www.wvgazettemail.com Travel http://www.wvgazettemail.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2016, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Photo of the Week: Grist Mill a summer getaway http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161204/GZ0506/161209842 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161204/GZ0506/161209842 Sun, 4 Dec 2016 00:01:00 -0500 Linda Mahan snapped this photo of the Grist Mill on a recent trip to Renfro Valley in Mount Vernon, Kentucky.

The attraction also includes a shopping village, campgrounds and Renfro Valley music shows and headliner concerts.

Acts including the Oak Ridge Boys, Loretta Lynn and Exile will perform at the performance venue this month.

"Things pretty much close down in the winter, but are in full swing in the summer," Mahan said. "A nice place to visit and see headliner shows."

Winter is almost officially here. In the meantime, send us your photos from your favorite fall adventure.

Send us your best, with a few details, in an email to social@wv gazettemail.com with "Photo of the Week" in the subject line.

WV Travel Team: Start new holiday traditions in the Mountain State http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161204/GZ0506/161209855 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161204/GZ0506/161209855 Sun, 4 Dec 2016 02:00:00 -0500 Compiled by the GoToWV Team By Compiled by the GoToWV Team

Time spent with the ones who mean the most is what makes the holiday season such a special time of year. The Mountain State is the perfect backdrop for spending time and connecting with loved ones - decorating together, sitting side-by-side at the town Christmas parade (with hot cocoa of course) or heading to local shops to pick out the perfect gifts together. It's the best time of year to try a new holiday tradition you'll treasure for years to come.

Here are some of the season's best in West Virginia:

Oglebay Resort, through Jan. 1, 2017

The Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Resort in Wheeling is one of the nation's largest, spanning 300 acres along a 6-mile drive. The festival's 80 displays include a 300-foot-long Rainbow Tunnel, Peanuts characters and Cinderella.

At the Mansion Museum, 150 shimmering hanging baskets float overhead, lighting the entry to the Christmas Tree Garden in The Gardens of Light tour.

Even the Good Zoo gets into the spirit with a dazzling show of more than 35,500 LED lights choreographed to holiday music.

The lights festival has been recognized by the American Bus Association as a top travel destination and also has been featured on the Travel Channel's "Extreme Christmas Celebrations."

Point Pleasant, hrough Dec. 31

Krodel Park's annual drive-through Christmas Fantasy Light Show features unique animated light displays of seasonal favorites like Santa's workshop, gingerbread men and angels, sprinkled with local folklore, like Point Pleasant's famous Mothman. New displays are added each year.

Bluefield, through Dec. 31

Holiday of Lights, featuring more than 700,000 lights covering 40 acres at Bluefield City Park, is billed as one of the largest light shows in the two Virginias. Every year, new pieces are added, and the legacy lights get an updated look.

Plan around special events like a 5K race, hayrides with Santa, trolley rides through the park and more.

Petersburg, through Jan. 1, 2017

Take a walking tour through Welton Park's annual Christmas Festival of Lights. Time your visit with the park's Old Time Christmas on Dec. 9 to enjoy an evening of horse-drawn sleigh rides, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus and a special reading of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Friday and Saturday, you can arrive by the Snowflake Express train, which departs from the South Side Depot.

Fayette County Park, through Dec. 30

Lacy's Lights and Maples Display at Fayette County Park in Beckwith celebrates its 46th year in 2016, making it one of the area's longest-running holiday celebrations.

What began as the combined displays of two local families has blossomed into 300,000 lights covering the majority of the park. You can wander this winter wonderland by foot or motorized vehicle.

Chief Logan State Park, through Dec. 31

Christmas in the Park showcases hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights on a 2 to 3-mile drive through Chief Logan State Park. The kids can visit with the Jolly Old Elf in Santa Land.

Martinsburg, today, Saturday and Dec. 11

Martinsburg is one of West Virginia's older cities, dating well back into the colonial period when the state was part of the Old Dominion of Virginia colony. The home of Martinsburg's founding father, Gen. Adam Stephen, has been restored back to its early republic state of the 1780s and is open year-round for historical tours.

One of the best times of year to visit this stately limestone mansion is during the holidays. During the annual Colonial Christmas event the first two weekends of December, the Adam Stephen House will show visitors how the holidays were celebrated during the colonial days with period music, food and decorations. Although donations are appreciated, admission is free.

Huntington, Friday and Saturday

Located in the riverside city of Huntington, Heritage Farm is a museum and period-specific historical village that celebrates Appalachian heritage and history. Its Way Back Weekends are fun-filled extravaganzas of artisans, music, food and special museum tours.

In December, it's transformed into a cheerful Christmas Village that features a Holiday Market, live music and, of course, a visit from Santa Claus!

Harpers Ferry, Saturday and Dec. 11

The small town of Harpers Ferry is one of the most history-rich places in West Virginia. For the holidays, the entire town comes alive with festivities. Streets are decorated, locals dress in period costumes of the 1860s and 19th-century folk music fills the chilly air. This event is also especially great for the kids, with puppet shows, storytelling and extended shopping hours throughout town.

Parkersburg, Saturday and Dec. 17

Step back into days gone by as you walk through the festively adorned rooms of Henderson Hall. This special Christmas tour offers all access throughout the hall to the sound of live Christmas music. Hors d'oeuvres and refreshments will be served. Reservations are limited to 30 guests per evening. Tickets are $35 per person.

Bramwell, Saturday

Bramwell was once a hotbed of West Virginia's southern coalfields, and its beautiful historic district still houses a museum, banks, shops and mansions, all from the turn-of-the-century heydays of the coal boom.

Every Christmas, costumed historical guides lead visitors on a tour of the town's finest and best-preserved mansions, telling stories of wealthy aristocratic Christmases from this bygone era. Reservations are not required, but there is a $15 tour fee.

Your holiday memories are waiting! Plan your trip here: gotowv.com/mountain-bests/.

For more information, call 800-CALL WVA or visit GoToWV.com. Share your Real. West Virginia stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #GoToWV and #RealWV.

Photo: Sunday morning views http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161127/GZ07/161129606 GZ07 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161127/GZ07/161129606 Sun, 27 Nov 2016 16:14:35 -0500

WV Travel Team: History meets modern appeal in Charlottesville, VA http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161127/GZ0506/161129653 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161127/GZ0506/161129653 Sun, 27 Nov 2016 02:00:00 -0500 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team By By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team Like a cool new brew, Charlottesville, Virginia, blends gold standard 18th-century history with the foodie/artisan appeal of the 21st century. Add in smiling faces and bright minds, and the combination is irresistible.

"I was the only waitress working at the restaurant who didn't have a master's degree," one longtime clay artist confessed.

We spent a lot of time touring the historic homes of a trifecta of U.S. presidents and wondered whether the genius was in the water - or maybe the wine.

Monticello is the undisputed star. Home of Thomas Jefferson, it is the only presidential home that is a World Heritage site, so designated because of its intact nature - 95 percent of the external material is original. Jefferson knew how to make things that lasted - his home, the Declaration of Independence, the University of Virginia.

He chose to locate on top of a mountain, providing a 45-mile view of the surrounding Valley of Virginia. He began clearing the land in 1768.

Jefferson's home is as original as his mind was filled with clever devices. He brought the notion of skylights back with him from Paris, and they fill the 21-room house with light. There are French doors that, when one side is closed, the other closes automatically.

The decor showcases his diverse interests including an entry hall decorated with Native American artifacts, animal heads, rare maps and prehistoric bones, many sent back by Lewis and Clark. There's an information-packed, 45-minute guided tour of the house interior, and then visitors are free to wander the grounds.

We rode the official bus, then walked back to the Visitors Center through gardens and along a gravel path, past the graveyard and Jefferson's tomb.

James Monroe's Highland is just down the road from Monticello, but it is considerably less elaborate in scale and youngest of the presidential house tours.

It has however, the most exciting of new discoveries - the original foundation of Monroe's house built in 1800. It burned about mid-19th century, and a later owner built a house upon the site. For now, the original guest house is the structure interpreted and filled with original Monroe furniture.

James Madison lived in his ancestral home, Montpelier, his entire life.

Our enthusiastic and well-informed guide, Chris, pointed out that Madison's old library was arguably the most important room in America, where the author of the U.S. Constitution spent years researching and reading hundreds of books about governments without kings. He then formulated the Constitution that has survived for 230 years in a world where the average duration is 17 years.

As impressive as Madison's accomplishments are, it was his wife, Dolley, who captured the hearts and imaginations of Americans for more than a century. The title first lady was invented for her. The visitor's center devotes a room to Dolley and the amazing array of commercial branding she inspired.

A domed temple built over the ice house is being restored. The most startling part of the landscape is an addition by a later owner: A full-scale horse-racing track, where the annual Montpelier Hunt Race has been conducted for nearly a century.


Foodies consider hip C-ville a mecca. Several people quoted to us the claim that C-ville has more restaurants than most cities twice its size, not hard to believe when the visitors guide lists 62 restaurants in the Asian category alone.

But it is the local flavor that really makes the city a dining destination. Dubbed by one national magazine as "locavore capital of the world," dozens of eateries boast of local sourcing for their food, which in turn points to a robust farming community to provide all those ingredients.

