When you head back to where you grew up there’s no telling what memories will be jogged loose, or by what. In the case of a recent trip north the trigger object was a postcard in a West Virginia rest area. I love to send postcards and the one for Coopers Rock State Forest actually made me laugh out loud right there in the gift shop. As I paid for the cards, I felt I owed the lady at the register some explanation.
Once upon a time my fraternal grandmother owned a cabin at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland. All too often if my family was heading down for a Sunday visit, it was because Grandma had plans for my Dad and his brother, Gene, to work on projects like felling trees or hauling rocks. We children were not moved by the unfairness of this. We still got to go swimming in the lake and hunting for salamanders in the little brook. On this particular Sunday, though, everyone was going for a day of relaxation.
The drive to Deep Creek took two hours from our house in western Pennsylvania, an eternity to us kids in the back seat, so, upon arrival, we were happy to pile out of the car and ready to enjoy the lake. Grandma, however, had other plans. It seems there was this rock and we were going to go see it. My Dad had no desire to hop right back into the driver’s seat and asked “Where is this rock?” and “How long does it take to get there?” Like a captive soldier in wartime, Grandma was apparently prepared to offer only certain non-useful information: it was a rock. And we were going to see it. My Dad then uttered his famous (within our family) quote: “This better be one hell of a rock!”
We piled back into our un-air-conditioned sedan and followed Grandma’s car for another hour or more on back roads of Maryland and West Virginia and finally reached Coopers Rock State Forest which was, by that time, destined to disappoint. There was a big rock, sure enough, but standing on top of it and looking out at the surrounding forest or over its edge didn’t seem like a very big deal to any of us, my Dad especially. His day off had been hijacked to see an outsized piece of gravel!!! After a reasonable interval we headed back to Deep Creek, stopping once for soft drinks to soothe us fussy kids. I don’t think that any of us truly relaxed that day.
Sometimes revisiting a favorite family memory can degrade the quality of the story. I have, for example, learned that Coopers Rock is not located in the most remote nook of West Virginia wilderness. It’s thirteen miles east of Morgantown and can be reached easily on route 68 (which, to be fair, didn’t exist during our adventure). Climbers and nature lovers alike can’t say enough about the rock walls to be scaled and the paths to be hiked. Even the drive to the park is said to be beautiful. It sounds like a great place to visit. But some parts of a story can’t be diminished. After showing my Dad the new Coopers Rock postcards he growled “Your grandmother knew how mad I was that day!”
If you’re interested in learning more about West Virginia, check these titles out: