Alternative Accommodations, Glamping, Enhance W.Va.’s Tourist Destinations

Many vacationers look for convenient accommodations near whatever indoor or outdoor experience they’re trying to see. But that journey can be made richer when shelter becomes part of the experience.

Alternative accommodation and luxuries 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 a locomotive’s firebox, or controlling the water level to produce enough pressure for the engine to produce steam, Cass Railroad firefighter Justin Gay said he enjoys his job, most of the time.

“You get to meet people from all over the world,” Gay said. “You’ve got people from different countries and neighboring states, then you have to deal with hard coal that doesn’t burn very hot.”

The Shay all-wheel drive locomotive is designed for the toughest mountain duty in the worst possible conditions.

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 going up the mountain,” Gay said. The track next to us was with the C & O, which went up to Durbin and then Durbin connected to Western Maryland and Maryland. They did a lot here. They cut that whole mountain. This giant parking lot was nothing more than a lumberyard.”

There are no lodges, cabins or tent campsites 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 Cass Company’s 20 renovated homes. Similar row houses built in the early 1900s for lumber mill and machinery workers.

“The company houses are excellent. Those are the original structures, Vickie said. “Of course, they’re equipped with modern equipment, heating showers, air conditioning, but it’s just a nice experience to look back at the history of Cass, but to be comfortable. You can do anything there is to offer in the community: bike the trails, walk the rail, or just sit on the porch, relax, and wave to the neighbors.

My wife and I really like hotels, but we also like to stay in creative places that offer a new experience.

“We’ve stayed in a tree house in the Virgin Islands, a wigwam off Route 66, the Caboose Castaway in West Virginia, a really great 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 springing up in state parks put visitors at the heart of the adventure. A short walk is required to access these campsites; many of them are surrounded by spectacular views.

Tentrr sites are equipped with a canvas tent pre-set on its own wooden deck platform, a king size memory foam mattress, side tables, a propane tent heater, picnic table, fire ring, sun shower and more .

Ruby said advertising West Virginia’s alternative accommodations in national tourism publications is drawing travelers to the Mountain State.

“Last month, it was one of our best performing ads,” Ruby said, “We had an ad that featured a treehouse and a fire tower. And both were among the best and most clicked ads just because people are interested in these new kinds of places you can say.”

Our most recent stay was at a farm and forest setting near Alderson, aptly named WV glamping Vickie found it while looking for glamping in West Virginia.

“It was beautiful. It was near a stream. You can hear all the sounds of nature, but still, you’re close to the amenities,” said Vickie “Most people want a shower facility, kitchen, running water, even a hot tub. The dome itself was very interesting. It was partially open to the outside, so you could see the night sky, the trees, the woods.”

“There is a river running through it. It is set in two circles, and has a footbridge reminiscent of one of the bridges you might find in England or Paris.”

This was Tim Luce. Tim and his wife Angela Luce left their city jobs to create WV Glamping in Greenbrier County. Tim said the pandemic helped him find his marketing niche.

“We found that because of the pandemic, rural destinations like ours grew about 300 percent,” Luce said. “That showed me there was a demand from the consumer base for something like this. And so we opened and booked an entire year’s worth of reservations in one week for our first dome. And so we put all those bookings back as cash flow into building the next ones.”

“We wanted to focus on a connection with nature, so the giant window faces the creek,” said Tim Luce. “We also have another dome that we are building now that will be a mountain view with a large panoramic view. And then one thing our guests really love is the glass window.”

From a railway company home to a Caribbean treehouse – from a not-so-rustic tent – to an upgraded glamping dome with a hot tub – finding accommodation on part or all of your travels these days seems only limited by the imagination and sense of adventure.

“The Thorny Mountain Fire Tower, that’s what I’m waiting for,” Vickie said. “We’re on the waiting list and I hope to do that soon.”

And I plan to join him.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *