Monday, July 15, 2019

Almost Heaven, West Virginia

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mama
Take me home, country roads
- John Denver

I can't think of West Virginia without hearing this song in my mind. West Virginia surprised me! I've always known it was beautiful, but it had excellent hiking, a laid back feeling, and gave us so many adventures in the short time we were through the state. 

We stayed at Holiday Lodge in Oak Hill, WV. Our main reason for visiting the state was to take a coal mine tour in Beckley, WV (about 20-30 minutes away from Oak Hill). What I was pleasantly surprised about was our close proximity to New River Gorge Recreation Area. 

This hotel had the most unique breakfast area. It's set up like a restaurant (because it is one after breakfast hours) and offers buffet style food.

When I first typed into Google 'coal mine tours in West Virginia' a year ago, Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine kept popping up. For $80+ the five of us could go into an abandon coal mine and learn about the history of coal mining, the importance of it to WV. What I didn't realize is everything that would come with our ticket purchase. There's a historical (re-built) 1850's coal mining town and a Youth Museum for the kids. The coal mine town reminded me of Living History Farms (here in Iowa), so the minis weren't overly impressed with that. Hubs and I loved the coal mine tour it's self, while the minis enjoyed it, but were happy it was over at the end.

One of the highlights of the day for the minis was writing with turkey feathers and homemade paint (made from berries). They have now requested we try this at home with daycare. 

Dancing for us at the outdoor stage at the Youth Museum. We waited to do the Museum after the tour and I'm so glad we did (more on that later).

Our parents were worried about us in an old coal mine, however, what you can't see in the pictures is the fire extinguishers and sprinklers all throughout the mine.

Our guide showed us what it was like to work in the coal mine way back when and the miners light they had to work in (above). Seeing things first hand obviously gets to the minis more than anything (below).

Here was the biggest shock of the day: the Youth Museum was actually a children's museum! Something I know about (now)! When we bought our tickets (and encountered other workers throughout the morning), all anyone every told us was that there were hands on activities for kids. We walked in to find passed on exhibits from the Minnesota Children's Museum! It was all children's storybook themed and so adorable. Harrison and Elizabeth loved (most) of the exhibits while Max (age 11) did a bunch of brain teasers.

These two had a blast in Peter Rabbit's house

When I found out our hotel was just minutes away from New River Gorge Bridge, I knew we had to pay it a visit. We also took time to hike Endless Wall Trail. The trail provided us with a gorgeous 4.5 mile hike along the rim/wall of the gorge. As we hiked and watched the river I was instantly regretful that I didn't book us a rafting adventure. It looked so much fun!

The stairs to the Bridge viewing area were killer. Harder than the trail in fact.

Someone forgot her hiking shoes back at home. Luckily my Sketchers are extremely comfortable and held up well throughout the entire trip. I've logged A LOT of miles with the shoes since I got them for my birthday! New Orleans, Chicago, East Coast, and many thing in between.

Elizabeth created an interesting game to keep her entertained during our hike. She kept watch for the tree roots and sticks and looked for letters in each, like this H above.

Looking for bears and other animals. Oddly enough (although not that odd because apparently there are a lot of black bears in this area) we would see a bear the next day in Shenandoah National Park.

A mushroom that the kids requested a picture of.

This is the ridge we hiked!

Our long hike in the heat called for burgers from Tom's (a local Oak Hill restaurant) and the hotel swimming pool. Bonus that we had the entire pool and hot tub to ourselves for over 2 hours!

Using A TON of butter on her toast. She then proceeded to eat the butter right out of the container. I had to leave the table at the point so I didn't gag! While we prefer to book Airbnb, hotels are often times unavoidable while traveling, especially during those quick stays. When we book hotels, I like to look for the hotels with extra amenities: free breakfasts, free parking, free internet, pools, suites, in-room mini-refrigerators and microwaves, etc. Holiday Lodge in West Virginia was a very comfortable hotel stay for our family of five. Some of our favorite hotel chains to stay at: Country Suites, Comfort Inn and Suites, and Homewood Suites. 

Out of all the sites we saw on our 17 days on the road, West Virginia had the best views and prettiest scenery to drive through.