Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.


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New River Gorge

Here’s some photos from our trip to the New River Gorge a several weeks ago.

We stayed for a few of hours and would like to go back when we have time to explore more of the park’s trails.

These photos come from the Grandview Visitor Center, which isn’t the area where the famous bridge is located. (Bridge photos are below.)

See the train hauling all that coal?

Even though the bridge isn’t at this location, this is a good spot to visit. Walking along some of the trails and climbing to the top of the Turkey Spur Overlook were great.

This is the beginning of the Turkey Spur Overlook. We walked up several flights of stairs to the top of this rocky outcropping.

Me, being all artsy with the leaves on the Turkey Spur Overlook deck. 🙂

This visitor center is located off I-64, east of I-77, and off of Route 9 in West Virginia. Check it out!

Here are photos from Canyon Rim Visitor Center where the famous bridge is located. This was really outstanding! Every little bit we would pull over and take photos of the bridge from different angles.

Sidney’s ready for the next trail! We’re on an overlook checking out the bridge.

The New River Gorge Bridge.
Probably my favorite picture of the bridge (shot from the smaller bridge seen below).

Shot of the river.

A smaller bridge that’s below and beside the New River Gorge Bridge.

The smaller bridge is to the right (not pictured) and here is a picture of the New River Gorge Bridge and the road that goes underneath it.

There are just some pretty leaves I found alongside the New River below the bridge.

I want to walk to the Kaymoor Trail to the old mining community. There are also more waterfalls along this trail that we didn’t get to see because it was getting too dark to walk far on the trail.

The first waterfall on the Kaymoor Trail.

Ha! I love the look on Chris’ face. 🙂

Canyon Rim is located off of Route 19 in West Virginia.

We also went to the Thurmond Depot, but it was too dark to see anything. It would be cool to go back and check out the old community and train depot. It is located off of Route 25 (follow signs from Route 19).


Charleston, W.Va.

We stopped at Charleston, W.Va., on our way home from our Moundsville/Wheeling trip.

Lincoln and the capitol building.
Historic marker and view of the New River.
Memorial to coal miners.
Another view of the capitol building.
West Virginia’s history and cultural resources building — our friend who works at Grave Creek Mound reports to his boss at this office.

We also ate at Gino’s Pizza. We see signs for it every year on our way to Indiana, but have never stopped. We finally did and tried a bacon pizza. It was okay. Not the best pizza we’ve ever had, but not the worst either.


West Virginia Penitentiary, Moundsville, W.Va.

After visiting Grave Creek Mound and a quick lunch in the parking lot, we walked across the street for a 2-hour tour the former West Virginia Penitentiary. A former maximum security prison, it was closed in 1995.

View of West Virginia Penn from across the street on top of Grave Creek Mound, Moundsville, W.Va.

The tour guide explained to us the culture of the prison: how long inmates were out of their cells, what they ate, what they did during the day, where they took showers, how shanks were made, etc.

She also told us stories about riots, murders within the walls of the prison, poor eating conditions and more.

It was eye-opening and scary. Everyone should tour a prison. You’ll never want to visit again. You’ll be scared straight.

Here’s a photo tour:

Throughout the prison you could see peeling paint, dimly lit halls and spaces.
On this wing, first and second floors were separated by fencing.
This area was created as a family room were family could visit with prisoners. Like these paintings on the wall, prisoners (who had privileges) painted scenery throughout the prison and can be seen in places like the dining hall.
We got to check out the inside of the cells. Many had broken toilets and beds and writings and paintings on the walls. A lot of the doors were missing metal where inmates had broken off pieces to make shanks.
The guide told use about poor conditions when rats would come through the sewers and bugs were found in the mashed potatoes.
This is the gate leading to the yard for higher level inmates. They were separated into 2 yards. Three inmates were not allowed into the yard with other inmates. They were let out in the middle of the night.
You can see the fencing for the yard in the middle. The blue buildings were used for the industrial shop where inmates made products.
This yard was used for minimum risk inmates. They spent a lot of time out here playing cards, exercising and doing other activities.
This chapel is found in the yard (seen above).

These are some shanks made from everyday materials, such as a fork and toothbrush. The tour guide said all inmates had shanks or weapons to protect themselves.
Some more shanks.
We visited a room at the end of the tour that housed several artifacts including the shanks, an electric chair used in executions and news articles about riots, executions and murders within the prison walls.
This is a letter a warden received from mass murder Charles Manson. He requested to be relocated from California to West Virginia, where he was born and raised. The warden didn’t honor the request.
An article about Manson’s request to be moved to the penitentiary.


Grave Creek Mound, Moundsville, W.Va.

On our trip to W. Va. we visited our friend’s work place — Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex.

Entrance of Grave Creek Mound, Moundsville, W.Va.

