My “See All Fifty States Project” knocked one of the remaining three stragglers off the list this weekend with a visit to West Virginia. 

I had been told that West Virginia was “the prettiest state” and in an effort to capture maximal glamour, we timed the trip to coincide with what I was assured would be glorious fall colors. Turns out my capacity for admiring the colors of leaves is … not zero, but not a whole ton above zero, either. I mean, leaves are leaves, and however pretty they are, someone is presumably going to have to do a lot of tedious raking. 

Not that West Virginia was entertainment-free. There were a lot of flyers in a lot of towns advertising an imminent local “Gun Bash.” I had assumed this was the sort of gun-themed flea market that most of the people I know get spluttery about every four years or so, but it turns out a “gun bash” is a specific thing, an all-day raffle wherein all the prizes are guns. Mostly I like gambling, but this seems a fairly limited prize pool. 

Speaking of guns, there are a lot of billboards in West Virginia picturing things like American-flag-painted military rifles and camouflage crossbows that look like they could shoot through a sidewalk. These billboards describe the things pictured as “sporting goods.” I don’t know if this is a legal term or a marketing one, but “sporting” seems an odd choice of word. “Recreational mayhem” would make more sense. I am in favor of all forms of recreational mayhem, understand, but using something that costs $2,500 and features two different lasers to help you aim doesn’t seem “sporting.” 

Hunting things with a knife, a hook and line, or a recursive bow and arrows is sporting. Putting out nice things to eat on ground soaked in chemicals that smell like wild sex and waiting for hungry, horny deer to come running so you can shoot them with something one step removed from a drone-mounted missile does not seem sporting. Lot of grey area in the middle, and none of that area contains a hill on which I would choose to die, so let’s keep going. 

We stopped for lunch near Seneca Rocks, which is a sort of rundown east coast version of Devil’s Tower, and decided to pop down to the visitor center. On the way from the car to the center, we cut through a break in the treeline and found a path, which we followed past a small footbridge and a landing pad for a rescue helicopter. We wandered up along the path long enough that we came to realize three things: 

1)This was not a random footpath. This was a path to an Observation Deck.

2)The Observation Deck was on top of the mountain.

3)We were past the point where we could stop climbing without feeling like quitters.

We kept going forward and kept going up. This was a footpath made of switchbacks, and we kept catching disheartening glimpses through the trees of more footpath above us. There were a few points steep enough to get me thinking unhappily about how the folks running this particular state park had thought, “You know, as long as they’re landing here so often, we might as well build a real pad for the rescue helicopter.”

We made it to the top, mostly through stubbornness, and rested a while. On the way back down, we passed a sign we hadn’t before. The climb was a mile and a half long, and gained a thousand feet of elevation in that mile and a half. So yes, I’m still sore. But we did it. 

Two states left.