Editor’s note: This story first appeared on West Virginia Public Broadcasting and was written by Randy Yohe.
Many vacationers seek out suitable lodgings near whatever indoor or outdoor experience they are venturing to see. But that trip can become richer when the shelter becomes part of the experience.
Alternative lodging and glamping can turn a weekend stay into a little adventure. Randy Yohe and his wife Vickie said if you haven’t stayed in a treehouse, wigwam, or caboose — consider expanding your horizons.
Between shoveling coal into the locomotive firebox, or checking the water level to produce enough pressure for the engine to produce steam, Cass Railroad fireman Justin Gay said he enjoys his job, most of the time.
“You get to meet people from all around the world,” Gay said. ”You got people from different countries and neighboring states, then you got to deal with difficult coal that doesn’t burn too hot.”
The all-wheel drive Shay locomotive was designed for the roughest mountain duty under the worst possible conditions. The antique Locomotives that tourists ride at the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park are among the few remaining anywhere.
Gay said in its heyday a century ago, this railroad didn’t stop, and this lumber town was busy.
“This line here was the main line that went up the mountain,” Gay said. “The track beside us was with C & O, which went up to Durbin and then Durbin connected into Western Maryland and Maryland. They did a whole lot here. They clear-cut that whole mountain. This giant parking lot was nothing but a lumberyard.”
No lodge, cabins or tent campground evident at this state park highlighted by a grand old train. My wife, Vickie, and I crossed one off our bucket list by staying in one of the 20 or so refurbished Cass company houses. Similar homes in a row were built in the early 1900s for the workers at the lumber mill and the machine shop.
“The company houses are great. They’re the original structures, Vickie said. “Of course, they’ve been fitted with modern amenities, shower heat, air conditioning, but it’s just a nice experience to take a look back at the history of Cass, yet be comfortable. You can do anything offered there in the community: trail biking, take a ride on the railroad, or you can just sit on the porch and relax and wave at your neighbors.”
My wife and I like hotels just fine, but we also enjoy staying in creative places that offer a new experience.
“We’ve stayed in a treehouse in the Virgin Islands, a wigwam off Route 66, the Castaway Caboose in West Virginia, a really wonderful experience. That’s just to name a few,” Vickie said.
West Virginia tourism secretary Chelsea Ruby said the state is getting into the alternative camping and glamping game. Ruby says Tentrr campsites sprouting up in state parks put visitors in the heart of the adventure. A short hike is required to access these campsites; many are surrounded by spectacular views.
Tentrr sites come equipped with a pre-set canvas tent on its own wooden deck platform, a queen-size memory foam mattress, side tables, a propane tent heater, picnic table, fire ring, solar shower and more.