Sixty percent of U.S. coal exports originate from West Virginia, said Kris, with the majority coming from Boone County. In addition, the state’s coal is the primary source of electricity for the eastern half of the country. Yet the mines, and the men and women who work in them, are struggling.
“It’s getting harder and harder to sell in the country,” said Kris, whose grandfathers, father and brother all worked in strip mines or railroads.
Boone County is still a dynamic coal center, with most residents earning their paychecks from mining operations. Miners, who work staggered shifts, come and go along Madison’s main street. “There goes one,” said Kris, as a man drove past wearing the signature reflective outerwear.
I missed the sighting, but soon enough, another miner rolled through town.
I hit my 15th stop in Harpers Ferry: “Hike the iconic Appalachian Trail,” stated suggestion No. 57. So I did, placing a heel and a toe on the 1.3-mile path above town.
Yet when I reviewed my final tally, I had accumulated more than my set number of attractions.
For example, at the Buffalo Mountain Trail System, part of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System, I’d crossed off No. 85 but also No. 12: “Learn more about a fascinating feud in the Hatfield-McCoy Mountains.” How did I accomplish this double-dipping feat? My innkeeper at the Historic Matewan House (No. 12, “experience Southern hospitality at cozy B&Bs statewide”) had sent me to bed with a pile of books and articles about the hot-headed feud. In addition, the Matewan Depot provided exhibits about the infamous families who’d dug their nails into these hills.
I went to the coal museum for No. 24 (“tour the coal heritage museum”) but earned a bonus No. 106 when Kris relayed the story about the tragic Battle of Blair Mountain. The Mothman Museum and statue in Point Pleasant (No. 110) led me to No. 136, Tudor’s Biscuit World, where I was told to “start the day.” And at the end of the journey in Harpers Ferry, I gained an impressive trio of prizes — the Jefferson Rock, a ghost tour and the living history staged in the national park — without any effort beyond walking from car to hotel to trail and back to car.
I assume that West Virginia threw the extras in for good luck.