We discovered early on that Charlottesville had a taste for hamburgers, not the fast-food type, but what one artist called "Gucci burgers." There is no doubt after sampling the fare at Citizen Burger, repeated winner of the best burger category, that locally sourced beef makes a tastier burger.

Charlottesville offers almost endless choices for lodging from bed-and-breakfasts to major hotels. We stayed at The Graduate Charlottesville, a sleek, boutique hotel located across from the University of Virginia grounds in an area known as The Corner.

The Graduate does not link itself with the university by marking everything with school colors. Its branding is more subtle. My favorite was making school ID cards of noted alumni into the plastic key cards for the rooms. Mine was Jessica Lange.

Our first night we sought a restaurant close to the hotel. We settled on The Fig Bistro, where the Croatian chef whipped up an eclectic menu with modest prices. I had Cajun shrimp with garlic mash pirogies in a sauce I lapped up with bread long after the shrimp was gone. My husband, Jack, had blackened catfish with mac and cheese balls.

The next day, we enjoyed gourmet sandwiches served in brown bags at Baggsby's, a family run operation celebrating 23 years on the historic downtown mall. "When we first came here, folks thought we were crazy, that the mall was dangerous and unpopular," said owner John Lapanta.

That's all changed. The eight-block downtown pedestrian mall is now the epicenter of city life. And the sandwiches? Jack considered his the best he ever had and nurtured it for three days because he didn't want it to go away.

We finished our personal food tour with lunch at historic Michie Tavern, where costumed waitresses cheerily brought us seconds (and thirds, had we asked) from the Southern food buffet. Happily we saved room for dessert - a mouthwatering peach cobbler.


The Artisan Center of Virginia, in an inspired move, has packaged the state's artisan wealth, including agri-artisans, into regional tours. On the Monticello tour, that meant more than 40 studios and craft-related venues, plus nearly 30 agri-artisan farms and wineries.

Arguably, Virginia is the birthplace of American wines developed under the visionary eye of Jefferson. Today, Virginia is fifth in U.S. wine production, and there are more than 30 wineries surrounding Charlottesville. The original Jefferson Vineyards, just down the road from Monticello, still produces outstanding vintages.

We visited several art locales including C-ville Arts, a thriving co-op on the mall with more than 60 members from all over Virginia. Folks pick it out from the other storefronts by the art-decorated concrete sofa in front.

The McGuffey Art Center transformed an elementary school in 1975 into a collection of studios and galleries with about 50 members in the building today. There are regular art shows and special events like glass artist Charles Hall's holiday Ornament Blow.

One of the most unusual stops on the Artisan Tour is the Glass Palette, first of its kind where you can walk in and make glass art without classes. Cara DiMassimo has always done interactive art. Her operation is very hands-on with kilns in the space. She is popular with individuals and group parties and also does classes and workshops.

The vibrant local music scene is universally attributed to the conscious nurturing of longtime resident Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band.

Venues on weekends offering local talent include many of the wineries. A half dozen venues bring in major talent.

Friday after Five produces weekly concerts in the outdoor Sprint Pavilion on the mall, complete with art, wine and beer vendors as well as a selection of C-ville's noted food trucks.

The many gems to explore are scattered in pockets around the brick-and-tree-rich city as well as the perfect countryside of central Virginia, where presidential homes are interspersed with wineries.

The fulcrum of the city is the University of Virginia on one end, balanced by the eight-block historic downtown mall on the other, with a free trolley that runs daily between the two.

For more information, go to VisitCharlottesville.org.

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 have 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.

Photos of the Week: Blackwater views too perfect to pick just one http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161127/GZ0506/161129665 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161127/GZ0506/161129665 Sun, 27 Nov 2016 00:01:00 -0500 Continuing in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we're thankful for the beauty of West Virginia and those who are able to capture it so wonderfully.

Nancy Hancart took these photos from the always beautiful Blackwater Falls State Park on a recent trip.

The waterfall is Elakala #1 in the park, located down a short trail to the left of the park's main lodge.

And because we couldn't pick just one photo, take a look at the sunset she shot from Lindy Point in the park.

Send your submissions, with a few details about the photo, to social@wvgazettemail.com with "Photo of the Week" in the subject line.

Fayetteville becoming outdoor adventure hub for all seasons http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161121/GZ07/161129915 GZ07 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161121/GZ07/161129915 Mon, 21 Nov 2016 13:23:22 -0500 Rick Steelhammer By Rick Steelhammer FAYETTEVILLE - Whitewater rafting may spend the winter in hibernation, but mountain biking, bouldering, zip-lining and rock climbing continue to draw a stream of visitors to the outdoor adventure hub of Fayette County long after the leaves fall and the first flurries fly.

It's helping support the town's growing assortment of restaurants and specialty shops, while keeping local outdoor enthusiasts active.

"Winter is an ideal time to visit," said Sally Kiner, director of the Fayetteville Convention and Visitor Bureau. "The landscape is beautiful, our varied lodging is generally discounted and our restaurants are somewhat less crowded - you won't have to stand in long lines waiting to be served."

"We have seen a boost in people riding in winter," said Andy Forron, owner New River Bikes in Fayetteville. "If you dress right, you can ride trails comfortably year-round. If it snows, we ride fat bikes with 4- to 5-inch-wide tires that also make sense when the ground is wet and soft."

During the winter, Forron closes his shop daily from noon to 3 p.m. to lead rides for anyone interested in joining him.

"It gets people outside and helps them get over the winter blues," he said.

Once a week, he hosts a night ride.

"When there's snow on the ground and the moon is out, you can ride at night without lights," he said. "Riding in winter is a totally different experience."

For many climbers, winter is the favored season for bouldering, a sport that has become increasingly popular in the New River Gorge area in recent years. The high humidities and high temperatures of summer can make the physically demanding sport a sweaty, slippery experience, while winter generally provides drier hand holds and more secure footing, since climbing shoes grip better in colder temperatures.

The winter draw down of nearby Summersville Lake exposes miles of popular climbing walls and boulder fields submerged during warmer months. If the temperature plunges downward and remains substantially below freezing for two or three weeks, small waterfalls freeze solid enough to accommodate ice climbing.

All hiking trails in the New River Gorge National River remain open in winter, giving those who travel them leaf-free views of former coal camp building foundations and coke ovens.

Zip-line canopy tours remain open through the winter at Ace Adventure Resort near Minden and Adventures on the Gorge at Lansing, as do catwalk tours of the New River Gorge Bridge.

Visitors have begun to regard Fayetteville as not only a wide-spectrum outdoor recreation venue, but also as a winter travel destination, according to Kiner, with the town's eclectic independent eateries helping to anchor that niche.

Weekend dine-arounds, during which visitors sample table fare at Fayetteville's restaurants, have become popular with winter visitors, Kiner said.

Other popular indoor activities in winter include visiting some of the dozen or more antique shops - including four in Fayetteville's historic district - spending time at a spa or yoga studio, browsing some of the town's specialty shops, or taking in a live music performance or theatrical event at the Historic Fayette Theater.

For online information on what's happening in Fayetteville, visit the town's website at VisitFayettevilleWV.com or call 304-574-1500.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at


304-348-5169, or follow

@rsteelhammer on Twiter.

Spending holidays at Walt Disney World twice as magical http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161120/GZ0506/161129967 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161120/GZ0506/161129967 Sun, 20 Nov 2016 02:00:00 -0500 By Carla Barfield Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail By By Carla Barfield Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail Christmas is my favorite time of the year. It is also one of my favorite times to go to Walt Disney World. If it's possible, it's even more magical.

Living in Florida for 15 years, I never miss going for the Christmas season. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party takes place from 7 p.m. to midnight select dates between Nov. 7 and Dec. 22 at Magic Kingdom.

It's the same premise as the Halloween party. A separate ticket costs about $86. However, the park only sells a limited number, so it is not crowded, and there is little to no wait on rides.

There are parades, special shows and fireworks. Also, free hot chocolate and cookies. The park is decorated magically.

The lighting of Cinderella's Castle at 9 p.m. by Elsa from "Frozen" is a must-see. It is indescribable. Be sure to have your cameras ready.

Another must-see is EPCOT. As you go around the International Showcase, you will see how other nations celebrate Christmas. There are also samplings of special holiday foods from these countries.

Holidays Around the World takes place Friday through Dec. 30. This includes, on special nights, a candlelight processional led by different celebrities. It starts with a reading of the Christmas story, accompanied by an orchestra.

Some of the celebrities this year include Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Jim Caviezel and Steven Curtis Chapman. This is included in the EPCOT ticket purchase.

You can, however, purchase a separate Candlelight Processional Dining Package for breakfast, lunch or dinner. These are different prices at different restaurants. They do guarantee you priority seating for the processional.

The parks are all decorated amazingly, but don't forget Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney). Santa has his own special place there and, this year, at Santa's Chalet.

Another must-see is the Christmas Tree Trail, with each tree decorated with a Disney theme.

Of course, don't forget all the wonderful shops for your last -minute Christmas shopping. There are plenty of restaurants, table service and counter service. I ate at Earl of Sandwich and had the Hawaiian BBQ - chicken, ham, pineapple, Swiss cheese and barbecue sauce - only $6.99 and delicious.

