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W.Va. tour sells youth on state's attractions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - As the weather becomes warmer, thoughts turn to sunny days and long weekend jaunts.

When considering a little trip, why not look in our own backyard?

Last summer, my friend Debbie, and her 9-year-old grandson, Tre, traveled from Texas to West Virginia for a visit. We used some of our time together to introduce Tre to some West Virginia sites.

First stop was a Theatre West Virginia outdoor production of "Hatfields and McCoys" at Grandview State Park. Since 1990 this park has been incorporated into the New River Gorge National River, a unit of the U.S. Park Service. The show was fabulous with the mountainous setting adding to the ambience.  

We continued to cram in other places throughout a long weekend.

We took the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine tour, where I pondered the dangers and bravery involved in mining.

We saw Beartown State Park, a natural area of 107 acres located southwest of Hillsboro, Pocahontas County, whose main feature is cool rock formations.

We drove by the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace, an historic home in Hillsboro. Buck (1892-1973) was author of many books, including "The Good Earth," which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932.

We stopped at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, located in the Greenbrier River Valley north of Lewisburg. It is the site of West Virginia's last significant Civil War battle.

After a brief visit to a fish hatchery in Marlinton, we headed for Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. We boarded a steam-powered locomotive for a train ride to Bald Knob, the third highest point in West Virginia, with a view from the overlook at 4,700 feet.

As we filled our schedule with adventures, we stayed at a bed and breakfast where strange sounds made us wonder if it was haunted. But that's another story.

On the way back to Charleston, we crammed in more stops.

Cranberry Mountain Nature Center is a visitors' center for the south zone of the Monongahela National Forest. There we saw live snakes, displays of animals stuffed by taxidermists, and interactive activities such as using wooden blocks to make footprints of birds and animals in sand.

New River Gorge Canyon Rim Visitors Center had displays of items workers wore to build the New River Gorge Bridge. We took the wooden walkway that goes down 200 feet for a better view. The bridge has the longest steel arch span in the Western Hemisphere.     

Hawk's Nest State Park, which includes 276 acres bordering the New River Gorge National River, is known for its beautiful view from the overlook. We saw hawks circling above as well as a  train snaking its way between the water and the mountain.

Of course, we had to include the Mystery Hole near Hawk's Nest where we saw demonstrations that defy gravity such as balls rolling uphill and water doing the same.

Tre, who fell in love with West Virginia, vows he will move to the Mountain State one day. Hmm. Maybe we residents need to pay more attention to what we have.

Contact writer Charlotte Smith at charlotte@dailymail.com or 304-348-1246.


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