Get off the Couch & Go Outside by Craig Miller

It is often said that the only two sure things in life are death and taxes. During the winter doldrums in the Greenbrier Valley and surrounding areas, one could easily add a good blanket and a comfortable couch to that statement. Despairingly, your winter time best friend, the couch pillow, can easily become part of your couch potato.

Preventing this all too familiar event from happening should be on top of everyone’s New Year’s Resolution’s list. With all things considered, there is no better way to reverse the outcome than to simply open your front door, and go outside.

Take a deep breath, do you smell it? It’s the great outdoors!

The Greenbrier River Trail is a great place to ponder having your first outdoor adventure of the New Year. Convenient accesses throughout, and beautifully maintained, the trail is part of WV’s Rails to Trails program. A gentle to moderate grade warmly welcomes outdoor enthusiasts of all sizes, shapes, and ages, which makes it an ideal location for families. Mountain-biking, horse-back riding, hiking, bird watching, and other groups treasure this 77-mile long thoroughfare that parallels the longest undammed river east of the Mississippi.

The snow will eventually begin to fly, and even though the snowpack doesn’t last very long in some areas here in the valley, it certainly does in the higher elevations. A short drive north on US219 to Droop Mountain the elevation increases by over a thousand feet, the winter snowfall accumulations are significantly larger, and the snow is known to stick around for a bit. Cross country skiing around the Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park is a long held pastime, while taking snapshots of the intricate maze of snow-covered rock and boardwalk at Beartown State Park is nearly as popular.

As one continues north from Droop Mountain, the Cranberry Recreational Area remains another popular area for cross-country skiing. However, more and more outdoor enthusiasts are using the tried and true snowshoe to comb the backcountry. During extended snowfall events, and deep snowpack, the snowshoe is a much more efficient and pleasurable way to progress through the often harsh terrain.

The Highland Scenic Highway (US150), within earshot of the Cranberry Wilderness, is the go to location in the area for snowmobiling. There is no snow removal on this section of highway, so the snowmobile is virtually the most effective way of penetrating this vast wintertime oasis. Better bring your own snowmobile, or borrow friends if you wish to motor through the often waist-high snow. Currently, there are no outfitters or rental agencies in the area specializing in the sport.

Not only good for your body but it’s unquestionably good for your soul.

Anglers continue to prowl the mountain’s streams as a sure-fire way of breaking the monotony of an unwelcoming winter routine. The list of fishing locations is endless in the Appalachians, so deciding where to go can be determined by serious consideration, or simply by the toss of lucky coin. Late morning to early afternoon on warm winter days is a great time to go outside and wet a line.

In addition to the Greenbrier River Trail, Hanging Rock Bird Observatory is also a great place to seek out our feathered friends and go bird watching. Before you depart, be sure to stop in Cheese and More, which is located in the small town of Gap Mills. Candies, chocolates, sandwiches, and everything else good can be found here in this quaint shop operated by members of the Mennonite community. Hawk and eagle viewing from the railed deck is so much more enjoyable on a full stomach.

If a bit more of a controlled environment is your vision of an outdoor paradise, there are recreational activities in the area that both the tortoise and the hare can enjoy. Along with bird watching, wintertime nature photography is another great way to pass the cold and short-lit months outdoors. Offered in a low impact setting, ice skating at The Greenbrier Hotel is a relatively newer outdoor recreational opportunity for the area, and is yet another viable reason to seek out the fresh mountain air.

A quality outdoor experience is what you make it. From the rough and tumble, to the tame and a bit more civilized, the Greenbrier Valley region has everything and anything for the outdoor lover and part time couch warmer. Don’t put off tomorrow for what you can do today. Get off the couch and go outside. It’s not only good for the body, but undoubtedly good for the soul.

By Craig Miller, LBSPY 23 (Dec 31-Jan 14)

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