My favorite table service is Ragland Road. It's an Irish Pub, and the atmosphere is great - the food is good, too. Performers go room to room doing traditional Irish dancing, and there is always a wonderful Irish folk singer to serenade visitors. If you just want to relax, there is a movie theater and a bowling alley.

If you have time, and I'd try to make time, check out the resorts and their decorations. It doesn't cost anything, and they are beautiful. If you're short on time, jump on the monorail and see the big three: Contemporary, Grand Floridian and Polynesian.

A small word of advice: yes, you are going to Florida, however, that does not guarantee warm weather. My last Christmas visit, and, yes, I should know better, I ended up having to buy a sweater. The days will probably be warm, but nights can get down into the 50s with a breeze. So better safe than sorry.

Between Thanksgiving until the week before Christmas is the slow season, but the week between Christmas and New Year's Day is probably the most crowded. Officials may even close one or more of the parks if they reach capacity.

If this is the only time you can go, plan to be at the parks early, when they open. Get as much done as you can before the crowds start pouring in.

Also, if you are going during this time (or anytime) don't forget to take advantage of fast passes. You can get these at WaltDisney.com if you link your vacation through the website. It's quite simple.

Fast passes can be obtained up to 30 days prior to your visit. You are allowed three per day per park. You pick a time, and you have an hour-long window to enjoy the ride. They are free and total life savers.

You can also get them at your resort or at the park the day you are there. But be warned: some of the more popular rides, such as Space Mountain, Frozen or Kilimanjaro Safaris might not be available the day of. As a matter of fact, good luck getting Frozen passes even 30 days out.

This is a lot of information. Please visit my Facebook page or email me if you have any questions. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Carla Barfield is a Charleston resident and a former resident of Florida who has been to Disney World more times than she can count. She has also been a travel agent and has traveled extensively. Her Facebook page is Disney Diva. She can be reached at lbarfi1055@aol.com.

Continuing wild family hiking experiences on Vermont's Long Trail http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161120/GZ0506/161129977 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161120/GZ0506/161129977 Sun, 20 Nov 2016 02:00:00 -0500 By Anna Megyesi Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail By By Anna Megyesi Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail

It was a short autumn hike about this time last year that convinced me to plan for a longer journey, one to be taken in warmer weather.

It happened a few months ago, on a pleasant July night in Vermont, a night that was unusually free from mosquitoes and black flies. I'm snug in my sleeping bag reliving the past four hours of immeasurable beauty and breathing in, at last, the reality of being on this hike.

It is my first night on a journey to hike Vermont's Long Trail end to end - 273 miles from the Massachusetts border to Canada through the Green Mountains. Beside me, my young dog Bo has finally settled in and is resting. It is our first time hiking with full packs, and we are both tired - not yet exhausted or sore, but ready for sleep.

Three days into the hike, I am at Goddard shelter. There is spring water coming out of a pipe set into the hillside, and the shelter's high wooden arches are gorgeous. There is a fire tower nearby, and I climb up and make a cellphone call to my sister, who will be resupplying me in a couple of days.

I set up my tent and set my socks out in the balsam firs to dry. Bo eats heartily, but I am struggling to get an appetite and pick at my food. I am starting to get a comfortable routine, and the initial panic that I won't be strong enough to keep hiking subsides. Inside my balsam bower, I listen to the liquid warble of a winter wren at dusk. Later, the winds will sigh heavily as only winds on mountain tops can, and I will fall asleep grinning at my incredible fortune.

Backpacking into the wild may seem an odd way to spend your vacation. Rehydrating food, rationing toilet paper and sleeping with a T-shirt over your head to ward off mice isn't exactly the stuff of dreams. But, in a sense, it is exactly what we need to re-energize and break from the anxiety, stress and overstimulation of our modern work life.

It is the chance to focus deeply on our surroundings, immerse ourselves in the songs of the woods and walk away from cares and sorrows. And it is a chance to celebrate the American wilderness and those who had the foresight to preserve these areas for us to enjoy.

The Long Trail was conceived and built between 1910 and 1930 and was the model for the much-longer Appalachian Trail, which overlaps it for 100 miles. I grew up just 10 miles from the Breadloaf Wilderness section of the trail, and, from the age of 5, I was smitten with hiking.

In 1972, my father section-hiked the entire trail, and his stories inspired me to follow in his footsteps. It had been more than 20 years since I'd done any backpacking, and I was pretty apprehensive starting out. Friends and family loaned me gear, met me for resupply on the trail and supported me with their enthusiasm.

Though I'd done trail runs in West Virginia since I moved here 16 years ago, nothing could prepare me for the reality of carrying everything you need to survive for an extended time in the wild. Back-country hiking alters your perceptions and whittles away previous notions of needs and wants.

Starting out, I had a relatively light pack - just over 35 pounds, including water. But the pack still cut into my shoulders and left my collar bones red and raw. In this experience, it was easy to get rid of the things weighing me down and holding me back.

By the first resupply, I was down to two sets of clothes - one for hiking and one for sleeping. I didn't even change my socks for three days straight.

The next things to go were my tent and stove. I kept a ground cloth and tarp just in case I couldn't get to a shelter before a storm, and relied on nuts, dried fruit, foil pouches of salmon or tuna, and bread and cheese for my meals.

The Long Trail varies from easy strolls along pine needle-covered knolls to rock scrambles, ravines and ledges.

"You'll be hanging out over the jagged edge of nothing," my father had been warned when he climbed Stark's Wall near Appalachian Gap.

But my biggest challenges were the numerous steep downhills where I had to scoot down long ledges and use tree branches to stop from sliding. There are rustic, comfortable shelters beside water sources that dot the trail every 8 miles or so, and tenting is allowed along the trail in most areas.

Some of the shelters are breathtaking historic log cabins or stone shelters. On the trail, there is a feeling of connection to the many people who hiked or cut trail here long before me.

Sections of the trail are maintained by a large network of volunteers with the Green Mountain Club. Trailheads are a short distance from some of Vermont's most beautiful towns and make it easy to do day or weekend hikes.

Mount Mansfield and Camel's Hump, Vermont's highest peaks, are easily accessible from Burlington and host naturalists and caretakers who educate visitors about the unique alpine vegetation on these peaks and the history of the trail.

The last three days of hiking are hard. I hiked my longest mileage day during a heatwave as I tried to beat the strong thunderstorms forecast for the next four days. I met four hikers who, with hardly a word spoken, became family.

Trail angels appeared at the trailhead with pizza and offered to carry some of my heavier gear in their car to the next trailhead.

The steep peaks and exhausting downhills floated by as we sang at the top of our lungs and made slap-happy comments to make light of challenging sections: the endless stone staircases, Devil's Gulch, slippery bald rock peaks.

By the time I reached Journey's End at the Canadian border, I was drenched, and my legs shook with exhaustion - and I was immensely happy. My family was there with an enormous picnic - enough to share with my new trail family.

Why do we venture on such journeys? Are we driven to tame the wilderness, prove to ourselves that we can conquer every craggy peak?

My own motivations were woven through with the memories of family experiences and the desire to continue to follow that thread a little while down the path.

Sure, I wanted to see if I was strong enough to keep hiking to the end. But there was a quiet call to meet the wilderness with my most basic self, those wild parts each of us carries within us that long to return.

The best journeys are to places that stay with us even when we leave them behind. The wilderness is just such a magical place.

Anna Megyesi is an avid hiker who enjoys writing in her spare time. She is the lead teacher for the West Virginia Virtual School's Spanish program and lives in Milton with her husband, Rick Wilson. She can be reached by email at annamegyesi@hotmail.com.

WV woman goes door-to-door tracing Slovenian roots http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161120/GZ05/161129983 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161120/GZ05/161129983 Sun, 20 Nov 2016 04:30:00 -0500 Douglas Imbrogno By Douglas Imbrogno Nancy Moore, of Elkview, traveled deep into Central Europe recently to find some relatives.

She had tried researching her family's roots in Slovenia on this side of the ocean, working backward with her grandmother's maiden name - Mercun - and her own maiden name - Oblak.

But on a recent trip to the country from which both her mother and father hailed, a Slovenian translator knocking on doors also worked just fine.

"He went right up and knocked on doors and said 'Do any people by the last name of 'Mercun' live here? And if so, I've got a relative who is looking for them," Moore said. "And viola!"

Her advance homework helped, including reaching out to folks who kept official birth records in the Slovenian capital.

"I have been communicating with the archives in Ljubljana, the capital, and we got birth certificates of the generations beyond my grandmother," Moore recalled. "Then, for some reason, they didn't send me the papers. When I was in town, I went and picked them up and said, 'See, I had to come all the way to Slovenia to pick up my papers.'"

Moore's parents both emigrated from Slovenia to Pennsylvania, where she was born. Moore, 63, has lived the last 34 years in West Virginia. A retired teacher, she taught at Walton elementary, middle and high schools in Roane County.

She had long wanted to investigate her family roots in Slovenia in person before she finally undertook the 10-day trip in September. She had heard about trips to the country through the Slovenian Genealogy Society International.

"They get together a trip of anyone who wanted to go over and find their ancestors," Moore said.

How many did she find?

