www.wvgazettemail.com Travel http://www.wvgazettemail.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2017, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers WV Travel Team: An alternative to buying kids new ski gear every year http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170115/GZ05/170119735 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170115/GZ05/170119735 Sun, 15 Jan 2017 04:30:00 -0500 Compiled by the GoToWV Team By Compiled by the GoToWV Team

Finally, one of the East Coast's best ski destinations created a genius program to help you bring your family back to the snow, year after year - affordably.

Cross-country skiing is one of the best ways to start the kiddos out on the snow, and a great family activity: solitude, more terrain to explore and more affordable equipment - unless you have kids who are outgrowing their ski gear every year.

If you're concerned about the costs or logistics of getting kids into skiing, White Grass in Davis has the answer: a gear exchange program for growing kids that will keep them outfitted with top-quality gear from toddlerhood to adolescence.

Here's how it works:

Families with very young children can sign up for a $45 buy-in, which gets kids a starter ski set-up designed for young learners.

"These are very basic packages," said Chip Chase, owner of White Grass. "They can be down to 100 centimeters [about 39 inches] in length or less, with bindings that don't even require ski boots."

This is the perfect outfit for kids to plod, fall, learn and eventually glide over some of White Grass's beginner loop courses in the resort's front country.

But here's where it gets better. Next year, when your little ones are a bit bigger and begging to go skiing again, you can take back the skis they've outgrown, find some slightly sportier models for a bit more and trade in those old skis for a full $45 credit, the same amount you started out with.

When they outgrow those skis, you can do the same - again and again and again.

If you stick with this exchange all the way until your children reach their teenage years, you'll wind up having spent around $350 total on multiple pairs of skis, Chase estimated. That is about the same as a set-up for just one adult pair of skis, boots and poles.

Be the family that skis together. White Grass offers this deal out of pure love for the sport, so you can share it with your kids.

And it doesn't hurt that White Grass is a great place for your little ones to learn. It's one of the top-rated ski centers on the East Coast, and it's in West Virginia high country (which guarantees plenty of snowfall).

Plus, it is really an all-encompassing ski center, with a retail and tune-up shop, restaurant and all varieties and levels of skiing areas.

It is quite possible your child starts out picking around the basic loops and is shredding high-speed telemark turns in the backcountry by the time he or she is a teenager - all on skis from the exchange.

And the skis are good for more than White Grass.

Once you and your kids have dialed in your ski skills at the resort, there are infinite other options around the Mountain State for cross-country and downhill skiing.

"We have a lot of folks get into skiing here, and then take their skis back home, too," Chase said.

In fact, almost anywhere can make great cross-country terrain. Given the right snow and temperatures, even most West Virginia hiking trails are great for skiing.

If you want to instill a lifelong love of mountains, physical activity, snow and the beauty of the state, pack up the car, and take the family to White Grass.

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.

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Number of guns detected at WV airports shot upward in 2016 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170113/GZ0118/170119784 GZ0118 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170113/GZ0118/170119784 Fri, 13 Jan 2017 16:22:30 -0500 Rick Steelhammer By Rick Steelhammer The number of firearms found by Transportation Security Administration officers at West Virginia airports in 2016 equaled the number confiscated during the previous three years combined, according to statistics compiled by the federal agency.

Last year, a total of 14 firearms were discovered in carry-on baggage presented for inspection at Charleston's Yeager Airport, Huntington's Tri-State Airport and Morgantown Municipal Airport. No weapons were detected during 2016 by screeners at Parkersburg's Mid-Ohio Valley Airport.

During 2013, a total of three firearms were detected at the four airports, while six turned up at security checkpoints in 2014, followed by five in 2015.

Yeager Airport, the state's largest, accounted for 10 of the weapons confiscated at security checkpoints during 2016, followed by Huntington's Tri-State Airport with three and Morgantown Municipal with one.

Nationally, a total of 3,391 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at airport security checkpoints during 2016, a 28 percent increase from 2015, according to the TSA. Eighty-three percent of the weapons detected at commercial airports during 2016 were loaded.

Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport recorded the highest number of firearms detected by TSA screeners - 198 - followed by Dallas-Fort Worth International with 192, Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport with 128, Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix with 101, and Denver International, 98.

Travelers who bring firearms to security checkpoints are subject to criminal charges from local law enforcement agencies and civil penalties from the TSA. Laws and penalties vary by state and locality.

Traveling by air with firearms is legal if weapons are unloaded and packed in checked baggage in locked, hard-sided cases. Ammunition in its original packaging can be transported inside the locked gun cases. Those traveling with firearms should tell airline representatives at the check-in counter that they have weapons stowed inside their checked baggage.

