Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 3 - Summer 2014 weekend in Laneville

We were up a little after six am when the sun came up.  The rooster in the pen across the cabin announced the morning while we had our yogurt and muesli for breakfast.  We cleaned up after ourselves and did some straightening and packing.  I tightened the turnbuckle on the screen door, cleaned the faucet in the bathroom sink, and checked to see if the roof leaked during the rain.  Mary cleaned the bathroom and kitchen then swept the porch again.  Before we locked up and left we turned off all the power and drained the water lines.
The hour long drive from Laneville to Beverly was in a light rain.  Beverly Heritage Days didn’t appear to draw a large crowd, probably because of the rain.  We parked in front of the Beverly Heritage Center and walked through the museums and historical buildings that were open for the weekend.  The Stalnaker log cabin from the 1700s was remarkably well preserved.  Moved from about a mile south of town into Beverly, the home of square hewn logs made a comfortable dwelling for the family.  We walked through the Blackman-Bosworth Store which is now a museum.  At the 1841 jail, local men in Civil War uniforms of Union soldiers issued passes for the day.  There was a pie sale at the David Goff House and camps set up in the town’s public square.  We enjoyed our visit then left town around noon.

We headed south on Route 219 past the Armstrong flooring plant where Bruce Hardwood Flooring is produced, through Dailey to the town of Mill Creek where we took Adolph-Helvetia Road toward the tiny Swiss town of Helvetia.  The drive was only about 20 miles but took over an hour on the curvy road through the mountains.  We had lunch at the Hutte Swiss Restaurant which is always good.  Since the day was cool and rainy, Mary had a pot of hot tea which came in a pot with a cozy.  I had iced tea.  The server brought a plate of Helvetia cheese and homemade breads while we waited on our lunch.  Mary’s Morgan Henle (roast chicken) was good as was my Swiss sausage.  We both had potato pancakes (kartoffelpuffer), green beans, sour kraut and hot applesauce on the side.  Although the desserts at the Hutte are always good, neither of us had room so we bid our goodbyes and headed for home.

On most days we would like to walk through the town and do some sightseeing, however, the rain was light but steady.  There was also a funeral at the church in town so there were a lot of people in the town.  We decided to take a different route back and went through Holly River State Park to Flatwoods.  Once again, we were on a small gravel covered narrow mountain road with many curves.  We saw a ruffed grouse on the edge of the road that didn’t appeared to be bothered by our passing. 
There was still steady rain when we got to Flatwoods but we were able to park near the entrance to the Flatwoods Factory Outlet Stores.  We browsed the Fiesta outlet and found the small canister called a jam jar that Emily needed to complete her set for the kitchen.  We also cruised through the seconds room and found some of the bowls in white that Sarah uses.  After getting the canister, we walked to the Amish market and bought dried bananas, sesame sticks, thin chocolate cookies for making ice cream sandwiches and a ham bone for Cody. 
We arrived back home around 6 pm and started unpacking.  We always enjoy our weekend trips.  Getting away for a couple of days is always invigorating.  We will need to spend the day on Sunday mowing, doing laundry, and preparing for the week ahead.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Day 2 - Summer 2014 weekend in Laneville

After a great night sleep, we woke a little after 7 am.  It isn't often that we sleep beyond 5:30, but the sound of Red Creek was very relaxing and we were tired.  The neighbor’s rooster crowing didn’t even disturb us.  We had yogurt and muesli for breakfast as well as tea made from bottled water that we brought with us.  We left the cabin around 8 am and drove to the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center where we took a quick look and decided to come back in the afternoon when the rocks weren't backlit by the sun. 

We drove east toward some places than we had never visited.  When we picked up a cell signal, we had to put out some fires at work.  I needed to finalize a submission to IRB for a grant proposal we are preparing, and Mary needed to make some work calls.  We parked at the McDonald's in Petersburg and used their WiFi to take care of some small tasks for work.  We drove on through Grant County and into Hardy County through Moorefield.  We saw a flier earlier for Trout Pond Recreation Area near Wardensville which is considered the only natural lake in the state.  The park was very nice and had a beach area in the small two acre pond.  There were picnic areas and walking paths.  We didn't stay long but just drove through and moved on.

