First off, I would like to share that my amazing wife asked me if I would author our blog. Because she is very creative and intelligent, I took it as a true badge of honor.
Second, as a fan of JRR Tolkien, Stephen King, Diana Gabaldon and the likes I wanted to start this first blog off with a clever intro that kept you captivated. What a better way to set the tone for our story than to share how much my wife means to me. She deserves endless praise and for several reasons I will share during these entries, is a major part in starting our journey of building a wilderness oasis in the great state of West Virginia. If you’re ever able to enjoy a weekend at McFadden Ridge, you will be able to see and feel her effort in our getaway home.
Personally, I feel like that intro makes Tolkien’s intro to The Hobbit sound like a desolate tale of a guy who dwells in a hole. For now, I promise to put a pin in Tolkien references, only to reintroduce them at the exact right time in this post.
I also must confess that this first entry will more than likely be longer than those to follow, so bear with us, and later posts will be sure to be content-forward and maybe even tell you about actual bears.
I attended Marshall University in the 2010s and studied athletic training. Coming from Dayton, Ohio this short three hour pilgrimage east seemed simple, but for many who have the opportunity to spend a little time in the mountain state, things are simply different. The people are exceptionally kind and courteous. There’s a sense of optimism and appreciation that gets lost in the Midwest that I found to be refreshing. When I left Huntington in 2014 and moved to Michigan, I was left with an aching. An aching that I couldn’t necessarily describe until I had some help from someone we met from Charleston, WV: West Virginia gets in your bones. It does, it truly, absolutely does.
When in school some of my trips around the state included Beech Fork State Park, Charleston, Greenbrier and visiting several high school athletic training rooms as an athletic trainer for Cabell Huntington Hospital. I had driven over the New River Gorge before but never came to stay. When my wife (then girlfriend) and I were contemplating a long weekend getaway during a stressful work period, I suggested we give Summersville, West Virginia a shot.
We hit the bullseye.
A four night stay in a cabin, enjoying hiking in Carnifex Ferry State Park, visiting Summersville Lake, dinner dates in the “Coolest Small Town” Fayetteville and recharging ourselves in such a free range environment was the best medicine. So much so, that I couldn’t wait to come back and began daydreaming about our return. Maybe I began thinking of ways to convince my wife to one day move there full time, but hey, you’ll understand soon enough what that feels like.
Since that time in early 2019, a lot has changed. As I mentioned I was on the fence of leaving a job, one that I wholeheartedly enjoyed, but felt the tides changing in the organization. I made a change and was scheduled to begin my first day in a new job the day after Memorial Day. Mother Nature had other ideas.
Dayton, Ohio experienced more than a dozen tornadoes that evening. Trees fell, homes collapsed and time seemed to stand still and rush simultaneously. Ashley and I were asleep and received a call from my father to get to the basement before the phone call was lost. Next we heard a loud bang in the window. If it were not for a partition wall, I would not be writing this now as a 10 foot tree branch shot through the window and rested on the carpet along with a lot of glass. Barefoot, we ran upstairs to get our two kids Ean (now 10) and Juliet (almost 9) downstairs. If you’ve ever heard the sound of a tornado it sounds like a speeding train. Many things we won’t forget from that time, including all of our neighbors, friends and family showing up to help us cut trees, repair our home and rebuild our lives. Community is very important and we felt it then and still do today.
Soon after, Ashley went from girlfriend to fiancé to wife. We began trying for a baby and we were blessed to discover in mid April 2020 we would be expecting a baby! The very next day, I was unemployed. Believe me, the joy outweighed the bad news, but the fear of a pandemic job field lingered. It brought my wife and I back to the drawing board and reviewed what it was we could do to overcome the situation. We took a half-week trip back to Summersville with the kids and enjoyed a great time swimming at the lake, hiking Long Point Trail, and visiting Gad Dam Brewing. For a second time in two years, we were leaving this special place feeling like it wasn’t time to leave. The idea began to sprout about having a more consistent presence in a place that felt less like a place to stay and more like a home away from home.
Time would pass, I would take a great new job just as we began to prepare for our beautiful baby boy Calvin to enter the world. One night while reading books with the kids, I got a notification from Zillow about a 3.5 acre bit of land for sale just minutes from some of our favorite destinations for an affordable price.
Our offer was on the table in less than 24 hours.
Since then, every minute spent visiting, planning, preparing funds, contacting local businesses, drinking local craft beer (twist my arm...), you name it, has been a joy and a thrill. We learned during the tornado cleanup that we are very good at taking several pieces of a puzzle, putting them in the right place to create a picture that is whole, together. Putting our home back together was cathartic and something for us to be proud of for balancing on top of a pandemic, job loss, pregnancy, home schooling, on-boarding and more.
Our goal with McFadden Ridge is not to strike gold and celebrate fortune. It’s to have another opportunity to share the values of hard work, patience and in result satisfaction with our young family. If we are so lucky to complete the journey and share it with those who visit McFadden Ridge, then we will have struck gold and the fortune is our opportunity to share with others a warm home in a place worth exploring.
(This is sort of like a choose-your-own-adventure blog! Here comes that Tolkien reference. If you have not read The Hobbit or watched the feature films, please skip the next two paragraphs or risk feeling alienated by pop culture references, even if they are nearly 80 years old, so I wouldn’t necessarily feel responsible for such an alienation. If you are familiar with The Hobbit, please enjoy the next two paragraphs while listening to Howard Shore’s “Old Friends,” and maybe boil or mash a tater or two, even stick them in a stew)
The only thing standing in our way between starting this adventure was believing in ourselves and investing in our courage. Much like Bilbo Baggins when Gandalf asked him to be the burglar in Thorin’s Company to travel to the Lonely Mountain to find the Arkenstone whilst defeating the evil dragon Smaug and liberating Lake Town before settling back home in Bag End, only to spend a lifetime dreaming of another adventure. Bilbo left his comfort zone once he realized those around him had lost theirs. This project has become an unexpected journey for us. Perhaps our soon-to-be home can become a relaxing hobbit hole for others on their own journeys.
We hope if you get the chance to visit McFadden Ridge you will feel the warmth and welcome like that of Bilbo’s hearth in the Shire, and the sense of adventure as he did when crossing through Middle Earth experiencing mountains and rivers and food and drink. You may just feel the need to go “there and back again.”
Please stay tuned for updates, pictures, videos, helpful links about the project McFadden Ridge Rentals. We plan on moving quickly and hope to keep you entertained along the way. We may have some offering for discounted adventures so pay close attention.
Lastly, we understand how truly blessed we are for this opportunity. Not everyone has these opportunities, pandemic or no pandemic. It is a privilege we hope to reinvest for others to enjoy and hope we can contribute to the local economies of Summersville, Fayetteville, Oak Hill and surrounding areas of West Virginia. We welcome feedback, suggestions and ask that all thoughts be constructive and productive.
For now, get lost! We’ll find each other again soon.