In virtually all instances of weapons being detected at security checkpoints in West Virginia, owners reported that they had forgotten the firearms were in their carry-on baggage.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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New WV travel guide features crowdsourced content http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170109/GZ0506/170109598 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170109/GZ0506/170109598 Mon, 9 Jan 2017 12:58:53 -0500 West Virginia has a new travel guide for 2017 that tourism officials say is one of the first nationally with all crowdsourced content.

According to Wild, Wonderful West Virginia, it has a heavy focus on recreational experiences through the lens of social media, with features stories, pictures, blog posts and links to video.

Commissioner of Tourism Amy Shuler Goodwin says that gives readers a firsthand look at the state.

It contains a 2017 calendar of events.

Free copies are available by calling 800-CALLWVA or online at https://gotowv.com/explore/travel-guide-request/.

They also will be available at the eight West Virginia Welcome Centers and various tourist attractions.

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Photo of the Week: Cheat River views http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170107/GZ05/170109674 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170107/GZ05/170109674 Sat, 7 Jan 2017 15:04:09 -0500 Amos Perrine sent this photo of the Cheat River at Albright.

Albright, a small town and former coal town in Preston County, is along the Cheat River.

The river is a 78-mile long river in the eastern part of the state.

We want to feature your photos! Send us your favorite photo from a recent trip, a hike or holiday festivities.

Send the photo, along with a few details to social@wvgazettemail.com. Be sure to put Photo of the Week in the subject line.

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WV Travel Team: Start the new year with WV travel gems http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170101/GZ0506/170109986 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170101/GZ0506/170109986 Sun, 1 Jan 2017 04:00:00 -0500 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team By By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team Imagine you had a magic bike and could dial in a destination, stop for a quick experience and then move on. Here is a program for that magical ride.

The Mountain State is filled with spectacular views, but few folks start their list in Harpers Ferry. There are views of the Potomac River, views of the Shenandoah and views of the two rivers coming together even Thomas Jefferson noted. There are views from a historic cemetery and from battlefields. There are even views from impressive church steps.

In Berkeley Springs, it's about selfies. You can take a selfie with George Washington's Bathtub, and then walk down the sidewalk to the Museum of the Berkeley Springs, and get a selfie with a 400-pound faceted silica crystal.

Berkeley Castle is selfie bait, as is the flashing light '40s-style marquee at my own business, the Star Theatre.

Finally, position yourself correctly and capture a selfie with a three-state background that also includes a river, railroad and canal - but be careful about getting too close to the edge.

Pop into the Lost River Trading Post and see where the 21st-century revolution started in Wardensville, complete with an impressive collection of craft beers and a made-from-scratch local bakery.

Then drive Corridor H - the Heavenly Highway - straight to the boardwalk at Blackwater Falls in Tucker County.

The PRT - Morgantown's Personal Rapid Transit system - has always been driverless and cute, all dressed in blue and gold. It moves more than the population of the whole state each year on rails through the still-gridlocked traffic of Morgantown. Another transport wonder is the ride on a stern-wheeler from Parkersburg to Blennerhassett Island and back.

Two extraordinary statues pay tribute to a historical figure and a mythical one. The life-size Italian marble statue of Devil Anse Hatfield in the Sarah Ann family cemetery is far more impressive than Jefferson's tomb at Monticello.

Nothing compares to the winged, stainless-steel depiction of Mothman in the heart of Point Pleasant. Visitors come from around the world to pose with Mothman, the more daring among them choosing the backside as the background.

At Oglebay's Good Zoo in Wheeling can you see African wild dogs, meerkats, spectacled bears, lemurs and red pandas.

Arrive in Wheeling hungry for pizza, and you'll find yourself forced to choose sides. Add the cheese to the pie before cooking or after?

The Italians awarded their first prize to DeFelice's, where thick-crust pizzas are cooked in cast-iron, and the cheese is melted during the cooking process - in contrast to DiCarlo's thin crusts, with mozzarella added after cooking.

Pepperoni rolls, state food of West Virginia, also engender fierce conflicts: with or without cheese, slices or sticks of pepperoni, tiny finger-sized or meal-sized rolls. Fiercest of all - Fairmont or Clarksburg.

Another memorable food stop is Hillbilly Hot Dogs, north of Huntington, where the food is good, but the ambiance is galactic, with the world-famous "Weenie Song" and the new Weddin' Chapel added to their collection of exotic structures.

The Lewisburg food experience is slightly more upscale and has a beverage stop included. The state as a whole does well with breakfast, but top of the heap is the General Lewis Inn, where the breakfast potatoes served in a dining room that is part of the original 1834 home are an abundant assemblage that includes mushrooms, scallions, tomatoes, banana peppers, cheese, salsa and sour cream.

