Getting the flavor of…
A coal-country ghost town
In Thurmond, W.Va., time seems to have stopped about 90 years ago, said John Bordsen in USA Today. Founded in 1873 at a sharp bend in the New River, the once thriving town now has a population of 5 or 7, “depending on whom you ask.” The Great Depression, a series of fires, and America’s shift from coal to other fuels emptied Thurmond long ago, but trains still pass through town on the tracks that always were its only Main Street. Walk down the central strip of abandoned brick buildings and “you’re back in the 1920s.” At the far end of the town looms a towering “coaling station” that once dumped coal by chute into rail cars that passed below. White-water sports are the main attraction just outside town, but more lessons about West Virginia’s industrial heritage can be had in nearby Beckley, where former miners lead visitors 1,500 feet down into the abandoned Exhibition Coal Mine.
Oregon’s stairway to heaven
We were looking for a place that would inspire awe and found one almost by accident, said Brigid Schulte in The Washington Post. On a recent long weekend, my sisters and I met up in Oregon’s high desert at the Brasada Ranch Resort and Spa, and for a couple of days we indulged in massages with lavender-scented oil and hot-tub soaks under starry skies. Then one day, during an aimless excursion, I spotted Smith Rock State Park on a map, and a quick glimpse persuaded us to return at dawn. Smith Rock is a climber’s dream—a towering formation of “cathedral-like” spires and serrated ridges that “rise from the desert like dragon’s teeth.” You can climb to the top with ropes, but we ascended a punishing series of switchbacks to reach the summit just as the sun rose. “We had the entire place to ourselves. Like a sanctuary. Just the eagles. The prairie falcons. My sisters. The wind. And the sound of our own breath at the top of the world.” ■