Monday, November 19, 2018

Trying Something New: Announcing our Visual Artist-in-Residence

We purchased the building that now houses Lafayette Flats in June of 2014 and worked on its renovation for the rest of the summer, fall and through the winter. By the time we opened to guests in April of 2015, we had learned a lot about the rhythms of the seasons in Fayetteville.

Mostly we recognized that winters are very quiet as our outdoor adventure town took some time off from the frenetic pace of the warm-weather months.

As we pondered what winter would hold for occupancy at Lafayette Flats, we knew that there would be long periods when we would have few guests and the building would be mostly empty. Since our business plan includes supporting the arts as one of its core principles, we decided to host an artist for a winter residency.

Given our interest in visual art, our first thought was to provide space for a painter to live and work through the winter months, but since there is no real studio space within the Flats, we opted instead on a writer’s residency.

For four winters we hosted The New River Gorge Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette Flats and were fortunate to have a tremendously talented writer each year. They were Eric Shonkwiler (2015), Mary Ann Henry (2016), Kathleen Jacobs (2017) and Wendy Welch (2018).

For 2019 we thought we’d try something new: Going back to our original idea of hosting a visual artist, we thought if we could find the right person working in the right medium that we might be able to make it work. We are thrilled with our selection.

Announcing the 2019 New River Gorge Artist in Residence at Lafayette Flats

New River Gorge Artist in Residence at Lafayette FlatsRosalie Haizlett

Rosalie is an illustrator specializing in vibrant watercolor nature illustration. She is inspired by the wild landscape of the West Virginia family farm where she grew up. This past summer, Rosalie was the Artist in Residence at The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and she just returned from a 6 week trip to Jordan.

We first became aware of Rosalie’s work when she had a show of mushroom paintings at Taylor Books in Charleston. One of the original paintings we saw at that show now resides in Quinnimont.

We look forward to welcoming Rosalie to Fayetteville this winter!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Personal Retreat Packages at Lafayette Flats

Personal Retreat Packages at Lafayette Flats
Whether beginning a new chapter in life, seeking quiet space to work on a special project, or simply taking time to refresh the mind, body, and spirit, a personal retreat can work wonders. 

Thanks to the collaboration of several West Virginia small businesses, personal retreat packages are being offered at Lafayette Flats - a boutique vacation rental property in Fayetteville, WV - during January and April 2019. Individuals can design their retreat experience with the help of Lafayette Flats co-owner and retreat curator, Amy McLaughlin.

“What makes our retreats special is the ability to customize unique personal itineraries. We'll supply the gorgeous accommodations, inspiring location and beneficial accouterments. You create the experience that feels right for you,” says McLaughlin. “Meditation is great and green juice is healthy, but your retreat should serve your unique needs.”

All personal retreat packages include the following:

  • A three-day, two-night stay at Lafayette Flats in charming Fayetteville, West Virginia
  • Your own private, luxurious, original art-filled flat: bedroom, kitchen, living space and bathroom with soaker tub
  • Private access to a studio suitable for yoga and/or meditation
  • A collection of all-natural bath and skin care products from Silver Market Co. 
  • Guided or solitary forest bathing excursions on the stunning trails of the New River Gorge
  • Spring and sparkling water, fruit-infused spa water and custom herbal tea handcrafted by Gum's Hollow Apothecary
  • Additional accessories for the flat curated to stimulate all five senses including luxurious linens, aromatherapy, fresh flowers and fruit, art supplies, soft blankets, wireless internet access and a Bluetooth speaker

Acupuncture at Lafayette Flats RetreatsOptional activities available IN-FLAT for an additional fee include the following:

Understanding why you are seeking a retreat is the first step in planning the perfect getaway. Honor your desires and plan activities that are right for you.

More information and a free retreat planner are available at

Massage at Personal Retreat

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Top Five Reasons to Visit the New River Gorge in Autumn

The New River Gorge Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) Race 
On Sunday, Sept. 18 at noon at Fayette Station on the New River two races take place during the this incredible event: 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 7, 8, 9, 10; 14, 15, 16, 17; 21, 22, 23, 24; 28, 29, 30; October 1; 5, 6, 7; 13, 14; 20 & 21.

