Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Tree Adventures

The first rule of driving that I learned after moving to West Virginia was don't try to go somewhere without directions. I know that may seem overly simplistic since you obviously need to know where you are going before you go, but let me clarify. Here, on the rural roads of West Virginia, which is the vast majority of the state, there is no finding your way from point A to point B by figuring it out as you go. Looking at a map to navigate your path is not always reliable, and depending on GPS, Google Maps or other such navigational services is practically a guarantee that you will get lost.

No, when you need to get to a new rural location you have two choices. One is to get specific directions from someone who has been there. (Please understand that good directions likely will include more landmarks than road names.) Your other option is to follow someone who knows how to get there. If you are inexperienced with the winding hilly rural roads of our great state, you better ask them to drive extra slow so you can keep up.

Roads here do not simply go North/South or East/West. Often the same road will take you in a circle around the compass. Roads here often are not marked which is why landmarks make the best directions. Often you'll come to a Y in the road and have no clue which fork to take to follow the road you need. Sometimes you'll go straight only to find yourself on a new road, but you're just about as likely to do the same if you turn. Let's not forget my favorite idiosyncrasy of West Virginia roads. They change names for no apparent reason.

The road we live near comes into Ona as Fudges Creek Road. It crosses RT 60 and suddenly it is Howell's Mill. As the road comes to the ridge it is called Barker's Ridge. Travel a few miles and you'll come to a cross roads. There are four road names there, one for every direction you could turn. The only one of which I know well is Dudley Gap which winds back down off the ridge and is renamed Lower Creek which later (and I have no idea where the change takes place) become Newman's Branch and leads you back to RT 60 about 10 miles down the road from Fudges Creek. Confused? Yep, me too and I live here.

I know the rule. I know if I'm trying to find a rural location, I must call and get directions from someone who has been there. I have broken the rule, and suffered the consequences. Still every now and then I get a wild hair and think that I am above the rule. I can find my way. I don't need help. Such was the case last Saturday when we went to cut our Christmas tree.

Tim and I have had a fresh tree ever since we've been married. Almost every year we have cut our own. It is just a part of Christmas for us, and the kids look forward to the annual event. When we moved here, we weren't sure where to go. In Tim's travels for work, he found a tree farm in the next county. Since we didn't know where else to go that is where we headed.

The tree farm and its staff are very nice, and the trees are reasonable. So, despite the drive we went back to the same place every year. This year a friend shared a newspaper article about local tree farms. It included a tree farm that was much closer. So, we decided to give it a tree.

The article listed the farm as being on RT 60. Kellen googled the farm and found it was actually on Saunders Creek off of RT 60. Figuring "How hard could it be?" (ahem) we headed out for the tree farm.

We found Saunders Creek easily enough. We drove a little, and even saw a few trucks driving down the road with trees in their beds. We kept driving searching the hills for pine fields and the road for a business sign. The road narrowed. We kept driving. The road wound up over a big hill and back down. We kept driving. The road came to an unmarked Y. We opted to continue on the paved road instead of taking the gravel fork. We kept driving. Then the road came to a marked T. The sign indicated that we were on Left Fork Fudges Creek and had come upon Fudges Creek.


We turned around, and retraced our route to the Y. Still no business signs, still no fields of pine. We decided to try the gravel road. It went down. It curved. It went down some more and finally ended at someone's house.


We turn around again, and head back for the paved road to continue on our original route. The kids are getting whiny. The parents are getting irritated. Lunch time is upon us. Still no fields of pine. Still no signs for the tree farm. We are almost back out to RT 60, and I am thinking a tree from Home Depot sounds just fine to me, when I spot a name on a mailbox as we drive by it. It is simply a last name, not a business name, but it is the same last name that is included in the farm name from the paper.

We stop and turn around again, and go back to the mail box. The mailbox is at the end of a driveway. You can not see any buildings or houses from the road. More importantly, you can't see any pine trees either. The last name is fairly common here, but could this be it? Is this the tree farm?

We decide it is worth try. Best case scenario? We come out with our Christmas tree. Worst case scenario? We get shot at, but by this time we are close to desperate to have a tree strapped to the top of our van.

We drive around a bend and there it is, two hills full of pine trees. The whole family is doing the happy dance. Well, at least as well as it can be done while buckled into the vehicle. We barely get the van parked and the kids are jumping out and running up those hills in search of the perfect tree. We found it, cut it down, and had it tied to the van in about half the time that it took as to find the tree farm.

I guess all is well that ends well, and getting our tree this year certainly was memorable. But I think I would prefer the memory that would have been made had I called and got directions to the tree farm first.


  1. Stephanie,
    So much fun and so many memories! Your description of the road situation was spot on. It was a long time after I moved here before I figured out these WV roads. I love reading about your adventures!

  2. When I moved to Eastern Ky from northcentral Ohio, these roads freaked me out! Now, like you,I have to know where I'm going before I get there. lol

  3. great story, pretty tree and you're right - the adventure makes the memory. hope you have fun decorating it!