Sept 1st, 2022
Weekend Adventure Guide:
Davis and Thomas West Virginia
By: Nathan Lavalla
With the long holiday weekend coming up, we at Aero Tech would like to offer our take on a wonderful place for any outdoor enthusiast to travel. West Virginia.
Don’t sleep on West Virginia. Don’t let the national stereotypes sully your opinion of the locals. Don’t underestimate the lushness of the forests, and please do not discredit the grandiosity of the mountain landscape. West Virginia is among the most friendly, cultured, and beautiful places in the US. The State gets a bad rap for plenty of reasons, both real and not. There are misrepresentations of the locals, misunderstandings of the state’s history, and a severe lack of appreciation for the state’s surprising commitment to ecological preservation. Yes, there are some ugly truths and a history of exploitation that have left permanent scars in the landscape and done worse to the families of the ancestors who settled the land. But that only makes West Virginia’s cultural and environmental renaissance all the more amazing.
"If you are a mountain biker, this area has to be on your bucket list. There is a massive 140-mile trail system snaking through the endless acreage that takes you through some of the craziest rock formations you’ll ever see, endless rhododendron tunnels, and expansive high-country grassland."
The tale of West Virginia is the tale of American culture and spirit. At times ragged and unpleasant but also glorious and uplifting. George Washington could not have defeated the British without the skill and guile of the recruits who left their mountain conclaves to fight in the north and east during the Revolution. The Whisky Rebellion saw uprisings throughout what we now call West Virginia against the same practice of unfair taxation and under-representation. The civil war proved again that the Appalachian people were passionate about liberty as the state of Virginia broke in half, with West Virginia renouncing its former slaveholder state and declaring allegiance with the Union. The state gave birth to true American art and music. Through the darkest days of lumber and coal exploitation, American folk music was birthed and refined into what we now call bluegrass, Americana, or simply fiddle and banjo music. Over two million acres of land are now protected in the state, and scattered throughout the mountains are small towns with an amazing dedication to art, music, nature, and history. One of those amazing places is just a few hours' drive southeast of our home in Pittsburgh.
If you would like to experience all that West Virginia offers, simply take the scenic drive down to Canaan Valley. Tucked high up in the Allegheny Mountain range lies two picture-perfect old mill towns in Davis and Thomas with historical buildings, bluegrass bars, breweries, and some impressive art galleries. As if that wasn’t enough, these little towns are tucked right in the convergence of Blackwater Falls State Park, Canaan Valley State Park, the Monongahela National Forest, and the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge. Everything wonderful about mountain culture is right there to enjoy. And if you need just a little more epic-ness added to your excursion, drive about 40 minutes further south to the North Fork trailhead and endure an extra challenging hike (or ride) up 2,000 feet to the exposed quartz rock formations glistening on the massive ridgeline. From up there, you can take in a view that rivals any mountain vista in the country.
Since we are a cycling company, it would be derelict to ignore one of the country's most bike-friendly places. If you are a mountain biker, this area has to be on your bucket list. There is a massive 140-mile trail system snaking through the endless acreage that takes you through some of the craziest rock formations you’ll ever see, endless rhododendron tunnels, and expansive high-country grassland. The trails in Blackwater are challenging and endless. Canaan Valley Resort boasts some incredible XC trails that are set up perfectly for the many races held there. However, the area's crown jewel lies in the trails throughout the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge. Hop on the Hellbender cirque and immerse yourself in what pure, raw, backcountry biking is genuinely all about. You will never look at mountain biking the same way after that ride.
Whatever you decide to do with your time this Labor Day weekend, we hope you make sure to spend it with good friends and in a good place. And after reading this, maybe you’ll be inspired to take those friends on an excursion to the mountains just south to fill your heart and soul with experiences in a place that truly embraces the simple pleasures of our great country.