One Night in Berkeley Springs


Nov 5th, 2010, 09:48 AM
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One Night in Berkeley Springs

This hardly qualifies as a trip report, but if it amuses some and helps others...

…About a year ago a friend was describing a set of “rustic” cabins and houses scattered throughout West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. The cabins all have some geographic note, are located in interesting places, and are available as rentals. I investigated some of the properties and thought one of them, “the cabin built atop a stream,” would make for a fun weekend--after all, the cabin was atop a stream, with a small porch from which to enjoy the running water; the stream was fun for children to paddle in. Its location, Berkeley Springs, is known for its mineral waters and spas, and was the place Washington headed to when he needed a little R&R with his pal Lord Fairfax. We’re not into the spa scene, but the town is also a prominent arts city with the corresponding herbal shops, tea stores, and organic home furnishings galleries that align with this type of destination. Perfect for a weekend getaway! So late last year we reserved a weekend in January for a little family outing: shopping and a little exploration by day, settling in by the cozy wood burning stove with boardgames and organic noshes by evening. Perhaps some skating or sliding on the stream! Alas and alack, the Washington area fell victim to an ice and slush storm that weekend and we canceled, but weren’t too concerned because we had a whole year to reschedule our reservation.

Fast forward to September. I remembered that we had this “use or lose” weekend, and was able to reschedule for a weekend in October. Perfect! A little leaf-peeping, light hiking, and shopping by day, settling in by the cozy wood burning stove with boardgames and organic noshes by evening. Maybe some splashing in the stream for the kids and the dog! While researching activities I discovered that Berkeley Springs rolls up its sidewalks around 5:00 most nights, and planned for us to have a lovely, locally produced dinner in town at a restaurant overlooking the mountains after we arrived on Friday, saving the exploration for Saturday. The best laid plans...

...On Friday I came home from work and was hit with a pungent and most unpleasant smell --turns out our dog had an upset tummy (likely from the dirty dog park water he’d been drinking the day before) and had left several presents throughout the house. This was not a good omen for the weekend...

...We departed about an hour later than I’d wanted, but traffic heading out of DC posed no problem and we arrived at our “rustic retreat” in good time. Rustic it was, indeed, but it wasn't much of a retreat. The cabin was “in town” as described, but the better description would have been, “in town, adjacent to the jumbo parking lot for the Community of Christ Church and one block from the intersection of two state routes.” And the stream was dry, owing to our long, hot Mid-Atlantic summer. No matter! The weather forecast for the weekend was 65 and sunny, so we’d have plenty of time to retreat to the rustic woods of West Virginia. We unpacked the car and settled in to the cabin, all of us, that is, except the dog. He refused to come in the cabin and engaged his “I am just going to sit down outside” routine when he doesn’t like something. He’s a rescue Foxhound, and can be a little sensitive to change. Sigh. DH carried the 60 pound hound into the cabin and we decided that we couldn’t leave him alone while we went to dinner. And since it was too late to enjoy the lovely organic, locally produced mountain top dinner anyway, we opted for carryout hickory-smoked barbeque from the Earth Dog Cafe. It was delicious (and locally produced)! Plus, eating in the cabin allowed us to enjoy the warmth of the wood burning stove while we repatriated the many, many, many stinkbugs that had also reserved our cabin for the weekend! Fun times!

After dinner and stinkbug repatriation we settled in for the night, looking forward to a good nights’ sleep in our cozy cabin. Except that didn’t happen. The floodlights from the jumbo parking lot shone brighter than a full moon into our “rustic retreat,” the thin curtains no match for the light. The dog paced the wood floor practically all night long, unable to find a suitable place to sleep even though we’d brought his blanket. Click click, click click, went his nails as he walked around and around every room in the cabin. And it seemed that every time he did settle down the compression brakes from a tractor-trailer rolling down the state route two blocks from our in town “rustic retreat” would wake him and he’d begin the pacing all over again. I remember glancing at the clock at 1:00 AM before drifting off to sleep... 1:40 AM DH and I were awakened to the sound of our hound leaving, ahem, "presents" on the kitchen floor. Guess that dirty dog park water hadn’t all cleared. So, at 1:40 AM, eyes bleary from lack of sleep, I’m on the floor wiping up the mess while DH is standing outside in his jammies with the dog, who is none too keen on returning to the cabin, of course. So once again DH picked him up and carried him inside, and after a swat on the backside, he settled down on the floor until 5:00 AM. Not wanting to be awake at that time, I pulled his hound butt onto the bed in the hope that he’d fall asleep. Thankfully, the dog slept until almost 7:00 AM. DH and I didn’t, of course, fearing to breathe lest we wake him up...

...the little cat nap did our canine toddler wonders, and he was rarin’ to go for his morning walk at 7:00. We threw on our fleece and headed out to explore the neighborhood. Not much to see—a few flamingos on a neighbor’s lawn, a few empty bottles under one of the parking lot lights.

Time for breakfast! Not really wanting to wash dishes and not able to find a skillet in the “fully equipped kitchen” anyway, DH and DS took pity on the situation and went to the Golden Arch Steakhouse for four orders of hotcakes. Not quite the lazy breakfast of pancakes, sausage, and coffee on the porch overlooking the stream I envisioned, but no matter! We were off to explore! First stop, the Berkeley Springs State Park, America’s First National Spa! A quick drive into town and----whoops! We missed it! The tiny park tucked in between aromatherapy shops and acupuncture clinics was but a teeny tiny destination, not so much the “Treasure Hunt Walking Tour” described on the Berkeley Springs website...

...we regrouped and headed to Cacapon State Park first for some light hiking. Great idea. Miles of trails and beautiful weather, we enjoyed a few hours there. We eyed the rental cabins and wondered if The Stinkbugs had reservations there, too. Back to Berkeley Springs to sightsee the park and George Washington’s bath, had a pleasant lunch at Creekside Creamery, window-shopped in the all of a dozen or so stores, and then it was off to explore part of the Washington Heritage Trail by car. We wound our way through the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia sightseeing at overlooks and at the Paw Paw Tunnel (an amazing engineering feat!), and before we knew it... was 5:30 PM and we were back at our “rustic retreat” with nothing to do except repatriate stinkbugs. It took just a few moments before we decided to pack up, scrap the second night’s reservation, and head home... one opened their eyes until 7:00 AM on Sunday. Not even the dog.
fourfortravel is offline  
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Nov 8th, 2010, 06:39 AM
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Anyone contemplating taking the waters at Berkeley Springs State Park, go here for a quick description: . There's a link to the State Park that gives rates.
bookhall is offline  
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Nov 8th, 2010, 10:16 AM
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I've taken the waters at the State Park and it is a fun experience.

While in Berkeley Springs a stroll through The Old Factory Antiques Mall is interesting....try their home-made fudge!
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Nov 9th, 2010, 05:58 AM
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Thanks for an interesting read fourfortravel! I am sorry you did not have a great time but it seems your attitude is great!
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