www.wvgazettemail.com Travel http://www.wvgazettemail.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Crafty bear and craft brews: Western trip takes the high roads and trails http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150927/GZ07/150929563 GZ07 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150927/GZ07/150929563 Sun, 27 Sep 2015 00:01:00 -0400 By Rob Byers Staff writer By By Rob Byers Staff writer The air was thin, and a haze of wildfire smoke drifted around the mountains. My lungs begged for mercy, but I kept a brisk pace up the steep, rocky trail.

On the other hand, the big brown bear strolling along behind me seemed perfectly content.

Remember the infamous O.J. Simpson slow-speed chase? This was the great outdoors version.

My brother, Ric, and I were on another of our driving, hiking, eating, drinking excursions out West.

It was Day 2 of our nine-day outing. Day 1 involved driving from Spokane, Washington - where our plane landed - to Glacier National Park in Montana.

We wanted to see the glaciers before climate change melts them all away.

For our first hike, which was supposed to be a warm-up for the longer treks to come, we drove the glorious, mountain-hugging Going-to-the-Sun Road up, up, up to the Continental Divide at Logan Pass.

There, the Hidden Lake Trail begins as a fairly easy walk to an overlook with views of the lake and 8,684-foot Bearhat Mountain. The trail then runs along the ridge before making a switchbacking descent to a meadow and the royal blue lake below.

Problem was, about the time we were halfway down the slope, Ric spied a bear in that meadow. And, as other hikers backed up behind us, we all watched from a safe distance above as the bear dug for roots, startled a bird, sniffed the wind and ambled across the pine-dotted meadow.

We also watched as two women began hiking up from the lake toward a blind curve in the trail, on a collision course with a few hundred pounds of bear.

Our group - now numbering about 15 hikers - started a lot of arm-waving and shouting about the approaching situation. We all breathed a sigh of relief when they comprehended the word "bear" and hurriedly retraced their steps back to the lake.

Finally, the bear passed from sight, heading on down the meadow, and we and the group of hikers continued down the slope.

Glacier National Park is bear country, and, yes, sometimes those bears have been known to charge or attack hikers. Ric and I knew that going in. Canisters of bear spray dangled from our belts.

As we reached the last switchback, the bear suddenly reappeared - on the trail; headed our way.

Fifteen hikers made an about-face under a strengthening noontime sun and began heading back up the mountain. They say not to run from a bear, but on this steep section of trail, that was never an option anyway.

Seven hundred feet up the slope we hurried, with the bear padding along behind.

"He's still coming," a hiker would occasionally murmur - if they paused long enough to look back. No one wanted to be last in line.

And then, as soon as he'd chased all 15 hikers to the top of the ridge, the bear just turned right and headed for home. He had cleared his meadow like a bouncer clearing a bar.


Day 3 dawned even smokier in Glacier. The late August wildfires raged in the rugged territory all around the park. But we headed out on the famed Highline Trail anyway, knowing it could be a long time before we ever got the opportunity again.

The Highline skirts along the Continental Divide for 12 miles, from Logan Pass to an area called "the Loop," which is a really just a switchback in the Sun Road.

The Highline is easily one of the most scenic trails in the U.S. - even with the smoky haze shrouding the surrounding peaks, like giants in the mist.

The trail clings to the mountainside, high above the Sun Road. In some places, it's simply a three- or four-foot-wide ledge. And don't be surprised if you run into a mountain goat along the way.

We added a grueling mile and a half to the trip by taking a spur trail up the mountain so we could look over the other side and see Grinnell Glacier and Grinnell Lake far below.

I've been kind of fascinated recently by the life of George Bird Grinnell, the early American conservationist who pushed for Glacier to become a national park. He fell in love with the land he called "the Crown of the Continent," exploring it extensively in the late 1800s.

In Grinnell's time, there were about 150 glaciers inside what is now the park. Today, there are 25. If the melt continues at its current pace, by 2030, they will all be gone.

During our visit, Grinnell's glacier lay against the mountainside, stained charcoal gray by the soot in the air. But the lake still showed turquoise blue, thanks to the "rock flour" deposited there by the glacier. Chunks of glacial ice, washed bright white by the lake waters, floated in the deep pool, some 5,000 feet above sea level.


By Day 4, it was time to move on. We left the little cabin we'd rented at Glacier General Store and Cabins in Coram, Montana, and headed south to our next stop - the Bitterroot Mountains. We found the town of Hamilton, Montana, bathed in an acrid haze. We hurriedly checked into our hotel, then immediately headed for nearby Blodgett Canyon and our next hike.

The canyon was a blessed relief. We left the smoke behind and basked in the cool breeze of its soaring, craggy peaks.

The 3.5-mile trail, which ends at a waterfall, is a moderate hike, though the tread is very rocky. Granite boulder fields and the crystal-clear stream - its deeper pools dotted with small trout - added to the already fantastic mountain scenery.


The next day found us in Stanley, Idaho, sitting on the porch of a tiny rental cabin at sunset. The Salmon River, running mere feet from the porch, flashed under the low sun's rays, and beyond, the aptly named Sawtooth Mountains cut the sky with their sharp backbone.

We had trailed the Salmon down U.S. 93 for hours, stopping briefly to wander around the remains of Bayhorse, a lead- and silver-mining 1880s boom town slowly succumbing to the Idaho wilderness.

Stanley is like a frontier outpost with a bit of hippie flair. Many of the buildings lining the gravel-strewn streets of downtown are made of logs. But inside those wooden walls, you just might find gourmet fare and a good selection of Western craft brews.

Such was the case with the Redd, a tiny log structure painted brick red that seats about 35 inside and out. From the exterior, we didn't know what to expect, but once inside, Ric was soon feasting on crispy Idaho rainbow trout with cherry tomato, garlic and basil sauce, while I dug into the fennel and black pepper pork shoulder over garlic- and kale-flecked white beans. We washed it all down with selections from the River of No Return Brewing Co. and finished up with a plum crisp made with fruit from a nearby tree.


Day 6 broke wonderfully clear, and after sourdough pancakes, ham and eggs at the Stanley Baking Co. (where the syrup comes to the table in old Grolsch bottles), we were ready for the Sawtooth Lake Trail, another hike with postcard-quality vistas that stick with you long after the day is done.

The trail into the Sawtooth Wilderness first arrives at Alpine Lake, a smaller, deep-green version of the much larger, blue Sawtooth Lake at the trail's end. We again tackled an extra leg of the trail and hiked up to McGown Divide, crossing white rocky hillsides dotted with fire-red huckleberry bushes before reaching the top (about 9,000 feet) and a chance to see even more lakes glinting in the distance.

That evening, after a three-hour drive north along the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway, we settled in at McCall Brewing Co. in McCall, Idaho, on the shores of Payette Lake. Pints of their refreshing, crisp Kilowatt Kolsch were a good topper to the day.

Day 7 began at McCall's Foglifter Cafe, where the huevos rancheros come with either red salsa and red beans or green salsa and black beans. With bottomless mugs of rich black coffee, you can't go wrong with either one.

We continued our trek north through Hells Canyon, trailing the Snake River through the golden, parched hills and on into Oregon and the town of Joseph, at the base of the Wallowa Mountains - the last mountain range we would visit on this trip.

One look at the soaring Wallowas and the lake that serves as their reflecting pool, and we could see why the Nez Percé tribe under Chief Joseph and his father before him - also known as Joseph - called this their summer home.

The town of Joseph is a friendly little oasis that provided us with our final brewpub visit of the trip. At Mutiny Brewing, we sampled the lightly hoppy Pitcairn Pale while using ciabatta to sop up the wheat beer-infused broth in a bowl full of their garlic-beer clams.

By Day 8, after a long drive through the farmland of southeastern Washington, we were able to see downtown Spokane for a bit (at least what we could see through the smoke) before settling into our hotel at the airport for an early-morning flight home.

As we turned in the rental car, the trip counter told the tale: 1,524 miles; 36 hours behind the wheel. Add to that the 40 miles on the trail, and we had again covered a good-sized chunk of the West. Fortunately, there's a whole lot more out there to see.

Rob Byers is one of the editors of the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Rick Steelhammer: There are a number of words to read in this column http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150927/GZ01/150929571 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150927/GZ01/150929571 Sun, 27 Sep 2015 00:01:00 -0400 I used to think that Columbus took the rice cake for having the continent's blandest tourism slogan back in the days when it relied on "Surprise, it's Columbus" to lure visitors to the mall-lined shores of the Olentangy. In addition to being boring, the slogan did not guarantee that the "surprise" a visit to Ohio's capital city would produce would be a pleasant one.

But "Surprise, it's Columbus" is a shock-and-awe campaign compared with the tourism tagline making the rounds on social media late last week after it appeared on commuter trains in the Canadian city of Calgary. In an effort to lure visitors from the nearby provincial capital into the commuter town of Okotoks (population: 28,016), the smaller city's tourism board came up with this zinger: "There are a number of things to do in Okotoks."

That's it! There's not even an exclamation point.

It doesn't deserve one.

You'd think the town would at least mention one or two of the "things to do" options Okotoks offers. But after checking out the town's website (www.okotoks.ca/municipal-government/newsroom/news) and discovering its "Top 10 Things To Do in Okotoks" list, I think city officials may have made a wise decision.

The most highly recommended activity was to "enjoy the splendid Sheep River Valley" by exploring its "79 kilometers of picturesque pathway."

Other recommendations included checking out the town's "thriving culture scene," headlined by the town's theater troupe, the Dewdney Players, or taking in an Okotoks Dawgs baseball game.

"Check out the agri-tourism in our region," the list suggests. "There are wonderful locations around Okotoks such as the Millarville Farmers' Market."

But the list saved the best attraction for last. Coming in at No. 10 was a visit to the Big Rock, a huge erratic, or boulder, transported from its place of origin by glacial ice. The glacier carrying the Big Rock, or the Okotoks Erratic, as it is also known, melted into a puddle about 10,000 years ago, at a site a few miles outside what would become the Okotoks city limits, giving the town its most-photographed attraction.

According to an online listing of Alberta's historic sites, the Big Rock is the largest known rock in the Foothills Erratics Train, a narrow band of glacier-borne rocks stretching from Jasper National Park to northern Montana. Tourists may be agog to learn that the Big Rock "is a piece of the Gog Formation - layers of sediment deposited between 600 and 520 million years ago in a shallow sea long before the uplift of the Rocky Mountains."

There may not be a Hard Rock Cafe in Okotoks, but there is a Big Rock Inn, which as its name doesn't suggest, serves Chinese food.

While an article in the Calgary Herald poked fun at the ad campaign's tagline, generating a viral social media response, town officials were far from displeased, since it got thousands of people mentally connecting the words "Okotoks" and "tourism" for the first time.

"Had we had another tag line on there, we probably wouldn't have garnered this kind of interest," observed the city's economic development manager, Shane Olson.

"The ad slogan was poor," Mayor Bill Roberston commented in a tongue-in-cheek response to a follow-up story in the Herald. "It should have read, 'There are numerous GREAT things to do in Okotoks.'"

It takes Big Rocks to turn a lemon into lemonade in Okotoks.

Innerviews: Gallavanting Gulliver-ette still on the go at 72 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150920/GZ01/150929944 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150920/GZ01/150929944 Sun, 20 Sep 2015 19:51:42 -0400 Sandy Wells By Sandy Wells A man's home, they say, is his castle. This woman's home is her travel museum, a tribute to her insatiable wanderlust, a jaw-dropping, eye-dazzling conglomeration of artifacts and photos chronicling trips to 150 countries. Now she's busy with "victory laps," encore visits to the places she loves the most.

Masks, carvings, puppets, ceramics and other exotic souvenirs cover every wall, all nooks, every cranny, floors, beds and tabletops. The overflow spills into a "miscellaneous holding room."

Hundreds of Disney collectibles and stuffed animals of all description reflect her girlish, young-at-heart outlook on life.

And that pink flamingo bathroom? Well, she calls it "a house with a sense of humor."

A retired business teacher who never married (she can't stay put long enough for that), Donna Shaver yearned for far-off places even as a tyke. In 1969, she finally took her first trip to Europe. She hasn't stopped gallivanting since.

Travel tales spew from her like an erupting volcano. Escaping a charging elephant. The serenity of a Buddhist temple. The sad, robotic people of North Korea. Stories galore.

Her father urged her to write a book. No way, she said. "Too much information." And besides, at 72, she's still gathering material.

"I grew up on the West Side on Sixth Avenue. My father worked at DuPont. My mom stayed home with me until I went to school then became a cook at Tiskelwah and then a secretary and moved up to the central office.

"I got it in my head when I was a child that I wanted to go to Europe. People who lived on Sixth Avenue didn't go to Europe. My dad thought I would be a professional student because I loved school so much and was a good student. My mom thought I would be a good teacher, but I didn't like the other side of the desk. I wanted to be a student.

"I went on to college not knowing what I wanted to be. I started as an art major but didn't have enough talent. I took a business class and ended up as a business major. I graduated from Morris Harvey, then Marshall.

"I was good at math and accounting, so I got a job with the Department of Welfare as a statistician. After I'd worked about 10 months, a friend who was a teacher asked me to take a trip over the summer to Miami and a cruise to the Bahamas. About a month before we were to go, my supervisor canceled my vacation because he wanted me to do something. I wasn't going to put up with that. My mother was right all along. I should be a teacher.

"I worked another year and picked up courses at Morris Harvey. I quit the job after two years to do my student-teaching. I was also doing graduate work at Marshall. I did that for another year and a half and loved it. I mean, I liked school.

"My mother heard about this opening at South Charleston High in the middle of the year and wanted me to try for it. I went for the interview to please my mother. I didn't really want to work. I wanted to play some more and I had nine hours to go on my masters. I did all I could not to get the job. But he was desperate. He asked me to stay just through the year. I stayed 30 years. I ended up liking it.

"Some of the teachers thought I was a little nuts. Well, I am a little nuts. I was a business teacher, but I was an offbeat business teacher. I played the kazoo for kids on their birthdays. Students have told me they didn't know they could learn and laugh at the same time until they had me for a teacher. Part of my brain is very business-centered, but I have this expressive child-like side, and it comes out to this day.

"In the summer of '68, I finished my master's in Huntington and started my first full year of teaching. I thought, now I am going to Europe. A professor from WVU took a group every year. This time, he only had five signed up and didn't know if they would let him make the trip. But the travel agency let us go.

"We rode the trains instead of buses, six of us. We were in Europe for 10 weeks. I left the day after school was out in summer of '69 and got back day before school started. I was dazzled, thrilled.

We went to every country on the continent of Europe and rented a minivan and went all over Greece. I was hooked. It was my dream. I would teach and travel in the summer.

