Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for November, 2014

Desolate Dolly Sods Wilderness in Allegheny Mountains

Desolate Dolly Sods - a perfect escape from civilization!

Desolate Dolly Sods – a perfect escape from civilization!

Desolate! That seems the perfect description for the Dolly Sods Wilderness. This vast, rugged back country can be found in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia in the Monongahela National Forest.

Narrow dirt road to Dolly Sods

Narrow dirt road to Dolly Sods with twists and turns just ahead

Named for a German family, the Dahles, locals added “sods”, because that is their term for an open mountaintop meadow where cattle grazed.  Over the years, the entire name has been localized to Dolly Sods.

The road to the top contains narrow, twisting, dirt roads. You just hope you don’t meet anyone coming around the bend. Add a little fog to the adventure and the trip becomes even more exciting. As you enter the wilderness area, you might feel civilization is being left behind. No guardrails line the sides of this mountain road, but hopefully the trees would catch you if you had to get close to the edge.

Flexible weather can change several times in a day. Within an hour, sun, rain, snow, and fog might all make an appearance. Cool weather prevails  and frost can occur on any time of the year. But that doesn’t deter the campers, who camp out year round.

Windy Dolly Sods

Windy Dolly Sods

Winds blow fiercely here as witnessed by the red spruce trees, whose branches grow on one side, the side away from the wind. 

During the early 1900’s this mountain top was a great source of timber for the United States. At that time, some of the trees measured 13′ in diameter – quite the giants! Those early settlers cleared the field completely of all growth and brush. Sparks from the locomotives, saw mills, and logger’s warming fires set fire to the field to burn everything off; the peat burned for years as it was seven to nine feet deep.

One Surviving Daisy

One Surviving Daisy

Today, little growth remains on the top of the Dolly Sods, but a new crop of trees is growing at lower levels. Right now this high plateau can best be described as a vast “nothingness”, but low growing blueberry and huckleberry bushes, wild strawberry plants and even a daisy can be found struggling for existence.

Many trails exist to explore the wilderness and you don’t have to worry about reptiles as they don’t want to hang around in the cold. When you finally get to the top, rocks and low growth cover the open areas. Over 17,000 acres compose this arctic-like, wilderness area, which runs about 49 miles across the top.

View from Dolly Sods Plateau

View from Dolly Sods Plateau

Dolly Sods sets on the Eastern Continental Divide with waters flowing to the east continuing to the Potomac River, while those flowing to the west help form the Ohio River and eventually the Mississippi. In 1852, an article in Harper’s Monthly Magazine described the area as:

…so savage and inaccessible that it has rarely been penetrated even by the most adventurous. The settlers on its borders speak of it with a sort of dread, and regard it as an ill-omened region, filled with bears, panthers, impassable laurel-brakes, and dangerous precipices.

A challenging rocky trail back to the parking lot

A challenging rocky trail back to the parking lot

At one point in time, a glacier covered the top of Dolly Sods. Walking the trail to Bear Rock, water lays on top of the ground since it can’t be absorbed by the rocks just below the surface.  The trail required careful steps to avoid too much water, and it became very narrow between the low growth of wild blueberry bushes. But in just a little while, the trail turned into one made of rocks and it was a game of hopping from rock to rock to reach the edge.

An interesting sidenote was the fact that the US Army used this area as an artillery training ground before troops were sent to Europe in World War II. Hard to tell what might be found in the rocks and brush.

Many seem to enjoy escaping to the world of nature.

Many seem to enjoy escaping to the world of nature.

Starting back to the parking lot, it was surprising to see how many people were out walking the Dolly Sods on a weekday at a temperature of 49. Had to wonder how they found it!

From Canaan Valley follow WV 32 south to the Laneville Road (WV 45). Turn left and go approximately 6 miles to the Red Creek Bridge, where the road changes from pavement to gravel and is now Forest Road 19. 



Seneca Rocks Discovery Center in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia

Seneca Rocks

Seneca Rocks

The towering Seneca Rocks with razorback ridges appear to have been shot up out of the earth in the Monongahela National Forest in eastern West Virginia. Perhaps this was due to a volcanic vein explosion years ago, but whatever the cause they are spectacular. These massive rocks rise 900 feet above the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River.

It can only be guessed about the early people who lived in this place. When the Discovery Center was built, two villages were found under that area. The most recent one was dated at 600 years ago.

The Cliffs of Seneca by David Strother for New Harpers Magazine in 1872.

The Cliffs of Seneca by David Strother for Harpers New Monthly Magazine in 1872.

One of the early explorers to reach this area in 1853 was a writer and magazine illustrator, David Strother. He sketched the massive Seneca Rocks and several years later in 1872 reworked it into a wood engraving. This special printing was highlighted in the 1872 Harpers New Monthly Magazine.

