Friday, August 18, 2017

Top Five Reasons to Visit the New River Gorge in Autumn

The New River Gorge Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) Race 
On Sunday, Sept. 17 at noon at Fayette Station on the New River three races take place during the this incredible event: Kids Race, Attainment Race & Down River Race. In addition, the event organizers offer free instruction and equipment demos to spectators with no experience or registration is needed. The Downriver Race is truly something to see! The participants go through a class 3 rapid ON STANDUP PADDLEBOARDS!

Gauley Season 
For seven spectacular weekends every fall the Gauley River transforms into a whitewater superhighway that attracts adventure seekers from all over the world. You can feel the excitement in the air. Even if you aren’t quite ready to tackle the beast of the east, just visiting Summersville Lake to see the damn release that creates the world-class white water is fun. Tentative 2017 River Release Dates: September 8, 9, 10, 11; 15, 16, 17, 18; 22, 23, 24, 25; 29, 30 October 1, 2; 6, 7, 8; 14, 15; 21 (Bridge Day) & 22

The Weather
Autumn weather is perfect for hiking. A cool breeze on the Endless Wall Trail is topped only by the gorgous display of fall foliage. The forest canopy becomes less dense allowing beautiful rays of sunshine to break through the towering trees. You can hear the crunch of leaves under your boots, smell the scent of fall wildflowers and feel the crispness in the air. There are over 100 miles of trails in the New River Gorge. More than enough to keep you busy all fall.

Fall Food
We can’t wait to see what our friends at The Station come up with for their fall farm-to-table menu. We look forward to washing down their deliciousness with a Oktoberfest, the fall brew from Bridge Brew Works. And speaking of beer, we are also looking forward to relaxing at Arrowhead Bike Farm. Can you image a better way to spend an autumn evening than around a campfire with a brat and a beer?

Bridge Day
West Virginia’s biggest one day festival is jaw dropping; your jaw will drop open when you see the Bridge Jam Music Festival, the Fayetteville Chili Cookoff and Taste of Bridge Day are all fun events worth visiting.
skydivers jump off the 800’ tall New River Gorge Bridge. West Virginia’s largest one day festival is now the centerpiece of other great events that take place in the Gorge during the third weekend of October.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Looking for Our Next Writer

Sometime around the middle of our first season hosting guests at Lafayette Flats, it occurred to us
that the flats were probably not going to be in high demand during the winter months. We began to imagine how we could use that time to continue to promote the arts, and it didn't take us too long to land on the idea of hosting a writer-in-residence for the winter. We consulted our Charleston neighbor Colleen Anderson, who had participated in such writer-in-residence programs, and she helped us come up with a plan for promoting and structuring the residency. We chose the name "New River Gorge Winter Writer's Residency at Lafayette Flats" and went about the process of publicizing it to the writing community.

Eric Shonkwiler
We were thrilled with the response we received and even more thrilled with the writer we selected when Eric Shonkwiler became the very first New River Gorge Writer-in-Residence and arrived in Fayetteville on January 1, 2015. Over the next three months he lived and wrote in Flat #2  Corten. You can read his contributions to our blog here.

Mary Ann Henry
In 2016, we were pleased to be able to facilitate the return home for a native West Virginian when Mary Ann Henry became our second writer-in-residence. After living in that other Charleston (South Carolina) for many years, Mary Ann was delighted to spend a few months in Fayetteville to re-write a book that she had written years before that was set in West Virginia. Read what she wrote on our blog during her visit by clicking here.

Kathleen M. Jacobs
Earlier this year we were pleased to host another West Virginian, Kathleen M. Jacobs. Kathleen's focus is on writing young readers and children's books, but her blog posts were terrific reading for us grown-ups. Her appreciation of Fayetteville and its people was palpable and she didn't want to leave when her residency was over at the end of March. We think she'd still be here if we didn't need the space for our guests!
Who will be our 2018 Writer-in-Residence?

And now, even though summer is still high and there is a lot more outdoor fun to be had in Fayetteville before winter arrives, it is time to think about who our 2018 Writer-in-Residence will be. We are taking applications now and would love for you to help us find our next writer! If you know someone who would benefit from having a three-month retreat in beautiful surroundings where they can muse, create and live please refer them to our website where they can apply, or have them email us at lafayetteflats@gmail.com. Applications will be accepted through October 1st.

Friday, June 2, 2017

2017 Art Fund Purchase

Lotus Rising
Lotus Rising
Since part of Lafayette Flats' business plan is to promote local West Virginia art, each year we dedicate a portion of its vacation rental income to a fund that is used to buy a new piece for our guests to enjoy.  (You can read more about this component of our business plan here.)