"The next summer I fell in love with Hawaii. The next three summers a teacher friend and I went back to Europe and did the Euro pass thing because I knew how to do it. In '73, I took my first trip to Asia on a National Education Association tour. I went wild over there, too. I love the different cultures, the people. I thought maybe I was an Asian in another life.

"I love the scenery, the architecture, the ruins, but most of all, I love the people and how religion plays a part in the culture. I love Buddhism. My father always said I should write a book, but it's too much information. But I have a title: "If I Weren't a Baptist, I'd Be a Buddhist." I'm fascinated with it -- the monks, the nuns and temples, the incense and the chanting.

"One time I was in Borneo in a Buddhist temple and here came a monk, and he had this incense he was swinging, and these candles were lit, and it was raining, and I thought, 'This is the most peaceful place I've ever been in my life.'

"I was in Burma in May. They have a very oppressive government, but it has lightened up in allowing people to visit, and I got another big dose of Buddhism.

"It's still 150 countries. Now I'm doing victory laps, going back to favorite places. I've been to Hong Kong seven times. I've been to North Korea. No victory lap to North Korea. I didn't mean to go there. On 9/11, I was leaving for a trip back to Nepal. I was going out the front door when the phone rang, and my cousin said, 'You aren't going anywhere today. Turn on your television.' I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

"For five days, the skies were closed, and the trip was not going to happen.

I wanted to do Bhutan during the festival. This couple from San Diego who plan these unusual trips, I told them I wanted to go to the festival in September. She put me down as interested in Bhutan next September. She said the trip across Nepal wasn't going to happen again. In a few months, they called and said they had a couple from Colorado who wanted to go to Bhutan but they also wanted to go to North Korea. She said she could put it together for the three of us. So I went.

"The North Korean people were robotic. They were so sad. They looked like they were starving. They wouldn't let us take any pictures. At one point, we were on a little bus going by a dried-up cornfield and right in the middle of the field was a soldier standing at attention with his gun beside a little hut. What was he guarding?

"People always ask about my favorite place. It's the last place I've been. I'm still so thrilled with Burma from May. Let me tell you the Burma story. In '95, I was in northwest Thailand on one of my wild, independent trips. I hired a guide to take me to see some hill tribes. He asked if I wanted to see the long-necked women. I said, 'Aren't they in Burma. We can't go to Burma.' He said, 'If you want to see them, we will go.'

"On the way, we met two elephants. We went through a dry creek bed and over this hill, and we were in a village of long-necked women in Burma. Then we went to the village of the big-eared women. After the fact, I thought, if we'd gotten caught, I would still be in a Burmese prison. So when I went back 20 years later, I went with a visa and stayed 18 days.

"Next, I'm going on a victory lap to South Africa. I've been on five safaris. I thought five safaris was enough. But I'm going again. You're in a vehicle and all these animals are free. It's the most wonderful feeling. I've had some close calls with animals in Africa. I was asleep in a tent camp in 2010. I and I felt a pressure from outside the tent. From the sounds, I knew it was a cape buffalo, one of the most dangerous animals in South Africa. I had a whistle. They said to blow the whistle if you felt you were in danger. I thought his horn would gore the tent and he'd be in the tent with me. I was reaching for the whistle and he moved on. I nearly passed out from relief.

"When I came out the next day, I saw the paw prints of a lion who had passed by that night. I've been in a vehicle with elephants trumpeting and their ears flapping, which means they are coming for you. One time we couldn't get the engine started, and here came the elephant. He barely got it started and it knocked us all to the floor.

"I've had lots of adventures. I am constantly amazed. When I come back to this house, it's like I'm in culture shock. I'm still living my dream, 46 years since I took that initial trip to Europe.

I inherited this house from my parents. I'm a shopper as you can see. It's a house with a sense of humor. What do you call it? Eclectic? I travel and I'm a kid at heart, so this is what you get.

"I'm also a Disney fanatic. I go to Disney World every year. I'm just a kid. I grew taller, but I never grew up. One day my cousin and I were at Cornucopia. She found a card that said, 'If you didn't know how old you were, how old would you be?' She said she would be 32. I said I would be 7. You have to get old chronologically, but you can still be a child.

"I never married. I met some very interesting men, especially in my travels. I had a couple of long-term relationships, but I think I have a commitment phobia. I would think, 'I've got this life I love. Do I want to trade it for what I don't know is going to happen?' The answer was always no. It was the right thing. I wouldn't trade what I've had for what I might have had."

Reach Sandy Wells at 304-342-5027 or sandyw@wvgazette.com.

WV Travel Team - The Ascent: Trekking the Himalayas http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150920/GZ05/150929960 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150920/GZ05/150929960 Sun, 20 Sep 2015 00:01:00 -0400 By Ariadne T. Moore WV Travel Team By By Ariadne T. Moore WV Travel Team "Well, doing an expedition to Everest is my dream," said Abhinav Verma when I ask him where he would go, anywhere, if he could choose.

It seems a fitting choice for Verma, who lives in Dharamshala, India, and owns a tour company there, MadTrek Adventures.

Each day, Verma wakes up in the beautiful Kangra Valley of the Dhauladhar range, which is the southern branch of the Himalayas, and leads expeditions in the region. Incidentally, he reminds me, it is also the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama: "We have customers from all across the world and the main reason for that is, luckily, I share the same hometown with His Holiness and an ample number of foreigners come here for his teachings and to get away and meditate in the scenic beauty of the Dhauladhar range. They love to do different adventures."

Verma and his colleague, Khailash Bhatia, opened MadTrek Adventures a year ago.

"Me and my friend, we were doing 9 to 5 IT jobs, and we were not happy doing it because it was very boring and we didn't want to sit in front of a computer for the whole day. Hiking and camping and doing other adventure sports was always our thing and we often did a lot of expeditions and summits at 6,000 meters [above sea level], so we decided 'let's just follow our passion.' We started an adventure club and since then there's been no looking back. Business is booming and we love doing what we're doing."

Often, Americans associate the Himalayan experience only with Everest, the formidable highest point above sea level on our planet (29,035 feet above sea level, to be precise).

After a deadly avalanche that claimed dozens of lives earlier this year, no one has attempted to reach the summit this season - until now. In the past week, a solo Japanese climber by the name of Nobukazu Kuriki was expected to launch his latest effort to scale the beast - by himself, without supplementary oxygen or several fingers that were lost in earlier attempts. Weather in the region has been poor, and communication even worse. At press time there was no confirmation that the journey - scheduled to begin on Wednesday - was in fact underway.

An Everest expedition is, as most of us know, a very costly (the permit alone is $25,000) and very dangerous (about 250 people have died attempting the ascent) pursuit. However, the Himalayan range stretches through vast regions and across five countries, and a trek experience can be customized to nearly any fitness level or financial circumstance. ("Even you," Verma assures me.)

As home to Everest, and seven of the other highest peaks in the world, Nepal is the country most identified with the Himalayan range. Since the first successful ascent of Everest over 60 years ago (by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing), thousands of attempts have been made and an estimated 4,000 individuals have made their way to the summit.

On one day alone in 1993, 40 individuals completed the ascent. This has caused many serious climbers to lament that Everest is "maxed out," and that often climbers with little to no skill are conducted in a tour-like fashion. Huge amounts of litter have also become a large complaint, as thousands of foreign climbers leave their gear and trash behind.

Bhutan is another option to Nepal, but a very high tourist tax may be out-of-range for budget conscious travelers. Bhutan's king has also banned mountaineering out of respect for deities said to live among the peaks. However, some high-altitude treks are still possible, including the famous Snowman Trek. Other Himalayan countries - Pakistan and Tibet - are largely inaccessible due to security risks in Pakistan and tight travel restrictions in China.

For many travelers wanting to experience the trip of a lifetime along the Himalayan range, India is the best value alternative, boasting not only the mountains in all of their glory, but also a rich and beautiful culture. And for most foreign travelers flying through Delhi, the Taj Mahal and Rajasthan are must-see destinations.

Verma notes that, unlike some tourist-overrun environs of Nepal's Kathmandu, in the wilderness surrounding Dharamshala, "We give an altogether different experience. Here, you can explore unexplored places, still hidden in the lap of the Himalayas."

He adds, "And we bet you'll love our food. We cook with natural herbs that grow in the mountains themselves."

Ultimately, that's really the Himalayan experience that adventurers want: intimate, something sacred. As the overcrowded face of Everest becomes less appealing, more and more Westerners are seeking out treks in secluded, less widely accessible regions. The market for the off-the-beaten path trek has not gone unnoticed, and even large international tour companies such Abercrombie & Kent offer luxury packages (starting at $8,000 per person, transatlantic airfare not included).

For all of human history, we have been mystified by mountains; echoed back in religion, in folklore and in poetry, they are the height of nature's grandeur, a call to man to attempt the seemingly impossible. The Himalayas are nothing less than the apex of nature at its most extreme; here, thick forests blanket deeply cut gorges through the snowy glacial peaks and high-altitude deserts blaze in rhododendrons. A vast array of people, cultures and communities call these mountains home, settled amidst ancient trade and pilgrimage routes. From the most sheer ascents to quietly measured treks through yak pastures, or prayer flag-strewn passes walked by snow leopards and red pandas, there is a place in the Himalayas that calls to each of us.

If you want to plan a trip to the Himalayas, work not only with a knowledgeable travel agent in here in the United States (air travel can be particularly complicated, and for India, visas are required), but also be certain to have a well-respected local guide for your trek. The major tour companies certainly offer these, but with your travel agent's assistance, locally-owned small businesses can be found that offer a unique and individual approach to guided mountaineering, often at a much more moderate price.

When he speaks about the future of MadTrek Adventures, Verma sees no limits to the possibilities of his niche business, which is part of what makes his guide service so appealing.

"We do have a lot of plans for the future. We are thinking of opening a base camp site which includes all of the adventure activities in one place - like rock climbing, Burma bridge. It will be at our very secluded and isolated place right in the Dhauladhar range, with dense forests - and we will focus on taking our customers to different peaks which are still untouched and rarely being climbed."

The best time to visit the Indian Himalayas is from March to June and September to November. Verma, however, tells me I can come anytime.

To speak with a travel agent about planning a Himalayan adventure, call National Travel at 304-357-0800. For more information about MadTrek Adventures, please visit its website at www.madtrek.com. You can learn more Abercrombie & Kent Himalayan packages on its website: www.abecrombiekent.com.

Safe travels,

Ariadne Moore

National Travel

Tourism launches Harpers Ferry ad http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150903/GZ01/150909811 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150903/GZ01/150909811 Thu, 3 Sep 2015 14:11:19 -0400 Staff reports By Staff reports The state Tourism department has released the fifth vignette in its "Real." campaign series, a video ad that encourages people to explore Harpers Ferry.

"We're excited to share the Real. Harpers Ferry vignette in time for the upcoming Labor Day weekend," Tourism Commissioner Amy Shuler Goodwin said. "The holiday weekend provides West Virginians and visitors a tremendous opportunity to explore both the Mountain State's culture, history and heritage and our world-class outdoor adventures.

"I encourage folks to take some time this weekend to discover something new about West Virginia and make new memories with family and friends," she said.

Four historic buildings in Harpers Ferry were destroyed by fire in late July. Those buildings housed several local businesses and dated back to the early 1800s.

"The continuing recovery efforts of several of the businesses and town has brought this historic community even closer," said Annette Gavin, chief executive officer of the Jefferson County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Harpers Ferry has faced wars, floods and fires but every time this town has come back stronger."

The Tourism department launched the Real. campaign in June. It's aimed at destinations and authentic experiences found in the Mountain State, according to the release.

Earlier videos featured Charleston and Huntington, Jefferson County, Braxton and Lewis counties, and Wheeling and the Ohio Valley.

See the video here.

WV Travel Team: Safari to the Setting Sun – Conservation Tourism in Africa http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150823/GZ05/150829942 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150823/GZ05/150829942 Sun, 23 Aug 2015 00:01:00 -0400 By Ariadne Moore WV Travel Team By By Ariadne Moore WV Travel Team The Big Five, Africa's most charismatic big game animals, began drawing Western trophy hunters in the colonial period of the last century.

Lions, the African Elephant, leopards, the White and Black Rhinoceros and the Cape Buffalo lured adventure-seekers as formidable and exotic opponents in the wildest of wilds. While trophy hunting has waned in popularity over the past century, it still accounts for over $200 million in tourism revenue on the continent annually and famously entered popular press in the past month with the Cecil the Lion debacle (in which an American game hunter allegedly killed the unofficial mascot of Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park).

For the majority of Westerners, the safari has conceptually changed from the pursuit of the Big Five and other large game to the ineffable experience of seeing some of the Earth's most majestic and rare creatures in their natural habitats, unfettered by zoo walls and enclosures. As many of Africa's most seductive species stand on the precipice of extinction, safaris have become a poignant journey to the edge of a setting sun.

The plight of the Northern White Rhino has captivated the world, as one male and three females stand as the last of their kind on the countdown to extinction. Sadly, the best that can be hoped for this species is the introduction of a new, crossbred species into the wild. The last three living wild Northern White Rhinos are found on a private sanctuary in Kenya, where they are kept under 24-hour armed guard.

This subspecies of rhinoceros will inevitably join those species from Africa to be driven to extinction by human influence from the 20th century to present: the Atlas Bear, the Aurochs, the Bluebuck, Cape lions, Cape servals, Cape warthogs, the Kenya oribi, the Large Sloth Lemur, the Quagga, the red gazelle and the West African Black Rhino. Many other species are presumed to be extinct.

The influx of Western money spent on the continent is critical not only to African infrastructure development as post-Colonial nations continue to mature and develop their economies, but to the very conservation of the species themselves. In fact, the history of the Big Five game hunting is a great paradox - largely impoverished populations saw the potential of an income source by maintaining and even encouraging the growth of dwindling species that were otherwise being systematically destroyed locally as pestilence populations. As an example, the legalization of white rhinoceros trophy hunting in South Africa caused private landowners to reintroduce the animals onto their lands, resulting in a population boom from less than 100 animals to over 11,000 - effectively saving the species from the brink of extinction. Now, most shots fired on safaris are from cameras, but the economic benefit is no less impactful to the conservation of the most critically threatened species of Africa.

From minute to massive, the endangered and threatened wildlife of Africa beckons to travelers worldwide to see them in their full glory for what might be the last generation. Here are some of the species that are most in peril in 2015 and where to see them:

With only an estimated 250 extant individuals, the Riverine Rabbit is Critically Endangered. The primary cause of its population decrease is habitat loss, and South Africa considers its decline as a benchmark of measuring overall ecosystem health. This endemic species may only be found along rivers in the Central and Small Karoo, South Africa.