This is the site of a 70-foot Native American burial ground, a feature of the Adena culture. Our friend explained that Adena is usually considered a separate people or tribe, but it’s really a tradition or culture shared by several different tribes. It would take a conference and agreement by the archaeological community to change exhibits and info around the country, he said.

Some Adena artifacts.

We visited another such burial ground in Ohio — Serpent Mounds. Both included exhibits with similar information.

At Grave Creek we walked to the top of the mound and overlooked Moundsville.

View of Moundsville, W.Va., from atop the mound.

At the foot of the mound was a small interpretive garden showing how people of the Adena era would have grown their vegetables and what types. Tomatoes and other vines, for instance, would be grown beside corn so that the plants could use the corn stalks as supports, clinging to them and they grew.

Interpretive garden at Grave Creek Mound.

The mound has been used for very interesting purposes throughout the years. My favorites — (1) an observatory was once built on top of the mound and (2) a race track was built around the foot of the mound and audiences could watch from the top.

Our friend gave us a tour of the museum’s research facility and library. Very interesting work and probably an archaeologist’s dream.

Before leaving, I grabbed a do-it-yourself scrapbook of printed out activity pages for kids. One page was for autographs of museum staff. So I took one and had our friend sign it.

I’m threading together the pages of the scrapbook.

Chris and I also stopped by the gift shop and bought some worry stones for family members. Just small, sweet stocking stuffers for Christmas.

Also at the museum are two exhibits — Homer Laughlin China Company and Fashion Dolls by Pete Ballard, a West Virginia native.

Homer Laughlin is the owner and maker of Fiesta ware and other dishes. I even saw my own Shakespeare Country dishes displayed there! Very cool. The company has operated in the area over 100 years.

I loved walking around and reading about Pete Ballard’s fashion dolls. He worked for many years as a costume designer. His knowledge and skills are exquisite! I loved learning about the 19th century fashions. I could have spent all day walking from doll to doll, studying the different styles and fabrics. But though my husband is patient, he’s not that patient!

One of many fashion dolls created by Pete Ballard.

I tried to find a website with Pete’s work but wasn’t able to. It would have been great if the pamphlet accompanying the exhibit and explaining each of the dolls would have included photos. I wish I could find a book on Ballard too, but haven’t found one.

Other things to do in Moundsville:

* Visit the Marx Brothers Toy Museum. You will see a variety of toys that you probably played with as a kid, such as toy soldiers and Big Wheels (mine was yellow and green and featured Kermit the Frog). We didn’t have time to visit, but maybe we will next time.

* Fosteria Glass Factory Museum. The glassware is no longer made in Moundsville, but there is a museum dedicated to the company’s history and products. The town is in process of tearing down the old factory. A building or two will still remain, I think. But the town’s historic factory will no longer be there. It’s being developed into a multi-use retain center.

* There are a lot of locally-owned businesses in the town and they’re a delight to check out. I checked out A Yarn Among Friends and bought some yarn for Christmas projects.

* In a later post, I’ll write about our tour of the former West Virginia Penitentiary. It was a maximum security prison that was closed down in 1995.


Oglebay Resort, Wheeling, W.Va.

We did a quick drive through one day and then spent a few hours one afternoon at Oglebay Resort. (It’s pronounced Ogle-bee.)

This municipal park was donated by various landowners over the years, starting with Earl Oglebay. It’s now 1,700 acres and offers everything from trails and golf to lodging and shopping. It’s a pretty amazing place.
There were Christmas lights strung up around the park. Our friend said the park’s light display is recognized as one of the best on the East Coast. We saw two deer that were wrapped in lights. They must have crashed into one of the displays and got tangled up!
When Chris and I went back one afternoon, we checked out Carriage House Glass, which is a store filled with a variety of expensive glassware. Most was much too expensive for our wallets. We don’t have a lot of decorating items lying around our house anyway, so it was not a big deal to us.

We wanted to visit the greenhouse and garden shop but wanted to get to the Environmental Center before it closed, so we skipped that.
The Environmental Center has several small exhibits explaining the wildlife of the park and had a small exhibit that explained the environmentally-friendly way the building was constructed.

There were also a kids’ room filled with activities and toys. Hanging on the wall were a couple of frames with several moth and butterfly specimens and their ids.

The larger, exhibit area had examples of feathers, bones and fossils that can be found in the park. There were also a few snakes displayed. When we were there, the snakes were being fed a mouse each. Chris took photos of the keeper feeding the snakes and the snakes eating the mice.

The keeper told us of a herpetology camp for adults coming up next June near the eastern border of West Virginia and invited us out. I’m not sure we’d go that far for something we’re not completely excited about but it might be fun. Now, if it were dragonflies or butterflies (which was this year’s camp), Chris would be all over that!
The guy also spoke with us about a rare, blue grosbeak that’s supposed to be seen in our area. We discussed it and I think I may have caught a glimpse of it last year on the New River Trail near Byllesby Dam. That was pretty cool!
Another interesting feature inside the center was the bird watching room. It’s on the end of the building with windows on two adjacent walls. There’s also feeders that jut out and open to the outdoors. You can sit on a stool and watch the birds feed on black sunflower seeds. We saw chickadees and nuthatches.
Behind the building are more bird feeders (swarming with birds), a butterfly garden and an observation deck with interpretive signs. The signs shared info about what trees are in the area, what butterflies and birds and explained a forest’s canopy structure.

