Travel Stage: 3 Weeks of Housesitting in Alderson, West Virginia
Date Range: October 13 – November 5, 2015
Summary: We explore the wild and wonderful West Virginia! From beautiful outdoors, to 500ft tall telescopes, and haunted houses, we leave no stone unturned.
We had 3 weeks in West Virginia housesitting for our cousins Paul and Bobbi Loos, and we were so excited to explore! Caitlin had never been there before, and Tom hadn’t been there since he was a kid. We had a few things on our radar already from research and family suggestions, and then the rest we made up as we went.
1. Possum Holler – where we stayed
We stayed at Tom’s cousin’s house in Possum Holler near Alderson, WV. Their house sat atop a hill on over 40 acres of rolling hills surrounded by towering mountains. Our job for the 3 weeks was to watch their dogs, Ollie and Dirty, feed the cat, and water the plants.
They had a hot tub with an amazing view of the night sky that we used a lot, as well as some kayaks that we took to the nearby river. They also let us use their car for our explorations – which was much appreciated over driving our big dually truck around the mountain roads! The dogs had a blast, and we even had Max the neighbor dog join the fun.
2. Hiking Keeney’s Knob
The mountain right behind the house we stayed at was called Keeney’s Knob. It stood almost 4,000 feet high, and one day we took the dogs, some water, and a GPS with a goal to reach its peak. Unfortunately, it became very rugged and steep, and we started to lose our evening light. We turned back about 300 ft in elevation from the top, but still had an awesome hike in the fall colors!
3. Alderson – the town
As our “home” for 3 weeks, we explored the small town of 1,200 people or about 500 families. The town is split by the beautiful Greenbrier River, which we enjoyed kayaking on!
Despite its small size, it had a visitor’s center which we visited to get the scoop. We learned that the town has a bizarre law requiring all pet lions to be kept on leashes:
We also learned about the Federal Women’s Prison, FPC Alderson, which was the first federal women’s prison. It opened in the 1920s, and the locals are quick to tell you that Martha Stewart was incarcerated there.
It prompted the opening of a local non-profit organization whose purpose is to enable and ease the visiting of inmates by friends and family, the Alderson Hospitality House. The house is basically a free bed and breakfast supported by donations. It was here that we learned of their upcoming House O’ Horrors fundraiser for Halloween, and volunteered to help out!
4. Alderson Hospitality House O’ Horrors
We volunteered because as part of this journey we want to “live like locals” and also have new and different experiences. We also want to meet new people in the various communities we visit, and help out where we can!
We had never participated in a Haunted House before, and so were a little out of our element when they asked us to act out an Exorcism scene for their scary movie-themed “Dead and Breakfast.” Caitlin was to be possessed by a demon and Tom would be the priest performing the exorcism.
But all went well, we met some wonderful people, and we had so much fun! We screamed out our throats the first night, but pushed through to the finish!
5. Lewisburg, WV
Voted Coolest Small Town in America in 2011, Lewisburg is the largest, closest town to Alderson. We explored some of the night life with Tom’s cousin and also visited the hip Wild Bean Café for a fabulous lunch while running some errands in town.
6. Bridge Day
While freezing cold and windy, it was awesome to see this!
7. New River Gorge
The New River is the oldest river in America and the second oldest river in the world (the Nile is the oldest). The river gorge is famous for its outdoor recreation opportunities, including rock climbing and whitewater rapids.
While we chickened out of whitewater rafting this time around due to the less-than-ideal temperatures, we still drove around exploring the New River Gorge and visited several scenic spots: Babcock State Park, Hawks Nest Overlook, New River Gorge Bridge, Sandstone Falls, and Kanawha Falls.
8. Greenbrier Hotel – White Sulphur Springs, WV
This place was enormous, and really cool to see! Located amid the breathtaking mountains of West Virginia, The Greenbrier is a National Historic Landmark and world-class resort that has been welcoming guests from around the world since 1778.
The natural mineral springs that drew the first guests over 235 years ago continue to lure visitors to the 10,000 acre luxury retreat today. With a guest list that includes 26 of our country’s 44 Presidents, America’s Resort has long been a favorite destination of royalty, celebrities and business leaders. We squeezed in a quick 30 minute, self guided tour to this grand resort! See it in our Vlog #3.
9. Green Bank Telescope – Twice!
Located at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, the Green Bank Telescope is the largest steerable radio telescope in the world, and also the largest moving land structure.
We found out about the GBT in our research, and we couldn’t believe we had never heard about it before! It sounded right up our alley, and so we planned it so we could attend a High-Tech tour, which explains in more detail how the radio telescope works.
We made friends with the engineer giving the tour, and he agreed to take us to the top of the telescope. Some of the footage can be seen in Vlog #3 after the Greenbrier Tour.
10. Cass Scenic Railroad & Droop Mountain
The drive to Green Bank was an adventure in itself! We stopped for about 20 at Droop Mountain Battlefield and about 5 minutes at the Cass Scenic Railroad to get these pictures of the mountain view and with the train.
11. Hinton – Railroad Days
The historic railroad town of Hinton has an annual Railroad Days Festival. On our way to the festival, we stopped at the John Henry memorial park in Talcott. Never heard of John Henry? He was a railroad worker and is a local legend here with songs and stories written about him. He became famous for beating a steam drill in a race to dig a tunnel. Unfortunately, after the race he died of a blood clot in his brain.
12. Fixed our RV brakes
See the next blog post for the full story 🙂
13. Vlogging Began
In the midst of all this, we started VLOGGING or video blogging. Check out our vlogs on our YouTube Channel!
We had a WILD and WONDERFUL time in West Virginia! We made some friends, had some epic adventures, and loved getting to know the area. After this, we started headed down out of the mountains to Virginia to visit one of Paul and Bobbi’s daughters and her family!
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