Our original plan for this summer was for me to fly back from Europe alone for my best friend Liz’s wedding in early September, which happened to be the same weekend as our six year anniversary. Deciding that time with family and friends in the states was how we wanted to spend our summer meant that Nate and I could both attend the wedding and be in the same country for our anniversary!
So we got to celebrate our actual anniversary the best way possible: seeing bestie get married! I’ve been friends with this girl since kindergarten and there have been plenty of discussions of boys, weddings, wifehood, etc. over those 25 years. She was an incredible display of beauty and grace, so please allow me to show her off a bit:
After we sent them off to the honeymoon our anniversary road trip began. Each year we switch off on who will plan our anniversary getaway; this year was mine to plan. We had a tight budget. But I happened to stumble upon some abandoned coal mining towns in my research of what was nearby Baltimore so I knew exactly what our destination would be: Thurmond, WV. Population: 5.
Our visit to Thurmond was eerily quiet and uneventful. There were three other women checking out the town, but that was it. Today, much of Thurmond is owned by the National Park Service but the train tracks that cut through the town still welcome a daily Amtrak train. Thurmond was settled in 1844 and incorporated in 1900. At its height in the 1930s, the town had around 500 residents. Benefiting greatly from nearby coal mining, Thurmond eventually became an important train assembly and repair hub. But with the decline of coal mining and use, and the burning of a large hotel nearby, Thurmond saw a population decline that left it a virtual ghost town by the 1950s.
We enjoyed hiking around the town, peering into windows, circling abandoned homes, and imagining this place as the high-potential boom town it used to be.
On the way, we stopped through in Harrisonburg, VA; Roanoke, VA; and Beckley, WV via Skyline Drive in Shenandoah Valley. There are 75 beautiful overlooks on Skyline Drive and we took advantage of those along with some short day hikes and ate all the homemade blackberry ice cream we could get our hands on.
As we stopped through towns over our five day trip, we discovered some interesting things. We ducked into Skyline Caverns for an hour underground tour and learned about Anthodites, unique cave formations only found in four places in the world. They develop in pockets of caverns that are essentially oxygen-less. Sadly, they are exposed to oxygen when they are discovered, subsequently stopping their growth. But the crystals in this cave are well protected and preserved and we felt honored to lay eyes on them.
Our tour guide also liked turning off the lights during our tour, which was a freaky feeling. She would ask us to wave our hands in front of our face when she did to display just how deep and isolated we were; absolutely no light could be seen from anywhere. I’m still a little haunted by that feeling!
Another stop was Roanoke, which has a wonderful main street including a building full of museums, a few of which are free. We met some seahorses, turtles, and koi fish on the roof.
Our trip also took us across the fourth longest steel single-span arch bridge in the world: The New River Gorge Bridge. It’s pretty impressive.
A road trip to West Virginia isn’t how I ever pictured us spending our sixth anniversary, but like this entire trip… it was surprisingly wonderful. This man makes me a better person and a better Jesus follower and I’m so grateful to have a whole year to dream with him about how we’re shaping our marriage for the years to come.