Birding and nature festivals have boomed over the past decade here in the USA. I co-founded the New River Birding and Nature Festival 13 years ago to help boost tourism in our off-season, and raise money for nature-based, hands-on school-age education.
While some events boast up to 5,000 participants, like the biggest day in birding and the Space Coast festival, ours is small and intimate with a back-porch feel. We provide guided trips with no more than 20 guests and 4 guides per trip. We are famous for finding wood warblers singing on-territory.
Each day after our field trips, we have 2 presentations: the “popcorn talk,” which is a casual, short program by one of our guides/authors, and the evening keynote after a home-cooked dinner. All of the guides are well-known stars of the birding world, and most of them are authors. We pay a lot of attention to the ecosystem and our area’s rich coal mining history. Most of our trips are in and around the New River National River in Southern West Virginia. This area is under the protection of the National Parks System.
The proceeds from this event are used to fund a 501c3 non-profit organization called the Fayette County Education Fund. This organization sponsors the Fayette County Leadership Program for high school juniors. This is a competitive admission program, and only 12 students are accepted from across the county to take part in the year-long curriculum. All graduates receive a $1,000 scholarship. We also provide hands-on field trips, studying our local environment for hundreds of elementary and middle school-aged children, plus weekend programing for the public.
All of this is made possible because people love spending time together enjoying nature in a fun and informative setting.
You can learn more on our homepage at www.birding-wv.com. Or, feel free to contact me.
Managing Partner, Opossum Creek Retreat www.opossumcreek.com
President, Fayette County Education Fund
Co-founder, New River Birding and Nature Festival
Relaxing in a hot tub is good for you.
Fresh air is good for you.
Eating well is good for you.
Taking a stroll is good for you.
A good night’s sleep is good for you.
Breaking the routine is good for you.
Cheap easy fun is good for you!
MLK getaway weekend: 3 nights in one of our Ossum cabins is good for you. Only $133 per night is good for your bank account. (3 night minimum.) Other packages are available, including in-cabin massages, meals and more.
Daydreaming is GOOD for you.
Leave work ASAP.
Hit one of Fayetteville’s amazing restaurants.
Pre-bed dip in the hot tub. (Long week, long drive, nice dinner; time to soak it all away.)
Don’t forget the Facebook selfie in hot tub.
Breakfast— late, of course! Yes, sleep in. You deserve it.
Stroll/ hike/ run to Long Point.
Instagram panorama from Long Point.
Did you bring a picnic?
Afternoon nap. (Fresh air makes your brain happy… and sleepy.)
Tonight, we are trying new food, and maybe a new drink from the bar. YUM!
Tweet happy thoughts to your fans.
No plan today. Relax.
Hot tub, fireplace, movie: ahhhh. Happy!
Let’s not think about that yet.
Good for you!
Fill in the blank: I like cold _______.
Weather is my answer. The colder, the better. I go outside when it is cold. I hide in the AC when it is hot. Today was beautiful, cold and clear, and very, very quiet.
This is a Youtube video I made a few years back about telling the temperature by looking at the rhododendron leaves. Can you guess the temperature (within a degree or two) on each day?
The leaves were tighter today, but I forgot to take a picture. (That is a hint)
After a day of making sure pipes don’t freeze and thawing the one that did, a hot tub and cold beer are in order.
What is your favorite thing to do when the thermometer bottoms out?
New Year cats!
We have a pair, and we are willing to share.
Over the years, we have given homes to several strays that have found their way to OCR.
There is the cat Bear who now lives in Pennsylvania, another cute kitten now living in Florida, and a whole litter of puppies that showed up during the New River Birding and Nature Festival, and were an instant hit when they headed off to their new homes in every direction. And that’s just to name a few.
Then these 2 furry creatures appeared.
They were weak, fragile and friendly. I was soft, and the crew was very convincing. We took them to the vet and looked them up online, and discovered that they’re a very rare breed— the Korat.
These cats are given (never sold) as a traditional wedding gift for good luck in Thailand. They are now happy, healthy and strong, thanks to the help from the crew.
The sad part:
We now know that these cats are lovers. They crave human attention, much more than we can provide. Our pair are playful as puppies, ‘talkative,’ come when called, and love lots of affection. They need a home with a person or family that they can love on everyday.
