I’m sitting at my parent’s house on July 4th after an eventful day. We drove into the depths of the Monongahela National Forest and the National Radio Quiet Zone for a day at Cass Scenic Railroad – one of my favorite places in the state. While deep within the quiet zone with no radio signal, I somehow missed the notification that I had won a sweepstakes through Newegg for a ~$2300 gaming computer.
So yeah, eventful.
Naturally, with the move growing ever closer, I’m thinking a lot about Spokane and my new life there. But, I’m also thinking about my home. West Virginia. Everything I’ve ever done – from being born to getting married, from my first haircut to my first time piloting an airplane – has been in West Virginia. So naturally, I’m getting a bit sentimental.
Cass Scenic Railroad has always been my favorite place in West Virginia. I went for the first time when I was probably three or four years old, right at the apex of my Thomas the Tank Engine phase. Since that first time, I’ve been to the park almost every year, sometimes more than once.
The park is awesome, If you’ve never been to West Virginia and for some reason can only make one stop in the state, I would definitely recommend Cass be that one stop. It’s in the perfect center zone of the Venn Diagram of Scenery, Novelty, and History. Back in the late part of the 19th Century, Cass was a logging project started with the intent of harvesting the Red Spruce trees in the Pocahontas County mountains for paper mills. With the long, winding trails up the mountain, locomotives quickly became the preferred industrial machine of the operation.
Of course, as industries in West Virginia seem want to do, the lumber industry at Cass tanked in the 1950’s. Luckily for West Virginians – and Train Enthusiasts – some Rail Nut from Pennsylvania petitioned the State to buy the property for conversion into a Scenic Railroad. It worked, and today Cass is holds lots of records in the rail heritage world, most namely the Largest Collection of Geared Logging Locomotives in the World.
I brought my camera along for the ride and enjoyed snapping some pictures of the trains and the scenery. I love this place, it makes me feel connected to my childhood and my state in a way that nowhere else does. The smell of coal smoke and roaring minor tone of the steam whistle triggers every nostalgic bone in my body. But I also feel distinctly more West Virginian when I’m there. The way Cass’ history is rife with the struggles of company workers resonates throughout West Virginia, and my familiy has been affected by a lot of the same things those lumber and rail workers were.
I love this state. It has a rich history, beautiful mountains, and wonderful people. But I’m leaving in two weeks. I’m not sad, I don’t think. I’m excited for the move and eager to see what’s next, but I value the upbringing I had in this state. I value the time spent here, the lessons and skills I learned here that I couldn’t have anywhere else. I guess, in a sense, West Virginia – for all it’s flaws – is such a part of my identity that I can’t shake it.
I guess you can take the redneck out of West Virginia, but you can’t take West Virginia out of the redneck?
I’m not a redneck, am I?
Forgive my personality crisis, I’ll get over it. In the meantime, if you’re new to my blog, be sure to check out my other posts! I like to tell myself that my life is a narrative, and every blog post a chapter in that narrative. My life probably isn’t that interesting, but maybe the context will be enlightening!
Also check out my social media links at the bottom of this page. I post stuff sometimes.
Small move update – we’re leaving a day later than I said last week – we’ll leave on Thursday the 19th of July. Appropriate, I suppose, since that’s when my blog goes up. Once we’re on the road, I’ll post a blog update every day of the trip until we’re in Washington. So, be sure to follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, or WordPress (use the sidebar!) to make sure you don’t miss any of those.
Next week will be the last blog before the move. Aaaaahhhhhhhhhh.
Here’s a bonus picture from today, the Green Bank Telescope as seen from Bald Knob, the third highest peak in West Virginia.