Bramwell Oktoberfest and (short trips to) Pinnacle Rock and Pocahontas VA

First, a brief stop at nearby (to Bramwell) Pinnacle Rock http://www.pinnaclerockstatepark.com/ to stamp our VIPP cards http://www.wvstateparks.com/community/vipp.htm.

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Pinnacle Rock State Park pretty much consists of that big rock and a shelter and some interesting fungus among us:

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Now, on to Bramwell.

During the early 2000s, Magellan and I would frequently make the trip to Bramwell WV to participate in their annual Oktoberfest celebration. I was hooked on my first visit. The setting is beautiful and there were all sorts of small brewery and craft beers that we were unable to easily get anywhere else in the state at that time. We ran into friends from Charleston and met some other interesting folks while enjoying regional musicians playing throughout the small town.

We returned in 2012 after being unable to visit for a couple years and things had changed. Though a wider variety of beers is now readily available throughout the state (though WV still does not experience the variety as do other states) attendance at Bramwell had at least quadrupled. It could be due to several ATV trailheads http://trailsheaven.com/ located in the area, or it might be that the secret was finally out – this is a great little festival. Despite last year’s crowds, we returned to the 2013 event (Oktoberfest is typically held the second Saturday in October http://www.bramwelloktoberfest.com/) and it seemed as if there were even more people in attendance than in 2012. I’m sure this is great for Bramwell and all the vendors, but I feel like that quote attributed to Yogi Berra, “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”

All that said, if you don’t mind crowds I encourage you to parktake in Bramwell’s Oktoberfest and learn more about this town’s fascinating history.

In the late 1800s Bramwell had the largest number of millionaires per capita in the US with many coal barons building large homes here around the Bluestone River. One of the small stores in town was the third in the country to stock Chanel No 5 (an historical fact I will always remember), and the Bank of Bramwell floated the largest Liberty Bond during World War I. Today, the town is home to around 350 residents and seems to enjoy some recent growth in business from the Hatfield McCoy ATV trails. The Coal Heritage Interpretive Center located in the Bramwell Train Depot serves as the gateway to the southern end of the Coal Heritage Trail http://www.coalheritage.org/.

This trip, I didn’t take too many pix of the beautiful millionaires’ homes but you can do an internet search on Bramwell or visit http://www.bramwellwv.com/ for a wealth of photos. Here’s a sample of what you’ll see:

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Not all have been so lovingly – and I’m certain expensively – restored / kept up.

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Early on in the festivities, you could see the bricks in the street; later you could only see a sea of people.

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Vendors were set up providing samples of a wide range of beers – seriously, Bramwell still impresses with the brews available, and food could be purchased for an additional fee at several tents and trucks.

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Musicians primarily consisted of singer songwriters, bluegrass and some jazz; traditional oom-pah tunes helped round things out.

If you go, wear comfortable shoes and layers – Bramwell is in some strange little weather triangle in which we’ve experienced snow after driving out of 75 degree temps in Charleston. Get there around 1 pm for the 2pm opening so you will get a respectable parking spot. If you arrive later, plan on walking a fur piece. If you do arrive early, check out the buffet at the Bramwell Café. The past two years they’ve had all you can eat chicken ‘n’ dumplings, spaghetti, and brown beans and cornbread (this year they added pulled bbq pork w/slaw and baked beans). This is some good eats! There’s also a soda fountain that serves sandwiches and hamburgers.

On the return trip, we were headed in the direction of VA and drove down to Pocahontas which was inhabited by only cats in the fall of 2012 (fur realz! we drove around and didn’t see another human, just lots – 3 or 4, whatever – of cats … I wanted to move there), but there were a few people walking around this time. There’s a little side street with some buildings that have seen better days, one of which has a sign on it that it was an opera house from the late 1800s. Pocahontas is also home to this odd little structure that has a safe built into the lower opening.

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This does seem like a safe way to store items as all the cats would be able to see who is gaining access. Not that they’d likely care. Also, cat burglars could be a problem.

If you can’t make it to Oktoberfest but want a tour of the town, check around for Bramwell’s home tours in May and December.

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