Unlike Ontario, where golf appears to be the common avocation of citizens and the true calling of real estate speculators, no one in West Virginia appears to care for the game. Maybe this is due to the inherent sensibleness of West Virginians. Or maybe it’s because there’s not a spot of level ground in the State.

Anyway, in three days of driving in WV, we’ve seen one 9 hole course, one pretty creative little driving range set in a seam between two wooded ridges and one Golf Club, The Oakhurst Golf Club. As it happens, this Golf Club was the first one established in the United States and the game, as played on their course, hasn’t changed much since that time. Hickory-shafted clubs, sand tees, gutta-percha balls and all like that.

I’m thinking that West Virginians are more likely to spend their leisure time pursuing animals and other outdoor activities. By this I mean that hunting is BIG, taxidermy is a sought-after service–and one doesn’t have to look too far. There are lots of places to buy and sell guns and gun-related equipment, and every rural equivalent of a 7-11 convenience store will sell you a permit to fish or will check your game after a day in the field. There’s a lively sector of the underground economy in the processing of game.

But there’s much more to do with this state, believe-you me.

The terrain over most of the State is very, very difficult to traverse. The roads are small, narrow, winding, and they go straight up and straight down innumerable ridges and valleys. As a result, the towns of West Virginia are isolated. But the people are anything but remote. Engaged and engaging and helpful are a better characterization, if I were inclined to make one.

Not only is the terrain difficult to traverse, it is impossible to build a highway through it. Even the super-powerful Senator Robert Byrd has only managed occasional stretches of isolated superhighway that plunge back into the two-lane blacktop from which they spring with no warning or apparent justification.

But, By God, that terrain is magnificent to see and even better to be in. It rivals anything I’ve enjoyed in the Cascades of Oregon or the Olympics in Washington State. Scenery in West Virginia is on a par with Utah’s Zion and Colorado’s Estes Park, although it’s built on an entirely different ecological system.

Take lunch the first day out, for example. Nearly at random, we followed a sign that advised “Public Stream Access,” turning down a narrow track that switched back and forth through a leafy bower and down a thickly wooded hillside ending at a public boat launch on the Susquehanna River. There we passed a lovely hour at lunch, joined only by a soaring hawk, some sort of crane on the opposite bank and the sporadic flap of a jumping fish. If I’d driven directly, we were probably 2, maybe 2 and 1/2 hours from home. But I’d deliberately meandered, trying to overcome the impulse to get through West Virginia and on to Ohio as quickly as possible. And we’d stumbled into the first glimpse of West Virginian paradise.

Dinner that night included massive amounts fresh sweet corn that we purchased from the farmer just outside Berkley Springs. It was the juiciest I’ve had in quite a little while. Not much for flavor, though. It was good outdoor food, which we prepared and ate at our site in the Cacapon Hideaway Campground, itself a major accomplishment.

After noting and ignoring the chain across what we took to be the main entrance, we off-roaded back towards Charlie’s place. Charlie was happy enough to see us, having just returned from vacation Even though he had not planned to open up the campground just yet, he made an exception for us and pointed to the back way in. We selected a magnificent campsite about two-thirds of the way through the 100 acres that are The Cacapon Hideaway Campground. We were the only campers in the place and walked up and down the whole place after dinner.

For the life of me, I can’t guess where a guy who lives like Charlie would go on vacation–although I CAN be pretty certain that it wasn’t west of the Ohio River or north of the New York border, neither of which has Charlie crossed yet.

We laid down to a comfortable night in a hemlock forest under a full, or nearly full moon with a couple of screech owls for company and slept well even before the buzzing of the insects died down.

There are not many things I’d go on television to advertise, apart from the union but one is the ThermaRest Sleeping Pad, Basecamp Model. I don’t say that just because they are manufactured in Seattle, although they are. The Basecamp is a good night’s sleep in an easy to handle roll and is worth every made-in-USA cent. I don’t know that I’d contemplate this expedition without it.

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