Yaaay! Our first footsteps in Virginia! I did my best to make the abbreviation for Virginia with my fingers since there wasn’t a big sign. It took several tries to not have it look backwards to the camera…. but then I just realized that I did VI not VA! Oh well- at least that’s a funny and memorable state line crossing!
We packed up with excitement that morning from our quiet little camp- knowing that we only had a few more Kentucky miles to ride, then we’d cross into Virginia, and with any success in our navigational skills, we’d get into West Virginia that night!
Robert rushed over to catch us in the morning to warn us not to try to cross the coal mine that we were planning on going over because they had bulldozed so much that we wouldn’t be able to find the road down the other side. We were planning to avoid extra miles on another windy road by cutting across the ridge that the mine was on. But several people on our way over there told us we would be able to get through, so with a little hesitation, we decided to go for it and trust our navigational skills.
We were glad we did because it ended up being an awesome day with a lot of miles saved. Up on top of the mine was a long ridge. We were essentially standing on the narrow point in the west part of Virginia looking across the mountains to the West into Kentucky, and to the East into West Virginia. We flagged down a few four wheelers to ask about ways down off the ridge (it was quite a steep drop where we were) and they were able to give us some suggestions. We had to get out our compass a few times, but we managed to find a way off the ridge and down into West Virginia.
But before we got off the ridge, we had quite an exciting incident. There were some horses roaming free up on this mine just like on the last one. We had to ride right through them, which always gets interesting when you ride through a loose herd with a bunch of unfamiliar horses. It ended up that the horses were no problem- but the one mule- now that was a different story.
It started getting very interested in the horses… until it saw Bella. Then it decided that she was obviously a threat to its herd and so it took after her with clear intent to kill her. I thought fast and pulled out our BB pistol we carry in case of aggressive dogs. Just as the mule was on top of trusting Bella who had no idea the mule was out to kill her, I shot at the mule in the butt twice. I saw the BB’s bounce off, so I know my aim was true, and the mule stopped in mid strike (that was about to land on Bella’s head) and took off running the other direction. I was shaky with the excitement and adrenaline of it, but we both breathed a sigh of relief that Bella was saved by what Richard said was “Mama Bear”! Don’t mess with my puppy!!!
We found an inconspicuous path down off the ridge into a valley in West Virginia. At least we were pretty sure we were going the right way and into the right state! (Remember- we were following our compass and our noses!) We had a good laugh when we asked the first person we saw, “Are we in West Virginia?” How many people get asked what state they are in?!? Then we narrowed it down to, “Are we in Mud Creek Hollow?” Sure enough- we were right where we thought we were! So we continued to ride into our 3rd state for the day (yeehaw!) and found that it wasn’t much different than eastern Kentucky- all steep hills, narrow valleys, and not much options for places to camp. We eventually came into Panther where we were greeted alongside the road by a nice gentleman named Graham. We found out later that he was locally known as a very helpful and well liked man in Panther. He became our temporary escort, making sure we found a place to stay (which was a primitive but safe log cabin right in town), that we had hay, were fed dinner, and had a shower ( since it’d been a few days!) The grandkids of the cabin’s owner even offered to hang out on the porch to keep an eye on the horses while we went to Graham’s house for our showers. We
learned that Panther was in the heart of the 2nd poorest county in the entire United States. It was certainly eye-opening and educational to ride through the area and common sense needed to be used, but we found many wonderful, kind, and generous people here just as in the rest of the country. One of the silly highlights was that we got to meet a sweet Hatfield girl who was the great, great, great, great granddaughter of the infamous Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. We have now met people from both families, whom we understand now get along! And she set the record straight: apparently history books claim the feud was over a pig, but the real story is that it was over a young couple in love- a real life Romeo and Juliet story.