This will be a very simple post about a nice place in the West Virginia woods.
Dick and Martha Hartley have deep family roots in the red clay soils of western West Virginia. They grew up with the simple pleasures that the wooded countryside could offer, content yet ambitious, I think. They met at 4H meetings half a century or so ago where they developed classical gardening, cooking and construction skills and after each spending time oversees, came back to their native West Virginia where they started their greatest collaboration: a family and homestead. Both enthusiasts of pioneer-era history, the idea of a log home grew over the years and finally began to take physical form in the early 1990’s. The log house stands today on one edge of what was once an extensive farm clearing in the woods along the meandering Hughes River. The Hartley’s house stands a few hundred feet across the rolling lawn.
None of this description does justice to the passion and labor they’ve dedicated to making the place and the experience everything it is.
Last week I took Susan for her birthday to meet Dick and Martha and to stay for a couple of days in the log house they’d built. I hadn’t been there before: it was only a guess that this was the kind of “cabin in the woods” that Susan had been craving during recent months in Pittsburgh. Early indications were promising as the long driveway through the forest seemed to remove us utterly from the urban place where we’d started the day.
The whole place and experience couldn’t have been nicer. It seemed that we had the whole of Ritchie County to ourselves, apart from our hosts. I don’t think a lot of tourists flock here at any time, and especially not in early April. The weather was ideal, with highs ranging from low70’s to low 80’s. Mosquitoes were non-existent this early in the year and we found no ticks (a big change from Pennsylvania!). The absence of noise was felt immediately. There was also, notably, a sense of separation from Pittsburgh, and even from Pennsylvania. Though only a few hours from home, we knew that we were now south of the Mason-Dixon line; the climate was warmer, the trees were not those of Pennsylvania, the creeks were gentler lowland flowages and the soil was red clay.
Martha and Dick treated us as well as any hosts could have, explaining much of the history of our surroundings and delivering fresh-from-the-oven breakfasts by wicker basket. Dick had primarily built the log house himself to replicate an authentic early 19th Century West Virginia homestead, except that the workmanship surpassed that of the originals: this one included electricity, plumbing and central air. It was a masterful work of craftsmanship. And speaking of masterful works of craftsmanship, Martha’s oven creations (many authentic historical re-creations as well) offered a perfect compliment to the rustic setting. Hospitality with history.
We sat in rocking chairs with coffee in the morning breeze with the temperature around 70. I assured Susan that this was the best I could do, as far as her need for clean air, woods and silence went. She needed no convincing.