The Ethiopian Wolf is one of the rarest canine species in the world, and is considered Critically Endangered. An estimated 500 remain in the wild, and can be found in the Ethiopian highlands, the Simien Mountains, the Arsi Mountains and the Bale Mountains. They are protected within Bale National Park, Ethiopia. Their population is threatened by habitat destruction due to agriculture, livestock diseases and human shootings to keep them off of private lands.

Famously threatened by poachers who trade in rhino horn, habitat loss and hunting have caused the Black Rhino population of Southern Africa to less than 5,000 individuals. This Endangered species may be seen in its natural habitats in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Malawi, Swaziland and Zamibia.

The Grevvy's Zebra is Endangered, with a total wild population of estimated 750 mature individuals. This population, however, is divided into small subpopulations of less than 200 individuals, with further threatens the species' chances of success. Population decimation is largely due to environmental pressures including limited access to water sources, habitat degradation and livestock disease. They may be seen in the wild in the Horn of Africa, notably Ethiopia and Northern Kenya. In Kenya, the Samburu Park and Laikipia Plateau and Tsavo East National Park reserves are home to populations of the subspecies.

Also known as the Painted Hunting Dog and the Cape Hunting Dog, this Endangered canine is estimated to have a wild population of 3,000 individuals. Like the Ethiopian Wolf, the African Wild Dog suffers from habitat and pack fragmentation, human conflict and livestock diseases. The largest populations may be found in Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zambia.

This soulful-eyed subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla is Critically Endangered and considered by many scientists to have no chance of survival success due to diminished genetic diversity. An estimated fewer than 800 of the apes exist worldwide, primarily having been the victims of hunting for bushmeat, human conflict and human diseases.

The best chances of seeing the Mountain Gorilla in the wild are in war-torn Rwanda, frequently volatile DR Congo or Uganda. Mountain Gorillas were the subject of Dian Fossey's controversial research and 1983 book, "Gorillas in the Mist."

Another Critically Endangered animal, the Rothschild's Giraffe is believed to have a total world population of fewer than 700 individuals. Of these, almost 60 percent make private game reserves their home. The best places to see them in the wild is Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya. Poaching and population separation have been the primary cause of the subspecies' population loss, and low genetic diversity within small herds further threatens the total extinction of the subspecies.

Our evolutionary cousin, the chimpanzee, shares 98 percent of our DNA and captures of the heart and imagination of humankind everywhere with its all-too-familiar behaviors, moods and gestures. Considered endangered, the chimpanzee is regionally extinct throughout most of its former African habitat, including Gambia, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo. The primary threat to the chimpanzee are hunting for bushmeat and traditional medicines, illegal pet trade and infectious human diseases. Most of the remaining wild population is in modern Gabon, DR Congo, Cameroon and Uganda. The Ugandan National Parks of Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth and Kibale are very popular with tourists hoping to find the species in its natural environment.

Africa is a vast continent of beauty, pain and contradiction. It contains multitudes, and we globally are drawn to there to bear witness to a uniquely African transcendental defiance to tragedy - human, economic and environmental.

Because of this vastness - a vast wild, a vast diversity of both animal life and human culture, a vast history and a vast future - a safari tour is as individual and boundless as the imagination. These tours can require complicated logistics, including internal air transportation, translators, political border crossings (and negotiations), uncommon vaccines and more. Not only should a safari be planned at least a year in advance to ensure that the most is made of one's time and money, it should be planned with a travel agent who is experienced specifically in arranging African tours.

Tour companies offering safaris range in experience from stays in super-luxe private villas to backpacking and tents, as do prices. If you are interested in planning a safari, talk to a travel agent about options to make this once-in-a-lifetime (possibly the last of all of our lifetimes) trip to see Africa's endangered species a reality.

For inspiration, Micato's website (www.Micato.com) highlights their dream-worthy luxury safaris (their pre-planned itinerary, or bespoke) and customer accounts of their life-changing experiences. Still luxurious and detail-oriented, Abercrombie & Kent (www.abercrombiekent.com) offers safaris beginning at approximately $5,000 per person (transatlantic airfare not included). With a current deal, Globus has a 10-day expedition on the Tanzanian Serengeti for less than $3,500 per person (air not inclusive, www.globusjourneys.com).

Happy travels,


Charleston-based National Travel has several agents who are Certified Destination Specialists for Africa. These include Ted Lawson (President), Ann Hoskins (Vice President), Sharon Silva (Director of Group and Specialty Travel) and Beverly Jones (VIP Service Expert). For more information or to speak with a certified specialist, call 304-357-0801 or email vacationplanner@nationaltravel.com.

Ariadne Moore is the Director of Quality Assurance at National Travel, a frequent contributor to the Life and Style section, published fiction and poetry author, and world traveler. She may be reached with questions regarding this article at ariadnem@nationaltravel.com.

Visit to Cooperstown is a guaranteed home run http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150816/GZ05/150819644 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150816/GZ05/150819644 Sun, 16 Aug 2015 00:01:00 -0400 By Terry Robe For the Sunday Gazette-Mail By By Terry Robe For the Sunday Gazette-Mail COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - Of the 310 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame - including the Class of 2015, Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz - three are West Virginians by birth.

Can you name them?

On July 26, 45,000 fans gathered in a certain picturesque village in upstate New York to watch this year's induction ceremony. More than 50 Hall of Famers were in town for the festivities.

When you say "Cooperstown," everybody knows you're talking about the Hall of Fame. And everybody knows why the Hall is here: Because Cooperstown is where, in 1839, Abner Doubleday scratched out a diamond-shaped diagram, inventing America's Pastime.

The week after Induction Weekend, Main Street - where the Hall is shoulder-to-shoulder with memorabilia stores, bat customizers and the Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum - was still bustling with colorfully capped and uniformed Little Leaguers, their coaches, their parents and their siblings, mostly younger, some in diapers.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum combines three floors of artifact-stuffed cases, interactive kiosks and video monitors (you can watch performances of "Who's On First?" and "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio") with the Hall of Fame itself, a modernist basilica with plaque-lined walls and boxy columns of green-black marble.

In the skylit apse are the bronze plaques for The First Class, inducted in 1936: Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner.

Yes, it's mostly the dads and the sons who are starry-eyed, but not only. A section of the museum is aimed at the moms, the sisters and the growing number of girl Little Leaguers in the Mo'ne Davis era. "Diamond Dreams: Women in Baseball" displays items connected with female players and an interview with Jean Cione, who pitched for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League - on which the movie "A League of Their Own" was based - from 1945 to 1954.

To hold the interest of women less than entranced by the game, no matter which gender is playing, the Chamber of Commerce has produced a Ladies Guide to Cooperstown, a directory of shops that sell insignia-free fashion and accessories. It also lists the town's arts venues, two of which are home runs.

The Glimmerglass Festival presents opera in the Alice Busch Opera Theater, about eight miles from the village on the east side of Otsego Lake. There's a 40th anniversary concert today, and the last weekend of performances is Aug. 20-23. "Glimmerglass" was what novelist James Fenimore Cooper ("The Last of the Mohicans"), the son of founder William Cooper, called the mirrorlike lake, framed by foothills.

Walking distance from the village on the west shore, across from the Farmers' Museum, a living history museum with farm animals, is the Fenimore Art Museum. An exhibition of Maxfield Parrish's work, on view through Sept. 7, is a treat for admirers of this early-20th-century painter of fantasy landscapes. The museum's holdings of 19th-century American art, folk art and American Indian art are all exceptional.

A new wing built to house the Thaw Collection of American Indian Art opened in 1995. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, an exhibition of 50 masterpieces - as spectacular a grouping as any you will see anywhere - is on view through Dec. 31.

The Cooperstown area was a major hop-growing region prior to Prohibition, so it is fitting that it is now home to breweries. Bars and restaurants in the village carry craft beers from the Cooperstown Brewing Co., in Milford, and Belgian-style ales from Brewery Ommegang, in Cooperstown, which opened in 1997 on a former hop farm. Both offer tours and tastings.

There are several budget hotels near Cooperstown Dreams Park in the nearby town of Hartwick Seminary, which hosts a huge summer-long youth baseball tournament. From a more leisurely time, in the village itself, is the Otesaga Resort, the beautifully maintained lady of the lake, which opened in 1909. Three much smaller but elegant places to stay are the Cooper Inn (affiliated with the Otesaga), the Inn at Cooperstown and the Overlook Bed and Breakfast. Other B&Bs are on Route 28 (Chestnut Street) just south of Main Street. A good family choice in town is the Lake Front Hotel, from which boat tours on the Glimmerglass Queen depart.

Terry Robe is a free-lance writer on travel and the arts. Email Robe at terryrobe1@gmail.com.

WV Travel Team: New England is about to put on a show http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150809/GZ05/150809646 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150809/GZ05/150809646 Sun, 9 Aug 2015 00:01:00 -0400 By Mitzi Harrison WV Travel Team By By Mitzi Harrison WV Travel Team CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Autumn days are warm in New England, but the nights are chilly. The cold temperatures cause chlorophyll production in trees to stop, allowing carotenoids and anthocyanins to take over their leaves.

Then it happens.

The leaves erupt in spasms of outrageous color. The green hillsides turn crimson, gold, purple and orange. The magnificent spectacle causes swarms of leaf peepers to gather.

What is a leaf peeper? You are, if you're planning to enjoy the fall foliage season in New England. That's what the locals call the tourists: leaf peepers.

New England is a large region, consisting of the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The distance from Charleston to Portland, Maine, is 850 miles, a drive of about 13 hours starting on Interstate 79.

But you needn't go that far. You can be in Hartford, Connecticut - a drive of 650 miles - in a bit under 10 hours.

It all depends on what you want to see and when you want to see it.

Many leaf peepers, especially the more experienced, obsess over the "peak foliage," the time when the trees are showing their most magnificent colors. In general, the farther north you go, the earlier the peak foliage. The state of Connecticut defines the season this way: "Foliage season begins in mid-to-late September and extends through mid-to-late October. Peak color is estimated to be between Oct. 5 and Nov. 13."

That's a pretty broad range, but weather is notoriously unpredictable, and weather is key to the changing of the colors. So seriously do the six New England states take foliage season - and the tourist dollars it generates - that each one has a website offering a daily update on the state of the colors of the leaves:

n In Connecticut, see ctvisit.com.

n In Maine, see mainefoliage.com.

n In Massachusetts, see massvacation.com/fall.

n In New Hampshire, see visitnh.gov.

n In Rhode Island, see visitrhodeisland.com.

n In Vermont, see vermontvacation.com/fall.

The most popular time to see New England's annual color show is Columbus Day weekend, which this year runs from Friday Oct. 9 through Monday Oct. 12. The problem with going at the most popular time, however, is you'll find larger crowds and more traffic on the roads. Consider a visit midweek and you'll have a more relaxed experience.

Veteran leaf peepers have some tips for people who want to make the most of a trip to see New England's foliage:

n Make hotel reservations in advance.

n Get lost! Carry a good map and explore back roads. You'll find areas of beauty that more hurried visitors won't. Vermont alone has more than 7,000 miles of unpaved roads.

AAA Tip: Many remote parts of New England lack cellphone reception - all the more reason to stop by your local AAA office for a detailed map of the region you plan to visit.

n Forget about "peak color" altogether. You'll still see stunning vistas of fiery color, even if some claim a few days earlier or a few days later were even better.

n Get out of your car. Hike. Have a picnic. You'll enjoy your visit much more by experiencing your surroundings.

n In northern New England, take "Moose Crossing" signs seriously. A half-ton moose will leave quite a dent in your car - or worse.

n Get up early. The morning dew and morning light will reveal the most vibrant colors.

n Ask the locals for suggested spots. Forest rangers are especially knowledgeable, as many make daily updates of foliage conditions.

n Mind your manners. There are many state and national parks - 75 state parks in New Hampshire alone - where you can stop and enjoy the scenery. Ask permission before entering private property.

n Temperatures are far cooler at night, so pack sweaters and a waterproof jacket. Remember sensible shoes so you can enjoy forest trails and mountain paths.

n It's not just the leaves that make the region so appealing. Save memory card space for the red barns, village greens, mountains, white farmhouses and church steeples that are ubiquitous in this part of America.

The tourism site Discover New England has a self-guided one-week fall foliage tour, which ensures that you will see the best of New England in the fall foliage time frame. The tour starts and ends in Boston and covers 700 miles from start to finish. The itinerary includes valleys, mountains, tramways, ferries and even the grape harvest.

Day 1: The first leg of the trip is from Boston to Rhode Island, a distance of 50 to 120 miles. Drive to Providence, Rhode Island. Fall means grape-picking time in southern New England. An hour south of Boston is the Coastal Wine Trail, featuring tastings at local vineyards such as Travessia, Running Brook, Westport Rivers, Newport Vineyards and Sakonnet Vineyards. In Providence, you'll find museums and fine dining.

Day 2: Drive to Deerfield, Massachusetts, 115 miles. Stop at Old Sturbridge Village, the largest outdoor history museum in the Northeast. History interpreters in authentic costumes re-create the 1830s. The extensive grounds are thick with mature trees, decked in fall finery. Seasonal events include Apple Days and Harvest Days. Visit 300-year-old Deerfield, Massachusetts, home to the Flynt Center of Early New England Life. Flaming maples shade the historic houses, some of which are open to the public.

Day 3: Next head to St. Johnsbury, Vermont, a 150-mile drive along the Connecticut River. Both sides of the river burst with color. Along the border between Vermont and New Hampshire are classic New England towns. Visit author Rudyard Kipling's home, Naulakha, in Brattleboro. The Vermont Country Store in Rockingham is full of old-time necessities. In Cornish is the home where Augustus Saint-Gaudens created his famous statues of Abraham Lincoln. Take Interstate 91 north into Vermont's "Northeast Kingdom." Even at the height of foliage season, this area is uncrowded. Visit the Northeast Kingdom Artisans Guild and the Fairbanks Museum.

Day 4: Into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Take U.S. Route 3 to Franconia Notch State Park. The Cannon Aerial Tramway provides an amazing panorama of the foliage as it glides up to the 4,200-foot summit of Cannon Mountain.

Day 5: Take the famous Kancamagus Highway (State Route 112 East to Conway) for an easy drive and splendid views. If you're feeling adventurous, stop at Loon Mountain and ride a zip line 700 feet across the Pemigewasset River. Children will enjoy the climbing wall and bungee trampoline, and the whole family can go mountain biking. At the end of the Kancamagus/Route 112, turn left and follow State Route 16 North to North Conway for shopping. You can board the Conway Scenic Railroad for sightseeing or ride the dinner train. The Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center is an interactive museum that will fascinate all ages.

Day 6: Onto coastal Maine. From Conway, head into Maine. The hills along this route are heavily wooded and ablaze with color in the fall. Take U.S. Route 302 East to Fryeburg and Bridgton, then to Naples along Long Lake. You can board the Songo River Queen II, a replica of a Mississippi River sternwheeler; rent a kayak; or take a seaplane ride. The center of town has great places for "lobster in the rough."

