and Yellow Birch Trees. You might even catch a glimpse of resident American Bald Eagles, Eastern Screech-Owls, or even a Black Bear. And don’t forget to visit the Nature Center to learn more about this unique forest ecosystem and its local history.
As of recent years, one of my favorite summer activities is visiting Lake Moomaw in Bath County, Virginia. Pack up your kayak, load your fishing gear, or just grab your swimsuit, and head there. Moomaw offers more than 12 miles and 2,530 acres of water to explore and enjoy. Simply standing in the water chest-deep at the beach is an experience as you look around to see the waterline extend directly to the base of tall, green mountains with no human development inbetween. All nature. Pause while kayaking. Sit back, and allow the music of nature to enter your ears as you observe a Heron flying overhead. Or, see a Whitetail doe and fawn enjoying a refreshing sip from the shore. Both warm-water and cold-water fish, such as bass, catfish, and trout, cohabitate in the lake. Spend a whole day at this relaxing location, or bring your camping gear for an overnight stay.
Highland County Hiking Trails
Located in and straddling the borders of Highland County are trails offering natural and historical learning experiences. (Here are three of our recommendations!) Read about the Civil War and early inhabitants along the McDowell Battlefield Trail and the trail at the Confederate Breastworks atop Shenandoah Mountain. At the Laurel Fork Proposed Wilderness Area, in the far northwest corner of the county, walk the Locust Spring and Buck Run trails through northern hardwoods, past trout streams and beaver dams, and among endangered species and at least 25 varieties of flora and fauna deemed rare by the Virginia Natural Heritage Program.
Whether you advocate social distancing due to COVID-19 or you simply need some alone time full of peace and quiet, these area day trips in and around Highland County can provide a healthy opportunity for exploring, learning, and relaxing.
About the Author
Dorothy Stephenson grew up on her family's cattle operation in Meadowdale, located in the southwest corner of Highland County. When she wasn't on horseback helping her father gather and work cattle, you'd likely find her (still on horseback) jumping creeks in her family's nearby "Big Pasture." Today, though she doesn't ride horses much anymore, she has her own cattle, land, and expansion plans for a farm. Additionally, (and with the inherited, Stephenson, entrepreneurial spirit) she owns two small businesses in Highland County - Sundance Media & Design and Sundance Studio & Productions, which houses another of Dorothy's long-time loves - Clogging. Dorothy loves exploring new places, skills, and ideas, and she intends to live life to the fullest as long as it will let her. (Oh! And she LOVES Christmas!)