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.

Monday, August 6, 2018

2018 Art Fund Purchase

Each year we dedicate a portion of our vacation rental income to a fund from which we purchase new West Virginia art. Promoting art and artists from our home state is actually in our business plan for Lafayette Flats. You can read more about it here.

For our 2018 Art Fund Purchase we traveled to another beautiful part of our state - Tucker County - to explore the art scene in the revitalized small town of Thomas. While browsing The White Room Art Gallery, we came across a unique piece of art that we immediately knew would be perfect at Lafayette Flats. It traveled home with us, and now hangs in the bedroom of flat no. 1, Nuttall.

"Ride On” by Eddie “Spaghetti” Maier, is an artful and clever depiction of mountain biking, an extremely popular activity in Fayetteville and the surrounding New River Gorge National River. But even those who have never set their bum on a bike will appreciate the beauty of this crankie.

To create the crankie, Eddie carved a beautiful scene of a mountain bike trail into a slab of reclaimed wood. He created a print on paper that is then scrolled inside a wooden form - of his own making - that contains two spools on the inside and a glass viewing screen on the front. Finally, he painted a continuous line drawing of a biker on the glass screen.

The magic of the ride through the woods happens when the scroll is hand-cranked, as the tiny music box plays “Country Roads.”

We love the way Eddie captures the natural beauty of West Virginia in his woodcut prints. From hibernating bears and baby bunnies to bluebells and milkweed, a look through Eddie’s online gallery will reveal his love of Appalachia.

We were able to chat on the phone with Eddie shortly after purchasing “Ride On.” We could hear his children playing in the background at this Maidsville, WV home. He talked about his love of peddling art throughout the Mountain State, and the welcoming feeling he gets from interacting with folks on the streets of Morgantown specifically and West Virginia generally.

Eddie also turned us on to a website all about crankies and the rich storytelling history of the artform. We will share the link with one caveat; only click if you have hours to devote to crankie exploration. The Crankie Factory is fascinating and a complete time suck.
Eddie shows work at different galleries through West Virginia, but he prefers street vending at fairs and festivals. He compared it to fishing. “I throw out a line and see if anything bites,” he said laughing. He finds this technique particularly helpful when selling crankies, because who doesn’t love a good story?

Read about our previous Art Fund purchases:
2017 Meredith Gregg “Lotus Rising"
2016 Paula Clendenin “Ambition"
2015 Stephanie Danz “Rhodies"

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Deepening our Connection

Thoreau said it best: “A taste for the beautiful is most cultivated out of doors.”

While we have strived to make the interior spaces of Lafayette Flats as beautiful and comfortable as
possible, we are at our core, outdoor people. Most every weekend for us includes at least one walk in the woods, whether hunting mushrooms or searching for a new vista.
Sometimes we walk just to walk. There is just something about being in the forest that satisfies a yearning for something; something un-nameable, undefinable.

This yearning prompted us to join the West Virginia Master Naturalists program, which gave us even more reason to be outdoors –and the skills and knowledge to deepen our connection to nature. Now as we are finishing the course of study, we find ourselves being drawn even deeper by that same yearning. Still as unnamable and undefinable, but louder and more persistent.

But even if we can’t define it or name it, we do know where it leads us.

Glade Creek, Butcher’s Branch, Town Loop, Rend, Southside. These trails – and many others – soothe our souls and restore our minds.

We know we’re not alone. We’ve never met anyone that disagrees with the notion that being in nature is therapeutic. People feel better when they are outside.

Nowhere is this idea more accepted – and more practiced – than in Japan. The concept of “Shinrin-Yoku” means “taking in, in all of our senses, the forest atmosphere” (“Forest Bathing” for short). Led by a guide, forest bathers are invited to connect with nature through each of their senses; to experience the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the forest. This is not a hike, but an intentionally slow and contemplative walk in the woods.

