When we were winding our way into Lost River State Park, about a two-hour drive from Washington, D.C., in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle, I noticed my phone coverage was going in and out. And by the time we reached Cabin 10, where we would stay for two nights, I had no coverage at all.
What was I going to do? No email. No texting. No Facebook status updates, Instagramming, tweeting. Would my teenagers implode?
Later, we found out the park office has wireless, and I confess we used it. But, first, we immersed ourselves in the 3,712-acre beautiful forest nestled in the wooded mountains of Hardy County, where the river gently instructs humankind in the art of calming down, tuning out, and realizing how to have non-electronic fun again.
Lost River State Park has one of the prettiest forests around, to be enjoyed via several miles of walking trails as well as horseback riding through Hidden Trails Stables. The constant sound of the river is best enjoyed sitting in a comfortable wooden rocker on the porch of a cabin with a cup of coffee.
There are 26 cabins available for rent. Cabin 10 had a charming loft bedroom space that I still would like to somehow claim as my office, in addition to a bed in the main room of the cabin.
Every cabin has a natural stone, wood-burning fireplace and, since it was chilly, we issued a “one-match” challenge in which we kept the fire going for three days and two nights using only the initial striking match. In contrast to checking email and texting, the task of safely tending the fire took priority. Firewood is available for $5 a bundle. During the spring and fall seasons, the “Legacy” cabins included unlimited firewood in the rental costs since these cabins rely on fire for heat.
All 26 cabins come with an outside fire ring. Bring folding portable chairs, since the park is still adding seating around the rings.
Our cabin also came with a Luna moth, attached to the screen outside the kitchen, which we adopted as our outside pet. Luna moths, one of the largest moths in North America, are not uncommon, but it’s still a treat to see them since adults only live for one week.
Occasionally, with one of us standing by to guard the fire, we did venture outdoors, hitting some hiking trails. Lost River State Park is a great destination for extended families because the 19 hiking trails range from 3.5 miles (Millers Rock Trail) at the longest and a quarter-mile (Wood Thrush Trail and Red Fox Trail) at the shortest. Young children and elderly people can still hit the trails and complete a hike, instead of feeling like they have to turn back.
Almost all the trails afford views of small mountain streams and waterfalls that flow into the river, and gardens of ferns stretch out at your feet in a shady setting that will cool the most humid afternoon. On a clear day, the Cranny Crow overlook on top of Big Ridge Mountain offers a view spanning five counties.
At least three trails are mountain bike-friendly, and guided horseback riding offers its own trip through the wooded mountains for experienced and beginner riders. Cool off after a hike or ride with a dip in the pool, then gather family and friends together for a game of tennis, volleyball, badminton, horseshoes, or cornhole. You can also rent archery equipment, and take a break at one of the many picnic shelters.
Finally, check out the historical aspects of the park, which is located near the site of the 1756 Battle of Lost River, fought during the French and Indian War. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Lost River State Park opened in 1937. It also features the Lee Cabin, home of Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee, a Revolutionary War general and father of Civil War general Robert E. Lee. The restored cabin is across the creek from Lee Sulphur Spring, known for its sulfuric smell and rumored healing properties.
In fact, in certain ways, the entire park has healing properties. We emerged back into cell phone service feeling rejuvenated, more connected with each other, and vowing to come back soon.
Other attractions within a 1.5-hour drive include:
■ Dolly Sods Wilderness, a 10,216-acre recreation area in the Monongahela National Forest.
■ Seneca Rocks, rising 1,000 feet from the forest floor, with a 1.3-mile hiking trail leading up to it.
■ Nrocks Outdoor Adventures, which offers fixed-anchor rock climbing as well as zip lining, traditional rock climbing, and wild cave exploration.
■ Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia at an elevation of 4,861 feet.
■ Smoke Hole Caverns and Seneca Caverns, featuring underground walking tours.
■ Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad, running from Romney to Moorefield and Petersburg and named for the many bald eagle sightings.