After breakfast comes the whiskey, gin, vodka and the state's only bourbon, all produced in small batches at the Smooth Ambler Distillery. Every drop is sold, so when the chatty staff offer you a taste, take it.

Down the road, at The Greenbrier resort, one of the most unforgettable experiences is in the spa disguised as hydrotherapy. Of the literally hundreds of spa treatments I've had, the Scotch spray stands out, probably because I wondered if I would be able to stand through being hosed down by something resembling a full-blast fire hose.

The state's only plant conservatory is housed in the specialty wing of the Huntington Museum of Art and boasts the spectacular Art Tower, a glass sculpture created exclusively for the conservatory by Dale Chihuly. Finished with flowers, you can slide over to the Herman Dean Firearms Collection room with hundreds of artifacts, including examples of decorated weapons.

The Railroad Museum in Summers County houses the John Henry Collection - 120 hand-carved wooden figures and train cars radiating primitive artistic power. It took the self-taught carver seven and a half years to make the detailed figures using 56 kinds of wood.

Now a well-scripted tour through state history supported by more than 60,000 authentic artifacts in appealing exhibits, the West Virginia State Museum in Charleston has a few eccentric holdovers from its dusty basement days.

Don't miss the colorful circus car and well-preserved denizens of Professor Hechler's Flea Circus, now in the entrance hall. The famed New York performers came to the state in 1906.

When West Virginia became a state in 1863, it inherited its first two public buildings from Virginia. Both have always been high on the creepy scale, and, after a century or more of use, both are now popular tours. The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston and Moundsville Penitentiary remain certifiably scary.

High adventure in the New River Gorge is worth several stops with action-packed white water rafting, zip lines and real cliffs to climb.

The best stop is on Bridge Day in October, when hundreds jump nearly 900 feet off the bridge into the rapids of the New River. For the rest of us, there is now a walking bridge suspended under the bridge for daily treks.

We could do magical bike stops like this for food or state parks or art experiences or scenic splendor or fabulous architecture. Maybe next year.

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 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.

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WV Travel Team: Too much Pittsburgh to explore in too little time http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161225/GZ0506/161229738 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161225/GZ0506/161229738 Sun, 25 Dec 2016 04:00:00 -0500 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team By By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team PITTSBURGH - We hadn't planned for excessive cold and winds when we timed our visit at the end of Pittsburgh's bicentennial year.

One server told us that, last year on the same weekend, the temperature was in the 70s. We had anticipated exploring the city's celebrated downtown culture and shopping in a notably walkable urban setting. Instead, we focused on cultural institutions and nearly unlimited dining opportunities.

My husband, Jack, decided valet parking was his favorite amenity at the fabulous William Penn Hotel, where we stayed.

Our first stop in the city's remarkably rich cultural universe was the incomparable Andy Warhol Museum, dedicated to every aspect of the life and work of the city's most famous artist - arguably the most important artist of the second half of the 20th century.

The scope and duration of his genius is easy to recognize in the museum's seven-floor collection, ranging from early graphic designs to sound, light, movies and lifestyle.

My favorite was a room filled with floating sculptures - metallic pillow-shaped helium-inflated objects that were very friendly with anyone who hung out in their room. Warhol called them "Silver Clouds."

Our next stop was the Mattress Factory, a 40-year-old center devoted to installation art that seems to have transformed its gritty Central Northside neighborhood.

We were especially taken with a three-story building filled with an installation that appeared to be an assemblage of every item artist Dennis Maher ever touched. When I asked the docent how many pieces were in the installation, she admitted to having no idea but said when the artist first came to start his three months of work, he had two box trucks of items - and they barely filled half the first floor.

Pittsburgh has nearly 100 named neighborhoods, most of which were once independent towns and villages and now are well signed for getting around.

The other distinctive geographic attribute of the city is its bridges. Not only are they named, but many are painted bright yellow ("Pittsburgh Gold," I was corrected.)

It's not surprising that a city built around three rivers would have a lot of bridges, but they go above and beyond, including bridges that traverse land, as well. Repeatedly, I was told they had more bridges than anywhere in the world, including Venice, Italy - 446, in fact.

We experienced the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, with its dinosaurs and a spectacular gem and mineral collection in a display as resplendent as the contents.

We saw the carriages and cars at the Frick and heard the Pittsburgh Symphony at historic Heinz Hall, restored in 1971 from a 1927 movie palace.

