Admit it. You WANT to rent a cabin from this man.
(photo by Jeff Gordon)
Susan: "I can't do blah blah blah. I'm going on a trip that week."
Ignorant Person: (excited) "Yeah? Where ya goin'? "
S: "West Virginia."
S: "Yeah. For a whole week."
IP: "Uh...okay. Umm...why in the heck do you want to go to West Virginia ?"
A birder learns fairly quickly where the birding hot spots are: Cape May, Magee Marsh , Point Reyes....
But other than learning its location and what the capital is in elementary school, I didn't think too much about West Virginia.
It's just that hilly state next to Ohio. It's that state that you cross into for about ten minutes on the way to Pennsylvania.
When we (the Flock, that rowdy and randy group of gals and one guy) decided to all meet up at last year's New River Bird and Nature Festival, I wasn't thinking about the birds too much, or any people other than my little group of rabble-rousers. It was party time, all the time. Or so we thought. Yeah, there would be birds, but really. How good could it really be?
Our eyes were opened in a hurry.
Thanks to the magic of email, I got to cyber-sit with Geoff Heeter recently, and I asked him a few questions:
(there are plenty of places to stay in that part of the state...but Opossum Creek holds a special place in our hearts. I was there last summer, just for an evening and it was fabulous. Silence...except for the wood thrushes fluting in the underbrush. And some crashing that might have been a bear. I highly recommend staying there.)
1. How did you come to live in West Virginia?
She tricked me.
2. Were you into birds before living in WV?
Yes I lived in Costa Rica for a year and my roommate was a ornithologist.
3. How did you get into this business?
We started with The Farm House and it bloomed from there.
4. Tell me about the cabins. Just how "green" are they?
Recycling takes on a whole new meaning when you are talking about houses and building new cabins. They are very green and so are our business practices.
From the Opossum Creek Retreat Cabin Rental's website:
"Back when we got started we didn’t know that we were building green or being eco-friendly or practicing the triple bottom line. We were just trying to be good neighbors, good stewards and good business people.
Giving back to your community, hiring locally, buying locally and using local materials all makes good sense. And for us, building the cabins to last and be efficient cost more up front. (Building a cabin with full grown trees just inches away from every side is much harder than using a bulldozer to clear a flat spot). If all it takes to make a difference is just a little extra effort, a little extra money, then we’ll continue to do that because it has served us very well so far."
5. Did you stick us way out in the Farmhouse because you knew how loud we would be? :)
...it’s the only place that will hold all of you.
(Yeah, right Geoff. We know how boisterous we were. He totally dodged that question.)
6. Do you have a favorite place in WV?
It changes with the seasons and they change fast around here.
7. What do you think West Virginia's greatest asset is?
WV has personality.
8. How did the NRBNF get started? Have you been involved from the start?
Dave and I started it I thought it would be a one year deal... boy was I off on that guess.
9. Can we expect anything new this year at the festival?
Of Course... we are always listening to the feedback and trying to improve our Festival. We have new field trips, new food, new guides, new T shirts…..
10. Do you need a vacation after each festival?
No I just click my heels together and say there’s no place like home there is no place like home……and everyone is gone and all I hear are birds singing.
(I've had visions of all of them watching the last car pull away from the property and when it's out of sight, they all fall to the ground, twitching.)
In just ten days, a whole new batch of strange people...whoops, I mean strangers....and some old regulars will converge on the New River Bird and Nature Festival and behold the beauty, the wildness, the grandeur and the hospitality that is West Virginia.
This year's New River Flock is as follows:
Sara (yee!) and Kelly
Debbie :) (She's driving...from COLORADO. Jesus, I hope we're worth it.)
Added to that list are a few people who I don't know and haven't even spoken to. I hear they are good sports, so we probably won't scar them too much. And Kathi is going to be in the area at another event (slacker) and will be crashing the party on Tuesday, wherever it happens to be.
Even if you can't make it to this particular festival, do yourself a favor and visit West Virginia. You will leave a piece of your heart there.
And be sure to rent a cabin from this guy.