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Take the time to explore our state

Sunday, June 20, is West Virginia Day here in the Mountain State.

As part of the observance, we celebrate the official creation of West Virginia, in the midst of the American Civil War, on June 20, 1863.

While there may still be some debate as to the way we became a state, what is certain is we have some amazing features of which we can be proud.

Some long-time readers may recall I had enrolled a few years ago in the Very Important Parks Person program, offered through our State Parks service. The program is designed to encourage visitation to our varied state parks, from Tomlinson Run to Pinnacle Rock and from Blennerhassett Island to Cacapon.

You are sent a card with a list of 15 required parks and 20 or so elective parks from which you pick five. I’ve slowly been working my way through since 2016.

During my recent long weekend, I was able to cross a couple more off the list as part of a family trip. We rented a small cabin at Babcock State Park near Clifftop, W.Va., exploring a little bit when it wasn’t raining, including checking out two overlooks and renting a paddleboat on Boley Lake. We also took several pictures of the famous grist mill located along Glade Creek which winds through the park.

On our way home, we stopped at Carnifex Ferry Battlefield, a 156-acre park established on the site of a Civil War battle. There are a couple of hiking trails there, and a playground and some shelters to rent, but primarily it’s the historical connection which is the draw.

We also visited Hawks Nest State Park, which I’ve been to on a couple of other occasions, checked out a little bit of the newly christened New River Gorge National Park and Preserve and looked over sections of Summersville Lake.

The trip brought up some memories of previous trips through our state, including several visits to the Canaan Valley area, but also one vacation back in the mid-1990s. That vacation was the first time I can remember visiting Hawks Nest. We took a boat tour of the New River and walked around the overlook areas. That trip also included stops at Cass Railroad, the Greenbank Radio Observatory and the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine.

I don’t know how many West Virginians have actually visited those sites, but it’s an interesting comparison when you think about our state’s history and its future. We look at our natural beauty, then to the industries which helped to build it — in these cases, coal and timber — and then the scientific possibilities being developed through research and the development of new technologies.

It’s always interesting to drive through our state and see the differences being made. Change is all around us, whether it’s large corporations coming to our borders or a new family startup contributing to their hometown. There are efforts to better preserve our history, our natural habitats and the animals who also call this area of the country home.

We are wild and wonderful and my hope, as we observe the birth of our state, is that more of our people, whether native born or transplant, take the time to not only learn what is written about us in books but also travel those country roads and see it for themselves.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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