Next, we explored some of the trails behind the center. The one we took ended at a waterfall. It was a very nice trail and a perfect day for hiking!

There are three trails, the longest being close to 2 miles and loops around. The center’s site says the trails are 5 miles long. We took the second longest trail and it was 0.9 miles out, I think.
Besides the areas we explored, there is also a zoo and planetarium, an observatory, golf, Frisbee golf, tennis, a lodge and cottages, dining and swimming. There’s so much to do there, I may have forgotten something! It’s worth the trip there.


Wheeling, W.Va.

On our trip to West Virginia, we spent a lot of time in Wheeling.

At one time, this was a bustling city and it has the old, gorgeous buildings to prove it.

This is the Capital Theatre. The city is working hard to renovate it and use it for cultural arts.

This was one of Chris’ favorite buildings. The second picture below is a close up and shows some more detail.

Chris was also impressed with the National Road bridge at the edge of town. It was the first federally funded highway.

We walked across the bridge one evening and explored the structure and the river below.

For me, I particularly liked what I think are Italianate homes. One side would be a shop with the shopkeeper’s home on the second floor. The second half of the building would be rented out.

This was my favorite building.

This is the gate seen in the middle of the building. It leads to a backyard.

There was also a neat market area called The Centre Market. It had neat architecture and so did the surrounding buildings.

Part of the market is seen in the left corner. In the back in a business district.

We also saw Independence Hall, where West Virginia broke from Virginia and joined the Union in the fight during the Civil War.

While in the area we checked out Wheeling’s Sternwheeler Festival. Sternwheelers are boats with wheels in the back.

We got to go on one boat and talk with the captain. He has worked on boats most of his life and has traveled up and down the Ohio and parts of the Mississippi.

Here I am talking to the captain on his boat.

The boat we visited, is the third from the left.

This is a pretty cool city, filled with history and beautiful buildings. It would be worth a trip to check out. We didn’t even begin exploring the city’s many trails, so that would certainly be something to check out.

In a later post, I’ll write about Oglebay, a large municipal park in Wheeling. (It’s pronounced Ogle-bee.)


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Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge

On a recent trip to the Wheeling, W.Va., area, we stopped at two locations for the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

Refuge headquarters
On the way up, we stopped in Williamstown, W.Va, home of the refuge’s headquarters. There, you can find a visitor center with some exhibits and a few short trails, including a trail that’s 0.9 miles (with a 0.5 mile shorter loop).

You can’t get across to the islands at this location, but you can hike, hunt and fish. The refuge has 22 islands and three mainland tracts.

We had a nice picnic lunch under a shelter before heading out.

Here’s some pics:

This turtle has a pointy snout!

This is a washboard mussel. The visitor center had several examples of the mussels protected along the refuge’s riverbank.

A buckeye! People from Ohio are called Buckeyes, but after a nut, not this butterfly.

I’m standing beside the Ohio. One of the trails travels along the riverbank.

Middle Island
On our way back home, we stopped at Middle Island, which is located at St. Marys, W.Va.

This is the only island in the Ohio River Island National Wildlife Refuge you can visit.

We walked a 3.77 mile loop, but never saw a visitor center that I thought would be at the top of the loop.

Here’s some pics:

Things to do nearby
While in Williamstown, visit the town’s wetlands. It’s just up the road from the refuge and is a new, short trail located in the middle of town.

Here’s some pics:

Williamstown is also home to the Fenton Glass Factory, which you can tour, and the Henderson Hall Plantation.

Chris enjoyed seeing how the town was built around the railroad. Get out and walk around town to check out the buildings and see how homes and businesses were built near and around the tracks.

While in Willimastown, we saw lots of locally-owned businesses and wilfdlife:
birds: goldfinches, pigeons, ducks, sandpiper-type bird
butterflies: sulphurs, buckeyes, whites, red spotted purples, monarch or viceroy
dragonflies
Some more photos:
A dragonfly at the Ohio River Islands refuge.
There was so much algae, this bird was able to walk on the water at the wetlands. I think this is a type of sandpiper.
A dragonfly at the wetlands.

Ducks at the wetlands.

I think this is a viceroy, but it could be a monarch.

Williamstown is also across the river from Marietta, Ohio. Chris wanted to visit, but we didn’t have any time to stop. In and around Marietta, there’s a lot of Underground Railroad sites.

You can’t see it here, but there’s a sign along the bank that says “Marietta.”