Our next stop was to Lost River State Park where the headwaters of the Lost River are located.  Lost River eventually goes underground in a sink near Baker, WV, and travels underground for two to three miles before emerging near Wardensville, WV as the Cacapon River.  The facilities at Lost River State Park were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) from 1934 to 1937. There are 26 cabins than can be rented, a swimming pool and many well marked trails with CCC bridges and rails.  Within the park was a house owned by “Stonewall” Jackson’s father Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee.  The house was built in 1800 as a summer home for the Lee family.  The Lee Sulphur Springs house has been restored by the CCC in the 1930s and was in very good shape.

A sulfur spring was nearby that was considered very healthy in generations past.  The Lee summer home was likely built in this location because of the cool summer weather and the presence of the spring.  The water in the spring had the strong rotten egg odor that is so characteristic of sulfur springs.  We both smelled the water but neither of us was tempted to have a taste.  We had a nice lunch of peanut butter, crackers, carrots and grapes while sitting at a picnic table in front of the Lee cabin. 

We left Lost River State Park and drove the 90 minutes back to Seneca Rocks to take a GigaPan photo of the rocks, hopefully while climbers are visible on the rock face.  We set up the GigaPan and took a panorama of the rocks that should stitch up to a GigaPanimage that is over a gigabyte in size.  There were several groups climbing Seneca Rocks, making their way up the Tuscarora Quartzite rock face on the many routes to the summit.  There was also a group visible on the observation platform along the walking path near the top of the rock outcropping.

We drove up to one of our favorite places, the Bear Rocks Nature Preserve at Dolly Sods.  This area, owned by the Nature Conservancy, is well used by a number of tourists and provides a great view from the Appalachian Plateau into the valley below.  The sky in the area typically holds a great deal of mist and softens the view of the valley and surrounding countryside,  The air is always cool and refreshing at that altitude, and we enjoy just sitting on the lichen covered rocks and watching the clouds roll by.

We left the Bear Rocks area and started down the mountain through Laneville toward Davis.  As we drove the bumpy gravel road at around 4000 feet we saw something move in the road.  Turns out it was a timber rattlesnake.  She was a gravid female that was just under a meter in length but was swollen in diameter because of the babies she was carrying.  Perhaps the most remarkable thing about her was her color.  She was almost entirely black.  Except for the part of her body where the bulk of offspring in her stretched her skin, she was coal black.  Most of the rattlesnakes that I have seen in the mountains have been dark, probably an adaptation to the lower temperatures.  However, this snake was unusually dark even when compared to others in the area. She was stretched out in the road in a sunny spot.  
We were concerned that she would be hit by a car, perhaps intentionally, so I got a stick from the side of the road and moved her into the wooded area a few yards from the gravel road.  She wasn't very happy about having to move from her sunny spot but hopefully she will survive to deliver her young.

After coming down the mountain and arriving at Davis, we had another wildlife encounter.  Near some of the homes on Laneville Road toward Canaan Valley, we saw what we thought was a black cat playing near the road.  We were already driving slowly on the bumpy, narrow, winding road, but we slowed more to avoid hitting the “cat” in the road.  Turns out, it was a young skunk!  We moved by very slowly to not get a spraying before our dinner.  The skunk ambled away, and we drove on to Sirianni’s CafĂ© in Davis for our dinner.  Mary had the Rosa’s special which is spaghetti with grilled chicken, mushrooms and broccoli covered in a clear wine sauce.  I had angel hair pasta with marinara sauce and Italian sausage.  Both of us enjoyed our meals.

We drove back to the cabin after dinner and read while until I fell asleep in my book around 9:30 so I decided to just go to bed.  A slow rain started that night and tapped on the roof as we slept.


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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 1 - Summer 2014 weekend in Laneville

As soon as I got home from work on Wednesday, July 16, I started grouting the tile in the girls’ bathroom upstairs.  The job went pretty quickly and I was able to get the tile grouted and rinsed several times.  I allowed it to dry then buffed it with a dry towel.  I was pleased with the way it looked.  After eating a bite, I left to meet Mary in Morgantown around 7 pm.  I knew she had a dinner meeting that would last until after nine pm so I didn’t want to get there too early and I was happy to have the time to work on the tile.  The drive up to Morgantown was uneventful other than spotting a bald eagle along I-79 in Braxton County.  I really had to do a double take to make sure of what I was seeing but it was a bald eagle without a doubt.  I met Mary and some of her tech pals in the lobby of the Waterfront Place a little after 10 pm.  They had eaten a good meal at Oliverio’s.  Since we both had a long day and were tired, we went sleep right away.