We left with the aromas and lights of the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Among our favorite activities was riding up Mount Washington on the Duquesne Incline, getting spectacular views of the city and its rivers from the restored cable car and the observation deck.

The incline is 800 feet long, 400 feet in elevation, has a 30-percent grade and moves at 6 miles per hour. Jack was particularly pleased that he got to enter the bowels of the machine room and see the equipment that made it run.

The William Penn Hotel, now an Omni property, is celebrating its 100th anniversary as the premier place to stay in the heart of town. Our room was contemporary and comfortable.

The legendary Palm Court Lobby is splendid. Best of all was the service.

In fact, Pittsburgh as a whole - from the concierge and front desk folks at the William Penn to myriad servers - was filled with helpful and friendly people. I couldn't decide whether it was some sort of surgical implant or maybe the water.

About the water: At several dining establishments, we were served water from spare but impressive-looking bottles placed on the table. These were not pricey places, so I assumed it was tap water, which one of those helpful servers confirmed.

No one should complain about the quality. I explained Pittsburgh municipal water had twice placed in the top five at the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, one year winning the bronze.

There are hundreds of places to eat in Pittsburgh, and every one we sampled was one to which I would gratefully return.

Our first dinner was at Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, recently rated best in the city, where all the flesh is cooked over wood, which decidedly enhances the taste. We had excellent steak and shrimp.

There are jars of various sauces for the food, and you fill your own little containers with whatever selection you choose. The smoked red pepper and the garlic were our choices.

Dining at Gaucho is not an experience for the faint of heart or the traditional. There are often long lines of folks waiting, sometimes up to 90 minutes, to place their orders at the kitchen counter and then wait for the food to be delivered.

What do folks do while they wait? It's a bring-your-own-bottle place, so they share bottles of wine and make friends with others in line. Some play music. Lines seem to be a way of life at some eateries.

We had breakfast at Pamela's, a famed diner on The Strip, on a Saturday morning. We could have chosen DeLuca's, around the block, but the line stretched down the street outside in the cold while Pamela's was jammed in the diner foyer.

No one seemed to mind. Pamela's plate-covering crepe-like pancakes and lyonnaise potatoes covered in cheese were certainly worth the wait.

We also had breakfast at Kelly O's diner, with no line on Friday morning.

We had lunch at the innovative Smallman's Galley, an incubator for aspiring chefs, where you can pick and choose from four showcasing dishes at a time. They stay 18 months, and then head out into the big world.

I couldn't wait to eat at the meatball joint, officially Emporio's. There were meatball sliders and hoagies and meatballs served on various sides of pasta, mashed potatoes or fries.

Available sauces ranged from traditional marinara to creamy Parmesan to chicken gravy. You assemble your own combination. Emporio's even had pepperoni fritters.

I can understand why Pittsburgh is so highly rated as a livable city - there are more than 20 colleges and universities, a young demographic and way too many places to eat and things to do on a short visit.

My list of what I missed would fill several return trips and includes shopping at ethnic groceries on The Strip - Italian, Greek, Chinese and Middle Eastern - and in the market areas downtown.

St. Anthony's Church, with the largest collection of relics in the world outside the Vatican, was closed the day we had marked for a visit. We never had time to ride the free T subway.

There are 24 miles of riverfront trails, kayaking on the rivers and three major professional sports teams. For efficiency, they all use the black and gold Pittsburgh colors, so you needn't change your wardrobe depending on the sport.

Plan to come repeatedly.

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Plenty to do in Orlando ahead of WVU bowl appearance http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161224/GZ0506/161229718 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161224/GZ0506/161229718 Sat, 24 Dec 2016 14:39:30 -0500 Phil Kabler By Phil Kabler As West Virginia University alumni and fans prepare to embark for Florida and the Russell Athletic Bowl, it's somewhat surprising this is only the second bowl trip to Orlando for the Mountaineers.

After all, this is WVU's 35th bowl game, and Orlando has been home to at least one and as many as three bowl games each year since the 1940s.

Nonetheless, Kevin Berry, chief operating officer for the WVU Alumni Association, said the Dec. 28 match-up with the University of Miami is an ideal combination.

"Everybody loves going to Orlando around the holidays," he said. "Obviously, it's a destination in its own right, and on top of that, you have the Mountaineers playing there."

Berry said he expects most fans will arrive a day or two early, to visit attractions like Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando.

"You have the opportunity to take in everything that Orlando has to offer, and at the same time, take in the football game and congregate with Mountaineer fans," he said.

Once fans are done visiting the amusement parks or other Orlando attractions, they'll find plenty of things to do leading up to the 5:30 p.m. kickoff Dec. 28 at the former Citrus Bowl Stadium, now the Camping World Stadium.