For this year’s purchase we chose a mixed media painting by our Fayetteville friend and Tamarack Artisan, Meredith Gregg. “Lotus Rising,” one of Meredith’s 2016 works, now hangs in Flat #4, Eddy.

Meredith is best known for the beautiful landscape paintings she creates of the New River Gorge, her adopted home of more than 20 years. She shares a Fayetteville studio with another great local artist, Ginger Danz, and she teaches painting at the Fayetteville Arts Coalition’s Creative Juices.

We choose “Lotus Rising” as the 2017 Lafayette Flats Art Fund purchase after learning of Meredith’s commitment to achieving a deeper understanding of yoga and witnessing her ability to translate that desire into visual art.

In 2012, after many years of practicing yoga, Meredith completed teacher training and now teaches the fundamentals of Ashaya Yoga – the alignment of the mind, body and spirit in a supportive environment– at Fayetteville’s community yoga studio, Kula.
Meredith Gregg, Artist
In her yoga practice, Meredith found herself drawn to mandalas: symbolic representations of the universe. These geometric figures are often used to focus attention during meditation. The practice of creating and utilizing mandalas dates back thousands of years in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Meredith decided to combine her love of yoga and art into a series of mixed media paintings she calls Spirited Art. We saw her April 2017 show of the same name at The Grove and fell in love with her modern spin on this ancient tradition.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Waters Ahead

Editor's Note: Kathleen M. Jacobs is the 2017 New River Gorge Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette Flats. Kathleen was born in St. Louis and moved to West Virginia as a young girl. She received degrees from WVU-Tech and WVU Graduate College, and has worked as a teacher at the high school and college levels. Kathleen's writing has been published in various journals and periodicals. Her first book, published in 2016, is a young adult novel called "Honeysuckle Holiday," and her second book is due to be published later this year. Kathleen will be a guest of Lafayette Flats through the end of March and during her stay she plans to work on a children's book that is set in Fayette County. This is her third contribution to the Lafayette Flats blog.

     Writer Natalie Goldberg directs:  “Write about “leaving.”  Approach it any way you want.  Write about your divorce, leaving the house this morning, or a friend dying.”  And so, in this final Lafayette Flats blog post as the 2017 New River Gorge Winter Writer-in-Residence, that’s what I’ll do – or at least attempt, reluctantly, as I challenge myself to recognize that this incredible experience is approaching its end – and I’d rather it continue until those delightfully-powerful creative tugs rest just a bit.

     Making my way through the “gallery” of the Lafayette Flats, the artwork from wide-eyed, talented West Virginia artists continues to invite me to stop and visit for more than just a few minutes, to look closely at details that have been unfolding with every glance, uncovering something new and reflective.  Works by Paula Clendenin, Stephanie Danz, Charles Jupiter Hamilton, Mark Tobin Moore, and many others set the stage for the alternative narrative that hopefully every West Virginian yearns to promote, not just the owners of this fine establishment.

     Standing before the built-in bookcase on the second floor hallway, I gaze at the spine of my debut YA-novel, Honeysuckle Holiday, as it rubs shoulders with literary works by Giardina, Phillips, Harshman, Maynard, and Hickam to name just a few, and I am overwhelmed and incredibly humbled.

     Walking the main thoroughfare of town – one of America’s coolest towns – brings to mind every shop owner and restauranteur who has not only provided nourishment to my body, but to my soul and my spirit, as well:  the eateries of Gumbo’s, Secret Sandwich Society, Pies & Pints, Cathedral CafĂ©, and Vandal’s Kitchen; the welcoming staff at the Fayetteville Public Library; spiritual enrichment found along trails and walkways at the Gorge; and even story ideas from a recovered treasure at the New River Antiques Mall; and finally, there was the day that I discovered Thurmond, as if I had been the one to truly discover it.  It was an unusually warm, sunny winter day in late January.  The waters of the New River were rolling gently, and although I wasn’t sure where I was headed, I was beckoned to that spot where, if I closed my eyes, waited a few minutes, and opened them folks would magically appear, shops would be opened, and the brick pavers would not yet have been laid.  And yet, it was in that moment that I realized that as I soaked up not only the sunshine on a winter day but nature, too, in all its glory that West Virginia was truly Almost Heaven, and the spiritual world took on a whole new meaning for me.

