Talk about extremes, today we traveled west from the flat, sea level, coastal salt marshes on the east coast of Viriginia to the dramatic, lushly forested mountains of Virginia and to “almost heaven” West Virginia. We crossed the Blue Ridge, Shenandoah and Allegheny Mountains ending up near the New River Gorge area in Beckley, West Virginia. We even traversed Potts Mountain, WV. Who knew?
While the Rockies are indisputably higher, the 3000 ft. verticals of I-64, with its 4 mile, 9% grades both up and down are every bit as challenging. The New River area is spectacular and we vowed to return to West Virginia in the future to explore this area further. We are making a beeline for Chicago to visit our friends, Nancy and Tim Okal on Thursday so didn’t have time to stop and hike these mountains. Still it was a lovely drive from the passenger seat; not so much for the driver.
We stayed at the Walmart in Beckley, West Virginia; your typical Walmart but a good place for an overnight stop. As we headed northwest, once we got beyond Charleston WV, the mountains transitioned to steep hills dotted with farms. Charleston, WV, with its gilded capitol dome gleams along the Kanawah River but its neighborhoods and the surrounding towns are neat but tired looking with empty coal/steel mills squatting along the rusted railroad tracks and abandoned cars. I imagine that like in Bethlehem and Allentown and the other Pennsylvania steel towns, life is not easy today. And, I suspect that the farmers who eke a living from the steeply rolling hills have an equally hard time.