From Naples, stay on U.S. 302 through Raymond and Windham to the working seaport of Portland. From Portland's Old Port, the historic waterfront district, take a trolley ride for an excellent overview of the city, or the 11 a.m. Diamond Pass Run, a scenic cruise of the Inner Bay, passing Little and Great Diamond Island and also Peaks Island. Spend an afternoon in the galleries of the Portland Museum of Art. As for restaurants, The New York Times called Portland a "down East banquet."

Day 7: To Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and back. As you leave Portland, don't miss the Portland Road Lighthouse. Travel the coastline or take Old Route 1. Stop at Cape Porpoise for lunch at the Cape Pier Chowder House. Look for fall festivals in Ogunquit, Kennebunkport and Wells. As you cross the river back into New Hampshire, enjoy the historic seaport city of Portsmouth. The Strawbery Banke Museum is a living-history museum of 42 restored properties representing 400 years of life in Portsmouth. Take Interstate 95 south to return to Boston.

Motels are abundant in the region. But perhaps you'd like to try something different. Charming inns and bed and breakfasts throughout New England will make your visit more intimate, more local, closer to the experience of peeping the leaves. Here is a small sampling of local New England B&Bs:

n Squam Lake Inn, in Holderness, New Hampshire, is close to the Lake and White Mountains regions of New Hampshire. Located near Meredith and Lake Winnipesaukee, this bed and breakfast is a short walk or drive from the shores of Squam Lake.

n In Sugarbush, Vermont, is West Hill House B&B Minutes, a historic 1850s home on a country road in the hillside forest, surrounded by perennial gardens and close to skiing, golf, hiking and other activities. Nearby are the shops, artisans and restaurants of Warren and Waitsfield.

n Hotel critic Dale Northrup is also an innkeeper, operating Percy Inn, an 1830 Federal-style brick rowhouse at Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine. The inn is just steps from historic buildings, coffeehouses, restaurants, museums and performance venues. The Old Port and waterfront are nearby.

n Lambert's Cove Inn, in West Tisbury, Massachusetts, dates back to 1790 and was originally a farmhouse. The English country décor is accented by warm colors and elegant but comfortable furnishings. Several cozy sitting areas are available for reading, listening to music or just relaxing in front of the fireplace.

n Steamboat Inn offers idyllic waterfront views in the heart of historic downtown Mystic, Connecticut. Its 11 rooms are decorated with themes of the area's nautical heritage. Full breakfast is served every morning. Step out the door to enjoy restaurants, shops, galleries and the Mystic Seaport.

What about a farm stay? Popular in Europe and Australia, farm stays are relatively new in the United States. Some working farms open their doors to travelers.

Each farm offers a unique visit. Some have campsites, some place guests in the farmhouse, some have converted chicken houses or silos into innovative lodgings. Some invite guests' help with farm chores, some have demonstrations of gardening, animal care, cooking and other skills. The options run the gamut from rustic to hotel-quality. Most serve breakfast.

Farm stay options include:

n Liberty Hill Farm in Rochester, Vermont, has 270 Robeth Holstein cows and many friendly farm animals. Liberty Hill Farm has been awarded Yankee Magazine's "Best of New England" award.

n The Inn at East Hill Farm, at the base of Mount Monadnock in Troy, New Hampshire, has swimming indoors and outdoors, boating, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, water skiing, hayrides and programs for children.

n Pagett Farm is a 63-acre organic farm and nature sanctuary in scenic Palermo, Maine. Experience life on a working farm, home to chickens, geese, turkeys, ducks, pigs and goats, as well as abundant wildlife.

n Butternut Farm, in Glastonbury, Connecticut, was built by Jonathan Hale, beginning in 1720. Innkeeper Don Reid acquired the house in 1959. Visitors go there just to see the collection of 18th-century antiques, including cherry six-board chests, candle stands, ball-foot "hired-man" beds, pencil-post cherry beds and gate-leg tables.

n Grace Note Farm, the Benjamin Smith homestead from 1730, is in Pascoag, Rhode Island. The farm has a riding ring. Kids can find fresh eggs from the flock of chickens, pick fresh vegetables from the garden, learn to cook colonial American style, hang out with Peanut the pony and Eyeore the donkey.

Mitzi Harrison manages AAA Travel for the Charleston area and divides her time between Cincinnati and West Virginia.

For more information on Chicago and other destinations, stop by the AAA Charleston office or call one of the AAA travel professionals - Janice Adkins, Lia Ireland, Amy Sisson, Becky Wallace and Barbara Wing - at 304-925-1136.

Castaway Caboose: Unhook, unplug and camp in a railroad car http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150809/GZ05/150809676 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150809/GZ05/150809676 Sun, 9 Aug 2015 00:01:00 -0400 Marta Tankersley Hays By Marta Tankersley Hays DURBIN - Sometimes it's not so much about where you're going. It's about how you get there.

A trip, complete with overnight stay, aboard the Castaway Caboose is one of those times.

After all, there aren't that many opportunities these days to board a coal-powered 1910 steam engine, chug five miles along a scenic track, and be left alone at the end of the line for a night or two in a caboose that was originally used as housing for railroad workers.

But ever since 2007, visitors have been coming to this tiny speck of a town situated in the northern part of Pocahontas County to do just that.

That's when Mountain Rail Adventures, a division of the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad, teamed up with railroad enthusiasts Jay and Kathy East. The couple had rescued not one but two cabooses - a 1952 Wabash Railroad caboose they bought in 2004 from a junkyard, where it had been for 18 years, and a 1947 model they bought in 2007.

The historical integrity of the cabooses was maintained during the restoration and conversion process, East said. He pointed out the wood plank-paneled walls and ceilings, overhead handrails, original water storage tank, bunks and engineer's desk - complete with shelving originally used to store and organize weigh bills for the railroad cars.

Boasting about 252 square feet of living space, the self-contained cabooses - equipped with a kitchen, onboard bathroom and shower facilities, and a propane grill - sleep up to six.

"It's set up like an RV," East said. "An RV on tracks is all it really is."

What he calls a simple RV on tracks is enjoyed by hundreds of vacationers every season who want to experience the historic accommodations, train ride and step back in time to a place where cellphones are silent and the soothing sounds of the Greenbrier River's rippling waters lull you to sleep.

The Castaway Caboose is a much-coveted, sellout vacation destination. "It's been a year and a half since we began trying to get in here," said Jack Harder, of Bel Air, Maryland. Jack and his wife, Elaine, finally managed to get a reservation by calling in early January.

Well worth the wait, the Harders said, adding that they hope to take advantage of this and other Mountain Rail Adventures offerings next summer.

"It was a great experience filled with good family time - sitting around the campfire, talking with each other, listening to the river," Jack Harder said. "It was really soothing."

They were treated with sightings of local wildlife, too.

"We saw a bear on the way out, and there were some deer in the river right where we were," he said.

"We were able to experience life firsthand," said Elaine Harder, who, along with her husband, daughter and future son-in-law, had just stepped off the train and back into the 21st century.

"We spent some time playing cards, with actual cards," she said. "It was a little throwback, which was very nice. I think being unplugged was the best thing about the experience."

While the cabooses have a solar panel and marine generator to provide limited access to electricity, they don't have air conditioning. The only truly modern form of entertainment provided is a DVD player and a box full of movies.

"There was a radio, but there was nothing - nothing - to hear," Elaine Harder said. "It was a step back in time."

That's because the railroad is located close to the Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory, designated a National Radio Quiet Zone by the U.S. government, meaning only very low signal strength is allowed for broadcasters, and there is no cellphone service.

Mountain Rail Adventures has an average of 90,000 riders a year among its three depot locations in Cass, Durbin and Elkins, spokesman Chase Gunnoe said. The trains include the New Tygart Flyer, a vintage diesel-powered passenger train boasting a restored 1929 Pullman Car; the Mountain Explorer Dinner Train; the Cheat Mountain Salamander; the Cass Scenic Railroad's collection of six Shay locomotives, one Heisler and one Climax, engineered to pull heavy loads of lumber; and the Durbin Rocket, the vintage steam locomotive that pulls the Castaway Caboose.

The Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad plays a vital role in promoting and preserving railroad history and allows passengers to experience bygone eras in many different venues including Mystery Murder Dinners and a Wild West Weekend where the train is ambushed and robbed by a band of horse-riding outlaws.

The Durbin Rocket, a Climax steam engine built in Pennsylvania more than 100 years ago, is only one of three still in existence. It has a top speed of about 15 miles per hour, said engineer and mechanic Jim Bennett. A team of men is needed to keep it up and running, lubricating the moving parts, siphoning water from the creek along the way, and shoveling coal into the furnace.

The chug-chug-chug of the pistons is deceptive at first, because the ride is fairly smooth once all the slack is taken up between the cars at the onset of motion.

Departing the station for their own Castaway Caboose adventure, Cindy Smith, her husband, Paul, and his brother Bruce, said that coming from a family of railroaders, they "just had to do" this.

They learned of the Castaway Caboose last year when they brought their RV down from northwestern Pennsylvania - "40 miles from where the Durbin Rocket was manufactured" - to visit the Cass Scenic Railroad, Cindy Smith said.

Paul and Bruce Smith find the historical family connection to the locomotive extremely interesting.

"Our great-grandfather was involved with geared steam engines," Paul said. "In a very similar setting, our great-grandfather - in the early 1900s - operated Heislers and Shays."

He said he is interested in "steam locomotives in general and this one in particular because it is a geared locomotive and one of the few left on the face of the earth still operating."

The Smiths plan to use their two-night stay on the Castaway Caboose as a time to "hide for a few days next to the river," Bruce Smith said.

"And watch the train come down the tracks with passengers tomorrow," Paul Smith added.

The trio are accustomed to outdoor activities and plan to backpack the seven miles from their camp at the end of the line over dilapidated tracks to Cass.

"Seven miles one way makes for a pretty long day," Paul Smith said, laughing. "So we may just sit and read."

For more information on Mountain Rail Adventures and special events for the remainder of the season, visit www.mountainrailwv.com/ or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MountainRail.

Reach Marta Tankersley Hays at marta.hays@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1249 or follow @MartaRee on Twitter.

Hashers mix running, drinking http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150802/ARTICLE/150809956 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150802/ARTICLE/150809956 Sun, 2 Aug 2015 23:28:00 -0400 Marcus Constantino By Marcus Constantino Think of them as "drinkers with a running problem."

That's how Chris Alford describes the Hash House Harriers of Charleston - a running group whose members love drinking just as much as they do running.

Alford, 35, of Charleston, South Carolina, was one of about 30 runners who came out for the group's superhero-themed run on July 28. Runners gathered at Tony the Tailor for the first drinks, donning costumes that included the Joker, Superman and even the likeness of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

Courtney Crabtree, 38, impersonated Blankenship with a white, button-up shirt, the words "MSHA did it" emblazoned on the back. She said Charleston's Hash House Harriers group, or "kennel," has various themed runs throughout the year, including runs where participants wear Christmas attire or red dresses.

"It's a way to have fun and exercise," Crabtree said. "It's basically social running - social being more key than running."

The Charleston-area "kennel" of the Hash House Harriers runs about once every two weeks in Charleston, Huntington or anywhere in-between. Alford said the running groups have been as small as seven people, and as large as 125 in Huntington, when Marshall University students are on campus.

Runners are given "Hashing names" once they've been in the group for a while, although many of them aren't fit for print.

"Usually, you get named after five or six runs, but if you do something exceptionally stupid or silly or memorable, you'll get named quickly," Crabtree said.

There are thousands more of these quirky running groups across the world. It was all started by ex-pat British workers in Malaysia in 1938, according to a hashing website, as a club based on the old English game of hounds and hares. The "hares" leave a trail along their tracks as they run ahead of the "hounds," then end the trail for a bit, leaving the "hounds" sniffing and searching for the trail.

Today, "hares" mark the path with sidewalk chalk, and the "hounds," who follow a few minutes behind, must find their way to the next bar or restaurant the hares have gone to.

The game involves lots of shouting and running around as "hounds" try to find and follow the path. Alford said it's set up so that slower runners, or even walkers, don't have to rush if they don't want to.

"It's structured as a game," Alford said. "You can have really fast runners, you can have slow walkers and joggers, and there's no pressure to run really fast or keep up. You just have a good time."

Participants in the July 28 run went to Sam's Uptown Café, Recovery Sports Grill and the Copper Pint, having drinks all along the way. Alford said the Charleston group usually doesn't get too heavy on the drinks, though - he described it more as social running and drinking.

"It's moderation, right?" Alford said. "There's water. There's some beer. It's good exercise. Most of us that are runners - runners that are training for events like the Marshall Marathon or the Charleston Distance Run, we wouldn't consider this actual exercise and training. It's just having fun with your social group."

Crabtree said each kennel has its own quirks - some drink more and run less, while some may run as many as nine miles. She said the Charleston group usually runs around two or three miles, with a few stops along the way.

It's also open to nondrinkers, Crabtree said - several members push their children in strollers during the group outings, and there is water and Gatorade available at each stop, as well.

"If you can run a 5k, you can join our group, and if you can walk a 5k, you can join our group," Crabtree said. "We have a lot of people that are walkers, so we want to make it inclusive for everybody."

Tracy Belcher, 28, of South Charleston, learned about the group after participating in a Tough Mudder run several years ago. She said it has helped her train for a marathon and has helped her make new friends she never would have met before.

"It's a misfit of people that are just really fun to hang out with," Belcher said. "I got my husband to do it and my best guy friend is in the group. It's kind of a family. Crazy enough, if you ask any of these people for help, they'll show up. It's a family of random people that would never really get put together, but you have the common thing of running and drinking."

Runners said their outings often draw lots of attention from those who are unfamiliar with the group's shouting and chalk-drawing. Alford said people sometimes call the police on them - it happened at a recent Huntington run, he said - but police often know what's going on based on the reports they receive.

"An officer texted them and they cleared it up," Alford said, laughing.

The international club also gives participants the opportunity to "travel-hash," or run with other Hashers in other cities. Crabtree said a man from New England joined the Charleston group for a run recently, and that researching other groups is often one of the first things fellow Hashers do when they travel.

"You can go anywhere and find people to do this, and it's all the same idea," Crabtree said. "Maybe different symbols will be used in different places, and some are more running focused than drinking focused and some are more drinking focused than running focused."

The group's next run is slated for Wednesday, beginning at 6 p.m. at FireSide Grille, in Teays Valley. Anyone is welcome to join.

Reach Marcus Constantino at marcus.c@dailymailwv.com, 304-348-1796 or follow @amtino on Twitter.