"I was able to find seven relatives," she said. "I found two sisters who were the nieces of my grandmother. And I found a man whose grandfather was brother to my great-grandfather."

One relative found Moore after hearing she was in the country.

"She knows we're related, but doesn't know how exactly," Moore said. "But she came to the meeting of the society and introduced herself to me and took me to where my great-grandfather lived for a while. She showed me the house where he lived."

She was also able to find the house where her grandmother on her father's side was born.

Her advance research - along with an on-the-ground translator since she only speaks a few words of Slovenian - yielded results.

"It was so easy. My translator spoke both Slovenian and English," she said. "I had done a little research and knew the house numbers in the town."

She also learned more about the towns from her father's side of the family, where her grandmother hailed - Radomlje - and her grandfather was born - Burkov Vrk.

"They sometimes don't put vowels in the word," she said, of the second name which means "oak hill." "Their language is very hard to learn."

Moore is a Mormon, a faith with an abiding interest in genealogy with its vast, free-to-search global genealogy databases. She had researched her Slovenian roots for many years and has traced her Oblak family line as far back as 1670.

In Slovenia, she found the house of a man who was apparently part of her family line.

"There was one old Mr. Oblak that still lived there, but he wasn't home," she said. "They showed me his picture. He looked exactly like my grandfather."

Reach Douglas Imbrongo at


304-348-3017 or follow

@douglaseye on Twitter.

WV Travel Team: Outdoor getaways in Tennessee's Smoky Mountains http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161113/GZ0506/161119818 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161113/GZ0506/161119818 Sun, 13 Nov 2016 02:47:00 -0500 By Crissy Gray WV Travel Team By By Crissy Gray WV Travel Team Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains, is a beautiful anchor to a getaway filled with adventure and relaxation. Slightly more than five hours by car from Charleston, the Gatlinburg area offers small-town charm mixed with stunning scenery.

A walk along the Downtown Parkway, which runs from one end of town to the other, will give you a sense of all there is to see in Gatlinburg. If you prefer something a bit quieter you can stroll the Riverwalk.

The Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community is an 8-mile loop of more than 100 shops. You can watch the artisans at work while you shop.

No matter your preference for accommodations, Gatlinburg has plenty to offer. Pitch your tent or check in to a beautiful mountainside cabin or chalet. Go out for a rugged adventure and come back to a luxury stay. Deciding on where to start on your adventure might be the hardest part.

If you consider yourself an angler or just want to try it, there are 2,100 miles of streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to reel one in.

If you'd like to pedal your way around the beautiful Gatlinburg bike trails, you can an 11-mile loop with scenic views and points of interest. If you didn't bring your bike, you can rent one at the Cades Cove Campground Store.

Another unique way to find spectacular views is atop a four-legged guide. You can explore the mountains on horseback on a guided backcountry ride, and it's fun for all ages.

If the bigger thrills are your thing, you may want to try the whitewater rafting, zip lining, skiing, tubing or skating opportunities. Ober Gatlinburg is Tennessee's only ski resort.

Hiking more than 800 miles of trails will keep you moving. You may want to check out the waterfalls along the way.

Be sure to find the Grotto Falls off the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail - it's the only waterfall in the park you can walk behind. Add Mount LeConte to your must-see list. At just under 6,600 feet, the views are magnificent.

You can arrange to stay at the rustic LeConte Lodge. The lodge does not have electricity, and it also sells out quickly, but is worth the experience. Mount LeConte features several access trails, some taking you by breathtaking waterfalls. See some of the best sunsets and sunrises at Myrtle Point in the east and Clifftops in the west.

After all the adventure seeking in a day, you're going to be hungry. Your preference for nourishment will be covered by more than 100 places to dine. From an upscale evening out to comfort food, you will find something to restore your energy for the next adventure.

Legalized moonshine, handcrafted beers and wines highlight the number of opportunities to tour distilleries around town. Tastings at some of these locations allow you to sample the goods. Smoky Mountain Brewery has a colorful menu of steaks, pizza and burgers so you can refuel for the next adventure.

Just 15 minutes north of Gatlinburg, you will be amazed with all Pigeon Forge has to offer families of all sizes and ages. Home to the much-loved theme park, Dollywood, Pigeon Forge will keep you busy for a day or more if you choose.

Dollywood theme park has more than 40 rides and attractions, which include the fastest wooden roller coaster, Lightning Rod, plus Wild Eagle, the country's first wing coaster.

AAA tip: Visit your local AAA Store for exclusive AAA Member discounts on Dollywood admission tickets.

The award-winning Smoky Mountain Christmas includes 4 million twinkle lights on display just after the first of November through New Year's Day. Of course, spring and summer have their own dazzling events at the park too. If you arrive after 3 p.m., your passes are good for the next day, as well.

If the theme park is just the beginning of thrill-seeking adventures for you, take on the zip lines or ropes course. For some, pure fun is rolling down a hill inside an inflated ball at the Gravity Park. Or, you may want to try free falling Flyaway Indoor Skydiving. The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster will put a little wind in your wings, as will whitewater rafting.

After all that adventure chasing, you'll want to grab a bite at Mel's Classic Diner, a 1950s flashback. Or perhaps you'd like to take in dinner and a show at Hatfield and McCoy's or Lumberjack Feud Dinner and Show. Be sure to order a stack at Log Cabin Pancake House for breakfast.

Take home some mementos of your trip from shops in Old Mill Square, Walden's Landing or Pigeon River Crossings.

The Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area offer many things for all ages. Your experience can be different each time and time of year.

For personalized assistance in planning your Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Pigeon Forge excursion, 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.

Photo of the Week: A flash of light in Sweden http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161113/GZ05/161119935 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161113/GZ05/161119935 Sun, 13 Nov 2016 00:01:00 -0500 Ronnie Williams, of Cross Lanes, took this photo just outside of Örebro, Sweden, in September, as the sun was just starting to set.

The display began with just a small spike, and then he watched it grow and begin to arch across the sky. There was no rain at the time.

Don't let anything rain on your parade! Do you have gorgeous weather pictures you'd like to share? We in the Gazette-Mail features section would love to show them off.

Send us your best, with a few details, in an email to social@wv gazettemail.com with "Photo of the Week" in the subject line.

Bagging states, trails and a few lobsters in New England http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161106/GZ0506/161109780 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161106/GZ0506/161109780 Sun, 6 Nov 2016 03:53:00 -0500 By Rob Byers Executive editor By By Rob Byers Executive editor As the climb up the boulder-covered trail leading to Vermont's Camel's Hump peak finally reached its conclusion, I scrambled onto a rocky platform and felt the wind in my face.

Actually, it was the brim of my hat in my face. The intense wind pushed it down across my eyes as I buried my chin in my chest to catch my breath.

Steadying myself with my hiking poles, I soon realized this was not your average westerly wind gust. Instead, it was the strongest wind I had ever felt.

Moving to the east side of the rocky "hump" helped buffer me from the wind so my brother - my usual hiking partner on these trips - and I could take in the views: Burlington and Lake Champlain to the northwest; the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the east.

Mount Washington, home to some of the nation's worst weather extremes, was among those mountains. We would be at its summit the next day. It's a good thing we weren't there at the time. Winds were hitting 101 mph (now that's a wind gust) at the weather observatory on the mountaintop. The observatory also took a direct lightning strike that day, and a hiker had to be rescued from somewhere near the summit.

The hikes were part of our latest mountain-trekking adventure, centered mostly on trying to be the first Byers brother to visit all 50 states. On this trip, I picked up Vermont and New Hampshire; my younger brother, only Vermont.

The tally now stands at Rob, 42 states; Ric, 44.


We pinpointed our New England trip for mid-September, trying to find the sweet spot between the final days of the summer tourism season and the start of the "leaf peeper" explosion. We also wanted to avoid tick season and Lyme disease, which is a big concern when hiking in New England.

The trip officially began on a late Saturday morning when we aimed our rented Hyundai Santa Fe away from Boston's Logan Airport and headed inland.

First stop: impossibly quaint Concord, Massachusetts, for lunch and a little literary history. We spied the Main Streets Market and Cafe, but it looked like a long wait. A nearby sign with the magic word "burritos" led us down the adjacent alley to a little hole-in-the-wall selling burritos, tacos and ice cream. Excellent combination.

Full of pulled pork and black beans, we headed to the Author's Ridge section of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to check out the final resting places of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott.

Thoreau and Alcott appear to have the edge in popularity, if you gauge by the number of pens, pencils and notes placed around their headstones.

Next, a few miles of driving and we were walking the shores of Walden Pond, where, in the 1840s, Thoreau sowed the seeds for modern-day environmentalism.

The idea of seeing Walden for the first time had me hoping for a bit of a spiritual experience, but it was tough to get into the mindset when there were chattering hipsters sunning themselves all along the water's edge.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately" ... no, wait, scratch that: I went to the woods because I wished to talk incessantly.

Back at the Walden parking area, which sports a reproduction of Thoreau's one-room cabin, we could hear a mother loudly schooling her young son: "Now, this is where Trudeau did his work."

"Imagine that," Ric mused, "all those Doonesburys, drawn right here."


