Day 10 was a busy day. I pretty much made a beeline to West Virginia that morning, but a little while before crossing the state line I passed a sign for the Humpback Bridge. I had no idea what that was, but I tend to like the things that are on the brown signs on the interstate, so I got off at the exit and followed the signs. Just a short ways off the interstate was the most precious arched covered bridge. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting from the name “Humpback Bridge,” but for some reason, that wasn’t it. In front of the bridge was a large “L” made from local bricks, a cog from an old paper mill representing an “O,” a tree that had grown in the shape of a “V,” and an “E” made from old railroad ties. This location turned out to be one of the locations that Virginia was using to promote their “Virginia is for lovers” marketing campaign. I must admit, it was definitely worth the short detour.
Once I got back on the road, I continued on into West Virginia. Not too far into the state I saw signs for Lewisburg, WV. Another place I hadn’t originally intended on going, but the sign said it was voted America’s coolest small town, so who was I to turn down this opportunity? I made my way just a few short miles down the road into Lewisburg’s historic downtown, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. I was greeted with streets lined with cafés, book stores, art shops, and antique stores. The sidewalks were busy, but in a comfortable way. Everyone was friendly, and the atmosphere felt very welcoming. Mixed in with the old store fronts were even older buildings that still remained from the late 1700s. The blend of old and new definitely gave Lewisburg its unique touch. While I didn’t stay too long, I’m glad I ventured into America’s coolest small town.
After another pit stop, I finally headed towards the destination I originally had in mind that morning – Babcock State park. Once I arrived, I immediately drove around the park for a bit to get my bearings. The fall colors added to the already spectacular scenic views that the park had to offer, so I decided to stop at the very top of the mountain and have my lunch. What more could you ask for than beautiful weather, a park bench overlooking the wild and wonderful West Virginia, and a turkey sandwich? Sounds like almost heaven, if you ask me. After finishing my lunch, I made my way down to the old mill that makes Babcock so iconic. The water wasn’t quite high enough for the wheel to be turning, but it still made for a lovely scene. Right behind the mill was a short hiking trail called Island in the Sky. The trail was a very short and easy out and back trail, but of course I ended up making it a bit longer than necessary. There was a nice pavilion at the top of the trail to sit and enjoy the view before heading back to either the mill, or the parking area on the other end of the trail. There wasn’t enough at Babcock for me to make a full day of it, so I continued on to New River Gorge.
At the New River Gorge Visitor’s Center, there was an easy trail down to a fantastic overlook of the New River Gorge bridge. This was considered one of West Virginia’s most visited tourist locations, and I could definitely see why. The architecture, foliage, and stunning river made for the most spectacular view. After taking in all of the sights, I made the trek back up to car and decided to drive to the bottom of the bridge. It was definitely a tight fit even for my SUV, so I wouldn’t recommend trying to take that road if you drive anything larger (again, sorry van-lifers).
At this point, it was beginning to get a bit late in the evening, so I decided to go ahead and drive into Charleston, WV. I made a couple of stops along the way to take in the scenery, but for the most part it ended up being a straight shot. I took Hwy 60 the whole way there, and it was such an interesting drive. Many of the towns I drove through just seemed so foreign to me. The way they were positioned right on the river and consisted of many Victorian style houses just didn’t seem right compared to what I’m used to seeing. I’m sure the fact that it was sunset, and I was listening to the “Dummy” album by Portishead probably had something to do with it, but it was such a surreal experience. It’s strange how the smallest of things can end up being the most enjoyable. While I didn’t stop and do anything in any of those places, just getting to drive through and get a small glimpse into their everyday reality was a treat all on its own.
Once I arrived in Charleston it was pretty dark, and I didn’t want to be out walking around a lot, so I made my way to Capitol Street to visit Taylor Books to do some writing. This was definitely any bookworms dream. The main room of the shop was a book store, and a rather large one at that. In the used books section at the back there was a door that led downstairs to their pottery studio where they had pottery wheels and offered classes on how to use them. On the right side of the store was a coffee shop with a great variety of beverages and baked goods. Then off to the left was an art gallery filled with work from local artists, and a theater where they held shows and open mic events. So yeah, pretty much all the things I love in one place. Unfortunately they closed not too long after I arrived, so I didn’t get to stay very long (don’t worry, I went back for more).
Lucky for me there was a hand-dip ice cream shop right across the street called Ellen’s. I had been craving ice cream, so naturally I stopped in. Their selection was HUGE, so I opted for something a little simple – coffee and chocolate chip. Once my craving was satisfied I decided to find my place for the night, so I headed over to a town called Nitro which wasn’t far outside of Charleston. There was a Planet Fitness and a Walmart within a half mile of each other, so I was pretty much set. I went for a good upper body workout and shower at Planet Fitness, and I had considered staying there that night. However, there was a man hanging in the back of the parking lot for a while in a van, so I opted for the much more populated and well lit Walmart. It’s always better to follow your instincts and be safe and not sorry.