Viewing Seneca Rocks through binoculars enables you to see the observation tower at the top and even the people there. If you have time, you will want to climb to the top and view the  surrounding area from their observation deck. Many trails lead to the summit for climbers of various abilities, so find one perfect for you.

Climbing to the top served another purpose in 1943-44 as it was a training ground for West Virginia Militia during WWII. Here they practiced climbing the rock sides in preparation for the Apennines Mountains in Italy.

Seneca River

Scenic Seneca Creek

When you head over the walkway at Seneca Creek, watch carefully as you cross the bridge. Trout can be seen swimming along through the creekk, which bubbles over the rocky bottom.

This condensed version of the Legend of Seneca Creek tells an interesting Indian tale:

Snow Bird waited at the base of Seneca Rocks.

Snow Bird waited at the base of Seneca Rocks.

For as long as she could remember, Princess Snow Bird’s family lived at the base of Seneca Rock. All during her youth, she wanted to climb those rocks and as she became older, she did climb higher and higher until one day she reached the pinnacle. For a while she enjoyed her companions of warm sunshine, refreshing breeze, thoughts and dreams. But soon she became the most beautiful maiden in the land and warriors from all around came to claim her hand in marriage. 

There were too many for her to decide, so Snow Bird invited all to come on an appointed day for a challenge. After meeting them at the base of Seneca Rock, she told them that the one who could climb to the top would be her new chief. Out of the many present, only seven were brave enough to take the challenge. Snow Bird led the way and one by one six of them fell behind. Only one brave remained and as he neared the top he slipped.

Snow Bird quickly thought that if he was the one most able to make the climb perhaps she should accept him. She then reached down and grabbed his hand to pull him to safety. When they returned to the base, her father, Chief Bald Eagle, told his new son-in-law that he would become his successor and the new chief of the tribe.

Rock climbing models

Rock climbing models

Nearby is a beautiful Discovery Center with information about all the activities, explanations regarding Seneca Rocks through pictures and scenes, and of course a gift shop. Interactive displays explain the geology of the area on a level that even children can understand. Films provide another method of explaining the beautiful Seneca Rocks and the surrounding Monongahela National Forest. Figures of mountain climbers scan an inside wall to show the gear needed and explain the dangers.

Lighted topography map

Lighted topography map

Especially interesting was a topographical map of the area with buttons that lighted up different special places to visit. It gave you a much clearer idea of where you were, had been, and were going. It was interesting that they had instructions also written in Braille.

Visit Seneca Rocks where you can climb to the top or sit on a bench at the base and admire the view.

Seneca Rocks it located east of Elkins, WV near the junction of Routes 33 and 55. Enjoy the beautiful scenery on your way there.


Gross Mansion in Cambridge, Ohio – House of Many Uses

Gross Mansion today

Gross Mansion today

A mansion on a hilltop perfectly describes Gross Mansion. The mere mention of its name brings instant recognition. While most know where it is, few know its history, or the history of the only family to call this “home”.

Born in 1868, Charles F. Gross began working at the age of twenty-one in the oil fields of Ohio, West Virginia, and Oklahoma. Charles saved his wages carefully, and began buying shares of The Hill Oil and Gas Company based in Columbus, Ohio.

This company had extensive holdings in Oklahoma and Texas, and Charles Gross of Cambridge had increased his holdings to one-fifth interest. The Cushing Field in Oklahoma consisted of 6,000 acres and produced 20,000 barrels of oil a day. When he sold his one-fifth interest in this field, Charles had money to purchase land and build a house.

Gross Mansion under construction

Gross Mansion under construction

Harriett, his wife, had her heart set on having the nicest house in Cambridge, and that is what Charles set out to accomplish. Charles had purchased a city block between Sixth and Seventh Streets in a strictly residential area.

Beautiful tile in the entry way

Beautiful tile in the entry way

The Gross Mansion, completed in 1921, was situated in a park-like setting. A winding carriage lane wove through a beautiful landscape of flowers and trees. Relaxing while working in the garden became one of Charles’ cherished times.

No cost was spared in the construction of this 12,000 square foot home with twenty-four rooms. Even today the beautiful tile floors, walnut paneling, carved stone fireplaces and beautiful stairway with carved newel posts exemplify the richness intended many years ago.

Stories are still told of the Gross family as many parties and weddings were held at the mansion. Trick or treaters that were brave enough to come to the door of the big house, were rewarded with a fifty cent piece.

Gross Mansion Sunroom

Gross Mansion Sunroom

Teachers at the 9th Street School, where Harriett was a student, had an annual dinner there served by the Gross family. It was a day the children remembered, not because of the mansion, but because when the teachers went for lunch, school was dismissed for the rest of the day.