We pushed on to Killington, Vermont, where we checked in to the Snowed Inn (get it?) and headed to the Charity Tavern, where the bartender recommended a Burlington-made Switchback Ale - an unfiltered amber, easy on the hops and definitely refreshing after a long day of traveling.

Following our Camel's Hump hike the next day (6 miles), we spent the night in the nation's tiniest state capital, Montpelier.

At Philamena's the following morning, Ric did his best to polish off a stack of thick buckwheat-ricotta pancakes with fresh berries while I dug into seared local skirt steak and a poached egg tucked into a creamy plateful of herbed polenta drizzled with chimichurri.

Vermont's comfortable, tidy little towns nestle at the base of the leafy mountains, with no billboards or fast-food joints to spoil the effect. Every curve in the road revealed a new Norman Rockwell scene, as we wound down the two-lane to next-door neighbor New Hampshire.


The Hyundai revved loudly in low gear as we scaled the side of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeast at 6,288 feet. Unlike the dangerous winds and lightning the day before, we enjoyed cobalt-blue skies and winds merely averaging 32 mph.

After reaching the summit, which is home to the Mount Washington Observatory, we began a slow hike over another boulder-strewn trail toward the Lion Head, a rocky promontory overlooking Tuckerman Ravine, the glacial bowl that fills with 50 feet of snow each year, drawing intrepid skiers well into the summer.

The land around the summit and the Lion Head are otherworldly - wind-scoured rocks, shrubby pines clinging to existence and a few other weather-resistant life forms - giving way to unlimited views of the Presidential Range and a hundred other rolling ridges.

We stayed for two nights in Gorham, New Hampshire, the town at the base of the mountain, at the Mt. Madison Inn. That allowed us to spend the next crisp, pre-autumnal day hiking the nearby Franconia Ridge Traverse, often listed (correctly, I can now say) as one of the most scenic hikes in the U.S.

The 9-mile loop begins by climbing the aptly named Falling Waters Trail, which - for its first 1.5 miles - seems to feature a bigger waterfall around every bend, but for its final 1.7 miles is yet another boulder-covered trail straight up the mountain.

We topped out on a peak called Little Haystack and immediately reached for our windbreakers. The breathtaking view toward Mount Lincoln (5,089 feet) showed the ridgeline trail running to the summit through the scrubby vegetation and reddish rock. Once we crested that one, we could see the next section of narrow trail pushing toward another peak, Mount Lafayette (5,249 feet). It was like walking a tightrope stretched down the center of New England.


Revived the next morning by a second consecutive breakfast visit to Gorham's White Mountain Cafe for a Wildcat sandwich (bacon, egg, cheddar, red onion and hot sauce on an English muffin) and 16 ounces of the Guatemalan, we made a beeline across Maine, heading for the coast.

I didn't wait long to devour my first lobster as we hit Bar Harbor, Maine, stopping at The Chart Room at the entrance to town. At an outdoor table along Hull's Cove, I made quick work of the crimson beauty, served with potato wedges and slaw and washed down with a Bar Harbor Real Ale, which is darker than it tastes, but was a good match for the subtle sweetness of the fresh lobster.

It certainly wasn't the last lobster I would have during the next few days in Bar Harbor. There was the lobster fra diavolo at Poor Boy's Cafe - the meat from an entire lobster swimming in the spicy red sauce. And the lobster carbonara at Cherrystone's - not like traditional carbonara, but closer to a creamy Alfredo. And lobster Benedict at Great Maine Breakfast, where Mornay sauce took the place of hollandaise.

We stayed at the Cromwell Harbor Motel, on the quiet south side of town, with easy access to Acadia National Park, our true destination on this journey to the Maine coast.

The beauty of Acadia's rocky shores and blue waters dotted with bobbing lobster buoys was, of course, stunning. But we spent a good bit of time face-to-face with the rocky cliffs, as we scaled a vertical mile up the dizzying Precipice Trail.

The Precipice is one of Acadia's "ladder" trails - the cliffs are so sheer, you've got to climb up iron rungs anchored to the rock face. Not for the acrophobic.

That night, we ran the Hyundai up the road to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak in the park, to check out the sunset. The boats in the blue around Bar Harbor shone as the golden glow of early evening overtook the town below. People in parkas and others wrapped in blankets stood on the windy peak as the gold turned to orange and the Harvest Moon rose over the Atlantic.

Not a bad ending for a week in the New England mountains.

Reach Rob Byers at


304-348-1236 or follow

@RobByersWV on Twitter.

Report: Allegiant Air unexpected landing rate higher than others http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161103/GZ03/161109845 GZ03 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161103/GZ03/161109845 Thu, 3 Nov 2016 10:35:37 -0500 ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - A newspaper investigation has found that Allegiant Air's planes are four times as likely to break down in flight as those operated by other major U.S. airlines.

The Tampa Bay Times report published Wednesday said Allegiant jets were forced to make unexpected landings at least 77 times in 2015 for serious mechanical failures.

None of the incidents prompted enforcement action from the Federal Aviation Administration, which doesn't compare airline breakdown records to look for warning signs.

Times reporters built a database of more than 65,000 records from the FAA.

The newspaper reports that during interviews at the company's Las Vegas headquarters, Allegiant acknowledged that its planes break down too often and said the company is changing the way it operates.

Allegiant Air operates flights from Huntington's Tri-State airport to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and several destinations in Florida, and from the North Central West Virginia Airport in Bridgeport to Myrtle Beach and Orlando.

WV Travel Team: Add WV flavor to your meal with mountain ingredients http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161030/GZ0506/161039989 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161030/GZ0506/161039989 Sun, 30 Oct 2016 01:47:00 -0500 Compiled by the GoToWV Team By Compiled by the GoToWV Team

If you're thankful to live in West Virginia, there's no feast more fitting than one created with the state's pure mountain flavor.

Fill your table with top quality local products. Here are 13 ways to do just that:

Toast to what you're thankful for. Stock your bar with local drinks.

If you're a beer aficionado, try a Coal City Stout from Morgantown Brewing Company or a Bridge Brew Works Hellbender Black IPA. Wine lovers, enjoy a warm fall wine, like Kirkwood Winery's Black Satin Blackberry.

Not into beer or wine, there are also a number of liquors, moonshine (legal, of course) and even mead or hard cider from Hawk Knob Cidery in Lewisburg.

Explore all the state's best beverages on the Wine & Spirits Trail or Craft Beer Trail.

For decades, Teays Valley brand mixes have been a staple in household pantries. It helps you easily create that down-home, made-from-scratch taste.

Now part of the Tasty Blends family, its products are great for tasty biscuits, gravies, mashed potatoes, cornbread, dumplings and fudge - all Thanksgiving staples.

Mountain State Honey Company is a family run beekeeping business, which started with two honey lovers in beautiful Tucker County. With the help of their children and a few really great friends, they now run more than 1,000 hives of honeybees.

They offer natural honey in a variety of flavors. Most recently, they featured orange blossom honey, buckwheat honey and spring wildflower honey.

For all the gourmet mustard and sauce lovers (we know you're out there), catch a taste of West Virginia in a jar. Up the Creek is a small, family owned-and-operated business in Montgomery.

Try its famous classic pepper mustard, or switch it up with its cranberry, jalapeno, strawberry or pepper dill mustard.

No plate is complete without a little salt. Sprinkle in some J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works to crown the perfect dish. Its artisanal salt is harvested by hand - the hands of a seventh-generation salt-making family, to be specific. The salt comes from underneath the Appalachian Mountains in the Kanawha Valley.

Want to make sure the turkey on your table isn't packed full of preservatives? The owners of Misty Mountain Farm, a rolling farm on more than 100 Calhoun County acres, believe food should be raised naturally.

They have a limited number of turkeys during the Thanksgiving season, so you can eat naturally raised food at your feast.

Keep grandma and grandpa lively with a steaming cup of coffee after the feast. Shepherdstown's German Street Coffee and Candlery stocks bags of fresh coffee beans along with a delicious selection of other West Virginia-made products, all sourced by the shop owners.

Black Dog Coffee in nearby Shenandoah Junction collects the best lots of specialty grade green coffees from around the world and roasts small batches with extreme care.

Fill the bread basket with a West Virginia staple: pepperoni rolls. They're not hard to come by in this state. Grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores are likely to have these bad boys on hand.

If you're looking for authenticity, stop into the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont. It was here that an immigrant miner first started to bake these delicious snacks in the 1930s.

Enjoy some mountain sweetness and heat from the hills with Blue Smoke Salsa. Stick some sweet onion peach salsa out with some guacamole chips for a little snack. It also has a delicious pepper jelly that goes great with crackers.

West Virginia Fruit and Berry makes traditional food products indigenous to the Wild and Wonderful. Its preserves, jams and butters are all-natural with no additives.

Give your rolls some flavor with the Almost Heaven Black Raspberry Seedless Preserve. The apple butter is a pretty solid bet as well.

Cool Hollow Maple Farm's Pure Maple Syrup is the perfect natural sweetener to any holiday meal. Find it in shops and markets across the state, like the Lost River Trading Post in Wardensville.

At Richter's Maple House in Pickens, Mike and Beth Richter boil thousands of gallons of maple sap every season to whip up delicious maple syrup, maple sugar, maple candy and that very rare delicacy maple cream.