     And so it is with sincere gratitude that I bid a deeply-fond farewell to The Eddy, a space I’ve had the distinct privilege to call home – albeit for a much-too-short time.  I bid farewell to the Peregrine Falcon – or better yet, the pear green falcon – that has stood like a sentry in the corner of my living space, assuring me that yes, indeed, I am welcomed.  The Eddy, ahh the Eddy:  “The water brings life and the river flows continuously, but every now and then, an eddy is formed.  These eddies can be respites, but more importantly they are tools used by guides to safely navigate the river.  As the water swirls and the currents pull, just as in life, we must acknowledge the experience and right ourselves for the waters ahead.”

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Nature of Writing

Editor's Note: Kathleen M. Jacobs is the 2017 New River Gorge Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette Flats. Kathleen was born in St. Louis and moved to West Virginia as a young girl. She received degrees from WVU-Tech and WVU Graduate College, and has worked as a teacher at the high school and college levels. Kathleen's writing has been published in various journals and periodicals. Her first book, published in 2016, is a young adult novel called "Honeysuckle Holiday," and her second book is due to be published later this year. Kathleen will be a guest of Lafayette Flats through the end of March and during her stay she plans to work on a children's book that is set in Fayette County. This is her second contribution to the Lafayette Flats blog.

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
--Mary Oliver

. . . and this is what happens when you’re the 2017 New River Gorge Winter Writer-in-Residence.
My publisher has accepted the manuscript for my first children’s book, and my illustrator has started bringing her vision of the work to fruition, capturing each nuance of character and place.

Over the past six weeks, my cadre of readers has helped me fine-tune the manuscript.  The red light turned to yellow, then back to red, and then finally to green, and we sent it on its way.  We picked over word choice, like picking through a basket of ripe tomatoes, until the perfect one presented itself.  We spoke and spoke again and again each line of dialogue, until one six-year-old reader, Max Hartman, told us we had it right.

The journey began several years ago with a rather annoying nudge.  The more I tried to ignore it, the more it nudged.  Finally, I had to open the door and let it in.  We shook hands and agreed to take it step by step until we arrived at a spot where we both nodded in assent.

Bird by Bird, a remarkable read by Anne Lamott, derives its title from a story she shares with her readers.  Her brother, a student at the time, who was writing a research paper about birds, became overwhelmed at the sheer number of species.  His father advised:  “Take it bird by bird.”  And that’s what he did.  And that’s what we, as writers, do too.  That’s what creativity reaps.
Fayette County Treasures

As I journeyed throughout Fayette County these past weeks, capturing the unique nuances in nature, I was reminded that as West Virginians we are gifted with the ability to not only hold on to those cultural riches that have defined us in the past, but to embrace too the possibilities – the fresh possibilities and opportunities – that will define our future.  To experience and promote the uniqueness of our land, our artists (musicians, writers, painters, craftspeople, film producers, talented chefs, and persistent entrepreneurs) and all our citizenry who bring the rich flavors of our region to the table.  And let’s not forget – not for a moment – the fresh ideas of the next generation of talented West Virginians who are eager to leave their mark, as well, with their store of fresh ideas.  To introduce to the rest of the world who we are becoming, rather than who we once were.

All five senses wove their way into the fibers of my first children’s book – a story that wouldn’t leave me alone, a story that woke me in the night, a story that like The Eddy swirled in my mind until I settled, listened, and took note – in so many ways, the story mimics where we’ve been as West Virginians and where we’re going, where we hope to go, where we know those possibilities and opportunities await, if we but take notice.

. . . and this is what happens – with sheer, grateful abundance – when you’re the 2017 New River Gorge Winter Writer-in-Residence.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Locking Eyes with Lafayette

Editor's Note: Kathleen M. Jacobs is the 2017 New River Gorge Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette Flats. Kathleen was born in St. Louis and moved to West Virginia as a young girl. She received degrees from WVU-Tech and WVU Graduate College, and has worked as a teacher at the high school and college levels. Kathleen's writing has been published in various journals and periodicals. Her first book, published in 2016, is a young adult novel called "Honeysuckle Holiday," and her second book is due to be published later this year. Kathleen will be a guest of Lafayette Flats through the end of March and during her stay she plans to work on a children's book that is set in Fayette County. This is her first contribution to the Lafayette Flats blog.



