Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Sometimes I’m surprised when I start thinking about all the places I’ve seen for years, but never actually visited. Most of the time, I’m driving to one location for one assignment or another, so I don’t get to see that much because I’m focused on keeping my eyes on the road and watching for folks who can’t stay on their side of the double line. I notice a lot I’ve never seen before when I’m a passenger instead of the driver.
For instance, a few weeks ago I went to the city of War in McDowell County. I had heard the name, but I had never visited the place. A group of high school students interested in the art of criminal investigation and forensics were having an exercise at Berwind Lake, a recreational area outside the town.
After a long drive on winding roads, I found a very active community. Berwind Lake was nice, too, and I’d like to go visit again and do some hiking someday. One of the parents told me wildlife including bears had been sighted there along with possible mountain lions. There was even talk of Bigfoot-like creatures being seen in the area.
Sometimes you can find new experiences in what you thought was a familiar place. A couple of weekends ago, I went to Bramwell for lunch. Following a quick walk around the town, I headed home and decided on impulse to stop at Pinnacle Rock State Park. I hadn’t been to the top of its namesake rock for years.
When I reached to the top, I found a new platform I didn’t remember. It’s no longer possible to stand right on the edge of the cliff; not that I was ever about to do that. The platform had been there for so long, there were names and initials carved into it. The view was as good as ever. Things change a lot between visits if you put them far enough apart.
I walked around the picnic area and saw a path I never knew existed. It took you along the base of the rock, so I decided to check it out.
Once you’re on that trail, you realize the term “rock” isn’t adequate for that formation. You look up and see a wall of stone standing about 10 stories over your head. For a moment, you convince yourself it’s a huge barrier going on for miles like a natural Great Wall of China. Big parts of the cliff face hang over you, and the whole mass looks impossible to climb. I’ve heard of rock climbers tackling Pinnacle Rock, but I’ll just imagine the ascent and take the stairs.
My job takes me to places I had never considered visiting like the McDowell County Humane Society. More than once I passed that sign on Route 52, but I was always on the clock and had places to go. Finally, an assignment actually took me to the shelter. New pens had been put up, and the main building was being modified. The air rang with barking dogs. As always, I spotted more than a few I wouldn’t mind taking home if I had a place for one.
There are plenty of spots along the road I have seen for years, but never stopped to see. The list includes restaurants, shops, overlooks and I could keep going and going. At Pipestem State Park near Athens, I’ve managed to visit the tower situated near the entrance. The view is a vista right out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” The Lonely Mountain, the destination of Thorin & Company from “The Hobbit” wouldn’t look out of place.
When I’m driving up to the park’s lodge, I see signs pointing out hiking trails. I’ve always wanted to find enough time to get out one of my hiking sticks and go roaming through the mountains. Some day, I have to make the time.
I’ve seen similar trail signs at Camp Creek State Park. That’s another place to explore. Maybe there are trails in McDowell County, too; I’ve never hiked anywhere offering even a remote chance of seeing Bigfoot.
I keep seeing restaurants surrounded by cars when I’m on the road. That’s a good sign about the food, but it seems like I’m always on the run. I hurry to this assignment and then something completely unexpected turns up. When I’m in route to the something unexpected, I spot new points of interest. The list of things to see and do just keeps getting bigger.
Recently, I’ve tried to use the odd days off to visit the local sights. Sometimes I feel like a New Yorker seeing the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty for the first time.
You know a destination is there, but you take it for granted and never make the effort to take those extra steps and get a closer look.
Every time I heard the lament “ there’s nothing to do around here,” I want to say “Well, you’re not looking.” Things to do don’t always present themselves. You have to get up and actually find them.
Greg Jordan is the Daily Telegraph’s senior reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.