Blackberry Farm offers space for parties, retreats http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150802/ARTICLE/150809970 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150802/ARTICLE/150809970 Sun, 2 Aug 2015 00:01:00 -0400 Charlotte Ferrell Smith By Charlotte Ferrell Smith Whether craving a quiet getaway or seeking a spot for a large gathering, Blackberry Farm of West Virginia would be the perfect pick.

Located just 10 minutes from downtown Charleston, at 22 Blackberry Lane, the new business is ready to take reservations for reunions, parties, family retreats and corporate events.

After raising five children, Dawn Atkinson decided to go into business, and this one seemed like a good fit.

"I've always liked to entertain and have people around," she said. "I wanted something like this, to be available for people to gather."

While dropping off brochures to area businesses, she was told that people had been asking about available facilities for rent in the area.

"Especially at flower shops, brides have been asking if they know of anyplace like this," she said.

While traveling with her own family or attending the weddings of her children, she often wished there could be a nice spacious house for rent.

She and her husband, attorney Mark Atkinson, bought a house six years ago on land off the Mink Shoals exit of Interstate 79. More than a year ago, adjoining property was available for sale that included land, as well as a house, a child's tree house and a large red barn.

They now own about 52 acres that are rich with picturesque landscapes, wildlife and serenity.

Dawn decided to call the rental property Blackberry Farm of West Virginia because of the blackberry bushes along the road, as well as childhood memories of picking berries with her grandmother.

On a recent day, she baked fresh bread made with wild blackberries picked off the land.

While she refers to the rental house as a cottage, it is spacious with four bedrooms that can sleep 12, plus a baby cradle and full-size crib. The more than 2,000-square-foot house has three baths, a fully-equipped kitchen, living room and family room. Upstairs bedrooms have interesting shapes, with beds built into alcoves in one area.

The inside is cozy and carefully decorated with pieces selected from antique shops and thrift stores, as well as pieces built by Dawn's grandfather.

Her friends, Diane Pennington and Vicki Casto, have helped with creative ideas and decorative touches.

A long, inviting kitchen table is surrounded by a variety of chairs, while small tables are placed in the living room and family room with stacks of games nearby. The facility has Internet but no cable. However, that might be part of the charm as an inviting gathering spot away from hustle and noise.

Aside from the comfortable interior, sitting areas abound outdoors, with a screened porch, covered porch, large deck and courtyard. Plans are in the works for an outdoor fire pit.

The tree house is nearby, where the kids may play. A big red building that looks like a barn is spacious inside, with an impressive loft built in the span of four hours by the Amish. She said the 55-by-30 industrial building could accommodate parties, receptions, art exhibits, artisan workshops, concerts, plays, dances and any number of gatherings.

And there is plenty of space for those who like hiking and enjoying the outdoors. Rewards include breathtaking views and glimpses of wildlife, such as deer.

Aside from renting to the public, the house will come in handy when the Atkinson family can all be together. They have five grown children and seven grandchildren.

Daughter Alexandra Losser, of Washington, D.C., recently married, and a reception was held at Blackberry Farm. Another daughter, Micah Atkinson, is serving as a Mormon missionary in Australia. Brittany Leavitt lives in D.C. with her husband and their four children. Ashley Swenson lives in Sacramento, California, with her husband and their three children. John-Mark works as an attorney in Charleston with his father.

Rates vary according to what is needed. For example, the red building is $100 an hour on a weekend or $75 on a weekday. The cottage is $225 a night for two adults and two children under 17, with each additional child at $10 a night. Weekly and monthly rates are available, as well as corporate rates. Smoking is not permitted and pets are not allowed.

Go to blackberryfarmofwv.com or email blackberryfarmofwv@gmail.com for more information.

Reach Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1246.

WV Travel Team: Buckhannon - a shining image of small-town America http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150802/GZ05/150809999 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150802/GZ05/150809999 Sun, 2 Aug 2015 00:01:00 -0400 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team By By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team BUCKHANNON, W.Va. - Whether you are a recently departing high school junior from the West Virginia Governor's School for the Arts or a Canadian traveler driving south on Interstate 79, Buckhannon is a picture-perfect town in a natural bowl ringed by wooded mountains and outdoor adventure.

On our visit, we started with the outdoors and Audra State Park, situated along the boulder-strewn Middle Fork River. Middle Fork is part of the complicated Monongahela River family that includes the Tygart, Buckhannon and Right Fork of the Middle Fork rivers all in the Upshur County neighborhood. The water eventually ends up in the Ohio. Most of the area's river miles boast modest whitewater rapids. Kayaks and canoes can be rented for folks who don't bring their own.

Audra is what can be labeled a "rustic" park, less manicured and overseen than most. The campground has nearly 70 sites mere inches from the wooded riverbank. The bathing beach is unsupervised. The bonus feature that earned Audra state park status is Alum Cave, a long overhang of chiseled rock with a boardwalk.

Next we headed for the West Virginia State Wildlife Center. Arriving in midafternoon, we could barely distinguish sleeping mountain lions, floating otters, curled-up bears and bison from their perches, pools or fields. Our hot tip: Go early in the morning while the animals are fresh and alert. Kids will love the more than two dozen species of native critters, birds and snakes. (Someday I'll discover why anyone would think a groundhog is worth watching - let alone name it French Creek Freddie.) Walking paths at the center are well maintained.

Eating is always at the top of our list. I had yearnings for the famous ground-meat pepperoni rolls of The Donut Shop. Their drive-through had an impressive line midafternoon when we stopped soon after arriving in town. I also sampled the doughnuts they claim are the best in the state. Not to start an intercity war, but I am skeptical, especially after my recent discovery of JR's Donut Castle in Parkersburg.

The hot-spot restaurant and center of the downtown entrepreneurial arts empire is C.J. Maggie's, open daily on Main Street and specializing in American comfort food ranging from hand-cut steaks and barbecue to salads and pizza. Another favorite dining and nightspot is 88 Restaurant and Lounge, where dinner is served daily and sandwiches all day long. The Market Bistro uses locally grown ingredients and unique combinations prepared fresh; it's open every day but Sunday.

One of the notable pilgrimage points of the farm-to-table movement in West Virginia is chef Dale Hawkins' Fish Hawk Acres, a family of farms where many regional chefs come to kibitz and buy supplies. Monthly Hawkins farm dinners include a tour of the property. Floral Acres is the largest pick-your-own blueberry operation in West Virginia, with 3,200 bushes. Fans mark the opening date with a red circle since the blueberries generally sell out the first day.

Art is becoming a force for energizing life in Buckhannon, particularly downtown, where several blocks are being developed by art entrepreneurs into performance, studio and retail spaces.

Festival Fridays take place downtown in Jawbone Park from the end of May through early September, highlighting local art and music in an epic weekly art party. A volunteer-developed venture, Jawbone is home to the Upshur Farmers Market and special events. It is also site of the county's first public art. Local sculptor Ross Straight enlisted the help of other sculptors and a foundry to complete a 650-pound bronze of noted Delaware Chief Buckongahelas. Legend holds the town was named for him. The poignant work shows a grief-stricken Buckongahelas cradling his murdered son Mahonegon in his arms.

Extending from Jawbone two blocks to Main Street is one of the newest arts clusters, branded Traders Alley and evolving into designation as an arts district. Architect Bryson Van Nostrand's labor of art love, the area is already home to Van Nostrand's Lascaux Micro-Theater, a movie parlor with a weekend bill of foreign, art and documentary movies.

Recently opened in the next-door basement of a more than century-old building is 3/4 Café with an artisan menu of food and drinks and the Deliciux Candy Machine, a vending machine specifically refurbished for the café and filled with exotic candies from Thailand, Japan, Italy and Finland, among others. The next space in the line of basements that open onto their own ground-level micro alley is sunken to provide surround seating for local music and performances.

Art shopping has a wide range. Ron Hinkle Glass is a special art treat - a combination factory tour/art gallery featuring one-of-a-kind hand-blown glass. The Stitching House has fabric art made with long-arm machine quilting as well as a full selection of quilting materials. There are also supplies at Dough Re Mi - musician supplies along with the specialty baked goods. The shop's specialty feature is "puffins," a delicious cross between popovers and muffins. Most days there are musicians trying out their new strings by serenading customers of the bakery. A block away from West Virginia Wesleyan College, it's a popular stop for faculty and students alike.

Artistry on Main is a regional artist co-op with a full array of media from wood-turned items and furniture to jewelry and iron sculpture. My treasure was a pen made from Upshur County wood. I was distressed to look at the list of counties represented by pens and not see Morgan. When I returned home, I set aside a foot-long chunk of dogwood from a favorite tree and began considering how I could get it back to Buckhannon and wood artist Greg Cartwright.

Antiquers and fans of collectibles have two major destinations: Buckhannon Antique Mall, just out of town, and, in town, the Shops at 46 Main.

We passed up Pringle Tree Park where a third-generation hollow sycamore commemorates the three-year living quarters of a pair of mid-18th-century siblings. Deserters from Fort Pitt then, they are revered today as the area's first permanent settlers.

Instead, we had the pleasure of staying at the newly reopened Governor's Inn B&B, where the ambiance is a 19th-century sanctuary with a kitchen staff of 20 (there really are only two). Guest and public rooms are gracious and comfortable.

Inn owner Charla Reger says, "I live to serve. I want to anticipate what people want and provide it." Every inch of the Inn and every bite of food proves she does what she says.

Breakfast was a multicourse affair that would delight foodies of all stripes. Everything is made from scratch in-house, including the sorbet and various sauces. Beginning with a creamy panna cotta with pineapple cherry sauce, the meal also included a potato and bacon casserole, sausage mini pies and the B&B's signature blueberry vanilla pancakes.

When Charla asked what our favorite dish was, my husband replied, "the fresh cantaloupe" as he stuffed a couple of sausage pies into his pocket. I reported the raspberry sorbet that came with the grilled peaches; it satisfied my childhood fantasy about ice cream for breakfast.

Charla's taste treats never stop - a plate of homemade cookies is always available on a side table, plus coffee makings and a small refrigerator supplied with drinks. An easy couple block walk from downtown, the Governor's Inn is soon opening an outdoor café.

For more information on the Buckhannon area, visit VisitBuckhannon.org or call 304-473-1400.

Jeanne Mozier, of Berkeley Springs, is the author of "Way Out in West Virginia," a must-have guide to the wonders and oddities of the Mountain State. She and noted photographer Steve Shaluta recently released the second printing of the coffee-table photo book "West Virginia Beauty, Familiar and Rare." Both books are available around West Virginia and from WVBookCo.com.

West Virginians find home away from home at Myrtle Beach bar http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150731/GZ05/150739997 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150731/GZ05/150739997 Fri, 31 Jul 2015 00:01:00 -0400 Erin Beck By Erin Beck NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - The marquee reads "West Virginia Rest Stop," but the location is South Carolina.

At the ClubHouse, the curtains are West Virginia University and Marshall themed, the shutters are blue and gold, and the walls feature West Virginia college sports posters, as well as photos of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. WVU and Marshall games play on the big screens every time one of the teams plays.

"You can't get in the place on Saturdays if they're playing," said Don Causby, a local regular.

The bar is known for attracting West Virginia tourists, as well as a steady stream of locals who have gotten to know the longtime employees and appreciate the prices. A can of Pabst Blue Ribbon is $1.26, after taxes.

Wayne Whitmore, a retired physical education teacher originally from Charles Town, recently moved to Myrtle Beach from Naples, Florida. He passes the time perusing through the sign-in book, looking for familiar names from back home.

"When you first come into town, when you run into people, they say, 'Have you been to the West Virginia bar?'" he said.

The ClubHouse is located along a busy stretch of highway, at 77 U.S. 17. According to employees, Dunbar native Mike Swanson opened the business in 1992. The West Virginia theme was the plan from the beginning.

Swanson died in 2003 of bone cancer, according to friends and employees. His ashes are stored in an urn on a shelf by the bar, below his photo and above a plaque in his memory.

David Scott, a regular for decades, remembers Swanson well.

"He was a great guy. He was in here a lot," Scott said. "He kept a close eye on his business. He was real attentive and he done real well with it."

Scott points to a framed photo in the bar of a Vietnam veteran and Tomblin on the Capitol steps.

"That's me with him," he said. "It was September of 2012. We had a Vietnam reunion up there. He kept coming out there and wanting to have his picture taken with me."

Sarah Maple has worked as a bartender there for 16 years. Swanson was a close friend of hers.

"He was very funny," she said. "He was not afraid of anything - not afraid to say anything."

Previously, Maple worked at two paint shops. She didn't have any bartending experience when she started.

"Because the bartender walked out the door, and because we were good friends, I said, 'if you need help let me know,' " she said.

She found out she enjoyed the work.

"I wouldn't be here this long if I didn't," she said.

She has gotten to know many repeat customers over the years. The West Virginians always announce themselves right away.

"They come in and they say, 'We're from West Virginia' when I first walk up to the table," she said. "They want to know if they get a discount and I say, 'No, we charge double.'"

Daniel Becker, the bar's manager, estimated that about 20 percent of customers are from West Virginia during the summer months.

"They definitely love their football," he said. "They were telling me this during basketball season. They said they couldn't wait for that."

The bar's menu used to feature delicacies like the "West Virginia filet" (a grilled cheese sandwich) and the "West Virginia tube steak" (a hot dog), but employees said a new owner recently changed that.

Becker said there is talk about revising the menu again. He has heard several suggestions from West Virginians.

"No matter what we have on the menu there's always something else we could do," he said.

He vaguely remembered one suggestion in particular.

"It was kind of like, I wanna say like a cheese log they say something about," he said, "because we have a fried mozzarella block and somebody had mentioned to me about rolling a hot dog - I mean, not a hot dog, like mozzarella cheese and meat and deep frying it. That was something big up there. This was during the tournament. This was late March. I can't really think of it off the top of my head."

Maybe someone said something about pepperoni rolls?

"That was it!" Becker exclaimed. "It was pepperoni rolls."

Reach Erin Beck at erin.beck@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5163 or follow @erinbeckwv on Twitter.

WV native chef nearly survives getting 'Chopped' http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150726/GZ05/150729710 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150726/GZ05/150729710 Sun, 26 Jul 2015 00:01:00 -0400 Bill Lynch By Bill Lynch CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Mary Brent Galyean made it to the final round of Tuesday's "Chopped Grill Masters" competition before she was "chopped" from the popular Food Network show.

The Charleston native's "harvest soufflé" - cobbled together from slices of acorn squash, some eggs, bananas and a few frosted cupcakes processed through a blender - failed to win over the judges in the last round of the show.

But she made it to the final round, and the competition seemed close.

The slender, almost manic, expedition chef had survived the first round of the competition, the appetizer round, even after her bacon granola stuffed hot dogs came out a little burnt.

