Sunday, December 13, 2009

December Fieldnotes

Saint Nicholas is my favorite Saint! When December rolls around, I start celebrating! In the first week of December there is a wonderful European tradition that has reached a few small towns in West Virginia called the "Feast of St. Nicholas" where friends and families gather with their children exchanging sweets, small gifts, and stories of St. Nic himself. In Helvetia, WV their friends from Zurich, Switzerland visit and make six different kinds of Swiss traditional Christmas cookies to share and they host a class to show kids how to decorate and bake the traditional dough boy called "Gritzbanz"! St. Nic stories and history lessons are abound and we are reminded that Nicholas, won his sainthood for his generosity -- he was know to toss gold coins down the chimney to poor families and the coins would fall into the stockings that were hung by the fireplace to dry.

West Virginia is a wonderful place to explore Christmas traditions as I did in the town of Petersburg, WV. I joined the Winter Gala Train Ride on the Snowflake Express and enjoyed the festive lights at Welton Park. The volunteers served Hot Cider and Christmas Cookies. And The depot was the perfect place to find a beautiful inventory of West Virginian gifts. The event was proudly sponsored by the South Side Depot and Allegheny Power. Check out the South Side Depot in Petersburg, WV .

Heading west from Petersburg I made my way to Harman's North Fork Cabins, my home base for a few days. The 70 year old family property is located on the banks of a private trophy trout stream, on the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River, in Cabins, West Virginia. Harman's North Fork Cabins line the river and was adorned with beautiful white lights and Christmas wreaths, welcoming guests for a December break to hesitate and reflect.
The mild 40 degree sunny day nudged me out on an afternoon hike on the "Top of the Rocks" trail that seem to meet the sky. The trees opened up beautiful vistas of the area farms and the long sparkling river. It was just spectacular! In the evening I sat out in my warm shearling coat, kicked back in a large over sized log chair, that slightly tilted me back, and seemed to push me up into the brilliant star-filled sky. That evening I counted four shooting stars. Do you suppose the property managers had anything to do with that magic? Harman's is magical and they make it so easy to find the area's gems incorporating so many attractions and activities. Their property is perfect for reunions, weddings, and all your family gatherings. I imagined a bride and groom standing in the sparkling stream, exchanging their vows. It is a must visit!

Traveling home through "the scenic jewel of the Potomac Highlands" the rain and fog moved in and seemed to hug the Allegheny mountain peaks. Around every slightly slippery turn the mountain side views were breathtaking. At Seneca Rocks the jagged edges glistened through the fog that was twirling around as if it could not decide where to land. At the foot of the scenic rocks I stopped at Harper's Old Country Store, a landmark since 1902, and took advantage of their perfectly positioned front porch to enjoy a snack and dream about rock climbing.

I am a traveler not a tourist and I am ready for new adventures in the New Year!