Imagine for a moment, you're driving along, descending (or ascending if you start in Capon Bridge) into what looks and feels like a remote boreal forest. Sure, you'd passed a few houses recently, but that was before the forest encroached.
The road is getting more narrow and windy by the second. Not the sort of road you'd want to be carving turns on, but the sort of road where you like to putt along and absorb what surrounds you. Because of the trees, it's a bit dark. And the air feels different. Literally. I'll explain why in a minute.
All of a sudden, there's a house. Or two or three. And an old store. Continuing along you see the church, which is old but so well-maintained you know it's still being used. Then, boom, you're back in the forest.
The buildings are old, but not completely abandoned.
If the place had been entirely forgotten, the buildings would have already been overgrown or demolished. You just know there's got to be a story behind the place.
As for why the air feels different, North River Mills is the closest settlement to Ice Mountain, which is now a Nature Conservancy Preserve described as...
Ice Mountain gets its name from the refrigeration effect that takes place inside its talus — a sloping mass of boulders at the foot of a mountain. In cooler months, dense, cold air sinks deep into the talus, and ice masses form inside. As the weather warms up, the cooler air flows out of vents among the rocks at the bottom of the slope. It’s here, at the foot of the mountain, that many local children would eagerly gather ice.So it literally is cooler in that area than in surrounding areas. Which is why this little 12-mile stretch of West Virginia road is one of our favorite little side trips. It runs from WV-29 in Slanesville to US-50 in Capon Bridge.
At the Slanesville end, it's County Route 45/20 or Springfield Grade Road. At the Capon Bridge End, it's County Route 15 or Coldstream Road. See for yourself on this map. One of these days, I'll figure out the rhyme and reason behind the West Virginia road-naming system. Maybe.
One of the things I'd like to do this Spring, is hike to Ice Mountain. Here's a video I stumbled across this morning.
To learn more, download this Ice Mountain info sheet or visit The Nature Conservancy's Ice Mountain page.
If you have time and are interested, I finally found a page leading to a great history of North River Mills, complete with pictures.
Oh yeah, and if you decide to visit, be sure to allow time to stop in Capon Bridge for lunch or dinner at El Puente, our favorite Mexican restaurant in all of West Virginia.