I have an affinity for rivers. I’ve been baptized by the Elk in more ways than I can mention. I’ve waded the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac, picnicked on the rocks of the New, walked the banks of the Tug Fork, and fished the Greenbrier. Even at night, I sleep to a sound machine tune called “Babbling Brook.” No matter where I go I seem to be drawn, with camera in tow, to water. But try as I might, I’m unable to capture through my lens the essence that draws me—the constant ebb and flow, the persistent power that is steady and slow. Photos can show smooth boulders punctuated with the whitecaps of eddies, moss-covered stones lining the riverbed, and the waterway’s variegation of color, but they can’t capture the feeling of cool river mud between your toes, the roar of rushing water, or the lazy lapping against your legs. Those moments can only be experienced in the now.
It is those “now” moments that center us and slow us down. For me that is what summer is all about. Slowing down. And I admittedly don’t do enough of it. This summer, we joined forces with the National Wildlife Federation to encourage children to experience the great outdoors. Each week on wvliving.com, we feature family-friendly spots for outdoor recreation, and we hope you’ll join us in teaching our children the importance of enjoying nature. In our Summer issue, we showcased one of our favorite places—the Greenbrier River and the swimming hole at Blue Bend.
Two of the towns we featured have been indelibly shaped by rivers. New Martinsville, perched on the banks of the Ohio River, may be experiencing an oil and gas boom and the rapid growth that goes along with it, but it is a charming historic town—one that I would wager many of us have never visited but everyone should. Our story will show you why it’s time to hop in the car and head to Wetzel County.
We also travel to southern West Virginia to Williamson. I’ve been thinking about Mingo County a lot lately. Admittedly, it’s not hard with prosecuting attorneys, sheriffs, and judges being indicted left and right. This type of small town tyranny is destructive. It angers me. It angers the citizens of Mingo County. We need to remind ourselves that there’s more to this county than corruption. And that’s what I hope we accomplish with our story on Williamson—to show you this vibrant southern community is worth visiting. As you walk the streets, you can tell this Williamson is on the move in the right direction. I ate lunch at a hip coffee shop called Righteous Brew and then cozied up to the counter at Hurley’s Old Fashioned Drug Store. I walked into the Mountaineer Hotel, not quite sure what to expect, and my mouth hit the floor. This boutique hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and the lobby is incredible—a hidden gem, to be sure. And this area is Hatfield-McCoy central. If you are a history buff, the Hatfield-McCoy feud will keep you entertained for days. Make sure you stop by the Coal House and get information, and then walk up to the floodwalls that protect the town from the ravages of the Tug Fork River.
I have a sign in my office that reads:
“Advice from a River:
Go with the Flow.
Immerse yourself in nature.
Slow down and meander.
Go around obstacles.
Be thoughtful of those downstream.
The beauty is in the journey.”
- Ilan Shamir
In West Virginia, there’s beauty around every bend. Enjoy your summer!