First Time Visitors to Southern West Virginia: What To ExpectAugust 30, 2012
So you are headed to southern West Virginia for the first time. Odds are you may have some preconceived notions of what you’ll encounter on your visit. We bet that many of those notions are wrong.
What you’ll probably discover is that this area isn’t much different than where you are from. Then again, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you’ll encounter in these hills. Either way, we thought we’d help you prepare a little bit for your trip to West Virginia.
The roads in southern West Virginia can take some getting used to, especially if you come from a very flat state. Many roads may leave you wondering if the engineer was riding a goat when he laid it out. Needless to say, our mountainous terrain meant that sometimes roads just had to be built around hills instead of through them. Some of these roads are the same ones you’ll encounter if you want to enjoy the natural beauty of southern West Virginia.
Another thing you’ll discover is that these roads have curves. A lot of them. GO SLOW! Even if it seems like a fairly easy drive, you never know when the road will decide to take a 180-degree switchback and go the other direction. Tow trucks keep very busy pulling visitors who drive too fast out of ditches.
And finally, you’ll notice that a few roads aren’t quite two vehicles wide. These are usually the roads that lead to the most beautiful and remote places, so don’t be intimidated.
If you happen to meet a vehicle while on one of these roads, you need to remember one thing. Share. Both vehicles get some of the pavement and will pass just fine. If you’re worried about damaging your vehicle by putting two tires off the road, our earlier advice applies here too. GO SLOW!
West Virginia isn’t called the Mountain State for nothing. We think our mountains are as beautiful as any in the country. So, take them in and enjoy the view. These mountains are some of the oldest in the world and have some great history. You just have to take the time to look for it.
You’ll find very different types of terrain around these parts. In the southernmost part of West Virginia, the mountains are very steep with tight hollows. As you move north and east, the valleys get wider and the mountains get larger. The average elevation of most mountains in southern West Virginia is well over 2,000 feet, with peaks approaching 4,000 feet. Be sure to hike with a map and a plan.
Our rivers may be the most popular resource here. First-class whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing all draw people to West Virginia. Depending on the time of year (or what kind of weather we’ve been having), these rivers can have some incredibly wild whitewater. Make sure you are aware of the conditions and aren’t underestimating the power of the water. Even the outfitters here, with experienced, veteran guides, have guidelines about when they will and won’t take trips.
No matter how calm, flat, or shallow the rivers here may seem, that can all change just around the next bend. Make sure you are always prepared and have the proper safety gear for whatever water sport you’re enjoying.
Of all the things you may encounter on your first visit to southern WV, the people may surprise you the most. Oh sure, you already know they are friendly folk. But they are more than that.
They are kind and generous and are always willing to lend a hand to a neighbor or a stranger. If you are lost, or just curious about the area, ask a West Virginian. They’ll be happy to help. Heck, they’ll even call that tow truck to get you out of a ditch, if you forgot to go slow.
How was your first visit to southern West Virginia? Tell us in the comments.