With unending twitter and facebook updates and four different email accounts synced to my iPhone at all times, I rarely find myself totally disconnected (even when I’m sleeping, MetroAlerts continues to ping my phone with updates about the broken Red line). But I was lucky enough to enjoy a pause from all that this weekend in an adorable cabin on the outskirts of Berkeley Springs, WV. When describing the trip to a friend, she pointed out that saying “rural West Virginia” was a bit redundant; West Virginia doesn’t have much space that’s not rural. Just so where we were: situated along the edge of the Cacapin river (just a hop away from the Potomac, funnily enough), the cabin is literally enveloped in trees, and in the entire weekend, only one truck passed by on the road outside.
Saturday was the big day of our trip, for we were visiting the acclaimed (at least by the citizens of Berkeley Springs) Applebutter Festival. Berkeley Springs is also home to the famed (by more than just the citizens of Berkeley Springs) hot springs that Washington dignitaries would historically visit. You can even stop by George Washington’s bath (please visit Wikipedia at your leisure if curious). Despite the sun, it was brisk and windy, and we were all aghast at the (obviously local) little girl splashing around in her bathing suit. Despite the shivering, we had a marvelous time testing out applebutters and other preserves, chowing down on county fair-type food, selecting the best Honey Crisp and Crispin apples for the to-be-baked-that-night apple crisp, and engaging in some awesome, unabashed people-watching.
On the drive back from festival, the trees were literally exploding in front of our eyes–vivid reds and oranges burst out of the forest of green surrounding us on all sides. It’s beautiful country, no doubt. The only catch? Nestled amid the lush greenery, scores of neglected or abandoned farmhouses, barns, trailers and sheds slowly sink into decay. The deterioration is quiet, unassuming. It’s a reminder of the scores of people that have struggled–are struggling. In my world of DIY and design blogs, fixer-uppers are a fun challenge for the budding homeowner. In the quiet roads of West Virgina, not 3 hours from my own neighborhood, windows are broken and the paint is peeling, and a quick trip to the local Home Depot won’t be enough to stall the slide into ruin. In West Virginia, 17.4% of people live below the poverty line. That’s almost every 5th person living in poverty. And that’s enough to give you pause.
But inside that cabin, the mood was light. We sipped on hot apple cider, crouched close to the woodstove for warmth, and played with a delightful toddler and baby duo. A six-year-old amazed us all in the game of Taboo when she guessed that the word was “pipe-skirt” (not being familiar with the word “kilt,” but completely understanding the concept). We ate simple food – grilled chicken and sausage, grilled veggies, corn-on-the-cob (well, I didn’t), baked beans (again, I skipped those), and rosemary bread with apple butter spread (applebutter, cream cheese and cinnamon), and finished the meal with a bowl of hot apple crisp made by yours truly.
A gorgeous evening, followed by 2 days of relaxing, reading, playing board games, telling ghost stories, and watching Seinfeld on DVD (to distract us from said ghost stories at 3am). We drove home in a steady rain, none of us quite ready to rejoin civilization and the stream of texts and alerts that erupted on our smart phones as soon as we finally regained service on the road…