Morgantown hugs the Pennsylvania border along the picturesque Monongahela River. Farther southeast, toward the Allegheny Mountains, Cheat River draws outdoor enthusiasts with its springtime whitewater rafting. Those interested in a more peaceful communion with nature can hike along Caperton Trail, which passes a vintage train depot and heads into historical downtown Morgantown.Home of West Virginia University, downtown Morgantown blends the dynamism of a university town with rustic, small-town charm. Along Main Street, antique shops, art galleries, and boutiques now occupy late 19th-century Victorian buildings. Decadent chocolates take center stage on April 14 for Chocolate Lovers' Day, when the downtown area teems with dessert samples and the Monongahela is drained and filled with liquefied chocolate.
A short 6 mile trip from its more recognized cousin, Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob offers visitors a glimpse into one of Frank Lloyd Wright's distinctive Usonian homes. The small structure exemplifies Wright's abiding philosophy of organic architecture, as it melds naturally into its surroundings. Standing 2,050 feet above sea level, the home sits below a crest of hills, and its native tidewater red cypress and sandstone construction materials help it seem to sink into the hills themselves.
Tours of the property provide insight into the home, its features, and its original owners, as well as its newest inhabitants, Lord and Lady Palumbo, who have since filled Kentuck Knob with an extensive art collection. In fact, the gardens, woods, and meadow are dotted with works from such notable artists as Andy Goldsworthy, Claes Oldenburg, and Ray Smith.
Hazelbaker's equips river riders of all skill sets with the necessary gear to leisurely float down the scenic Youghiogheny River. Bring a friend, a loved one, or a newborn clone, and embark on a three- to four-hour expedition from the bowels of a canoe or two-person kayak. Each trek begins in Dawson and ventures along 8 miles of riverbank, snaking past lush forestry, vibrant wildlife, and baby Class I flat-water currents. The easy-to-navigate flow of the river and lack of overzealous bow captains allow neophyte rowers to keep up with more experienced paddlers and more experienced paddlers to keep up with paddlefish. Each excursion ends in Layton, where new-fangled river farers can ditch their vessels and head to town to swap stories of river life with the local historian.
In the 900,000-acre Monongahela National Forest, amid the bald eagles, deer, herons, and small-mouth bass, lies Blackwater Outdoor Adventures, a family-owned business dedicated to equipping treks into the outdoors that surround it. From their river outpost and general store, staffers dispatch water vessels to traverse the clear waters of the Cheat River, a scenic passageway carved into the rolling hills with plenty of areas for swimming and fishing. Blackwater also operates a 7-acre campsite on the banks of the river, where groups can lessen the edge of the outdoors with hot showers and space to store boats, gear, and inflatable six-bedroom homes.
Though they begin their adventure at Skydive Deep Creek’s home base, visitors won’t really remember the facility. That’s because most of their time will be spent hovering above the airport at 13,500 feet. Beginners take to the sky safely attached to an experienced diver during tandem jumps, and serious enthusiasts can fly through the air while training for skydiving certification.
Instructor Neil Porter orchestrates all the site’s jumps, using know-how earned during his time at Airborne school in the army and while obtaining his skydiving instructor certification. At Skydive Deep Creek, Neil guides beginners through the process of learning to skydive, from tandem diving to individual jumps.
For clients who just want a taste of the adrenaline-pounding sport, Neil performs tandem jumps, during which a guest is attached to him with a secure harness. While they jump together, Neil controls the parachute, which allows guests to relax and enjoy the thrill ride. The company’s optional videography and photography services capture every whoop, flip, and freefall. Visitors who want to learn to pull the strings themselves can take classes in the four levels of skydiving certification, in which they learn all the skills necessary to jump on their own or finally be in charge on parachute day in gym class.
Touchstone Center for Crafts keeps centuries-old traditions alive in a serene compound of art studios and mountain residences. More than 100 classes take place throughout the year in eight Appalachian studios, conveniently located near inspirational landmarks such as Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater and the natural wonder of Laurel Caverns. The center's workshops range from extended weeklong affairs to weekend crash courses, covering topics from painting and drawing to glass blowing, metalwork, and flower arrangements. While learning their trade of choice, students can choose from room and board options that include private rooms, rustic cabins, and camping opportunities for those hoping to show their work to Bigfoot.