While Mary went to morning meetings at the conference, I walked around Morgantown.  I went to breakfast at Taziki’s in the Mountainlair (WVU student center).  I had a bacon, egg and cheese wrap which was very good.  The manager felt bad because it took longer than he hoped to make the wrap so he gave me the breakfast for free.  I promised to come back for lunch the next time I am in the area. 

By the time I got back to the hotel, Mary had finished up her morning meetings so we packed up and headed out.  I had called the three distilleries in the Morgantown/Fairmont area to set up tours.  The very pleasant contact at West Virginia Distilling Company in Morgantown told me that he would be happy to give us a tour but they do not distill in the hot summer months.  However, he said that if we return in fall or winter, he would be happy to show us around.  The lady at Forks of Cheat invited us to come any time as long as the weather permits a short walk from the visitor center to the distilling shed.  The lady at Heston Farms/Pinchgut Distillery invited us to come any time for a tour. 

We drove the short distance from the Waterfront place to the Forks of Cheat and browsed the visitor center until a guide and her daughter took us through the attractive gardens to the compact but efficient distillery.  The people at Forks of Cheat grow about 95% of the fruits that go into their wines and distilled spirits.  About the only fruit they use that isn’t grown on the property are the pomegranates.  Much of the property on which the grapes and other fruit are grown is reclaimed surface mine property.  In addition to a number of wines, Forks of Cheat makes apple Jack, rum, grappa and several fruit liqueurs.

We enjoyed a tasting back at the visitor center and tried several of the wines then tried some of the spirits.  Neither of us liked the grappa.  It is a neutral spirit made from grapes.  There was no discernable flavor just pure ethanol.  We bought a bottle of pear liqueur and blackberry liqueur to bring back.  Mary has had the pear before and really liked and we are sure than the blackberry will be good as well.

We drove from Morgantown to Fairmont in hopes of touring the Heston Winery that also houses the Pinchgut Distillery.  We were impressed with the development at the farm.  It is obvious that some serious money has been put into making the winery a destination.  There is a restaurant, gardens, picnic and play areas for families and children.  We liked a lot of the primitives and variety of plantings on the grounds.  We were very disappointed that we were unable to tour the distillery despite having called earlier to make certain that tours were available that day.  We were told that the person who leads the tours would be in meetings all day and that no tours would be taken.  Although we were disappointed, we sampled several of the wines and spirits.  
Mary liked the Siggy Riesling because it was not too sweet but still had the pleasant flavor of a Riesling wine.  We tried the corn moonshine and found it to be rather flat.  It didn’t have a lot of flavor other than the alcohol.  We also tried the buckwheat moonshine and, neither of us found it to be at all pleasant.  There was a very strong flavor that was like a raw rye whiskey in some ways.  It was very hot and had no finish beyond the alcohol burn.  Pinchgut makes an aged version of their buckwheat whiskey called Copperhead.  Since we didn’t like the unaged buckwheat whiskey, it shouldn’t be surprising that we didn’t care for the Copperhead aged buckwheat whiskey.  In contrast, we did like the Mason-Dixon Corn Whiskey, which is their 100% corn whiskey that has been barrel aged for four years.  It isn’t a Bourbon but is a good corn whiskey that is like an Irish whiskey in some ways.  We stayed away from the novelty spirits like the apple, ramp, peach and rhubarb flavored moonshines at the tasting.  We purchased the Mason-Dixon Corn Whiskey and the Siggy Riesling before continuing south on I-79 and on to Elkins.

We picked up some groceries and provisions at the Elkins Kroger then drove to the Elkins Rail Depot.  While we were there, the Tygart Flier returned to the depot after a day trip of sightseeing to the High Falls of the Cheat.  The train looks like a lot of fun, and we will make a point to book a ride on the train soon.  We picked up a number of brochures in the nice visitor center at the Elkins depot then drove the short distance to have dinner at the Venezuelan restaurant, El Gran Sabor.  

My friends, Harold and Carrie-Megan Blanco, told us that the food at El Gran Sabor was very good so we were anxious to try it.  We had an appetizer of tostones, which are fried plantains.  We both ordered combination plates that included one arepa and one empanada with Mary ordering the chicken and I got the pork.  We traded halves and liked everything.  We also had black beans and rice on the side which was very good.  The meals were large, and despite being very hungry when we arrived, neither of us could finish our meals.

