18
Sep
08

BIG RIDGE

High On The Highlands
By Will Price
Review Staff Writer

BIG RIDGE

Would you like to go on a mountain adventure? If so you could do a lot worse than Big Ridge. Big Ridge is the homeplace of Pauline Hippert who will be our guide. What she doesn’t know about it isn’t worth mentioning. What she does know about it is mostly straight up and down.At the top there’s a view so velvet green and so peaceful it adds a month to your life just to sit and soak in with the rays of the warm afternoon sun. That’s worth the price of the trip all by itself – but first we have to get there.

Starting from Covington you go west on 60 for 5 miles which takes you under the Interstate to Callaghan.There you bear left on 159 and go about 10 miles to Crows and take a right on 311. That’s when the road begins to climb. The most well known land mark on the way up is The Eagle’s Nest Restaurant in a hollow beside a picture post pool and waterfall, boasting a decor inside which blends with a good deal of charm into the woodsy mounting setting around it.

From Crows it’s 3 or 4 miles west, and Lord knows how many feet up, to the village of Alleghany. There is a sign on the railroad there that says, “Altitude 2072 feet”. Of course Crows itself isn’t exactly flatland, but 2072 feet is almost a mile. In the direction of straight up that’s a long, long way, yet we really haven’t even started to go up big ridge yet.

Alleghany is a mountain village if ever there was one.. Some of it is straight up and down, and it’s hard to find any of it that’s really level. There is something about the way certain houses grow out of the steep hills, and the way the way the whole thing looks so neat, that has charm of one of those villages in the Swiss Alps. Pauline points out the house Bonnie Smith lived in beside her famous store. Both are well painted and have a clean un-cluttered look. In fact the whole village seems like an ideal scene in a picture on a calendar than it does like the dirty edges of real life.
Bonnie and her store were well-known far beyond the village of Alleghany. I myself had heard of her while doing a story on Bill Alderman,”last of the mountain people”. Bill had never learned to read or write and Bonnie had spent many a patient hour trying to help him learn. There is more than one story that shows Bill was not alone in benefitting from Bonnie Smith’s caring for people, and the kindnesses with which she expressed that caring.
At this point Pauline told us that if we were serious about Big Ridge we were going to have to leave 311, which goes to White Sulfur Springs, and instead take 602 out of Alleghany which goes pretty much south along the top of the ridge.

But before it starts its climb, 602 crosses the C. And O. At a place which used to be Alleghany Station. The depot is now gone, and with it a whole way of life that made these mountains famous half way around the world, for it was at this stop that the ladies and gentlemen of high society used to get off the train on their way to Sweet Calybeate, the mineral spring resort some 5 miles south of Crows, and to Sweet Springs, 2 miles south of that, over in West Virginia.

This was big business and no mistake. The horse drawn buggies and baggage wagons would raise dust on the roads back and forth all day and part of the night as well. For the guests who didn’t like traveling in the dark there was a hotel yes right here in Alleghany where they could stay the night and go down to the resort the next day.

But all this grandeur is gone now. The depot itself, the snorting horses, the cries of the conductor, the sweep of fancy petticoats and the smell of 50 cent cigars are all blown away like autumn leaves in a wild wind. Only the tracks are left.

They are double tracks here, with sidings and switches, and the scene has a curious feeling of a place deserted on one hand, yet active on the other. They say big equipment has been unloaded here, and that as a freight-handling junction it is still alive and well.

Just up the track- – only a few hundred yards is one of the most spectacular site on the entire C. And O. Railroad: Alleghany Tunnel. Pauline shows us how to take a little road above the right-of-way and come out directly above the deepest part of the cut where the tracks plunge into the earth, so far below it makes one nervous about approaching the crumbly edge of the road to peer almost straight down at the top of the tunnel, and then even further below to the road bed below.

The amount of slate and earth that had to be taken out of this cut is staggering. It is hard to imagine the huge earth-movers of today cutting such a canyon into the face of earth, but back in the days when all they had was scoops pulled by horses and mules, this yawning chasm is simply beyond belief. People lost their lives doing it, and Pauline says there are gravestones in Lewis Cemetery just up the hill to prove it.

From Alleghany Station the road up Big Ridge is gravel, and it’s some road. Negotiating it demands a deep breath and steady hand on the wheel. We will do this in next week’s article which will be entitled BIG RIDGE II, or Son of Big Ridge.

https://otway.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/sweet-springs-wv/

https://otway.wordpress.com/2008/09/27/big-ridge-ii/

 

 

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1984 Computer portrait from State Fair

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