This West Virginia syrup comes in adorable little jugs, which you've probably seen in shops all across the state.

Gunnoe Farms Sausage and Salad Company has been a Capital City favorite since it was founded in 1949. Its motto is, "Country boy on the label means quality on the table."

Its specialty is sausage, obviously, but it has plenty of other products to complete your feast. Try the chicken salad, cole slaw or delicious pimento spread.

With an entire feast of West Virginia finds, it's only fitting to display them on West Virginia's finest dinnerware: Fiestaware.

Give your meal some color. Sip out of poppy-colored mugs, eat off of tangerine plates and display the sides in vibrant sunflower dishes.

Which mountain-made products will grace your Thanksgiving table?

For more information, call 800-CALL WVA or visit GoToWV.com. Share your Real. West Virginia stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #GoToWV and #RealWV.

Photo of the Week: Finding Crystal Mill http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161030/GZ0506/161039991 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161030/GZ0506/161039991 Sun, 30 Oct 2016 00:01:00 -0500 Nancy Hancart was vacationing, again. Coming from the person who receives every Photo of the Week email, it looks like Hancart is always traveling. She's sent in photos from Alaska, Florida, Tennessee, even the beautiful Canaan Valley. This one came from Colorado, and it wasn't easy to get to.

Crystal Mill sits along the Crystal River. It was built in 1892. It's arguably one of the most photographed sites in Colorado, Hancart said. To get to it, she and her husband took a Jeep tour. There's no way you'll be able to find it without four-wheel drive, Hancart said.

We love all things adventure - crazy cliffs, Jeep rides to find old homes, raccoons making a nest in your garage. And we love pictures of them. Make our day, send us something weird.

Send your submissions, with a few details about the photo, to social@ wvgazettemail.com with "Photo of the Week" in the subject line.

Get an extra dose of magic at Disney World in the fall http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161023/GZ0506/161029821 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161023/GZ0506/161029821 Sun, 23 Oct 2016 00:27:00 -0500 By Carla Barfield Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail By By Carla Barfield Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail The mention of Disney World conjures up images of castles, princesses, exciting rides and big shows. But there is so much more.

Through November, you can enjoy the not-so-scary Mickey's Halloween Party on select nights at Magic Kingdom and the Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT every day.

Mickey's Halloween Party is an additional cost on top of admission to the park. However, the Food and Wine Festival is included, although you will pay for samplings of food and wine.  

I stayed at the Holiday Inn Disney Springs on Hotel Plaza Drive. This is off-property, but is still considered a Disney hotel. This means you can get a shuttle bus to and from all the parks free of charge.

All of the hotels on Hotel Plaza Drive are this way. And they are a short walk to Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney).

Upon arriving, I learned the desk clerk went to West Virginia University. I would later run into quite a few other WVU and Marshall University folk.  

The Halloween party begins at 7 p.m. on the selected nights. We arrived at 6 p.m.. You are given a special wristband that will allow you to stay in the park once it closes to all other guests at 7 p.m. You are also given treat bags for the stations located throughout the Magic Kingdom.

Everyone is encouraged to dress up in costume, especially the young ones. No one can wear a mask hiding his or her face or have anything that looks like any type of weapon. "Star Wars" was well represented as were most of the Disney princesses.

About 95 percent of the rides stay open during the party, although there are no fast passes. However, there is rarely a wait. Space Mountain was only 15 minutes. Some of the restaurants and shops are closed, so you might want to check in advance to see what's open and what's not.

The cost is $72, and you can stay in the park until midnight. Along with the treats and rides, there are shows and parades. If you are limited on funds, this is a good way to see the Magic Kingdom at a lower price and with fewer crowds.

If you are a Disney villain fan, then this is your night. The Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular takes place outside Cinderella's Castle four times during the evening. Not only do you get to see the Sanderson Sisters, but many of your other favorite Disney baddies.

Twice there is a Mickey's Boo-To-You Halloween Parade, and the Happy Hallo Wishes Fireworks kick off at 10:15 p.m.

The EPCOT Food and Wine Festival is really so big it could take you more than one day to take it all in.

There are 26 different booths offering food, desserts, wines and beer from 20 countries, from Australia to Patagonia and just about everywhere in between. There is a charge for each dish - most are about $5 - with $3 for a glass of wine, beer or champagne. You can purchase two separate tasting samplers: eight food and beverage samplers for $59 or 16 food and beverage samplers for $109.

The little ones aren't forgotten. You have KIDCOT fun stops and Remy's Ratatouille Hide & Squeak. There is also entertainment with concerts such as Christopher Cross, Chaka Khan and Tiffany. These are free, and there is much, much more.

I took two days to do the world tour. The first day was very crowded and a little rowdy. I have been going to the Food and Wine Festival for many years and had never seen it this crowded.

Since this is also a beer and wine festival, people can be having a little fun. It was a Saturday, so I assume this was the reason for the larger-than-expected crowd. I went back Sunday, and the crowds were down substantially and everyone was well-behaved.

I started in Hawaii with a Kahlua Pork Slider with sweet and sour dole chutney and spicy mayonnaise.

Next were Greece, Scotland and Ireland. I went out of my comfort zone and tried salmon for the first time in Scotland. It was delicious. I rewarded myself with a chocolate pudding cake with Irish Creme Liqueur from Ireland.

There was Cheese Cheddar Soup with a pretzel from Canada, Strawberry Shaved Ice from Japan, Chocolate Belgium Waffle, Chocolate-Covered Cannoli from Italy, Butter-Flavored Chicken from Africa and finally Loaded Mac and Cheese from the good old U.S. (Good thing for me, I walked seven miles to burn some calories.)

You may have noticed I haven't mentioned the beer or wine. I can't drink. But I have it on good authority from several in my traveling party that it is all good. Highly recommended is the Pumpkin Spice Beer.

I hope this has whetted your appetite to head to Orlando and see for yourself.

On a side note, we ate at the Garden Grill, which is in EPCOT and is a character experience. Great food, and the restaurant rotates while you eat. Very cool.

Also of note, Soarin' has been updated to include the whole world, and it is fabulous. It really makes you want to head out and travel.

There is so much more to Disney World than you can imagine.

Next up: Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, November through December at Magic Kingdom (extra cost) and Holidays Around the World at EPCOT Nov. 25-Dec. 30.

Carla Barfield is a Charleston resident and a former resident of Florida who has been to Disney World more times than she can count. Her Facebook page is Disney Diva (www.facebook.com/disneydiva58/?fref=ts).

She has also been a travel agent and has traveled extensively.

She can be reached by email at


Haunting History: Moundsville penitentiary has many stories to tell http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161023/GZ05/161029944 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161023/GZ05/161029944 Sun, 23 Oct 2016 04:48:00 -0500 Bill Lynch By Bill Lynch Nobody really knows when people started saying the former West Virginia State Penitentiary is haunted, but there were rumors about it even before the prison was decommissioned in 1995.

Tom Stiles, the caretaker of the former state penitentiary and a tour guide, said talk about strange happenings had been circulating for years. Some of the inmates thought the place was haunted, which he thought wasn't uncommon for a place like it.

Within a year of the penitentiary being decommissioned, it reopened with former guards giving tours to the public.

There were a lot of stories to tell, and the public seemed interested.

"But what really put us on the map was MTV's 'Fear,'" Stiles said.

"Fear" was a reality television program on the cable network from 2000 to 2002. On each episode, contestants were taken to an allegedly haunted location where they spent two nights and went through a series of dares in hopes of confirming the site was haunted.

The penitentiary in Moundsville was used in both the pilot of the show and the first episode.

Since then, there has been a steady stream of ghost hunters, ghost chasers and other folks looking for a taste of the supernatural.

Other television shows and film have come to the penitentiary. The facility has seen camera crews from The Discovery Channel, ABC, SyFy and was used for the film "Out of the Furnace."

Most recently, Netflix came to the penitentiary to film scenes for an upcoming series called "Mindhunter."

Suzanne Park, executive director for the Moundsville Economic Development Council, said the prison had almost been used for the film, "The Green Mile," but ultimately lost out to the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville.

"We met with producers," she said. "We were in the running."

During the warmer months, the complex, more than 100 years old, holds day and evening tours and spooky-related special events, but it closes from November to April 1.

"It's just too cold," Stiles said. "It's miserable."

But the additions remain active.

Inside the penitentiary grounds, there's a separate event center, which can be used for everything from staging for the National Guard to wedding receptions, birthday parties and dances.

"We have a huge amount of space, and you're only really limited by your imagination," Park said.

Whether the West Virginia State Penitentiary is haunted or not is debatable, but the place certainly looks the part and has the right history.

Built in 1876, the stone, gothic structure sits on 19 acres and resembles a medieval fortress. During its peak, the facility housed upward of 2,000 prisoners, most of whom lived in gloomy, 5-foot-by-7-foot iron cells.

The penitentiary was never designed to hold so many - not even half that number.

At times, many of these cramped cells contained up to three inmates. Two men would sleep on narrow bunks chained to the wall, while a third got a mattress to put on the floor next to a steel toilet.

Even single occupancy was claustrophobic, but each inmate had a footlocker for his personal effects.