Shinrin-Yoku has been part of Japan’s national public health strategy for the past decade. Japanese scientists have studied and documented specific health benefits of Shinrin-Yoku, including:

  • Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body's Natural Killer (NK) cells. 
  • Reduced blood pressure 
  • Reduced stress 
  • Improved mood 
  • Increased ability to focus 
  • Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness 
  • Increased energy level 
  • Improved sleep 
Regular forest bathers also report:
  • Deeper and clearer intuition 
  • Deepening of friendships 
  • Overall increase in sense of happiness 
  • Boosted problem solving ability and creativity 
The reason most often given to explain why Forest Bathing is so prevalent and accepted in Japan is because the country is so heavily forested (64% of the archipelago is covered with trees), and the Japanese people have always had a strong connection to the land.

Sound familiar? West Virginia is 77% forested. And who has a stronger connection to the land than West Virginians?

Forest Bathing is already spreading across America. A recent article in the Washington Post asserts that Forest Bathing is today where Yoga was 30 years ago; beginning to be recognized as an alternative to expensive health care and backed up by science and history. And West Virginia is uniquely situated for Forest Bathing.
The New River Gorge has may beautiful forests where people can practice Shinrin-Yoku, and the activity is the perfect complement to all the other outdoor activities for which the area is known. Forest Bathing is slow-paced and contemplative. It is great for visitors seeking an alternative to the high adventure activities, and a respite for the adrenaline junkies themselves.

Does the idea of Forest Bathing intrigue you? We (Amy and Shawn) will be guiding a free Forest Bathing Experience on Saturday, August 11, as part of Fayetteville’s “Wild Weekend” Nature Festival. We will also be offering guided Forest Bathing as an elective activity for our upcoming personal retreats this winter.

We invite you to join us in the forest and deepen your connection with nature.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Getting Out

Editor's Note: Wendy Welch is the 2018 New River Gorge Winter Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette Flats. She will be living and writing in Fayetteville through the end of March. This is her third contribution to the Lafayette Flats blog. Wendy is the author of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, and Fall or Fly: the strangely hopeful story of foster care and adoption in Appalachia. She will speak at the Virginia Festival of the Book on March 24.

I came, I sat, I conquered. For ten glorious weeks in Lafayette Flats (if you don’t know about their
Writer in Residence program, click here) I pushed out words long overdue and tired of waiting. Two manuscripts as different as chalk and cheese flew—okay, waddled, grumpy with marking time—to Pamela’s desk, my so-patient literary agent happy to see those pages at last.

And then, along about March 12, I slammed the lid on my laptop and went to look around.
With the help of flat owner Amy McLaughlin, who was dancing through the flats on a cleaning day in her magical duster slippers, we identified some trails on which even I—the person who turns the wrong way out of her home bathroom—could not got lost.

Every feasible weather day since then, I’ve been hiking. And shopping: if you come to Fayetteville, buy Ramp Salt at Twisted Gypsy and check out Ben Franklin’s amazing bulk foods section featuring sweets I haven’t seen since childhood and don’t miss the Hobbit Hole because it’s literally a basement and you kinda have to know where it is or ask someone.

Ahem, back to those hikes. My new friend Karen took me to Long Point during a light snowfall. The hike went through deep green rhododendron against bright white snow, then out on the aptly-named rock shelf jutting into the canyon. Blue-diamond-green water lay at the bottom of the Gorge, and those translucent browns of winter trees in the distance, like dragon breath, ethereal and deceptively transparent.

Karen helped me out when my friends Susan and Beth came for St. Patrick’s Day weekend and we hiked down to an abandoned mine tipple in Nuttallberg. The trail kicked our butts: two cancer survivors on post-chemo cocktails, two women in therapy for difficult knee joints, but we went .7 straight down and .8 straight up (the trail lengthened itself going back, I swear) because, gosh darn it, we could.