What better way to start the new year than with new friends?
This is not a desperate act. We love the cats and will keep them. But if a home is out there, we are willing to give you our good luck charms.
Give me a call.
Let’s agree to disagree and move on. Nope, not the election. Nope, not religion.
What is “romantic” for some is just terrifying for others.
Relaxing and watching a movie by the fire vs. hiking to a wonderful view.
Not having to cook dinner and clean up vs. preparing a candlelight dinner for 2.
Trying something new and adrenaline-packed vs. soaking in the hot tub watching nature at your fingertips.
The spectrum is broad, and luckily we have a lot to offer here in the New River Gorge and Fayetteville area.
I bet for some of us, it changes day-to-day. What worked last week is not budging the romance meter at all today.
Very few people would disagree with this one, though:
A cabin in the woods. Yep, a nice, clean, cozy cabin, warm fireplace and a hot tub. That, you have to agree, is romantic. Now just add any or all of the ingredients listed above, and you have an Ossum recipe for a romantic getaway.
You need a plan, but don’t have to stick to it. Well, except when the plan includes a reservation for your in-cabin massage, biplane ride or guided trip.
Opossum Creek Retreat offers a few getaway packages to help give you ideas and make it easy, or make your own affordable romantic getaway package.
Now here is the really amazing thing: Fayetteville, our little town, has been on top 10 lists of all kinds— climbing towns, rafting towns, coolest towns, best small towns.
Here are just a few:
- Best Adventure Town- National Geographic
- Top 10 Mountain Towns- North American Hunting Club
- Top 10 Paddling Town- Paddler Magazine
- Best River Town- Blue Ridge Outdoors
- Best wild dining- Food Network’s ‘Best of’
- Coolest Small Town- Budget + Travel Magazine
- Best American Pizza Joints- Huffington Post
- Top Things to Throw Yourself Off Of – Lonely Planet
- Top Student Destination- CheapFlights.com
- Top All-Time Bridges- Road & Bridges Magazine
- Best Places in the South- Southern Living
Reading this list makes me want to hit the road and see them all.
When you add these all up, it makes a very powerful statement about where we call home. If these weirdly diverse groups and categories can all agree (and they do) that’s a lot of fingers pointing in our direction from a bunch of very different angles.
And we are willing to share this wonderful place with you. Okay, when are you going to see firsthand why we are on so many top 10 lists?
Reminds me of a song. “The only way to the top is looking out for number 1, and thats me. I am looking out for number one.” Name that tune and who recorded it for a bunch of ossum free stuff with your next stay.
How to Bridge Day: Get here early to beat the crowds so you can eat!
Friday is Taste of Bridge Day. It is legendary, and for a good cause. You buy tickets, and these tickets get you sample-sized bites of all the local restaurants’ best stuff! There is a full bar, and our local brewery Bridge Brew Works shows off their stuff.
The venue is the campus of our friends at Adventures On The Gorge. They have a wonderful setting for this kind of event. You do want to get in early and try as many different types of dishes and you can, because the crowd favorites and the winners will run out before its over.
You will want to get back to your cabin at Opossum Creek Retreat at a reasonable hour to be well-rested for Bridge Day itself.
Yes, I am sure this is why you are planning to come all the way to Fayette County, West Virginia: to eat your way through the weekend. But hear me out.
Let’s start with the morning rush. Everyone loves pancakes, and funnel cakes are pancakes on steroids, really. I volunteer on Bridge Day, getting up before dawn to set up the Chamber’s tent and both… not because I am civic-minded, nope! I do it just so I can get behind the gates and get to one of these crazy concoctions bright and early. Plus, you get to eat them with your hands, and that makes everything better! Come to think of it, everything today is finger food!
Now it’s time to walk out on the bridge, and maybe cross the bridge and have lunch! Or second breakfast. Now it gets much harder to decide: turkey legs? Yes. Gyros? Yes. Massive hoagie with french fries? YES. Wait, prime rib sandwich or fajitas or BBQ? I need more days! Or help. It is really good to bring help so you can divide and conquer, each ordering something different and sharing tastes.
Okay, time for more walking back across the bridge, stopping to take part in the spectacle, enjoying the views and the people. Now, it’s time for a sweet snack. Kettle corn or hand-squeezed lemonade, maybe a carmel apple, or— you guessed it— funnel cake!