"So you had to stow your footlocker and their lockers as well," he said.

Any kind of space was a luxury.

The prison housed a variety of felons, but Moundsville saw the worst of the worst - murderers, rapists and serial killers.

It also had its share of criminal celebrities, the most notorious being Harry Powers, a lonely hearts killer. Powers used newspaper personal ads to lure lonely women into believing he was looking for love and marriage, but in truth only sought to rob and murder them.

Powers, who became the inspiration for the black-hearted Harry Powell in Davis Grubb's novel "Night of the Hunter," lived near Clarksburg, was arrested in 1931 and was convicted of the murders of two women and three young children.

It is generally believed Powers was likely responsible for at least two other deaths.

He was hanged at the penitentiary in the spring of 1932, one of the 94 men executed on the premises during the prison's 119 years of operation.

A wall in the penitentiary's gift shop displays pictures of most of the men the state killed at the West Virginia State Penitentiary. A face here and there glares hatefully from its black and white 3-inch-by-5-inch photo. Most have the bland expression of someone asked to pose for a photo in a work directory. They wear prison-issued uniforms or neat suits, possibly the clothes in which they were convicted.

There are even a few bow ties.

Of the men killed at the penitentiary, 85 were hanged. Nine were electrocuted.

The facility's electric chair, "Ol' Sparky," greets visitors when they first come through the door. It's kept in a cage and protected.

Originally, Stiles said, the chair was housed in a separate building located on the prison yard, referred to as "the death house."

Previously, it housed the prison gallows.

Stiles said executions at the penitentiary were typically carried out without trouble, meaning the convicted were effectively killed, but there were occasional mishaps.

"Hangings were public," he said. "You could come up to watch."

That changed in 1931 when a noose was put around Frank Hyer's neck.

Hyer had been convicted of murdering his wife.

At the time, hanging followed the long-drop method, which factored height and weight into how far a drop the condemned required to break his neck.

"Hyer didn't have very strong neck muscles," Stiles said.

The hanging resulted in decapitation and a new policy: executions would be by invitation only.

Electrocutions were carried out beginning in 1951, and Stiles said during each execution, an electrician came to the penitentiary to establish the connection on one of three switches three guards would pull simultaneously.

"They put all the names of the guards in a hat," Stiles said. "They picked the names out, and it was just something they had to do. It was stated as part of their job. If you wouldn't do it, you were discharged."

The death house was torn down at the request of inmates after the death penalty was abolished in West Virginia in 1965.

Aside from the state-sponsored executions, violence and murder were commonplace during the last couple of decades of the penitentiary's operation.

Gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood and The Avengers motorcycle gang roamed the yard and frequently clashed over things like turf and control over the flow of contraband.

Because of poor funding, conditions within the prison continued to deteriorate. In 1986, inmates rioted, partly, Stiles said, over a leaky sewer pipe that went under the floor of the prison cafeteria.

"The smell was terrible," he said. "Can you imagine trying to eat?"

Guards and kitchen workers were held hostage and threatened. Gov. Arch Moore met with prisoners and negotiated for their release.

"They got pretty much everything they wanted," Stiles said. "There were plans to decommission the prison already, but Gov. Moore agreed to build a new cafeteria."

The hostages were released, essentially unharmed, but not before the inmates killed three of their own, men believed to be prison snitches.

The state of West Virginia built the cafeteria, and the old cafeteria was partly converted into a visiting area for prisoners and their families.

The walls inside are decorated with cartoon characters and a picture of a unicorn.

"The inmates wanted the space to be as welcoming as possible," Stiles said. "They didn't want it to feel like a prison to the kids."

Art done by prisoners is scattered around the penitentiary. Landscapes and scenes from nature were popular.

While the West Virginia State Penitentiary became one of the roughest prisons in the country, it didn't start out that way.

For years, going to the penitentiary was a high social function. An invitation to dine with the warden in his apartment inside the prison was highly sought after.

Residents of Moundsville came to the penitentiary for entertainment. At one time, the penitentiary had an orchestra. Inmates put on plays and minstrel shows.

Locals could even check out an inmate for the day, hire them to do farm or yard work or clean their homes.

"You still had to pay them for their work. I think it was 25 cents a day," Stiles said.

The prison was also, largely, self-sufficient. Prisoners raised food on the work farm, handled maintenance around the facility and even mined coal to power the penitentiary.

Eventually, state government scrapped all of that.

Overcrowding, budget cuts and even a change in the temperament of the incarcerated steadily made the environment of the penitentiary toxic. Changes in how the country and the state housed and treated prisoners led to the decommissioning of West Virginia State Penitentiary.

Most inmates were sent to Mount Olive to complete their sentence.

Stiles said the newer facilities were very different than what the inmates at Moundsville had. Cells in Mount Olive have windows to allow in sunlight. The cells are bigger and more private.

Stiles rolled his eyes about that.

Whether the penitentiary is haunted or not depends on whether you believe in ghosts or not. Otherwise, the place is just haunted by memories and by history. A lot of lives passed in and out the front gate.

Parks said occasionally they'll get a former inmate come through for a tour. They'll bring their families, their kids and grandchildren.

"They want to show them where they slept and where they ate," she said. "This place was important to them."

Parks added that she's even spoken to former West Virginia State Penitentiary inmates serving sentences elsewhere.

One of them, she said told her he preferred Moundsville to Mount Olive.

"Here, they want us to talk about our feelings," the inmate told her. "In Moundsville, we settled things."

Reach Bill Lynch at


304-348-5195 or follow

@LostHwys on Twitter.

Follow Bill's One Month at a Time progress on his blog at


Photo of the Week: 'Golden Gate Gull' http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161023/GZ05/161029956 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161023/GZ05/161029956 Sun, 23 Oct 2016 00:01:00 -0500 Gary Brown was taking in the San Francisco Bay, enjoying the cool, June breeze. He had his camera out to get some photos. The South Charleston resident was aboard a ship, with his back to the hilly city and his camera pointed toward the Golden Gate Bridge when a seagull decided to swoop in.

"I call it 'Golden Gate Gull,'" Brown said.

It's almost Halloween. Who has their decorations out? We want to see!

Send your submissions, with a few details about the photo, to social@ wvgazettemail.com with "Photo of the Week" in the subject line.

WV Travel Team: Maryland's Deep Creek is a stop for all seasons http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161021/GZ0506/161029939 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161021/GZ0506/161029939 Fri, 21 Oct 2016 16:27:00 -0500 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team By By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team Just north of West Virginia's mountain playground in Tucker County is a big lake - the largest in Maryland. It sprawls with fingers of water scooting off in at least two directions.

Deep Creek Lake just celebrated its 90th year: it was created as a hydroelectric project in 1925. The generator still works, but today the lake is the centerpiece of a bustling tourism industry, although wilderness remains everywhere.

It has virgin hemlock stands - the only ones in the state. Savage River State Forest, to the east of the lake area, adds 54,000 more wilderness acres. And it's all scarcely 90 minutes from the Eastern Panhandle.

We began our getaway visit with a plunge into wilderness, searching for the four waterfalls in Swallow Falls State Park, located not on the lake, but on the Youghiogheny River and other forest areas. Unfortunately, it's been a dry end-of-summer, and only the highest of the four - Muddy Falls at 53 feet - was rushing in a spectacular fashion over the rocks.

We wrestled with inadequate signage and maps to visit three of the four falls, and once we'd figured out how it all fit together, helped guide other hikers we met along the trails.

Impressive boulders fill the various streams. The park was once a legendary pioneer hunting area, and the virgin hemlock and white pine forests we walked through to find the falls were magical.

Swallow Falls is easily identifiable by Swallow Rock, a marvelously weathered pillar standing adjacent to the falls. We bypassed Lower Falls, warned away by fellow hikers, but we did make the trek to Tolliver Falls, barely a ripple over rocks in this season.

Public lands around the lake are splendid, making up for the fact that most of the 65 miles of lakefront is on private land, and scenic views are in short supply for the public. Condominiums, houses, boat rental places, bars and other commercial enterprises are built along their own stretch of waterfront, making access for just strolling along the lake nearly impossible.

Deep Creek State Park has 1 mile of waterfront, including a sand beach, picnic areas with stone breakers and 24-hour boat launch areas. The 6,000-square-foot Discovery Center is adjacent to an aviary of raptors in recovery. Spending time at the state park highlights how pristine and quiet the lake can be.

The Deep Creek area is a popular family getaway both winter and summer with attractions from extreme adventure, water sports and horseback riding to an inflatable water park and a full range of winter sports. Smiley's is a family fun park in McHenry devoted to entertaining kids with food and activities including go-karts, mini-golf, laser tag and more.

Wisp Resort takes advantage of Deep Creek's snowy winters that come along with the average elevation of 2,300 feet to create the state's only ski resort. Wisp opened in 1955 with a single slope and a rope tow. By the end of the 1970s, there were 16 trails and multiple lifts.

Today, after millions of dollars of renovations both inside and out, Wisp has two golf courses, a self-controlled mountainside roller coaster, zip line, canopy tour and pontoon boat tour.