The next day we drove to the bottom of the tipple and walked a gentle mile back into the ghost mining town of Seldom Seen. All that remains are rock foundations of houses and the churches (segregated community). People who find pottery shards and other artifacts put them on the posts so others can see them. It’s easy to think about who lived there, and why, back by the roaring river in the clinging spaces where people literally hacked out lives. I highly recommend anyone writing about coal go walk that trail. Looking at those moss-covered foundations, one thinks: Coal, past and future.

Endless Wall, Adena, Butcher’s Branch, Cunard: if the names sound lyrical, you should see the hikes. Brooklyn Mine Trail is incredible, hugging a rock and earth wall on one side, dropping to the Gorge’s running river on the other. How can a walk juxtapose calming one’s mind with sparking new creative zest? Brooklyn inspired thoughts of the next book, between snapping photos and just standing in the middle of that little ribbon of road, smiling and letting all those sounds and smells seep in.

Like so much of Coalfields Appalachia, Fayetteville is a place that waits without haste or judgement to be discovered by those who slow down enough to find it. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pausing to Take Stock

Editor's Note: Wendy Welch is the 2018 New River Gorge Winter Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette Flats. She will be living and writing in Fayetteville through the end of March. This is her second contribution to the Lafayette Flats blog. Wendy is the author of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, and Fall or Fly: the strangely hopeful story of foster care and adoption in Appalachia. She will speak at the Virginia Festival of the Book on March 24.

The writing residency here at Lafayette Flats is now marginally closer to its end than its beginning. Pausing to take stock, I’m well-content with progress on long-overdue projects combined with some pleasant living moments:
  • Drafting a work of fiction, the idea having been in my mind two years, the time to pull it out through the fingertips non-existent until Shawn and Amy’s offer appeared. 67K words have met with mixed reviews from beta readers, some of whom think the female protagonist is a flawed and understandable protagonist, some of whom think she acts so irrationally she’s not believable. I’m working on it, and taking a great deal of comfort from Nora Roberts’ famous quote: You can fix anything but a blank page. 
  • Preparing the proposal and writing the first half of the narrative for the sequel to Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap. Tentatively titled Bookstore, Cats: a true tale of many fine tales, this book has been lying on my conscience for a few years now, growing slowly with false starts and stops. Writing is not an efficient process, but it is fun. Finally being able to lay out all the bits and pieces, pull together what works, and thread the disparate narratives onto a common theme would never have happened without six weeks of clear thinking and space to literally place pages on the floor, walk around them shuffling, and leave them where they lay overnight. The gift of time and space here at Lafayette Flats has been awesome. 
  • Catching up on heretofore unseen episodes of Law and Order while tackling crochet patterns I’d always wanted to turn a hand to. I am a Law and Order freak, original series only. Life intervened during the middle years of the series and there are multiple episodes I’ve never seen. Guess what plays all day on two TV channels here in WV? Jack and I don’t have a TV back in our bookstore, so Tuesdays became my day off writing, when I could focus on creating dragonfly scarves, huge mandalas, wreaths of crocheted flowers, and the bread-n-butter moneymaker of Swiffer covers. All the things I make get sold on behalf of the cat rescue Appalachian Feline Friends (the partial subject of the book I’m now working on except for Tuesdays) so it seems like a good closed circle of spinning yarn or words. 
  • Attending my first-ever yoga class. It was enlightening (no pun intended). 
  • Making friends and going places, often out to eat with nice people who want me to understand Fayetteville’s deserved reputation as a food Mecca. Screenwriter Gena calls from Cathedral Café when she’s in town, Shawn and Amy hosted Jack and me at The Station (best mixed drinks), Karen made sure I knew about the Secret Sandwich Society and its weekend evening venue The Grove (try the mac and cheese), Vicki invited me to talk about my latest book (Fall or Fly) at Sweet T’s Bake Shop (it’s all good), and Mary Ann introduced me to the pesto pizza at Pies and Pints. The only one I haven’t reached yet is Big Dam Pizza, because as much as I’d like to try, it doesn’t seem wise to eat 28 inches of my favorite food alone. 

