Highland County VA--The Eagles
We kicked off the Fall season in Monterey, VA again this year, and our 18 days of fun didn't disappoint with beautiful scenery, bird and wildlife encounters, and great bird photography. We stayed at our favorite place, the Wilson House in Monterey, VA located in beautiful Highland County, VA.
We kicked off the week with seeing a bunch of Bald Eagles on the Wilson House and the surrounding farm property. We had seen a few in the area over the years and had heard stories of them nesting nearby and stealing trout out of the neighbor's stocked pond. But we never saw them on this property until this visit.
We were amazed to see there were 10 eagles in a tree out front on the Wilson House property. It was thrilling to see these massive birds and so many together. We also saw a coyote in the middle of the day slinking around the same area until the cows ran him off. After further investigation, we found that he was returning to his recent kill, a small fawn which drew in the other predators.
We regularly enjoyed riding around the picturesque back roads of Highland County photographing landscapes, farm animals, and birds and wildlife. Be sure to stop at the historic country store, Blue Grass Mercantile in Bluegrass, VA for snacks and lunch. Their BBQ was pretty good. Otherwise, you need to pack your lunch. The closest grocery store is IGA in Hot Springs, but you can get much of what you need at the convenience stores and Dollar General in Monterey, VA.
We found more than 30 Bald Eagles one day and beautiful rolling hills and landscapes at every turn. As we were following a couple of Bald Eages in Hightown, VA we stopped to take a picture of one, and another dragged his talons across the top of our van and joined his buddy in the tree we were trying to photograph. We also caught one hopping from fence post to fence post.
On one of our scenic drives we visited an area natural spring. It is said that Henry Ford created a camp community around the natural springs in Bolar, VA. People say the springs have healing power. The camp is not used anymore, but the locals maintain the property. There is a much larger pool in Warm Springs called Jefferson Pools that has been closed in the last few years.
While you are in the area, be sure to stop by the Tavern - The Inn at Warm Springs for dinner to enjoy their unique seasonal offerings and the historic Highland Inn in Monterey, VA for some fine dining.
We encountered lots of wildlife on the back roads in Highland County with daily sightings of deer and a variety birds, snakes, butterflies, and creepy crawly critters. We also enjoyed the wide open spaces of the farms and its animals - sheep, goats, horses, and more. During our stay at the Wilson House, we were able to watch some cowboys rustling up the cattle to carry them off to their next destination.
We found old suspension bridges everywhere, enjoyed new adventures and beautiful scenery at every turn along Bullpasture River and Cowpasture River. We visited some beautiful waterfalls at Kumbrabow State Forest Huttonsville, WV. We took a stroll in the woods and found a beautiful snail hanging out on a mushroom. We were able to take some great macro shots using our pocket flashlight and Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro Lens.
We stopped for a visit at Cranberry Glade Botanical Area which proved disappointing. Due to the timing of the year and a lot of overgrowth, it wasn't really worth the trip for wildlife viewing or scenery. Luckily, an amazing waterfall was close by at Falls Hills Creek WV. This 114 acre area contains three waterfalls - 25 feet, 45 feet, and 63 feet. The lower falls, at 63 feet is the second highest waterfall in West Virginia. Be prepared for an hour trek to the lower falls with water in tow and a lot of steps. The view and the workmanship is definitely worth the climb.
For a change of pace, we took a ride on Durbin Rocket Excusion train in Durbin, WV. It is short two hour ride along the river, complete with history lesson from the engineer with a short break so passengers can explore the engine, stretch their legs, and a quick stop to fill up the water reserves from the creek for the steam engine. Beware that the you may get a little coal ash shower in the open cars on the way back.
We spent the day in Staunton, VA enjoying the lively musical entertainment and dancing at Oktoberfest at the Frontier Culture Museum Staunton, VA. We especially enjoyed the Sauerkraut Band. There also were a lot of fun and silly events planned at the cultural exhibits as well as many unique vendors and food trucks. Be sure to bring cash. They don't accept credit cards.
If you like to shop, be sure to stop in at the Factory Antique Mall in Staunton, VA, the largest antique mall in America. While in Stauton, VA we recommend you stop at Chicano Boy Taco for quick service, fresh food with great flavor, so much better than normal Mexican restaurant and The Shack for top notch unique dining fare in a casual atmosphere.
We made the long drive to the Sinks of Gandy, Randolf County WV to explore and film this interesting cave formation. Unfortunately, the water was too high to walk through with all our camera equipment even with waders on. You may be able swim past the deep parts, and it may get better, but we didn't chance it. It is a mile long underground tunnel that starts on a farmers field. Gandy Creek flows right into the rocks of Yokum Knob before disappearing into the ground. We look forward trying again when there has been less rainfall. We had amazing vacation in Monterey VA, and we look forward to going back soon.