Kanawha State Park, Charleston WV
We broke up the haul from Mammoth Cave to West Virginia with several small stops. Kentucky’s Blue Grass Parkway is just riddled with interesting and unique historical sites, including several which celebrate Kentucky’s heritage as a whisky state. Every turn it seems there’s a Museum of Bourbon, or a Distillery Historic Site. We stopped for lunch at the beautiful My Kentucky Home State Shrine. Sometime we will have to come through here again and spend more time visiting them all.
The scenery is a series of contradictions, first rugged with cliffs and road cuts, but also lush and serene with marvelous landscapes everywhere. It gets progressively more hilly as you approach West Virginia along I-64.
The downside of the Blue Grass Parkway is that it seems to be the land that modern technology forgot, or at least that Verizon overlooked. No cell phone, no Internet. We hastily made a few calls in the brief intervals of usable phone service to set up our next few days, but we got disconnected more than connected, so we’ll have to try again today. (I resolved to go ahead and get a 3-watt car phone booster and rooftop antenna. This handheld mobile phone is hopeless in terrain like this.)
We finally landed in Kanawha State Park, just outside Charleston WV. Although it looks close to the city on the map, this park feels a hundred miles away. To get to it, you meander up and down hills in a zig-zag for six miles. Watch the signs closely or you’ll get lost. Check your brakes, too.
Finally, you’ll reach what the brochure calls “a sharp left”, which is really a 150-degree turn to the left that longer motorhomes can’t negotiate without disconnecting their toads. (We spotted someone there doing exactly that, in the rain.) A couple of miles further, driving along the bottom of a hollow, you’ll enter the park … and then travel another 4.5 miles through heavy forest cover to the actual campground.
Driving through the park, it feels like you are at the bottom of the deepest valley in the world. The sides rise up so steeply you cannot see the sky most of the time, and it is nearly always twilight. The hollow is no more than 100-400 feet wide at any time.
The campground is another experience: another “sharp” right turn, then a one-way road that carries two-way traffic, through an even narrower hollow. A perennial stream runs alongside, and the campsites are sloping cut-outs under forest cover, between the access road and the stream. Parking looks impossible, until you try it; our site was quite easy to back into and we made it on the second try, into a beautiful spot just ten feet from the flowing water.
Trailers over 25 feet are not recommended, but they do get in regularly, according to the staff. The three nearest sites are filled with an extended family from Michigan who come every year – a testament to the uniqueness of this place. It is fantastic, even in the rain that was dripping down on us all night. We opened the windows on the stream side and listened to it gurgle last night. For me, that was worth the price of admission right there.