Galyean did better with the main course in the second round. Her elk chops with blueberry brown sugar au jus earned some real praise, but when the silver tray lid came up during the dessert round, the judges went with Stan Hays and his backyard sundaes.

Watching the show on a television at Charleston's Bar 101, Galyean exclaimed, "I thought that it would be different this time."

It was a good laugh.

Galyean had known for months that she hadn't won the competition, but it hardly mattered. Being on the show was just another in a long line of adventures. This one, however, she was able to share with the crowd of old friends who'd come out to see her television debut.

"It's all friends here," Galyean said.

Through much of the evening, she'd worked for her friends, rolling and cutting sushi next door at Ichiban.

"We were slammed," said Ichiban hostess Jesse McClanahan. "It was a crazy Tuesday night, but the food has been incredible."

Taking a moment before washing up and changing clothes to watch the show, Galyean pointed out all the people who'd come out to support her. Some had come from as far as Fayetteville. Others had some part in her journey from alcoholic to clean-and-sober river guide and excursion chef.

"That's the family whose girls I drove," she said, lowering her voice and pointing to a table near the back of the restaurant.

In the last days of her drinking, Galyean secretly had a few drinks and got behind the wheel of a car with a pair of young girls in the back seat. While nothing happened on that drive, the realization of what could have happened was a turning point in her sobriety.

Throughout most of the evening, Galyean balanced preparing food and chatting with the people who'd come out to see her. She was glad to be here, she said. It felt safe and welcoming.

"There's no place I'd rather be," she explained. "My other option was to be curled up naked under a blanket, sweating, crying and eating Twizzlers." Galyean said she has sometimes suffered from anxiety attacks.

The crowd that filtered in from Ichiban to Bar 101 cheered, booed and groaned over the endless commercials as they sipped drinks and watched the show.

At the end, after Hays was named the winner, hugs were exchanged around the bar and people said their goodbyes. Galyean wouldn't be sticking around much longer. She had a plane to catch the next day back to California, presumably returning to Yosemite National Park, where she's been working over the summer.

Evan Wilson, Ichiban manager and the sushi chef who succeeded Galyean after she left the restaurant several years ago, said he had mixed feelings about watching his friend on the show.

"Oh, I'm jealous," he laughed. "But I'm also so proud. It kind of gives me hope too."

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5195 or follow @LostHwys on Twitter.

Wild, wonderful and … OK, a little bit weird http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150726/GZ05/150729736 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150726/GZ05/150729736 Sun, 26 Jul 2015 00:01:00 -0400 By Amy Orndorff The Washington Post By By Amy Orndorff The Washington Post I was thrilled when my husband told me he had bought us a lake house. Less so when he set it up in our living room. The six-person tent, he argued, could be erected by a lake and - ta-da! But wait, he said, there's more! (There's always more) ... It doubles as a beach house!

Once I came around to accepting the freedom of our movable house as a kind of blessing, I set out to christen it near the most amazing lake I could find. Ace Adventure Resort, in Minden, fit the bill, boasting a 5-acre lake-turned-water park with inflatable jungle gyms, giant slide and zip line that ends with a splash, as well as an expansive campground.

Our trip to West Virginia would be a quintessential (albeit abbreviated) American summer road trip. We'd splash around in a souped-up swimmin' hole. We'd visit the kitschiest wonders of the world.

We'd explore the wildest mountains and gape at the New River Gorge Bridge, a feat of engineering that saves folks from driving all the way down a mountain only to go back up again. Did I mention it's taller than the Washington Monument with two Statues of Liberty stacked on top? 'Murica!

After five hours of driving up, down and around mountains, we arrived at the resort well after nightfall and found our way to the Lost Paddle Lounge, where Bob Marley was playing through the speakers and a handful of young folks were relaxing and shooting pool. The dining room had closed for the night, so we each ordered a beer and headed outside where a tent sheltered picnic tables, a small stage and cornhole sets.

Beers downed, we made our way to our campsite. The resort has a dozen cabins, as well as sites that fall on the nicer side of "roughing it" - think tents on wooden platforms. But we were there to spend a night in our new house, so we were bedding down in the rustic neighborhood.

The scene was humble: grassy area, picnic table, small fire pit and a trash can. Nearby, a communal bathhouse (with individual shower/sink/toilet rooms!) provided a bit of light. By the glow of the bathhouse and our car headlights, we pitched our "lake house" and settled in for the night.

The quiet hours are midnight to 8 a.m., which is considerably liberal by campground standards. Neighbors pushed that curfew, singing off-key renditions of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" late into the night.

The sun came up shortly after our neighbors went to sleep, and we finally had our first look at the lake. A 15-foot-tall iceberg climbing wall lorded over the other inflatables, including jungle gyms, trampolines and wobbly-looking Saturns. But the big three - a 40-foot-tall water slide, zip line and blob trampoline - were the ones I was eyeing.

After donning my mandatory personal flotation device, I chose to enter the water via the slide. What followed was a couple hours of what I imagine the ideal childhood summer is like. I climbed to the top of the iceberg, bounced on the trampolines and glided down the zip line. The water was the perfect cool temperature, and the air perfectly warm. With every ear-popping elevation change, we had left Washington's hazy, hot and humid climate behind.

While there were plenty of splashing families in the water, more than once I took a minute to just float calmly and appreciate the steep mountains that surrounded the lake and the blue sky spotted with cotton-candy clouds.

Getting out was a struggle, but I follow two philosophies of travel: Schedule what you really want to see and leave plenty of time for unexpected detours. The other thing I had on the itinerary for the weekend was a stop at the New River Gorge Bridge, which is minutes from the resort. The longest steel span in the Western hemisphere beat out about 1,800 entries (including one for the legendary figure Mothman) to be showcased on the back of West Virginia's quarter.

The bridge towers 876 feet over the National River, a playground for whitewater enthusiasts. In addition to being a pretty thing to look at, it has a catwalk under the bridge that visitors can strap onto for a walking tour and, for the more adventurous, B.A.S.E. jumping (it stands for Building, Antenna, Span and Earth) once a year. We chose to view the mammoth structure from the safety of the overlook near the Canyon Rim Visitor Center.

After a morning of swimming and bridge gawking, we chose to eat at the first place we could find - Mackie's Biergarten. Across the road from the visitor center entrance, the food-truck-size stand has a bar and picnic tables. The limited menu includes local brews, brats, fries and (a top seller) Korean BBQ sliders. After filling up, we had to politely decline the invitation to return for live music later that night - we had wanderlusting to do.

The art of wanderlusting is something passed down to me from my dad. By his definition, it means driving around aimlessly and, when you see something worth stopping at, making it your "destination." We had picked up two brochures at the campground and, with a vague understanding of where we were going, headed to see what is claimed to be West Virginia's only working lighthouse.

Erected in 2012, the white tower does sit near a body of water (Summersville Lake) and is an aid to navigation (planes, not boats). Mostly I saw it as something built to get $7 from tourists. Still, I gave up my cash willingly to have a guide lead me up the 122 steps to the top and tell me a little more about the landmark.

But it wasn't the gimmick I had gleefully anticipated. The busted windmill was repurposed, students from the nearby Fayette Institute of Technology built the spiral staircase inside and a nearby airport donated a vintage Fresnel lens. It was more a story of a small town coming together to build something iconic, and from the top I could appreciate the vision.

Our next brochure-inspired stop was the Mystery Hole. If UNESCO World Heritage Sites honored kitschiness, the Mystery Hole would be a top destination. The brochure lured us in with all the skill of a carnival barker: "UNBELIEVABLE - an experience that will intrigue you the rest of your life."

The building that houses the spot where "the laws of nature are defied" features a gorilla on the roof, a vintage VW Bug crashed into the side and an eerie-looking clown over the entrance. It was enough to hook me, as well as about a dozen or so other people who lined up for one of the 15-minute tours.

Inside, as the brochure promised, we felt our balance upset. The "hole" is really a room under the building that seemed tilted at a 45-degree angle, but some of the tricks (if that's what they were) were still difficult to explain. I tried not to overthink it: Just enjoy the feeling of vertigo.

The next morning, we headed for another brochure-driven outing, to the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. As the great-great-granddaughter of a coal miner, I was eager to see the museum dedicated to the men who have done this dirty job. The tour includes a ride through a now-closed mine. Even though the ceiling has been raised from what the miners would have worked in, and lighting has been added throughout, the cool, damp and dark passage felt claustrophobic as the train carrying me and 35 or so other visitors trundled along.

Two guides shared tales of what life was like miles underground. From the funny (putting Grandma's false teeth in your water pail to ward off thirsty thieves) to the cringe-worthy (rats were harbingers; if they started running, miners followed and tried to get out fast), they gave a comprehensive look at life in the mines. It felt good to feel the sun on my cheeks as the tram pulled out of the tunnel.

Also among the brochures I had collected was a cave that claimed to have been the home of Bat Boy. If you didn't go to a grocery store in 1992, you might have missed Bat Boy's coverage in the now online-only black-and-white tabloid the Weekly World News. The story went that the government had found and captured a boy who was raised by bats and had taken on odd features, including oversize pointy ears, razor-sharp teeth and ghoulishly big eyes. The tabloid followed his escape, exploits and eventual military service; a younger me believed every bit of it, and was terrified.

I decided to face my fear of the creature by visiting his turf, Lost World Caverns in Lewisburg. Flashlights in hand, my husband and I headed down a tunnel for a self-guided tour around what turned out to be home to magnificent stalactites, stalagmites and other intricate formations.

Upon exiting, I understood why Bat Boy would want to call West Virginia home. It is a very wild, very wonderful and very, very weird place.

If you go

n Where to stay

Ace Adventure Resort

1 Concho Rd., Minden



The resort has multiple lodging options from the highest-end deluxe cabins (hot tub, kitchen, heating) starting at $569 to tent sites starting at $13 per adult per night. The resort is also home to a five-acre lake with inflatables, a zip line and other offerings. You do not need to stay at the resort to enjoy the lake.

n Where to eat

Mackie's Biergarten

57 Fayette Mine Rd., Lansing



Sliders, brats and local brews make up this small beer garden that offers plenty of shady outdoor seating and occasional live music. Sliders are $4 for one or $6 for two. Bratwurst $4. Beers $1-$5.

n What to do

Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine

513 Ewart Ave., Beckley



Admission ($20, $15 seniors, $12 ages 4 to 17) includes the mine tour, as well as entrance to the re-created town buildings, Youth Museum and Mountain Homestead.

Bridge Walk

57 Fayette Mine Rd., Lansing



Tours are offered daily and the 1.25-mile walk takes about two to three hours. $69.

Lost World Caverns

HC 34 Box 308, Lewisburg

866-228-3778 or 304-645-6677


Tours are self-guided and it takes most people about an hour to walk the loop. $12, $6 ages 6 to 12, younger free.

Mystery Hole

16724 Midland Trail, Ansted



The attraction delivers hard-to-explain, gravity-defying feats. Tours last 15 to 20 minutes and cost $6.50, $5.50 age 11 and younger.

New River Gorge Bridge

162 Visitor Center Rd., Lansing



The bridge is part of the vast 70,000-acre/53-mile-long New River Gorge National River. The park has several camping areas and visitor centers so be sure to put the Canyon Rim Visitor Center address in your GPS otherwise you might get lost, like we did.

Lighthouse at Summersville Lake Retreat

278 Summersville Lake Rd., Mount Nebo

888-872-5580 or 304-872-5975


The 104-foot-tall lighthouse sits on grounds that includes cabins, tent and RV sites. Climbing the 122 steps costs $7, $5 seniors and children ages 3 to 11.



Frostop Drive-In offers 21st-century WV diners a trip to the past http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150721/GZ05/150729900 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150721/GZ05/150729900 Wed, 22 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400 Lexi Browning By Lexi Browning HUNTINGTON — In an era where drive-thrus have replaced drive-ins, Marilyn McGinnis Murdock, owner of the Frostop Drive-In, said it’s rewarding to bring something so unique to the table — or window.

What began as the drive-in chain restaurant in 1926 in Springfield, Ohio, soon grew to inhabit every state in America, becoming a popular hangout for families and teenage sweethearts.

Although times have certainly changed since its founding, Frostop has become an icon of its age and a vintage staple for a modern city.

As the drive-in fad began to fade, business in Huntington was just getting started: In 1959, owners Rupert McGinnis and Bill Warnock were investing in the chain and developing custom recipes for the diner’s menu.

“My father and uncle were looking in some way to invest in the community, and they heard about it and decided to give it a try,” said McGinnis’ daughter, Marilyn Murdock.

The Huntington Frostop is now one of 15 Frostops left in the United States since the chain dissolved, Murdock said.

“One of the franchise’s [assets] is the root beer, but the hot-dog sauce recipe was my mother and my aunt’s,” Murdock said. “They cooked hot-dog sauce while I was growing up, and they always had it cooking until they got it just the way they wanted it.”

The renowned sauce has changed some with the decades, but Murdock said it still adheres closely to her mother’s recipe.

“We have different cooks who’ve tweaked it over the years, but we try to keep it authentic as possible,” she said.

After McGinnis’ death in 1980, Murdock’s mother purchased Warnock’s interest and operated the business until her death in 1996. Soon, Murdock and her sister, Bing Murphy, took ownership of the family business.

“I didn’t know squat about hot dogs; I just washed mugs in the back. We learned, and we have wonderful staff. They make me look good,” Murdock said, laughing.

Although the business has certainly become intertwined into the McGinnis legacy, Murdock said her family’s trade has affected countless Huntington natives, many of whom still return to their beloved drive-in.

“People come from different parts of the country, and it’s part of their heritage and childhood — seeing them grow up in Huntington and then having them stop by and tell us their stories, it’s nice,” Murdock said.

Huntington resident Mitchell Smith, 87, has been a regular for 25 years.

“I like just about everything here,” Smith said while feasting on a pair of hot dogs. “We don’t eat here as much as a lot of other customers, but we get hamburgers, cheeseburgers and barbecue, and it’s all good.”

Smith said the staff certainly added to the atmosphere.

“They’re great; I kid ’em all the time,” Smith laughed.

Addison Hall, assistant manager, agreed with him.

“It’s a good place to work and it’s pretty laid-back,” Hall said. “Everyone’s been here for years, and really noticed that business is up recently, and I think it might have to do with the good staff. They’re really cheery.”

Hall, who’s worked at Frostop for six years, said the business is consistently packed at least once per day year-round.

“These past couple of weeks, we’ve had church vans full of kids stopping by for ice cream,” Hall said. “And any time we have visitors come by that used to live here, they pick up a gallon of root beer. The hot dogs are great, too; they’re the best in town.”

The restaurant, which was once named an icon of the state, is certainly on the map for new and old visitors.

“Travelers have never been somewhere where they eat in their car, and it’s very 1950s,” Murdock said. “Growing up, we had those restaurants, and Sonic is here now, along with Stewarts and Midway, but it’s very unique in this day and age.”