Once the festival closes, take the quick trek over to downtown Fayetteville, where the fun is just getting started. And by fun, I of course mean food! Sample the entires in the chili cook-off while you enjoy the live music.
Then take the long walk back to the car after pounding the pavement all day. You will be so glad you have a hot tub and a cozy cabin to recover in.
Day 3 is the best! Sleep in, take a driving tour into the gorge you were peering down on yesterday, maybe a hike out to long point or diamond point. And go find that full-size serving of your favorite taste from the Taste of Bridge Day and enjoy! You have earned it.
Good vacationing! Hope to see you again soon.
The fungus fairy is very busy this time of year here in The New River Gorge National River Area.
The grounds around Opossum Creek Retreat are rich with mushrooms. Big or small, I like them all— from dull, plain old toadstools to the dazzling, even other-worldly. Fungus and Mushrooms have always had the power to pique our imagination.
My kids used to make these into worlds filled with mystical creatures and magic.
I just like the color of this one.
Yep, coral. Just like in the ocean, only a fungus.
If you would like to spend some time strolling in the woods relaxing and letting your imagination run wild, we can help.
Check out some more great fungus shots on our facebook page.
Why do we see lots of vehicles all logo’d up here in The New River Gorge?
Well… first, we are lucky enough to be part of the National Park Service— more than 70,000 acres.
The law of natural attraction: like attracts like. Everyone knows that. World-class talent is drawn to a world-class area.
The President of the birding world, and First Lady, did not stop on their cross-country move just to stay in a cabin. They wanted the world-class New River to wash away the trials and tribulations of moving an international organization to a new home.
Some of the best rock climbing gear companies have their vans in Fayetteville all year round, not because it’s a huge metropolitan market, but because the world-class mountaineers, they love to live here in one of America’s coolest small towns.
When the gates open on Summersville Dam this weekend, every whitewater fan will be wishing they were here to run the Gauley River through the Gauley River National recreation area.
The logo vehicles will be too many to count.
What will happen after, in the winter? Mountain bike madness. Miles after endless miles of custom-made for you single-track trails by the Boy Scouts of America. Not to mention the countless trails that are open to bike traffic in The New River Gorge National River.
Of course, there has to be support staff for all that talent, and that’s where Opossum Creek Retreat comes in.
Yoga is a boom industry, so they tell me. I mean, I do yoga and have for a long time.
We have hosted yoga retreats for well over a decade, but never before have we had 4 in one year, let alone 2 in 2 weeks with world-renowned yogis like Todd Norian. Todd was here a couple of weeks ago, and is ready to make it an annual event. We are very excited.
Centered Adventures was here this past weekend, leading everyone through yoga, pilates and outdoor activities during their retreat.
Yes, we play host to some big names, and one of them could be yours.
On some level, we all ride in this space at all times. As humans, we seek it. Some seek more, much more. Others push as far as they can toward the safe end of the spectrum. We all should know it is there.
This is not a USA thing. It is a human thing. It’s just that in the USA, we have options. Well, most of us do. In much of the world, the spectrum is infinitely smaller, and skewed hard toward the “harm’s way” end. My deepest hope is that our efforts in the truest and purest form can help this spectrum grow for the rest of our fellow human peoples.
Some call it freedom.
Putting yourself in harm’s way for the sake of others is a conscious choice. One that is not made without serious contemplation. Not everyone can sacrifice in this way. You are a special person.
In honor of those who choose to serve our country, we would like to say thank you for being willing, ready and able to be placed in harm’s way so the rest of us don’t have to get any where near that end of the spectrum.
For years, we have offered free cabins to the members of our armed services on Veterans Day just to say thank you. Today seems like a good day to make that offer again.
Thank you to those who serve and have served in harm’s way. As a gift to you in appreciation:
- -2 free nights at Opossum Creek Retreat
- -A set of OCR mugs or glasses, your choice. Let us know when you make your reservation.
First come, first served. All we ask in return for your free stay is that once you have stayed at Opossum Creek Retreat you post your favorite service-related picture to the OCR Facebook page and when you post it, tell us your rank, branch and where you served. Or take a selfy by our sign and post that.
If you have had the opportunity to take advantage of this offer in the past, please share the offer with your friends and family to allow others to do the same.