Winter starts at Wisp Resort right after Thanksgiving, and the activities increase. Last year it added a new beginner slope, and there's a snow tubing park as well as cleared and off-trail skiing, ice skating, snowboarding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing if the area has natural snow. Ski-in, ski-out lodging is popular with visitors, and the surrounding towns stay open in winter.

From our penthouse-level lodge room, we could see Wisp's newest addition for meetings and parties - Sundown Yurt Village - with eight of the specially crafted structures. The translucent peaks of the yurts are lit up at night and appear as a flotilla of little space craft.

Wisp is all about activity, and the feeling is one of amped-up fun. The hot tub is small but very hot with heavy jets. Only inside is quiet. Even early morning walks are distracted by machine noise that varies with the season.

Sharing the mountain with Wisp is the Adventure Sports Center International (ASCI) site with one of the most unusual extreme sports offerings - a man-made recirculating whitewater river.

My husband, Jack, was quick to say he wanted to return some weekend or during the summer to ride it. It's the lazy river of traditional water parks on steroids. We saw it when it was turned off, so the machinery, steps and slopes were all exposed to view. Giant boulders line the course. For purists, real life Class V rapids can be accessed nearby on the Youghiogheny River.

Area history is experienced in Oakland, south of the lake. It is the commercial center of the area and boasts antique shops and a cluster of museums in its historic downtown.

Newest is the Museum of Transportation with antique buggies, cars, a horse-drawn taxi and vintage motorcycles. The second floor of the museum is focused on Deep Creek and filled with boats.

The Garrett Historical Society Museum devotes rooms to artifacts showcasing different aspects of local life including an impressive Gatling gun.

The B&O Museum is in the restored Victorian train station. The meticulous restoration included slate roof replacement tiles quarried from the original source.

Deer Park and Mountain Lake Park are further east, where large resorts for the elite of the late 19th century once stood. Today, the main reason to visit Mountain Lake is Simon Pearce, an extensive commercial glass-blowing manufacturer, where each piece is made by a single craftsman.

Located in a former Bausch and Lomb plant, the manufacturing operation also has a shop - half seconds outlet and half retail. The plant is open daily, and the glass blowing can be watched - and the heat felt - from specially built catwalks.

Food spans from bars and wood-fired pizza at a brew pub to fine dining like the Cornish Manor or the French cuisine of the Deer Park Inn. We chose comfort food.

Our favorite meal was breakfast at Wisp's DC Restaurant served on a sheltered outdoor deck. I had excellent sausage gravy on a plateful of real potato chunks with an egg on top. Jack's choice was a huge omelet with multiple add-ons.

We also had a great breakfast at Annie's Kitchen, an authentic country place where breakfast is served all day because that was their favorite dinner at grandma's. Home-baked goods in an abundance scarcely imaginable are the main draw. The French toast is made with outstanding homemade bread.

Telli's Deli is an intimate dining spot and Italian market created by a transplant from New York who wanted a hometown deli with Italian flavor. Exceptional sandwiches are named for her family members. My Uncle Tony had first-rate deli ham, a slab of fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers with secret-ingredient oils.

Lakeside Creamery was so good we returned each day. More than 20 years old, it makes its own ice cream with cream from local dairy farms. You pay by weight, so you can have as big or small a cone as you want. While we were at the original location, we witnessed the ideal Deep Creek family experience - taking everyone for superb ice cream on a pontoon boat that pulled up to the back deck.

For more information, check www.visitdeepcreek.com or call 888-387-5237.

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 have 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.

WV Travel Team: Chart a course through America's Historic Triangle http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161016/GZ0506/161019773 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161016/GZ0506/161019773 Sun, 16 Oct 2016 01:45:00 -0500 By Karen A. Avitabile WV Travel Team By By Karen A. Avitabile WV Travel Team You may have been bored to tears in history classes at school. But America's Historic Triangle, a family destination rich in history, might just make your vacation one for the history books.

The Historic Triangle, encompassing three colonial communities in Virginia - Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown - is the birthplace of American democracy. The story of America's first permanent English colony, the final battle of the American Revolution and daily life in the 1770s is weaved through famous battlefields, buildings and plantations that bring to life the story of America's foundation.

Begin the adventure by exploring the Historic Triangle attractions linked by the National Park Service's Colonial Parkway. The 23-mile, bucolic roadway starts in Yorktown, passes through Colonial Williamsburg and ends in Jamestown. Enjoy spectacular views of the James and York rivers, and bike along its many trails.

Your history lesson begins at Jamestown Settlement. Thirteen years before the pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, three ships with 104 men and boys and their cargo arrived on the banks of the James River in spring 1607.

Take a tour of replicas of the three ships - the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery - that, on Dec. 20, 1606, embarked from England on a voyage to Virginia. This living-history museum site traces America's colonial beginnings through an outdoor re-created Powhatan Indian village, colonists' forts and archaeological site. Indoors, find an exhibition gallery, a film and costumed historical interpreters.

The Historic Jamestowne site preserves England's first permanent settlement in 1607 in North America by Capt. John Smith (governor of Virginia), Pocahontas (Chief Powhatan's favored daughter), and men and women from England.

The ongoing archaeological dig continues to uncover remains - some 1 million artifacts, so far, have been excavated - from the original 1607 James Fort site. Walk with a park ranger, costumed interpreter or archaeologist to study the culture of the early settlers: the English, Africans and Powhatan Indians, longtime inhabitants of the area.

Exhibits and a multimedia presentation can be viewed in the visitor center. An archaeology museum displays artifacts unearthed at the fort site. The Glasshouse of 1608 showcases artisans practicing glassmaking, an early industry on the island. Walk through the original 17th-century church tower, the island's only surviving aboveground structure.

It is easy to imagine life in the 18th century with a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, America's oldest and largest interactive history experience with some 20 guided and self-guided tours.

Colonial Williamsburg is made up of taverns, trade shops, homes, community buildings, a governor's palace (home to seven royal governors and Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson), museums, theater programs and more spread over 300 acres.

Visit the Capitol and witness a debate about independence or the adoption of the Bill of Rights, be part of a mock trial in the courthouse, and see how newspapers and pamphlets were made in the Printing Office and Bookbindery.

Talk to patriots (all dressed in period clothing) who discuss their city on the verge of war or how they distance themselves from their king to establish a new republic.

Visit the homes and gardens of Williamsburg's 18th-century residents. Evening events and programs include deciding the fate of a woman accused of witchcraft, taking ghost tours and listening to live music at candlelit colonial concerts. Begin your journey at the visitor center, which offers films about the colonial era and shuttles to Colonial Williamsburg.

Drive the 1781 Revolutionary War battlefield and encampment roads used in the final major conflict of the American Revolution. A diorama is posted at each site along the 7-mile Battlefield Tour Road of its events. Or purchase a driving tour CD to follow along.

Visit the Moore House, where British troops surrendered to the American and French armies led by Gen. George Washington. At the visitor center, artifacts from the siege, including tents used by Washington and his men, and a film, "The Siege of Yorktown,"­­ can be viewed. Park rangers lead tours of the battlefield.

Visitors can feel America's struggle for independence emerging from colonial unrest. Exhibits depict the people who lived during the Revolution, the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and Yorktown's sunken fleet of ships lost during the Yorktown siege.

Daily activities are demonstrated through costumed interpreters in a re-created Continental Army encampment and 1780s Tidewater Virginia farm. Visitors can be recruited into military life and watch musket and artillery loading and firing demonstrations.

After visiting Historic Triangle attractions, there are plenty of other things to do:

n Explore the cultures of Old European countries plus more than 50 rides, roller coasters and attractions at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Mid-Atlantic's largest water park, Water Country USA in Williamsburg, has more than 30 water rides and attractions.

n Take a tour of the 1,200-acre College of William & Mary campus, the second oldest college in the country, founded in 1693 by Royal Charter. A self-guided tour of 15 locations begins and ends near the Wren Building. Its Muscarelle Museum of Art traces its collection to 1732.

n The Williamsburg Winery is Virginia's largest winery and one of the most acclaimed, located on a 320-acre farm, Wessex Hundred. Winery tours and tastings in an Old World-style building with a barrel cellar and production area are offered year-round.

The winery's Gabriel Archer Tavern offers lunch daily and a bar menu Friday through Sunday. Its on-site hotel, Wedmore Place, has 28 exquisitely appointed rooms and suites with a European flair. Downstairs at Wedmore Place is Café Provencal, a high-end restaurant.

n Take a relaxing sailing excursion with Williamsburg Charter Sails, departing from Yorktown or Gloucester Point. The sailboat navigates the York River across 200 years of history that links Yorktown, Williamsburg and beyond to the Chesapeake Bay. Capt. Bill O'Donovan can tailor a cruise for your interests aboard his 32-foot modern Hunter.

n The area won't disappoint with colonial and international cuisine, shopping, zip lining, fishing, golfing, kayaking, boating and more. Lodging options are plentiful including Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites, adjacent to Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center.

Ready for a visit to America's Historic Triangle? Stop by the AAA Store in Charleston or call one of the AAA travel professionals - Janice Adkins, Lia Ireland, Amy Sisson, Becky Wallace and Barbara Wing at 304-925-1136.

Mitzi Harrison manages AAA Travel for the Charleston area and

divides her time between

Cincinnati and West Virginia.