For Cabell Huntington Hospital employee Kristal Whiler, venturing across Hal Greer Boulevard to Frostop is a weekly treat.

“I like the food, it’s convenient and I don’t even have to leave my parking spot,” Whiler said. “But the food is really good.”

Cady Gilmore, a nursing student, trekked with Whiler for her first visit on Monday.

“Oh yeah, I like it,” Gilmore said, noting that she’d be returning soon.

For Murdock and her husband, Bill, managing the restaurant has supplied a busy and enjoyable start to her retirement from teaching.

“We’re really happy and thrilled that we can keep it open and going,” Murdock said. “We’re blessed with all the business that we’ve had and the people that work with us and for us.”

Although she typically sticks to behind-the-scenes labor, Murdock said she enjoys having the flexibility of entering and departing the business as she pleases.

“All the advertisement goes through us, along with bill-paying, invoicing; we’re busy all the time getting ready for events,” she said. “The day-to-day operation is run by the manager and assistant manager, but we handle promotions, marketing, managing personnel matters and oversee maintenance and other big projects.”

Murdock said the only major maintenance incident she could recall had occurred during the frigid winter of 2013, when the arctic temperatures took a toll on the iconic rotating mug mounted on the roof.

“It was around negative-14 degrees, and the metal on the mug shrunk and the paint just blew off,” Murdock said. “Much of the graphics had to be reproduced by hand, and there was nothing to pattern it after.”

With the help of a gifted artist, though, the mug was restored to a pristine condition.

“We’ve had so many compliments on it now,” Murdock said. “I touched base with some girlfriends in Starbucks recently, and two people mentioned how great the mug looks now.”

In addition to the new graphics, a kiosk displaying pamphlets and a map of Huntington and state attractions has been installed at their business, Murdock said.

“We keep that stocked for points of interest for customers from out of town,” Murdock said. “We have an outdoor dining section, and they sit and peruse a brochure, and it helps them plan.”

Assistant Manager Bobby Dean said he has obtained life and communication skills by working as part of the Frostop legacy.

“My uncle worked here when he was my age, and he worked his way up,” Dean said. “I wanted to follow in his footsteps, and it’s been a learning experience for me.”

Dean leans in to take a customer’s order before returning with a scribbled yellow ticket.

“You just can’t replicate this overall experience,” he said. “It’s everyone’s childhood memory, even mine, and I’m only 20.”

There’s the honk of a horn and a subtle wave. And with that, one vehicle heads back to the 21st century as another pulls into this place from the past.

Reach Lexi Browning at 304-348-7917, lexi.browning@dailymailwv.com or follow @galexi on Twitter.

WV native to appear on Food Network competition http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150719/GZ05/150719431 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150719/GZ05/150719431 Sun, 19 Jul 2015 00:01:00 -0400 Bill Lynch By Bill Lynch CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Life can be pretty good, if you know when to get out of your own way.

It took expedition chef Mary Brent Galyean a long time to learn that.

"There was a lot of years when I didn't," the 34-year-old Charleston native said.

That's just one of many lessons Galyean picked up, along with knowing when to say "yes."

Almost a year ago, while Galyean was cooking a meal for another group of rafters who'd come to Adventures on the Gorge to go whitewater rafting, one of them asked, "What do you do on your off time?"

She told him, "I cook in crazy places in exchange for room and board. So, if you and your family are going someplace interesting and want a cook, let me know."

The rafter turned out to be an employee of Scripps Networks, the company that owns HGTV, Great American Country, Food Network and several other cable channels.

He told Galyean, "I'd love to tell my bosses about you."

So, Galyean made a video of her cooking out in the wild and sent it along. The video ended up on the desk of the vice president of Food Network, who invited her to New York to have coffee and talk television.

They met, had coffee and he got her cast on the Food Network show "Chopped Grill Masters."

"We shot it in Queens in April," Galyean said. "It's a tournament-style competition with four different episodes, with the winner going to the finals."

The run of "Chopped Grill Masters" begins Tuesday at 10 p.m.

To celebrate and kick off the second season of the miniseries, Galyean will be back in Charleston Tuesday night doing a turn as a guest chef at Ichiban on Capitol Street, where she began her cooking career.

"I can't wait to be back in West Virginia," she said. "It really is home."

After her shift, Galyean will be the special guest at a viewing party next door at Bar 101.

"Laura and Scott Miller [the owners of Bar 101] are just great friends," she said.

The show is a contest with a cash prize, but whether Galyean wins, loses or gets picked up for some other program, it hardly matters. Coming back to Charleston to cook and share her television debut isn't about coming full circle.

It's a victory lap.

"I tell people I was so great at drinking, everybody made me quit," she joked.

It's funny because it's really not. For 20 years, Galyean was an alcoholic.

"I started as a young child," she said. "I would just steal sips of this and that off the table."

It only got worse as she got older.

Galyean grew up in Charleston. Her father, Brent Galyean, a car dealer, died in a traffic accident while loading office furniture into his car when she was 5 years old.

Her mother raised her and her two sisters and took the family on lots of foreign adventures. It's where she got her taste for travel.

"I've been on five continents and all but two states," Galyean said. "I've been to Antarctica, Ireland, Africa - we went down the Amazon River for Christmas one year on a little fishing boat."

She grew up loving the outdoors. Through her teens, she took course after course through the National Outdoor Leadership School, where, among other things, she learned how to cook in the wild.

Galyean said, "As long as I can bring a rubber spatula and something to spark a fire with, I'm pretty good."

She graduated from George Washington High School in 1999, then studied mathematics at Rollins College in Florida.

Mathematics work was in short supply in Charleston in 2004, but the restaurants were hiring.

"I started working in restaurants to just make some quick money and to keep my hands busy," she said.

One of the people she met when she returned to Charleston was Shelly James. James is now an assistant vice president at BB&T, but in 2004, they were both two young women working three jobs trying to make ends meet.

James said she wasn't surprised that the Food Network would spot Galyean.

"Mary Brent is just so talented when it comes to food and really fun to watch," she said. "I knew her before she started cooking professionally and she just had ­- has - this boundless energy."

The energy attracted attention and opportunity. The sushi chef at Ichiban offered a job and the opportunity to learn how to roll sushi.

"Ichiban was the first place to ever pay me to cook," Galyean said.

In 2008, her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given 30 months to live. Galyean gave up cooking to take care of her.

It was while taking care of her mother that Galyean decided she needed to quit drinking. So, in 2011, she checked herself into rehab for 78 days, but sobriety didn't catch at first.

"I fell off and on the wagon for about a year," Galyean said.

She finally quit after she sneaked a couple of drinks and got behind the wheel of a car. The nieces of a couple of friends were in the back seat.

"I was not drunk," she said. "But they were under the impression that I hadn't had a drink at all."

Nothing happened on that drive, but a ball of fear and guilt hit her in the gut the next morning. She could have been drunk. She might be drunk next time.

"I couldn't live with that," she said. "If anything had happened to those little girls, I'd never be able to look at myself again."

That was June 17, 2012. She said she hasn't had a drink since.

Galyean's mother passed away in September of 2012, nearly double the length of time the doctors initially gave her. Galyean wasn't sure what she wanted to do exactly, but she wanted to work. She just didn't want to work in a kitchen.

She reached out to an old family friend, Dave Arnold, one of the founders of Adventures on the Gorge, and asked for a job.

"I told him I want to be outdoors. I'll wash wetsuits, whatever you want," Galyean said.

Arnold wasn't so sure it was such a good idea.

"I've known M.B. since she was 8," he said. "I knew her father and her mother. Her mother raised her, and when I'd visit, with all those girls, I used to call it the House of the High Hair Dryers."

But he also knew about her alcohol problem.

"The hospitality business isn't necessarily a great place to be if you've got trouble with alcohol," he said.

There can be a lot of it around.

So, he asked her, "Are you sure?"

Arnold said Galyean told him she was done with drinking, but then he wasn't sure. He called some of the references on Galyean's résumé, including former Gov. Gaston Caperton.

Caperton, Arnold recalls, was blunt, and told him, "Dave, if I were you, I'd go ahead and get her resignation letter and give it to her."

The former governor didn't remember saying that. He recalled telling Arnold and Galyean that the restaurant business was difficult because of the availability of alcohol, which made it very different from an office environment.

He said, "I told him that I hoped that she'd made up her mind that's what she wanted to do."

Galyean promised Arnold she could stay sober.

Arnold said he and Larry Poli, head of food and beverage, talked it over and decided to give her a shot, but they wanted her to cook.

Galyean said "never."

But Arnold had just the job for her.

"With a business like ours, you need a deep bench," he said. "You need someone around who can do just about anything. M.B. could do that. Not only could she do killer sushi, but she can also do pepperoni rolls."

Where she excelled, however, was working on the banks of the river, cooking over campfires.

She applied her outdoors NOLS skills with what she'd learned cooking in Charleston.

It opened up a whole new world.

Almost three years later, Galyean has an amazing life.

"I live half my life in a tent in the woods," she said. "At the moment, I'm living in a double-wide in California with no air conditioning.

"It's a 115 degrees in there."

She laughed. She doesn't mind.

Galyean joins groups on adventures and cooks for them. Sometimes money changes hands, but always she gets to take part in whatever it is the rest of the expedition is doing.

"If I'm not allowed to do it too, I don't go," she said.

She ekes out a living by taking seasonal jobs at places like Adventures on the Gorge and by keeping her costs low.

Galyean has a phone bill and health insurance.

"But I don't have a mortgage, I don't pay rent," she said. "I'm homeless."

Every now and then she'll stay with a friend or visit one of her sisters, her aunt in New York, or her uncle in Long Beach, California.

She laughed and said, "He's kind of taken me on."

But the work drives her.

"I have to be looking for the next adventure," Galyean said. "It's my next shelter, the next place I pitch my tent."

Cooking in the wild, she said, takes a particular set of skills and some creativity. When she's on a cooking job, she packs according to how long the trip will be and how many people are coming out.

She bragged that she can carry a 70-pound pack on her back, filled with cooking gear.

"I can take more stuff if somebody else wants to carry it for me," she said. "Or, if I have a horse or a yak."

Aside from the indispensable rubber spatula, Galyean said it's important to bring a good selection of spices.

"I take those stackable pill bottles you get at Walmart and fill them with little pinches of things," she said. "If you've got the right spices, you can make things happen."

She also believes in the many virtues of aluminum foil, often brings a small blowtorch, and wouldn't be caught dead on the trail or on television without "killer footwear."

Galyean said, "When they asked me in the phone interview for 'Chopped' if I was competitive, to paraphrase, I answered, 'Not professionally, but I am a competitive dresser.'"

But she doesn't worry too much about cutlery. She'll pack a knife, but can get by without one.

"Somebody always has a switchblade," Galyean added.

And there are always rocks, which can be used for everything from slicing meat to mashing bread to turn into a powder to make a roux.

The menus she can construct on the trail sound impossible.

"I like to do prime rib, sushi and all homemade breads," Galyean said. "I do bread puddings and soufflés. I try to do fine dining in places in the world where you expect to eat sawdust and granola."

"We climb like Vikings, but eat like kings," she bragged.

"Chopped Grill Masters" airs Tuesday night on Food Network. If Galyean wants to do more television, she's not really saying, and her friends are already proud of her.

Caperton added, "She's proven herself."

Galyean may have something in mind besides TV stardom.

The chef said, "The plan is to do the Gauley in the fall, then Nepal, Peru, Argentina, Antarctica and then back to Nepal, Russia and then, possibly, New Zealand. Those are the trips on the books, but I never buy tickets until it's three weeks out because you never know."

People change their minds. Adventurers and explorers get hurt, sometimes lose limbs and have to cancel excursions. It's nothing to get too uptight about. You just move on to the next trip.

"It's all kind of like skydiving," she said. "You stay loose and just say yes."

Friends and fans of Mary Brent Galyean can vote for her in the "Chopped Grill Masters" fan poll at www.foodnetwork.com/shows/chopped/chopped-grill-masters-fan-poll.html.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5195 or follow @LostHwys on Twitter.

WV Travel Team: Go up … and up … to Toronto http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150719/GZ05/150719452 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150719/GZ05/150719452 Sun, 19 Jul 2015 00:01:00 -0400 By Mitzi Harrison WV Travel Team By By Mitzi Harrison WV Travel Team CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Summer vacation doesn't have to mean your family broils in the sun on a cruise ship or in the Florida heat. An international experience with a milder climate is just a little more than 500 miles north of Charleston.

Toronto, Canada, has plenty to offer. You might think of our northern neighbor as a place of cold. But Toronto in July typically has a high of 80 degrees.

Airfare from Yeager Airport will normally cost between $500 and $600 per ticket if you don't mind double connections; otherwise, expect to pay $600 to $900 per ticket. If you're driving from Charleston, your family will be in Toronto in about eight hours.

Now you're there. What to do?

Start with the CN Tower for the bird's-eye view. EdgeWalk features the world's highest full-circle, hands-free walk on a 5-foot-wide ledge encircling the top of the tower. Whether you measure the height the American way - 1,168 feet above ground - or the Canadian way - 356 meters - you'll be sky-high, 116 stories up.

Visitors walk in groups of six, each attached to an overhead safety rail-and-harness system. Guides will dare you to lean back over Toronto with nothing but air and spectacular views beneath you.

The EdgeWalk experience lasts 90 minutes, including 30 minutes outdoors. Tickets are $195 Canadian and include a keepsake video, printed photos and a certificate of achievement. Participants also receive a Tower Experience Ticket, which includes access to LookOut, Glass Floor, SkyPod and other attractions.

After seeing Toronto from the heights, get a little closer to earth - but only a little - and dine at the 360 Restaurant. As you dine 1,151 feet above the ground, you'll enjoy a revolving view of the city. The world's highest wine cellar is just the start. 360 Restaurant offers market-fresh cuisine, featuring regional ingredients. Choose from steak and seafood a la carte or the prix fixe menu, available for lunch and dinner, supplemented by vegetarian and seafood options. A two-course lunch is $55; a three-course lunch is $69. Reservations are recommended.

Near the CN Tower is the Rogers Centre, formerly known as the SkyDome. The home of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team, the Rogers Centre was the first stadium built with a fully retractable roof. The center includes a 348-room hotel - 70 of the rooms overlook the field. From July 10-26, Toronto and the surrounding area are hosting the 2015 Pan American Games. More than 6,000 athletes from more than 40 countries are expected to compete in three-dozen sports.

The opening and closing ceremonies of the Pan American Games will be at the Rogers Centre. Some of the competition venues in the Toronto area are the Direct Energy Center, Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre and BMO Field.