Stairway with carved newel post

Stairway with carved newel post

Young Harriett also had the pleasure of owning a brown and white pony that she enjoyed riding inside that tall fence around the mansion. That high fence with spiked top is of special interest as it was constructed by the family to protect their only child. This happened right after the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby and the Gross family feared that with their wealth gained from the oil fields, their daughter could be a possible target. They even had a hidden staircase installed in the house for easy escape.

A personal memory takes me back to days as a young child when my mother delivered fresh eggs and chickens, butchered that morning, to the Gross family. Mom let me carry a dozen eggs to the side door while she took the chickens. Dad waited patiently in the car.

While Charles Gross got his start in the oil fields, he became a very prominent member of the Cambridge community. In 1918, he was elected to the board of directors of The National Bank of Cambridge and served until his death in 1942. His funeral was held at the Gross Mansion.

Harriett Gross in front of Mansion

Mother Harriett Gross in front of Mansion

Daughter Harriett was one of those who got married at the mansion when she wed Howell Bates, an ensign in the Navy. Later Harriett and Howell would be the ones to sell the mansion in 1958 to the Cambridge YMCA.

Gross Mansion still catches the eye of visitors to the city and makes them catch their breath as they view this beautiful home from nearly a hundred years ago. Chances are rare of building anything this grand again. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it would be returned to its former richness and impressive beauty?.

Recently, Dickens Victorian Village held a Victorian Funeral Experience in the mansion. Hopefullly, many other community events will take place in this beautiful spot soon.

How nice to see life at the mansion once again!

Gross Mansion is located between 6th and 7th Streets in Cambridge, Ohio. Once in town, head down 6th Street where parking is available in a lot across the street.

Queen’s Parade Brings a Delightful Regal Touch to Dickens Victorian Village


The Queen's Parade

The Queen’s Parade

Everyone loves a parade, and the Queen’s Parade brings a touch of life from times gone by. People line the streets of downtown Cambridge for the Dickens Victorian Village’s second annual Queen’s Parade on Nov. 8. The parade, in honor of elegant Queen Victoria, will head down Wheeling Avenue at 1:00, as a touch of royalty enters the streets of Cambridge. The Queen will be accompanied by Gerald Dickens, great-great grandson of Charles Dickens.

Cambridge Social Dance Club

Cambridge Social Dance Club performance

Step back to a time before motorized vehicles, as many entertaining groups, too numerous to list, either walk, ride horseback, or are driven in carriages.  Among those walking are members of the Cambridge Social Dance Club, who have been a part of the annual celebrations for several years. See them dance their way down the street as well as perform at the Victorian Street Fair on E. 8th Street. They’re just getting warmed up for Mr. Fezziwig’s Ball next weekend.

Local dance studio students parade down Wheeling Avenue as street sweepers, who were needed in the time of Charles Dickens. The newly formed band at East Guernsey Schools will be making an appearance and perhaps a portion of the ever popular Cambridge City Band will perform for this occasion as an old-fashioned Clown Band.

Funeral Hearse followed by mourners

Funeral Hearse followed by mourners

A procession of mourners follow the horse-drawn hearse as they head to the “Victorian Funeral Experience”, which will be held the following day, Sunday, Nov. 8th at 1:00 at the Gross Mansion.

The Medicine Man, Dr.Thelonious Balthazar, rides in a carriage at the parade. The Medicine Man will actually have two shows on Saturday at the Victorian Street Fair. The first show is at 11:00 before the parade, while the second performance will be at 4:00 in the afternoon. You won’t want to miss his words of medical advice!

Participants in “Whiskers Wars” also walk in the parade. Come out and encourage these manly men, as they have been grooming their beards all summer long. Several categories exist for beard entries and judging will be held at the Dickens Street Fair on the steps of the bank. Most entrants dress in costumes of the Dickens era, so show your Victorian spirit and cheer for your favorite contestant.

Bagpipers escort the Queen

Bagpipers escort the Queen

The sounds of the Akron Bagpipe Band announce the arrival of Queen Victoria’s elegant, horse-drawn carriage. Then the Queen heads to the Victorian Street Fair where she oversees activities for the remainder of the afternoon.

However, the parade is just a small portion of the excitement for “Queen Victoria Weekend”, the second themed weekend of the Dickens Victorian Village season. If you would like to learn about additional activities, visit their website at or call 1-800-933-5480.

Dickens Victorian Village takes place from November through mid-January each year when Historic Downtown Cambridge comes to life with 92 scenes of 166 life-like figures representing classic scenes from Victorian society. To add to the festive atmosphere, each evening from 5:30-9:00, the magnificent 1881 Guernsey County Courthouse Music & Light Show pulsates to holiday music with synchronized lights.

See you at the parade!

Dickens Victorian Village is located in Downtown Cambridge, Ohio near the crossroads of I-70 and I-77. Take any Cambridge exit and you are sure to find yourself on Route 40, which heads straight through Downtown Cambridge.


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