"I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within."  –Eudora Welty

      Having arrived at Lafayette Flats earlier this month as the 2017 New River Gorge Winter Writer’s Resident has introduced yet another “daring” moment – three months of working at my craft in a space that welcomes not only my physical presence with its warm and inviting appointments, but with a spirit that suggests its own “daring.” For it dares me to look at all things with fresh eyes: a town quite different from the thousands of Bridge Day visitors that spotted this landscape on an incredibly picture-perfect-postcard autumn day last fall to its early morning sprinkling of snowflakes that gather and will eventually carpet the streets and alleyways and mountains and grassy knolls of the Fayette County Courthouse.

     A “daring” moment, because a three-month excursion into the depths of this place called Appalachia is not something I’ve ever before experienced. A few weeks here and there and even a month spent living only with Honeysuckle Holiday’s manuscript when it was in final edits is the extent of my self-directed, dedicated writing retreats. And now that Lucy and Caroline and Grace are forever etched into the pages of my first published YA novel, I sense their whispers of encouragement and resolve, support and endearments. They are missed, but it’s time to explore this terrain that the characters of my first children’s book will travel, as I walk with them through the hills and valleys of this place I call home – a place that will become new for me once again, as it did when I first came here as a child many years ago.

     The Gateway Arch in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri sits at the site of the city’s founding on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Construction began in 1963 and was completed in 1965 – the year before my family moved to Charlton Heights, West Virginia. In the summer of 1974 construction began on the New River Gorge Bridge. It was completed in the fall of 1977. The steel arch bridge reminds me of the Gateway Arch, and I find both a quiet zeal and a near-reverence in that single commonality. And I am anxious to begin this “daring.”

     As I gaze out the window of the Flats, my eyes and those of the Marquis de Lafayette (whose formidable stance is both certain and watchful) meet. And I am suddenly transported to a day – a sunny, warm summer day – in 1966 shortly after my family had just moved to Fayette County from St. Louis, and my sisters and I were being escorted by our parents to a Judge’s chambers to ask if we wanted our new father to adopt us. This awareness of a place so entirely different from where I had started my life was filled with excitement and adventure. And over the course of the ensuing years, it would not disappoint on any level, just as I’m confident that my time spent in a place that was so mesmerizing to me as a child, with its creeks and mountains and music and its own unique culture will once again open its doors to me now, as I rediscover these treasures from an entirely different perspective.

     Standing in front of the Marquis all these years later, surrounded by an entirely different landscape of unique treasures to explore, I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and follow the Marquis’s command to move forward to the unknown, yet very familiar. Locking wide-opened eyes with Washington’s French advisor during the Revolutionary War, I read the etched words on the front plaque inscription, not feeling one bit overwhelmed, but quite in awe.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

#NRG100mi

When we heard about the New River Gorge 100 Mile Challenge last year, we knew that we wanted to participate. We love The Gorge, we love hiking and we love challenges, so the idea of putting in 100 miles in the calendar year seemed perfectly suited for us. We wasted no time, putting in our first 5 miles on New Year's Day on the Fayetteville Trail.

New Year's Day - When 8.3 miles per month seemed like cake.
A goal of only 8.3 miles per month seem easily attainable when the challenge was announced in late December of 2015. For us, huddled under snuggies on our couch, hot, humid summer days were like a distant memory, but as the heat and humidity increased, our hiking productivity fell.  We actually didn't log a single mile in July or August, which meant we had a lot of catching up to do once the more comfortable days of fall returned.

Our prize!
We  also had a lot of catching up to do with our hiking peers. It seemed like everyone we knew started the Challenge like a house afire (not all of them quite like Melvin Hartley!) and we felt the pressure of falling behind in mileage to our friends Gary & Gary and Bill & Sally. But we pressed on and last Sunday we were able to complete the challenge with a final hike to Long Point. Then we immediately jumped in the car and headed over to the Canyon Rim Visitor's Center to register our accomplishment with the authorities. There we were told that we were hikers # 108 & 109 to complete the challenge and received a nice little window sticker to officially proclaim our achievement to the world!

Kudos to the National Park Service for coming up with this challenge that motivated so many people to get out and enjoy everything the park has to offer! We really enjoyed it and I'm sure that many others did as well.

For our next hiking challenge, we've decided to branch out in 2017: Our goal is to have hiked in every West Virginia County by year's end. Wish us luck!

In the meantime, here are some of our favorite photos from this year's hiking in and around The Gorge.

In early spring, 7 miles from Anstead to Fayette Station with friends.
Beautiful silver maples on Gwinn Ridge Trail

Sometimes it pays to get up early - The Endless Wall in September.

Beautiful woodland scene along the Burnwood Trail

This Chicken of the Woods came home with us for dinner!

Amy cools her feet while a deer crosses the Bluestone.