On Tuesday, Dec. 27, events start with a Big 12 Pep Rally at 4 p.m. at I-Drive 360, a $250 million entertainment complex in downtown Orlando, featuring the Orlando Eye, a 400-foot high observation ferris wheel.

The rally will feature appearances by the Pride of West Virginia, WVU cheerleaders, the Mountaineer, and an expected guest appearance by WVU President Gordon Gee. Admission is free.

After the rally, activities will shift to the nearby Miller's Ale House for a Mountaineer Meet and Greet hosted by the Alumni Association, the WVU Foundation, the Mountaineer Athletic Club, the WVU Varsity Club and the IMG Mountaineer Sports Network, beginning at 6 p.m.

In addition to food and drink specials, fans will be able to watch a live broadcast of the IMG Bowl Special radio show, hosted by WVU play-by-play announcer Tony Caridi. Again, admission is free.

Game day activities begin at 11 a.m. with the Russell Athletic Bowl Parade of Bands in Winter Park, featuring the Pride of West Virginia.

The bowl game Fan Fest, a free admission tailgate outside of the stadium that will feature live entertainment, activities, and a variety of food and beverage options, starts at 1:30 p.m.

For an upgraded tailgate option, tickets are available to the Buffalo Wild Wings Tailgate Hospitality Tent. The $85 admission includes unlimited food and beverages, live entertainment, flat screen TVs, and lounge seating, beginning at 2:30 p.m.

Berry said he's anticipating a large WVU contingent at the game, particularly with several large alumni chapters in Florida, including the host Central Florida chapter.

"Not only are we going to have a lot of people traveling down, but we have a lot a people who live in Florida who will be attending," he said.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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WV Travel Team: 5 ways to explore WV's winter backcountry http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161218/GZ0506/161219565 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161218/GZ0506/161219565 Sun, 18 Dec 2016 02:00:00 -0500 Compiled by the GoToWV Team By Compiled by the GoToWV Team

Of course, the Mountain State is the place to be for winter slopes, but you can trek those wild winter valleys, too.

Vast landscapes, rolling hillsides, dense forests. Explore the wildest side of wild, wonderful West Virginia winter:

Strap on some cross-country skis and glide through the glades, no ski lifts required, and it's quite a workout.

Alpine Lake Resort has more than 15 miles of trails, including some around the stunning Alpine Lake. White Grass is one of the highest-rated cross-country destinations on the East Coast.

Snowmobile tours are an exciting way to zip through wilderness you might not otherwise get to explore.

Snowshoe Mountain has two different types of snowmobile tours in the basin and backcountry, if you want to go deeper into the forests surrounding the mountain - and you can even swoop out to their backcountry hut for a gourmet meal.

Take in the simple joys of the season with a snowshoe trek through the scenic winter scenery.

Blackwater Falls State Park in Tucker County has a full-service snowshoeing center with lessons and equipment rentals. The maintained trails cover more than 10 miles, with highlights like the falls - which can freeze completely in the winter - and Blackwater Canyon. With a leisurely snowshoe pace, it's easy to get caught up in the natural beauty.

Get extra wild with off-road exploring in the Mountain State. Down in the southern part of the state, roar through the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System, one of the largest off-roading trails systems in the country.

You can ride your ATV, UTV, dirtbike and more, but for a 4-by-4 thrill ride, try Bearwallow.

Ratings range from green to double-black diamond, so it's a challenging way to kick up some snow.

All you really need to enjoy the winter in West Virginia is to set out.

Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park has eight year-round trails, with different levels and grades (and you can even use some for cross-country skiing.)

Strap on the hiking boots and take your pick from Cranberry Bogs or Musket Trail, which ends at the lookout tower. Any trail you take is an adventure in history and natural beauty.

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.

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Photo of the Week: Day at the mill http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161218/GZ0506/161219566 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20161218/GZ0506/161219566 Sun, 18 Dec 2016 00:01:00 -0500 Vicky McGhee snapped this photo of the Grist Mill at Babcock State Park in Clifftop just a few days before Thanksgiving.

The Glade Creek Grist Mill is a new mill completed in 1976 at the park. The fully operable mill was built as a recreation of another mill that once ground grain on the creek long before Babcock became a state park.

McGhee took a day trip to the park with a stop in Fayetteville's Cathedral cafe.

The holidays are right around the corner and we know you have beautiful pictures from your adventures.We want to see it all!

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com,

304-348-5169, or follow

@rsteelhammer on Twiter.

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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.

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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.

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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

douglas@wvgazettemail.com,

304-348-3017 or follow

@douglaseye on Twitter.

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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.

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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.

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