“Almost Heavenly”

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DEPARTURE

Heading into West Virginia from East Liverpool and quickly out again seemed odd since that wild and wonderful state was our destination, but we were headed to a part of it about five hours from us. Crossing Pennsylvania through Washington, we drove east across the Maryland border, headed south at a junction in Keyser’s Ridge and pulled over.

A majestic overlook with its panoramic view of the valley below includes several picnic tables and a comfort station making it a “must stop” on our numerous trips through. I wouldn’t have minded leaving my gloves on during our picnic lunch. Heads bundled, we put up with a few gusts of cold air that interfered with the afternoon sun. We enjoyed the lunch we’d packed, along with the wonderful view and marveled at the patches of shaded snow that, so far, we’d had none of back home in Ohio.

South of Redhouse, Md., we wound our way through the Deep Creek resort area and began the climb into Appalachian ranges that made our ears pop. Back in West Virginia where its northern “prong” and its eastern panhandle come together below Maryland, we entered the Monongahela National Forest. Beyond the excitement that I get from going away on a vacation, a special rush of exhilaration came over me as we approached Davis, W.Va.

Some 40 years ago, in the mid-60s, my father, looking for a new family vacation spot, considered the 25 or so state parks of West Virginia. With his preference for mountain greenery as opposed to sandy beach, he zeroed in on Blackwater Falls State Park just outside of Davis. After our first trip (when I was around 10), we were hooked on this ideal vacation spot.

My brothers and I never craved a swimming-type vacation since the closest swimming holes for us were at the bottom of the spoil piles of the unclaimed coal-stripped cuts through the farmland surrounding our home. Used to tramping through the old apple orchard playing cowboys, the many trails through Blackwater Falls State Park were a perfect, new adventure ground with the fresh smell of pine (more pleasant than rotting apples), and all the grace and mystery of unspoiled forest.

We returned several summers in a row. We looked forward to the sights that became familiar friends:

trails– to the Elakala Falls, a series of four falls that break the stream of water as the run plunges the long slope to the Blackwater River at the bottom of the canyon; to the Balanced Rock, where, at the end of the trail, nature has precariously perched a huge boulder stacked like a giant blockhead game; we’ve done all the trails in the park at one time or another.

sights – the Blackwater canyon, a gorge so breathtaking it has been called the little grand canyon east of the Mississippi; the Pendleton Overlook across the gorge from the Blackwater Lodge; and, the great Blackwater Falls which, though smaller, is more wonderful to me than Niagara because the quiet, natural setting is well preserved and unspoiled by development.

I had come back twice with Mark but never with my girls. Now, packed for a long weekend, I sat with Dad on the short middle seat of the van. The girls lolled on the longer seat behind us. Mark, riding in the front captain’s chairs with my brother, Tom, steered the van off the main street of Davis onto the road that curves up the mountain into the state park. We were headed for the lodge.

                              (continued in future issue)

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