While in Toronto, visit the local castle. Canada is a constitutional monarchy - an independent country, but its head of state is Queen Elizabeth II of England. Although Casa Loma has no direct ties to the British royal family, visitors can get a sense of how it must have been to live in a castle.

Casa Loma, built between 1911 and 1914, was originally the residence of financier Sir Henry Mill Pellatt. Today it is a museum renowned for its decorated suites, secret passages, 800-foot tunnel, towers, stables and 5-acre estate garden. Self-guided multimedia tours are available.

Casa Loma is one of Toronto's largest tourist attractions, with 350,000 visitors every year. The castle has also been a popular location for film and television shoots. Casa Loma has two restaurants and a gift shop.

After the castle, visit Queen's Park, established in 1860, one of the oldest urban parks in Canada. Named in honor of Queen Victoria, the park hosted her son, the Prince of Wales - later King Edward VII - when it was inaugurated. An equestrian statue of Edward VII, the Ontario Veterans' Memorial, the War Memorial of the 48th Highlanders, and the Northwest Rebellion Memorial are among highlights.

Bordered by the University of Toronto (formerly Queens College), Queen's Park is home to the Ontario Legislative Building, the meeting place of Ontario's provincial parliament for more than a century. The sandstone structure, built between 1886 and 1892, has exhibits from museums across Ontario, showcasing the province's history. Guided tours of the building are free.

Toronto Island Park is a chain of three small islands, connected by footbridges, in the western part of Lake Ontario, just offshore from the city of Toronto. The islands are a popular car-free recreation area, with forested pathways and sandy beaches, an ideal place to escape from the city.

The main attraction, especially for young families, is Centre Island. The island is home to Centreville's children's amusement park, which has over 30 rides and attractions; and Far Enough Farm, which houses a variety of domestic animals.

Ward's Island is ideal for secluded walks in parkland and wilderness areas.

Hanlan Island is home to Hanlan's Point Beach, the best beach on Toronto Islands. Heads up, parents: Hanlan's Point Beach includes a nudist area for those who like to bare all.

The only way to reach Toronto Island Park is by a ferry located at the foot of Bay Street. Round-trip fare is $6.50 per person. Although you can walk from one side of Toronto Island Park to the other, it's more fun to hire a bicycle or four-wheel bicycle buggy from Island Bicycle Rental, next to the pier on Centre Island.

Boating and canoeing are popular, with crafts available for rent from the Island Boathouse. The islands also have tennis courts, softball diamonds and volleyball courts. The park has several cafes, food stalls and drinking fountains and plenty of picnic tables throughout.

If you want to get out of the city for a day trip, Niagara Falls is a little more than 80 miles away. Unparalleled in North America, the falls dump 2.4 million liters of water per second. Several bus tours leave Toronto for Niagara every day. The Maid of the Mist, which bills itself North America's oldest tourist attraction, has been taking passengers on boat journeys into the dense mist of the Horseshoe Falls since 1846. Be prepared to get wet! In addition to the natural spectacle, Niagara Falls has helicopter rides, and Skylon Tower, which offers a panoramic view of the falls and the surrounding area.

For outdoor adventure closer to the city, Treetop Trekking at Heart Lake Conservation Area, in Brampton, features six courses, seven zip lines and more than 65 aerial games. Twin 1,000-foot zip lines cross right over Heart Lake, and you can even take a night trek, exploring the forest under the stars.

The Toronto Zoo, sprawling across 710 acres, is one of the largest zoos in the world. It has more than 5,000 animals, representing more than 500 species, and six miles of walking trails. The zoo is divided into seven geographic regions: Indo-Malaya, Africa, the Americas, Australasia, Eurasia, Canadian Domain and the Tundra Trek. Animals are displayed indoors in tropical pavilions and outdoors in natural environments. The zoo's two giant pandas are a big hit, and so is Nneka, a gorilla not yet 2 years old. The Giraffe House is home to 24-year-old Masai giraffe Twiga and her 1-year-old calf Mstari.

It's not summer without an amusement park. Canada's Wonderland has 69 rides, including 16 roller coasters. The newest, Leviathan, is one of the tallest and fastest coasters in the world. Younger children can enjoy Planet Snoopy and KidZville, with kid-size rides and adventures. Splash Works this year introduces Typhoon, a new water slide. Splash Station is an interactive children's play area.

Don't let a rainy day interrupt your fun. Fantasy Fair, in Woodbine Shopping Centre, is Ontario's largest indoor amusement park, with a roller coaster, train, carousel, arcade and midway games. New attractions include Rock'N'Climb Challenge and XD Simulator. Fantasy Fair regularly offers free shows, including puppets, magic and more.

Playdium is an interactive entertainment center for families, with more than 200 video games, rides and simulators. Don't miss the MaxFlight Roller Coaster Simulator and Laser Maze. The 11-acre outdoor park includes go-kart tracks, miniature golf, a bungee trampoline and batting cages. Join in on the ultimate water fight with Water Wars.

The Legoland Discovery Centre is home to more than 3 million LEGO bricks under one roof. Visitors can make their own LEGO bricks on the factory tour. Zap the bad guys and save the princess on the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride. Get in on the action in the new "LEGO Legends of Chima" 4-D movie. Visit Miniland, a collection of mini replicas of Toronto's landmarks; and Star Wars Episode II - Attack of the Clones Miniland.

For fun mixed with learning, be sure to visit the Ontario Science Centre. Now through Sept. 13 the center presents "MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition," bringing the Discovery Channel's Emmy-nominated series to life. Family-friendly displays, live demonstrations and hands-on activities allow visitors to prove or bust some popular myths. Also new this year is the AstraZeneca Human Edge exhibition hall - a 10,000-square-foot space with more than 50 exhibits exploring the boundaries of the human "machine."

Toronto has so many museums, art galleries, theaters and festivals that you'll have no trouble filling every hour. For an overview, visit seetorontonow.com.

There are also plenty of options for lodging. Popular with AAA members are:

n Best Western Primrose Hotel Downtown, with rates from $119 to $299 a night;

n Cambridge Suites Hotel, from $199 to $699 a night;

n Courtyard By Marriott Downtown, from $139 to $309 a night;

n The Fairmont Royal York, from $299 to $699 a night; and

n Hyatt Regency Toronto on King, from $99 to $499 a night.

Canada and the United States have long been allies, but it's important to remember that they are separate countries, each with its own laws, customs and monetary systems. A U.S. dollar is not the same as a Canadian dollar. A Canadian dollar currently equals about 82 cents in U.S. currency.

Visiting Canada is not the same as, say, visiting Ohio. You must cross an international border each way. Visitors entering Canada must clear customs. Although in some cases a passport is not required, AAA recommends that all travelers who plan to travel outside the United States obtain a passport. Visitors from any country other than the U.S. have always needed a passport to enter Canada.

On the other hand, because of a friendly border crossing agreement between Canada and the United States, Canada Border Services did not require U.S. citizens to present a passport to enter Canada. This friendly border crossing agreement used to be mutual; however, now the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires that U.S. citizens have a passport to return home. In this way, passport requirements for Canada and U.S. borders are different on paper, but are in practice, the same.

Children 15 years of age and younger are now required to show proof of citizenship (a certified copy of their birth certificate is acceptable). They are not required to show a photo ID. If you are traveling with children, you should carry identification for each child. Divorced parents who share custody of their children should carry copies of the legal custody documents. Adults who are not parents or guardians should have written permission from the parents or guardians to supervise the children.

When traveling with a group of vehicles, parents or guardians should travel in the same vehicle as the children when arriving at the border. Customs officers are looking for missing children and may ask questions about the children who are traveling with you.

Every 30 days, returning U.S. citizens are allowed to bring back $800 (retail value) in merchandise duty-free, provided they have been out of the United States for at least 48 hours. This amount can include:

n 1 carton of cigarettes

n 100 cigars (not Cuban)

n 2 kilograms of smoking tobacco

n 1 liter of liquor, provided the buyer is 21 years of age.

The following items are not permitted into the United States:

n Cuban or Iranian products

n Fruits and vegetables

n Uncooked grains

Mitzi Harrison manages AAA Travel for the Charleston area and divides her time between Cincinnati and West Virginia. For more information on Toronto and other destinations, stop by the AAA Charleston office or call one of the AAA travel professionals - Janice Adkins, Lia Ireland, Amy Sisson, Becky Wallace and Barbara Wing - at 304-925-1136.

Chorus finds plenty to sing about on colossal trip to Italy http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150719/GZ05/150719526 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150719/GZ05/150719526 Sun, 19 Jul 2015 00:01:00 -0400 Dawn Nolan By Dawn Nolan CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Not everyone can say that they've attended Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City - let alone gotten special permission to perform there with the use of the cathedral's organ and trumpet. But 18-year-old Ivy Hodges and 31 other members of the Appalachian Children's Chorus concert choir can.

St. Peter's was just one of the stops on the group's nine-day performance tour of Italy last month, but it was easily the most memorable - especially for Hodges, who, after seven years, sang her last note as part of the choir at the famed church.

Hodges will start school at West Virginia State University, majoring in music education, in the fall.

"It was really special to have had my last concert there," Hodges said. "It helps to wrap up all the memories that I've had while in this choir.

"I'm very thankful. I doubt that I'd ever get to go [to Italy] again unless I won the lottery."

The choir also performed at other landmarks, including Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice, Montecatini's Terme Tettuccio in Tuscany (with the Ko'olauloa Children's Chorus, hula dancers from the Halau Hula Olana school, and the Polynesian Cultural Center's Fire Dancers) and St. Paul's Within the Walls in Rome during the trip.

ACC founder and artistic director Selina Midkiff said the ACC's concert choir, composed of youths in grades six through 12, many of whom have graduated from ACC's other choirs, try to go on an extensive performance tour like the one to Italy every two years.

"We've been to England, Prague, Austria, Hawaii, New York, Ireland - to name a few," she said.

But the cost of a trip like this isn't cheap - this one totaled over $3,800 per person, and Midkiff said the ACC can provide only limited financial assistance.

"So we offer fundraising opportunities, and then the kids raise the money themselves."

The tours coincide with ACC's mission to "develop artistic excellence, quality music education and extraordinary opportunities for West Virginia's youth."

"It's extraordinary," Midkiff said.

"The opportunities that these kids get to sing and represent West Virginia are remarkable. They're getting a taste of other cultures and the history of these areas. It's stuff that most of them will only see in movies."

Traveling to Italy was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for 13-year-old Emily Ronk. "It was my first time on a plane," she said. "I've really wanted to travel and going outside of the countries was one of the things that I had wanted to do when I got older. It was very neat to see the different aspects of their culture.

"It made me realize there is more to life than just West Virginia, that there is a whole world to explore."

To ensure her return trip to Rome, Ronk even tossed a coin in the Trevi Fountain, a longstanding tradition for visitors.

"Ms. Midkiff told me that she had done it before and gone back," Ronk said.

Twelve-year-old Amelia Allen had traveled domestically with ACC, but Italy was the first international trip she has taken with the group. "It's definitely the farthest I've gone," she said.

While a large part of the trip was spent preparing and performing for scheduled shows, Midkiff said that their itineraries also included time for sightseeing and tours of museums, galleries and historical sites.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa was a majority favorite. "It was insane," 14-year-old Ben Browning said.

"Climbing the stairs to the top is just as nerve-wracking as it looks. You always have this feeling of falling, but it was a lot of fun."

"You have to climb a lot of steps," Allen said. "But the views are amazing. It was one of the coolest things we did."

And who could forget the food?

"The food was really good," Allen said.

"It tastes pretty much the same, but a little bit fresher," said Browning. "The lasagna was so much better, though. It's just one thing I'll miss. I had a lot of fun and so many experiences that I bet no kid from West Virginia has ever had."

For more on the ACC concert choir's trip to Italy, visit www.wvacc.org/articles/accs-concert-choir-italy.

Reach Dawn Nolan at dawn.nolan@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1230 or follow @DawnNolanWV on Twitter.

Shark attacks leave Outer Banks waters emptier http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150718/GZ01/150719270 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150718/GZ01/150719270 Sat, 18 Jul 2015 20:38:00 -0400 Jake Jarvis By Jake Jarvis If it weren't for an unusually empty ocean at the Outer Banks, Haley Withrow might not have known about a recent series of incidents which have been taking place in the waters.

While the media has been reporting a string of shark attacks off the North Carolina coast this summer, Withrow, 20, of St. Albans, hadn't heard the bad news.

That quickly changed.

"When we was down there, there was four shark attacks," Withrow said. "I'm not really big on the ocean anyways, so I wasn't going to get in the water, that's for sure."

Withrow and her family already had reservations to stay for a week in a beach house. They didn't want to cancel or change their plans, despite their fears and hesitations.

She could tell people at the beach were nervous, though. She hardly saw anyone in the water except a few surfers.

"It really scared everybody," she said. "You could tell."

The Withrows, like some other West Virginia families, chose the Outer Banks as their vacation spot because they felt it's more family-oriented, it's cooler in the night time and they see fewer tourists.

This March, Withrow's grandparents made reservations for a week-long stay in the Outer Banks town of Duck. Would they have booked the stay if they knew what was to come?

Withrow isn't sure. Her grandparents, who came along for the vacation, watched dutifully over Withrow's four brothers and sisters, warning them, "Don't go out too far in the water."

"The past two years we haven't gone on a family vacation, but every year before that we would always go to the Outer Banks and generally the same city in Duck," Withrow said.

She said her family and others go to this part of North Carolina to fish. Officials in the area warn against swimming near a fishing line because the bait in the water can attract a shark.

And despite the rise in shark attacks, officials don't expect the tourism business to hurt anytime soon.

Lee Nettles is the executive director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau and works to promote tourism in the area. Nettles said the Outer Banks lodging business, which sees about 5 million tourists a year, won't be affected by the shark attacks.

About 80 percent of the Outer Banks' lodging business comes from places that require at least week-long stays, according to Nettles.

Most tourists don't make a spur of the moment decision to vacation in that area like they do other areas along North Carolina's coast.

"To an extent, we're insulated from an immediate dip," Nettles said.

North Carolina State Tourism Director Wil Tuttel said, according to informal surveys with tourism partners in the area, the state has not seen a decline in tourism.

"I think if we see [lodging] cancellations, it'll be later in the summer," Tuttel said. "Because of how expensive it is, it would probably be later in the year after people have time to make alternative plans."

Still, tourism officials like Nettles and Tuttel have received worried calls from people asking about the shark attacks. Officials remind them that shark attacks are isolated incidents and that there are precautions they can take.

Officials suggest beachgoers not swim in the early morning or late night, not swim near a pier or near where someone is fishing, not wear jewelry in the water, and swim in groups rather than alone.

Reach Jake Jarvis at jake.jarvis@wvgazette.com, 304-348-7905 or follow @NewsroomJake on Twitter.