My amazing Aunt was a nun in the order of the Sisters of Divine Providence for 80 years. Her recent passing, at the age of 97, was difficult to digest. She was an inspiration to our entire family. She was open, honest, caring, devoted, educated, interesting, loving and admirably feisty. Because I was in Arkansas at the time of her death, I was deeply saddened that I was unable to attend her funeral service.
Our trip back east was supposed to go through southern Kentucky, but due to flooding we were rerouted to an area of West Virginia, in which my dear aunt helped to run a Catholic Mission that was designed to assist the poor of Braxton County, WV. She accepted donations, and taught the residents of “The ‘Holler” to run a thrift store and how to mend, and launder the contributed clothing for resale. She often commented on how rewarding it was to really make a difference by working with the poor of Appalachia.
My husband and I went in search of Saint Michael’s Mission. The edifice remains, but is no longer a functioning mission. I walked down Kanawha Boulevard, entered the grounds of the community park, and planted some flowers in Sister Mary’s honor. I felt her spirit hovering over me as I chatted with an elderly resident who remembered, and reflected upon, the charitable works of my beloved aunt.
Afterwards, we ventured to Bulltown, an historic area near Burnsville Lake, where during the civil war, Union forces were attacked, but refused to surrender, protecting the Gauley Turnpike, an important North-South route in a largely unsettled area. It was here that we learned about Confederate General “Mudwall” Jackson, cousin to a much more famous Stonewall Jackson. I guess every family has its black sheep.
The area is resplendent with dazzling, mountainous terrain but the region is also quite quirky! Small-scale Sutton, WV boasts both a Big Foot Museum and an exhibit dedicated to the Flatwoods Monster; an entity sighted in Braxton county, after the appearance of a UFO in the early 1950’s. West Virginia: Wild, Wonderful and Whimsical!
Next stop: the happy hills of Hancock, MD. Normally, this is part of our “fly-over-zone” as we zip between Deep Creek Lake and the Baltimore area. Not, this time.
The Hancock area provides easy access to the Western Maryland Rail Trail. We rode our bikes out of the campground, down the rocky, ATV trail, to the paved rail trail. To be a bit more factual, my husband rode to the path, he has the spirit of a mountain biker. I walked my bike, like an octogenarian with a two-wheeled walker, at an outdoor assisted living facility. I had a bike accident once, and I carry a PTSD neurosis with me when it comes to bicycle riding in rough, terrain with loose rock. In other words, I’m a huge chicken, a big baby. I still want to ride my bike, but only in ideal conditions. This trail was pretty perfect, as I managed to complete the 30-mile trek. I was grateful, however, for my cheap, Walmart, bike helmet when we rode past the FALLING ROCK, slide areas of the trail.
We rewarded ourselves with a filling lunch at Buddy Lou’s (extremely dog friendly) Restaurant after completing our ride. This eatery is a gem! I would purposely pull off of I-70, just to go there again. There are offerings of unique flatbreads, craft beers, ice cream, and boozy milkshakes. Novel statuary, which can be purchased, adorns the entire space.
As for the curious campground culture… We actually, had a nice, pull-through site, but noted that the roads could use come loving care. The RV rocked as we navigated through ruts, potholes and craters. The campground catered more to residents with permanent sites, who spent much of their time simply riding around, all day, drinking beer on golf carts and ATVs. I’m easily amused, but I found this peculiar parade to be laugh-out-loud humorous.
Now preparing to go “Downy Oshun” for my husband’s family reunion in Ocean City.
There will be tales to tell. Stay tuned…