Thursday, April 5, 2012

Trout Farming In Virginia

My guide through the mountain roads of Virginia, Sandra of Roanoke, used to come to the hatchery as a child on family excursions.


They looked at the fish spawning and growing in the various tanks. We did the same, bypassing the building which was closed and uninviting, going where the fish operations themselves were wide open and unsupervised, a lovely anachronism in the 21st century when everything is locked and terrorists lurk everywhere.


However while the tanks are open to a wandering public there are rules:


I liked the note at the bottom about small children. I had no idea spotted trout are carnivores. It makes them sound like piraƱha.


The life of a trout growing up in a long rectangular cement box seems rather dull to me, but against all the odds these bored fish seem to thrive:


Apparently the fish raising operations are paid for in part by angling enthusiasts and outdoor organizations to keep the streams populated. They seem to be doing a good job.


In the summer months a quarter dropped in the right place will yield a handful of fish food to entertain the troops.


These are spectacular places, vast spacious empty forests covering the sides of rolling hills.


Made more appealing it seems by the addition of fish.


All this work, all this paraphernalia to raise fish to be dropped at a suitable date into the streams so people can catch them and kill them and eat them.


Fortunately the raw material flows by in abundance. Paint Bank, a strange name for an unusual place. I have now seen fish farming with mine own eyes.


Paint Bank Trout Hatchery


Further up the road the community has a general store with gasoline and the swinging bridge restaurant, not yet open when we drove by but we stopped in to check out the rustic wood interior with a reputation for good food, including local buffalo meat. Across the street is the Depot Lodge with a train caboose offering sleeping accommodations. Paint Bank, a weird name with much to see.
Paint Bank Link


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Dodging West Virginia

Highway 311 travels west from Roanoke and is, I am told packed on summer weekends with hordes of families in vans and motorcyclists in a hurry. On a late March morning it was empty and delightful as it took us to lunch in Lewisburg, West Virginia across the Allegheny Mountains.


The Highway wanders mercilessly between Virginia and West Virginia, making a driver like me think it would be tough to get a speeding ticket here as the states change hands all the time. Cross a state line and leave the trooper behind...if they even bother to post a trooper out here on a short stretch of road.


Clearly Virginia wins the smooth tarmac award but the scenery is first rate in either state.


The winding state line is an odd phenomenon when you consider West Virginia was carved by hand out of Virginia during the Civil War to get the North an extra buffer state.


You'd think they could have drawn a clean line, perhaps following a river or a ridge but the skeptics among us wonder if money and influence played a part in which side of the Mason Dixon line the land fell.


Lewisburg is the capital of Greenbrier County, a place that seems to have difficulty with the concept of leaving well alone. The mountains seemed sufficient entertainment without the need for billboards.


Immediately I wanted to know who voted this town for an award.


It turns out Budget Travel Magazine seeks nominations from readers each year and in 2011 the editors selected a group of nominees and readers gave Lewisburg 1st place and Astoria, Oregon second, with Clayton in New York's Thousand Islands, third. Now you know.


The designation is reserved for towns of less than 10,000 inhabitants and Lewisburg with around 4,000 qualifies.


The criteria for selection seem to revolve around the rather etherial quality of cool, or hipness. Lewisburg is pretty enough


It makes a nice lunch destination from Roanoke on a day off, and so e window displays are unintentionally quite funny. Psst! need a ghost for your kitchen?


This sticker in a shop window left me quite puzzled. At first I wondered if it was some reference to gay men, I would be a bear were I into buggery, so at first I got slightly anxious wondering if they needed a support group in this coolest of small towns. Then I wondered if it had to do with the state symbol of West Virginia, the black bear, or possibly it refers to the local manly man sports radio station "The Bear" which is full of sports talk and other male boredom.


At eleven bucks I hope it is something to do with gay men, the least pedestrian of the options. In the park downtown amidst the cornucopia of real estate offices, yoga pads, kitchen stores and coffee shops there is a park where West Highland Terriers are banned.


On mature reflection I was forced to the conclusion that the symbol referred to all dogs including Cheyenne which just seemed wrong. Coolest small town indeed!


I liked Lewisburg. Made appetizing by a lunch consisting of a large Portuguese (?) sausage sandwich, large enough to serve for dinner as well and the craft beer was delicious and the walking was splendid. And no one seemed to mind that West Virginia is hardly a real state at all, carved from it's neighbor, now a state of mind, a buffer, and a very nice one at that, deduced from this small incursion.


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