The hour drive from Elkins to Laneville was nice, and the cool weather was welcome in mid July.  We got to the Minor Cabin well before dark so we could clean and straighten while there was light.  We also walked over to Red Creek and saw that not only was the water level low, but the split in the creek that came nearest the cabin had nearly no water with the main channel carrying all of the flow.  We walked along on stones in the creek and saw several small brook trout, noticeable by the distinctive white stripe along the pelvic and pectoral fins.

On the drive into Laneville, we noticed that the bridge near the cabin was badly damaged and that there was a sign posted warning that the bridge will not support heavy loads.  As dusk approached, a two of the full time Laneville residents came by for a visit.  We were impressed that they live in the remote community all year even though the area gets some exceptionally harsh winter weather.  To take care of the bridge and other common areas, they are trying to raise money from everyone who has property in the area.  The road and bridge are not on state property and are not maintained by the state.  A local resident has offered to do the repairs if he can get the materials paid.

After our visitors left, we did more cleaning.  No one has been at the cabin for a while and there was a lot of evidence of rodents.  In addition, there was a lot of general dust and dirt that had collected.  One of the neighbors had removed a branch that had fallen in front of the cabin, and there is a good bit of work that needs to be done to get the place in good order.  After cleaning and straightening, we read for a while then turned in.  It was so nice to be there were there was no television, no Internet, no cell signal or other distractions.  We could just enjoy being there.  The cool mountain air made for great sleeping and the warm sleeping bags felt pretty good.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Old Pogue and New Riff Distilleries

