We climbed two major mountains (Bearwallow at the Hatfield McCoy Trail System & Cazy Mountain), got fairly off course a few times, saw a lot of clusters of homes in hollows and churches, met some really nice people...some who had just processed a deer and got us right back on course, and we climbed and climbed and climbed.
At the top of Cazy Mountain towards the end of the day, we found ourselves at a plateau with low vegetation. We were untroubled until we rounded the bend only feet away, opening out into a gorgeous vista full of developed trees, and realized the low growth wasn't tree line but the vestiges of surface mining.
What pieces of community are still standing in the many of the clusters of homes we ran through? Typically, a post office, a dump, small plots with chain link fences, and homes that made the most of it, contrasted by well-maintained churches. In those clusters of homes, we saw so many "Free Will Baptist" churches that we started to wonder about the branding and were concerned that hope lies in things like food, health, the absolutely gorgeous places that we ran through (we all thought national park status was warranted for almost the entirety of our route), and something more than branded faith. We quickly added it to our to-do list to hear from people more familiar with the churches before reaching any judgments.
We spent a good amount of time along creeks and steep hillsides that made us feel like we were in areas where the land was protected and for the people to enjoy. What was incredible is that we didn't see people in those places. The connection between land and people was disjointed and unclear. But the people we met were so wonderful, so helpful and kind, and hunting. So, we're going into day 2 wondering about that connection and seeking clarity. West Virginians live in paradise. It's unclear that paradise is helping them.