Summers & Mercer Counties

The Saturday morning after WV Day (June 20), Magellan and I hit the State Capitol grounds to check out the continuing Sesquicentennial celebrations (3 days of fireworks, lit off the Capitol building, in a state that lost two earlier Capitol buildings to fire). We ran into some friends, viewed some arts & crafts, enjoyed some food truck food and then decided to hit the road and enjoy more of those WV hills.

Magellan suggested a visit to The Otter and Oak in downtown Hinton. I’ve been here before (approximately a year to the day) and thought it a great destination so I readily agreed. It’s a lovely drive on the turnpike, and some WV two lane roads, to Hinton from Charleston. The Otter and Oak has a nice gift selection on the first floor of a beautifully renovated downtown buidling. The second floor showcases some fine works of art by local artists. I stocked up on locally made Bluestone Mountain Soap that smells yummy and leaves my skin feeling soft. I also purchased a cd made by some local musicians in support of the local animal rescue (all volunteer – they have no shelter).

Upon leaving the store, we wandered around the small town of Hinton to the Big Four Soda Fountain and Drug Store, past the Market at Courthouse Square (we need to go back sometime when we’re hungry) and to Grandma’s Antiques (where I found a brightly colored Fiestaware pitcher at a crazy cheap price that I could not live without).

We drove out of Hinton to nearby Bluestone State Park Pipestem Resort State Park (located in Summers and Mercer counties) to get our WV State Parks VIPP cards stamped

Bluestone boasts access to Bluestone Lake, the state’s third largest body of water. In addition to many water sports, Bluestone has cabins, camping, hiking trails and more outdoor activities.

Pipestem is located on the top of a large mountain ridge (or at least it seemed that way to me) and has two lodges, amazing views, frisbee golf, regular golf, stables, a nature center, restaurants, gift shops, archery, radio control race track, hiking, fishing, bicycling, swimming – indoors and out, an aerial tram, cross country skiing, an amphitheater, and I’m sure much more. Pipestem deserves the title of “Year-round Crown Jewel of West Virginia State Parks” if only for views like this:

Pipestem Pipestem View from Lodge

We drove some backroads over to Bluefield (Mercer County) and meandered around the beautiful but depressingly deserted downtown. Someone needs to get in there and make something of this town. Gary Bowling’s House of Art (I’ll have to do a separate entry on this) can’t do it by themselves. The homes surrounding downtown Bluefield are gorgeous and seemingly well maintained with thriving lawns. Seriously, why is Bluefield dead?! I’m thinking it would make an excellent retirement community. Build up the arts and offer Elderhostel opportunities, eclectic shops and restaurants are sure to follow, encourage use of nearby local state parks. IDK, just typing out loud …

We were disappointed to learn Key Ingredients is no longer open for dinner on weekends. We tried to eat here once before but they were closed to attend a local festival. We missed them again as they’re closed to attend to their other location in Virginia on weekends (hours on the website are incorrect; check their Facebook page for up-to-date info). One day we will make it here. Promise! Currently, every Yelp review gives this place 5 stars; the restaurant we ended up at (see separate post on Dirty Ernie’s in Fayetteville) only has a 2 stars average on Yelp. And, we learned why. Trust the Yelpers.

Overall, this was a wonderful day trip. I highly recommend you get out there and enjoy this part of WV.

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