In completing the Kentucky Craft Spirits Trail, we left home at 7:30 am headed for Old Pogue in Maysville, KY and New Riff in Newport, KY.
The drive to Maysville along the AA Highway was nice, there was a little patchy fog along the Ohio River but otherwise easy driving.  We got to Maysville a little early and enjoyed the drive through the historic old town.  There are some beautiful old homes on the Kentucky hill facing the Ohio River.  Many of these old homes are still occupied and appeared to be in good repair.  Some large buildings nearer the river appeared to have been boarding houses or hotels in Maysville’s boom days.  We especially liked the old row houses along the Mary Ingles Highway (W. 2nd Street) that looked to need some work but may well be still structurally sound.
It was a good thing that we got to Maysville early since the GPS took is to the exit for the distillery.  We were able to make a quick U turn then go up Germantown Road to get to the entrance to Old Pogue Distillery.  We drove down the steep and winding driveway to the small gravel visitor parking area.  As soon as we opened the car door we were greeted with the unmistakable sweet smell of a distillery.  We were struck by the beauty of the Pogue home nearby that overlooked the original Pogue Distillery that was located below on the Ohio River. 
When we entered the small distillery building we were met by John Pogue, the six generation of master distillers.  The two of us were the only ones for the 10 am tour and John met us warmly and shared the history of Maysville, how Bourbon helped to shape Maysville’s growth and his family’s role in that growth.  The Pogue Distillery dates back to 1876 and was able to sell remaining Bourbon for medicinal purposes during Prohibition.  However before the 18th Amendment’s repeal by the 21st Amendment in 1935, the Old Pogue folded in 1926 when the last barrel of bourbon in storage was sold.  
Members of the Pogue family worked as distillers and consultants for other companies, bringing the Bourbon expertise to other brands.  The recent revival of interest in quality Bourbon caused members of the Pogue family to tap stored family documents and recipes and begin making quality Kentucky Bourbon.  Members of the Pogue family had backgrounds not only in distilling but in business, law and, in the case of John, geology, came together to recreate family traditions of fine Bourbon.
The Pogue family buys rye, malted barley and locally grown corn that are ground for distillation in the small distillery.  After fermentation, the “beer” is piped a few feet to the fermentation tanks for a few days to allow the yeast to convert the grain sugars to about 10% alcohol when it is piped to the copper still a few feet away.  After distillation, the barrels of white whiskey are shipped to rented rickhouse space in Bardstown, Kentucky, a few hours drive away. 
At this time, Old Pogue makes only 50 barrels of Bourbon per year.  In addition to Old Pogue Bourbon, they make Five Fathers Pure Rye Malt Whisky that has a mashbill of 100% rye and Limestone Landing Single Malt Rye Whisky.  The huge demand for super premium Bourbon has caused a shortage of Old Pogue and has driven the price to $80 per bottle.  The distillery may be the only place remaining with bottles of Old Pogue to sell and they limit purchases to one bottle per visit. 
As we were leaving the distillery, another group of six visitors came and John took us through the old brick Pogue house next to the current distillery.  
The home has been beautifully restored with hardwood floors, photos of the original distillery and vintage Bourbon and rye bottles.  We walked out on the veranda to look down on the river and to appreciate the sunny summer day.  After touring the house, we returned to the distillery to sample Old Pogue Bourbon.  Mary bought a couple of very good Bourbon ball candies before we said our goodbyes and left for Newport on the AA Highway.
After about an hour drive, we arrived at Joe’s Crab Shack in Newport, across the highway from the Party Source and New Riff Distillery.  We were pleased that Sarah and Greg could meet us for the afternoon.  Joe’s Crab Shack has a good seafood selection and is generally well prepared.  While we waited on our lunch we had the appetizer sampler which included crab dip, spicy crab balls and calamari. For our meals, Mary had a shrimp platter and Greg had the East Coast platter, Sarah had mahi tacos and had crawfish half and half which was fried crawfish and crawfish etouffee.  We all enjoyed our meals.
Since our tour at New Riff wasn’t until 2 pm, we had about 30 minutes to spend at the nearby Party Source.  I had a shopping list of my favorite Bourbons but was surprised that there is a shortage of Eagle Rare, Blanton’s Reserve, Willett and W. L. Weller.  Although we were disappointed that these spirits were unavailable, we bought a bottle of ready to drink Mojito for Mary and Bulleit Bourbon, Johnny Drum Private Stock Bourbon and Gentleman Jack Tennessee Whiskey.  We hope that production of Bourbon catches up with demand and our favorite brands become more available.
The New Riff Distillery is a beautiful structure with a towering column still that is located in a glass area making the glowing copper visible from the Party Source parking lot.  Silos outside the distillery store corn and rye to be ground for the mash to be turned into Bourbon or rye whiskey.  They also grind small quantities of malted barley to include in about 5% of the Bourbon mashbill.  Although they consider themselves a Kentucky Bourbon distillery, they also make rye whiskey.  The Bourbon mashbill is 70% corn, 25% rye and 5% malted barley.  To keep the distillery operating in the four years until the Bourbon ages in a nearby rickhouse, New Riff bottles and sells O.K.I. Bourbon that is named for Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana where parts of the Bourbon making process took place.
The ground grain is piped to one of the large stainless fermentation tanks where yeast strains convert grain sugars to ethanol.  The Vendome copper column stills and pot still distill the fermented mash to clear white whiskey.  Distillers assess the flavor, smell and alcohol concentration of the distillate at each step of the process to assure quality.
The distilled rye and Bourbon whiskeys are sent to large stainless steel cisterns where new white oak barrels are filled.  Unlike many Kentucky distillers, New Riff doesn’t get barrels from Independent Stave Company but rather from Kelvin Cooperage near Louisville.  
New Riff also does not chill filter their spirits prior to casking.  While the chill filtration makes the Bourbon less cloudy and removes oils and fats from the grain that may lend off or unpleasant flavors, the filtration also removes substances that contribute to complexity and unique flavors to the whiskey.  We also noticed that New Riff shrink wraps their barrels to reduce the volume that evaporates from the barrels as the “Angel’s Share”. 
After our interesting and informative tour, our guide took us around the building. In addition to the distilling operations, there are two beautiful party spaces in the distillery building.  Once of the spaces on the second floor even has a nice outdoor area that overlooks the river.  Both social spaces have a great view of the copper column still.
We finished our tour back near the distillery entrance where we did a tasting of the O.K.I. Bourbon.  It needed a splash of water to open the flavors up.  It was a little higher rye (35%) than we prefer but was a very drinkable Bourbon.  The guide told us about the Ranger program at New Riff in which a $60 Membership in the distillery gets a special bottle of New Riff Bourbon as soon as the four year aging is complete.  In addition, Rangers get first opportunities to purchase new or limited products that come to the distillery.  I was glad that I had taken advantage of the opportunity to join on the first day the program became available in May 2014.
After we left New Riff, we drove to Cincinnati for a short visit with Greg and Sarah.  We checked on their gardens and chatted about what is new with us.  Sarah gave Mary some knitting tips until we left for home at 5 pm.

We came back part of the way on US 52 along the Ohio River.  The drive wasn’t bad once we got out of traffic around Great American Ballpark where the Cincinnati Reds would be playing the Pittsburgh Pirates later that evening.  We crossed back into Kentucky at Maysville, had a fast dinner at Taco Bell, filled up with gasoline ($3.49/gallon) before driving on back on the AA Highway arriving home by 9 pm.

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