As higher gasoline prices make us think twice about longer car rides, the need for an escape is not diminishing. If anything, it’s getting worse. Now is a great time to remember all the reasons we are hoping others will think of our region as a tourist destination, and take advantage of those opportunities ourselves.
The sun is coming back out, and hanging around longer after work; the temperatures are warming back up. (Yes, I know, I’m typing this as we’re expecting snow Saturday … think longer term). And here in the Mid-Ohio Valley, or just a short drive away, there is so much to see and do amid our natural treasures.
This ties in nicely with my effort to get some of you up and moving and thinking about whether you can participate in one of our News and Sentinel races in August, by the way.
Walking, running, hiking, biking … the only fuel cost there is if you’re hungry for a bigger meal when you’ve finished.
We’ve got city parks, Mountwood Park, the McDonough Wildlife Refuge, North Bend State Park, the Wayne National Forest in Ohio, the North Bend Rail Trail … Oh, that reminds me. I forgot about horses. Heck, if you wanted to get from Parkersburg to Clarksburg without using any gasoline, you could do it on bicycle or horseback using the rail trail. Pack some snacks and maybe a tent, though.
If you’d been thinking about a vacation that required lots of driving, you could cut it down to just two or three tanks of gasoline by taking trip to one of West Virginia’s other state parks. Blackwater Falls is one of my favorites, but there are so many gorgeous destinations in the state, it’s easy to find one that suits your tastes. There are 35 state parks, eight state forests and at least two river/rail trails in the Mountain State. You’ve got kayaking, rock climbing, hiking, fishing, adventure sports, history, interesting communities (where you can almost always get a good meal at a place you won’t also find at your hometown shopping plaza), and best of all, the chance to explore and learn more about this incredible state.
If you’re not normally the backroads type … pack some motion sickness medicine. But the idea is to not be spending much time in the car at all. Get into the woods, sample the wares of our homegrown entrepreneurs, use common sense about wildlife, bugs, and itchy plants, and enjoy a vacation with a lot less travel stress than if you’d tried to do the same thing halfway across the country.
Plan around some events such as next weekend’s full moon hikes. How can you resist “Hike by the light of the moon at Chief Logan State Park …” or the “Start your Easter weekend at Blackwater Falls State Park with a unique egg hunt by flashlight …?”
Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby and the rest of the Department of Tourism know what they’re doing, and have made it easy to plan some of these adventures at wvparks.com. Our local convention and visitors bureaus can help you do the same here at home.
Turn what seems like a challenge into an opportunity. You never know what you might find as you explore our region and state, but odds are you’ll make memories that will last a lifetime … and not have to spend the rest of your life paying off the bill for the credit card you used for gasoline.
Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]