Labor Day weekend seemed like an excellent opportunity to get out of the Midwest and do a little traveling. We decided to meet up with family and camp out in West Virginia’s New River Gorge for three nights. It is a full day’s drive for us, and the first extended trip in Frugal Boy’s new car seat (he outgrew his infant seat).
We only have a three day supply of cloth diapers and the total trip duration was six days, so we had to break out our emergency supply of disposable diapers. It was weird seeing Frugal Boy in paper diapers.
With the car all packed up we took off on Thursday morning and by the afternoon we arrived at our first destination, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens.
Frugal Boy’s cousin loved the giraffes, so we walked over to check them out and see if he had the same reaction.
The giraffes were a strike out, but would the lions be more fascinating?
What about the African painted dogs?
Okay, so the zoo was kind of a bust in terms of exposing Frugal Boy to some biodiversity. It is a nice zoo and if you are passing through the area or live nearby it is probably worth a stop.
Leaving the zoo behind, we navigated our way to the outskirts of Cincinnati and to a motel. Seeing the room doors open out to the street stirred many memories of childhood road trips and some real dives that I stayed at growing up. On the plus side, these types of establishments are generally pretty cheap.
Using Yelp, we checked out the nearby eateries to find something tasty for dinner. It wasn’t long before we were satiating our appetite at a nearby grill.
The next morning we needed to cross over the Ohio river and complete our drive to West Virginia. Instead of taking the fastest, most direct route, we opted to drive along the scenic byway and take in some of the river valley sights.
After connecting back up with the interstate we had to make a pit stop to stretch our legs and play.
It wasn’t long before we crossed into West Virginia and sped past the capitol in Charleston.
We rolled into Army Camp (campground) around 2:30 on Friday. Army Camp is so named because in the 50s(?) the United States Army had a small training grounds set up there to practice building pontoon bridges. The army is long gone and now the area has been converted into a campground by the National Park Service.
Frugal Boy helped supervise.
One of the perks of traveling with a baby is that it is incredibly easy to meet people. As we waited for my brother and his girlfriend to arrive we had a long chat with the couple camping next to us in an RV. Apparently they had been camping there for the past two months and were locals to the area. Not only is socializing a good way to pass the time, it can be invaluable for information, and provided some genuine local flavor to our whole trip.
It was late in the afternoon, and we all needed a rest, especially Frugal Boy.
Later that evening, our campsite companions returned from their own day’s adventures. Frugal Boy wasted no time in making acquiantances.
Thankfully, his new friend was good natured.
All in all, we had four tents set up for four families. This wasn’t even a full reunion!!
Late that night, the occupants of the blue tents arrived. In the morning we could say proper hellos. Frugal Boy’s cousin took to camping like a fish to water.
Meanwhile, Frugal Boy was getting tips from his Aunt on how to be a male model.
Once everyone was dressed and fed, we loaded up in the cars and drove to Thurmond. Thurmond is an abandoned coal town (West Virginia is well known for its coal mining industry). The town and old train depot are now managed by the National Park Service.
The bridge in the background spans the New River and by far the most popular activity in New River Gorge is water sports. Kayaking, rafting, and tubing are all common sights.
After soaking up some history, we went to the visitors center for a picnic lunch.
A short boardwalk later and you have an impressive view of an iconic bridge.
According to the information sign, you can fit the Washington monument and two statue of liberties stacked one on top of the other and still have a few feet of clearance. It is the tallest bridge in America.
After driving back to camp it was time for some water fun, but first we needed to play with some bubbles.
Army Camp is situated in a bend of the New River and has a public access beach that is suitable for toddlers. There are also some class 1-2 rapids that you can easily tube down.
On Sunday, we played in the river some more and two of my brothers and myself took an extended tubing trip. That afternoon we all went to the local pizza joint, Pies and Pints, for some tasty specialty pizzas.
With our stomachs (overly)full we decided a hike was in order and proceeded to Kaymoor Mine. Kaymoor mine is another abandoned coal mine that is now under the stewardship of the NPS.
Mining is brutally hard and dangerous work. Due to the fragility of the mine shafts, the height of the passages were limited to just three feet tall. I cannot even begin to imagine working all day stooped over.
By the time we got back to our campsite it was raining and dark so we called it an early night. The next day it was time to pack up and head home! We only made it across the bridge and around the bend (essentially the opposite bank from the campground) when we had to stop for a poopy diaper. The view of the river was stunning though and I am glad we stopped.
We did the entire drive back on Monday so we could spend all of Tuesday recovering and cleaning up. We had a great time and the trip was relatively inexpensive. Frugal Boy got to add two more states to his list and is turning into a well accomplished traveler.