Which brings me to even better news: as writing goals are reached, rewards follow. One of these is two writer friends coming for a mini-retreat this weekend: Willie Dalton (Three Witches in a Small Town was her first) and Martha Evans Wiley (a non-fiction work on Cumberland Gap). We might try the Big Dam Pizza, if we make our word counts. 

Namaste, y’all.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Big Things and Small Things

Editor's Note: Wendy Welch is the 2018 New River Gorge Winter Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette Flats. She will be living and writing in Fayetteville for the next three months. This is her first contribution to the Lafayette Flats blog.

Three weeks into a three-month writing residency at Lafayette Flats in Fayetteville, West Virginia, here’s what I have to show for it: a 65,689-word manuscript, and 40 rows of Mandala Madness.

I am well-pleased with both. It remains to be seen what Pamela (my agent) says about the 65K, and I’ve got about 240 rows to go on the mandala.

With the intense work schedule to get that first draft done, time to explore the joys around me have been limited. My husband came for the reception that flat owners Shawn Means and Amy McLaughlin threw at The Grove (best draft cider ever), and we loved our day out exploring Thurmond and enjoying the backroads of the New River Gorge.

Shawn and Amy took me through the Gorge the day I got here, bright-eyed and bushy-haired from the dry winter weather. Seeing its bridge in a snowstorm has ruined me for other views in life. It was magnificent.

But the smaller things around here, the bits of little pleasures you could overlook if you went off hunting big things, they live in abundance. Amanda and Dan invited me to their home for a book club, and we had homemade soup and brilliant conversation. Karen took me for a walk through the park, and we had brilliant conversation and homemade soup from the Cathedral Café.
The Baptist and Presbyterian and Methodist churches are very welcoming, members quick to reach out and include you in social activities, volunteer opportunities. I imagine Fayetteville Church of God is, too, but I’ve only been here three Sundays so they’re next.

And then there’s the Flats themselves. Amy and Shawn have great artistic spirits and also wickedly wonderful senses of humor. Here are some photos to help you see the world from their eyes.

The woodpecker graces the underbeam of the wooden stairs to the third floor.

The little room is by WV artist Courtney Childers Chapman, located in the Quinnmont Flat.

All the flats are named after important historic or geographic features in the area. I’m in Eddy, which is meant to be the body of water, but for me has come to be the name of the peregrine falcon that graces my front door. Each flat has one as a spirit animal. On bad writing days, Eddy and I have held conversations.

Stained glass panels decorate the transom over each flat’s door. This one’s Eddy.

This is the climber on each refrigerator. 

They found a 1954 TV in the basement during renovations, and Shawn used it to frame a vista of the town from the same year.

The Eddy light switch has a sense of humor a bit earthier than the rest of the flats.

The fairy door in the corner of my bathroom. They seem to be gone for the winter.

This, this is the crowning glory of Quinnmont Flat. Amy is as kind as she is funny; when she realized how important long bubbly baths were to my artistic process (yeah yeah) she offered a deal. Reaching 50K on the draft would unlock bathtub powers for Quinn when no guests were using it that week. I would never go so far as to wish Amy and Shawn less customers, but ohhhhh baby, that bathtub is as lovely as it looks. If y’all come, ask for Nuttall or Corten.

So the point of the residency, from Amy and Shawn’s point of view, is to spread the story of West Virginia as told by its residents, rather than those charming reporters who come in and explain just how awful we are to us, and why we are all too gullible to be trusted with voting. It can get ugly, those narratives that have for year confined and defined Appalachia.

But we won’t be throwing the baby out with this bathwater. (See what I did there?) No, in telling the big, wonderful, overarching stories of the state and its people, let’s not overlook the warm welcomes of the churches, the great artistic pizzas of the parlors (have you tried ever gorgonzola and grape in combo?), the hospitality of the people (thank you Amy!) or the beauty of the place as designed by God or People. The flats are beautiful. The gorge is beautiful. Little, big.

Come explore Fayetteville. Check out the yarnbombed tree, find out why they say food comes here to be born, and explore the hidden wonders of Shawn and Amy’s creations. You won’t be bored. Ever.