Before making our way home, we took a long loop around the area of the Gauley River so we could enjoy some last views of this beautiful area. The Gauley River is right next to the New River Gorge and is part of a national recreation area. This river is more about peaceful exploration than the thrill seeking that is found at the New River Gorge.
We pulled off the road when we saw a sign for Cathedral Falls. This short and easy trial leads to an incredible waterfall cascading down through the green trees and sharp rocks. It was so beautiful and when the sun poked through the trees and hit the water it did have the same effect of stained glass windows in a cathedral. That something so beautiful could be just a few yards from the road made this a perfect spot to stop and marvel at all that makes West Virginia be called the wild and wonderful state.
We drove along the road with an abandoned train track following along the road. The train track is a small of part of what is left after a booming coal industry. While coal mining is far from what it was, there are still 14 facilities around the state that generate electricity from coal burning.
The road took us through little tucked away towns of rural charm. One of these towns had a small water mill where the use of the river would help to power the town. These days it would take a lot more water to be able to power even such a small town. But I was glad to see that the building was still there watching over the river and the water coming through the mill.
We stopped for lunch at a mom and pop burger place which not only had fantastic food but also a warm welcome from the owner who told us all about the town and the surrounding area and what made it so special to anywhere else he had been.
And as we made our way through the capital city of Charleston on our way home we caught sight of the golden dome of the state capital building set against some moody skies. Charleston is the largest city of the state, but even then their population is just over 48,000 which is much smaller then most cities. West Virginia is not a busy, populous state, but a very rural state that prides itself on its natural beauty over industrialization.
Wild and wonderful perfectly fits this beautiful state and I am so glad that we had a couple days to experience it. We will definitely go back to hike some trials and hopefully canoe down the river.