Last summer, my three younger sisters treated my kids and me to a few days at Lost River State Park in West Virginia for my 50th birthday. This year, we all met at Cass, West Virginia for a few days. The first day of our vacation just happened to be my 51st birthday. I can't think of a better way to spend my birthday than with my sisters and our kids. We stayed in a company house in Cass. The town is owned by the state and they have twenty houses that they rent to travelers. They operate an excursion train that takes tourists on a route once used to transport logs off the mountain for later transport to the WV Pulp and Paper Company's mills at Luke, MD and Covington, VA. The name of the company was later changed to Westvaco, and it's now called New Page. I live near Keyser, WV and the Luke mill has been a major employer in this area for generations.
Our first outing was to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory http://www.nrao.edu/index.php/about/facilities/gbt at Green Bank. Located within a 13,000 square mile radio quiet zone to protect it from radio frequency interference, the Observatory features The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, the largest fully steerable dish in the world. When a site was being scouted for the Observatory in the 1950's, they looked for an area that had a low potential for growth. The population of Pocahontas County at that time was around 13,000. Today it is around 9,000. We were able to take pictures from an observation platform on the Observatory grounds, then all digital cameras had to be turned off before the tour bus continued its ride past older, smaller telescopes to THE Telescope. We got off the bus and stood beside this massive piece of scientific ingenuity. Back in the Science Center, we all enjoyed the fun exhibits and learned a bit about pulsars, radio waves, and the Universe.
The next day, we went to Shavers Lake at Snowshoe Mountain. This remote mountain has a huge ski/recreational resort built on top of it. It seemed rather gaudy and out of place to this country girl. The lake, however, was a quiet, idyllic place, a short shuttle ride to the bottom of the mountain. The girls were all disappointed that the designated swimming area was no deeper than their waists. They waded out to the rope, and waded back. They did enjoy the paddle boats and kayaking. Well, the cousins enjoyed the kayaking. My girls had never done it before, and couldn't get the teamwork aspect of it. They squabbled and fussed at each other and barely made it to the middle of the lake before coming back in, circling a few times in the process. My sisters and I enjoyed the quiet and solitude of the lake and caught up on our reading.
On Tuesday, my girls had a long-standing dentist appointment scheduled, so we left around noon. We all drove out to a local artisan gallery and bought a few things before we said our goodbyes. My sisters stayed an extra day and rode the train to the top of the mountain. Daisy, Amy and I took our time heading home and enjoyed the drive through Monongahela National Forest. We stopped at Seneca Rocks for pictures and a few T-shirts from Yokum's General Store.
Next year, sister Linda will be 50. We're already thinking about our next West Virginia mountain getaway.