Saturday, February 21: Day 2 Travelogue
Cabins WV to Helvetia WV & back; around 140 miles (RT)
After going to bed around 1:15 or so, I awoke at 7:15 AM. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a morning person. But if I see light, then that is it. Gone. I must get up or risk going back to sleep for another 3 hours -- today, that was not really an option.
So I awoke and began writing the Day 1 travelogue. It was a lovely, quiet, still morning, and I intended to keep the peace. Susan awoke about 30 minutes later and decided to go for a walk. She came back with some great pictures, so I knew a morning walk would eventually make its way into my day.
Eventually we all arose, had coffee and some level of breakfast, and began getting ready for the day. I went on a quick walk after my shower .... and worked up a sweat. Great, right? I got some great photos of the cabins and surrounding scenery. This place is tremendously beautiful and peaceful, and the vistas and views are amazing. Between the river and the mountains, it's hard to know where to start with the "best" features. By far, I think the biggest selling point is the quiet majesty of the area. It's so amazingly serene here!
Around 11:30 we headed out for Helvetia. During last night's trek to Harman (and back from Harman), I missed a lot because (a) it was way too dark to see any scenery and (b) I was too busy concentrating on the road. Today, as a passenger, I was amazed. There was some heavy snow in the area between Seneca Rocks (air guitar WAAAAAH!) and Harman -- OMG beautiful. I also discovered there were a few other things in Harman besides just the DOT shed ... just not a whole lot. We traveled on to Elkins for lunch.
Lunch was at Bob Evans, and it was pretty good. Near meal's end, I excused myself and found the cutest sign at the restroom sink: "WASH UP AND SING." It's a reminder to take enough time when washing your hands to assure that you're as hygienic as possible. They suggest a verse of "Old McDonald" ... so I both oinked and mooed (2 verses) just to make sure. I came out to find five worried faces. I had forgotten that the last time Susan and Mike and I were together, it was in Savannah at Johnny Harris .... I had excused myself to the restroom and never came out because I was so sick. Today, I sheepishly explained that I had really gotten into the singing at the sink.....
We continued on to Helvetia. The roads were tiny but the scenery was gorgeous. At Mill Creek, we turned onto the County Road to turn to Helvetia. On that road, there were 3 facilities associated with coal mining, and one Marathon convenience store that is the only place to purchase anything between Helvetia and Mill Creek. We stopped in for some quick drinks and on the road we continued.
We got to Helvetia and parked the cars at the Cheese Haus. Unfortunately for us, both the Cheese Haus and the Healing Honey Shop were closed. We walked over to Blue House Gifts, where I bought a very beautiful, hand-knit wool scarf. The owner was incredibly friendly, warm and generous; a delightful person with whom to chat! From there, we went to the library/museum area ... also both closed. We went to the Star Band Hall, where for a nominal cover charge, you could come on in, have a beer & brat (or brat & lemonade for the non-drinkers), and hear musicians at the open mic. Nice, but we were waiting for the buffet later at The Hutte restaurant. We went into the small general store next.
This little general store reminded me so much of the original Mast General Store in Valle Crucis NC -- only on a far smaller scale. MGS in Valle Crucis is the provisioner for the Valle Crucis residents and the smaller towns to the west, but still.... they're a little closer to larger retail centers (such as Boone) than Helvetia is to their nearest town. A trip to Boone or even over to TN for a Wally run isn't a whole day's adventure. Anyway, this store reminded me a lot of MGS in how they provide for the area. Honestly, I was amazed by the prices -- $1.40 for a box of Kleenex? You betcha!
After the store, it was still 20 minutes until the restaurant opened, so we just waited outside, watching the early Fasnacht activities. Fasnacht is the pre-Lenten revelry of the Swiss-German area that the Helvetian ancestors came from. It is very different from the revelry of the Gulf Coast Mardi Gras parties, or of Brazil's Carnivale. They all have masks and parades, but in Fasnacht in Helvetia, they have a huge bonfire and burn Ol' Man Winter (instead of throwing beads, dressing provocatively or flashing strangers!). Well, I can promise you, Ol' Man Winter did not die in the Saturday bonfire. The flurries on Sunday morning told me a different tale!
At 5:00 PM sharp, the door opened to the restaurant. Unfortunately, no one told us we needed reservations (and in none of the Fasnacht stuff did we ever see anything about reservations!). Still, the hostess agreed to seat us if we could eat in one hour. Well, yeah! A few minutes later, in came a couple who drove over from Buckhannon -- and who also didn't have reservations! The eight of us had a very delightful conversation for the hour -- lovely people!
Speaking of food, oh my stars, what a feast! Hutte chicken, home sausage, carrots, parsley potatoes, green beans, sauerkraut (which I could have just taken the crock back with me!), homemade applesauce (OH yum!), onion pie (similar to a quiche), tossed salad, Helvetia cheese (from the Cheese Haus), pickles, pickled beets, and so much more. Dessert was a peach cobbler that was more like a cake. I couldn't eat any of it -- Melissa and Susan split a piece and said it was good. I, on the other hand, was full as a tick.
On the way out, we stopped again at the Marathon store for drinks and drainage. The owners had a black Lab/Newfie mix named Bear, who was the most loving, affectionate creature ever. He was as jet black as Maddox is oatmeal/white, and they are kindred souls as far as being affectionate. Russell and I were both ready to smuggle Bear back with us and then later fight over who got to keep him. Bear was a precious, sweet dog who made me miss my own Sweet-Boy all the more.
And with that, a brief word on dogs: pets aren't allowed at the cottages, and I am sure that it is due to too many irresponsible pet owners. You know the kind: they refuse to control their animals through proper training, discipline and affection. They are the ones who want a dog and yet won't take the time to exercise him or even play with him indoors. They're the ones who turn their dogs loose and let them poop in everyone else's yards and refuse to clean it up. I try my hardest to be a more responsible pet owner. The sad thing is that Maddox would SO love these cabins and this area -- I hardly know where to start with what he'd enjoy. And sadly, he isn't allowed to be there.
After leaving Marathon and Bear (awwww....) we headed back to Elkins for a fill-up and a stop by Kroger for items for Sunday's Fondue Fest. By this time, it was dark, so no more scenery to see until the dawn. Back to the cabin for the evening's fun. We chatted a little, but it had been a long, fun-filled day for everyone. We instead watched a little Robot Chicken and traded off all our pictures with each other from the day's adventures.
What will Sunday bring? Stay tuned to most of these CBS stations........