… Both are ‘wild and wonderful’ when you plan to stay and play in West Virginia.
If you are looking for a retreat where you can relax and restore while you indulge your passion for golf and your love of nature, look no further than the Wildernest Inn. Perched atop the western slope of Spring Mountain at Rough Run, this one-of-a-kind Bed & Breakfast is situated near the Highlands at Fisher Mountain golf course but what makes this place truly unique – aside from your charming and knowledgeable hosts – are the black bears that have taken refuge here and consider the property ‘home. ‘
To see a bear in the wild is a memorable event, however fleeting the moment may be, but to actually have the privilege of observing and photographing a number of bears – each with their own traits and personalities – up close and personal, in a safe and natural setting is priceless. Let me try and do justice in describing the magic of the Wildernest Inn. As we headed south in October, the Allegheny Mountains were a riot of colors. Turning through the gates onto the winding road that leads to the inn, under a heavy canopy of trees we were greeted by a magnificent stag and his herd. Attentive but still their large doe eyes were trained on the new arrivals until they quickly discerned that we meant no harm and calmly returned to their grazing. Our hosts Kathy and Stewart were waiting for us as we pulled up to the house and made quick work of getting us settled into our rooms – Heaven’s View and Cloud’s End. Need I say more except that the upper deck, accessible from all the guest bedrooms and the raised main floor deck both overlook the valley and South Mill Creek Lake, providing the perfect vantage points for bear-watching!
Feeling in need of some R&R, I elected to stay behind and catch up on some reading while the others played the Highlands. They reported the golf course was equally as peaceful and tranquil as the resort but nevertheless I was happy with my choice. Since bears are generally most active at dawn and dusk, I wasn’t expecting to see any before the others returned so imagine my surprise when I lifted my head from my book about 2 in the afternoon to see a bear, who I would later learn was the bold and brash 2 year old Taz, standing about 50 yards away, on his hind legs, checking me out! My first inclination was to make myself very small and invisible but my ‘fear’ quickly transformed to awe and wonder.
I soon discovered that Taz was more interested in the playground that had been built for the bears’ entertainment than hanging out with a human. As I watched, three of his friends scampered up the cliff, took a moment to swing on the tire, then hopped into the sand box and it was game on! Apparently, the bears felt that there was only room for three in there so for the next hour I was mesmerized by their playful antics as each tried to claim and keep his place.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, Bruno, the first bear to drop by the inn back in 2002 had meandered up on the rocks on the other side of deck to bask in the late afternoon sun. To say he is a magnificent creature is an understatement despite the fact that he had been shot earlier in the year while roaming far from home and had lost more than 150 pounds. Wildernest is Bruno’s safe haven where he had returned to regain his strength and weight before it was time to den. We know he will continue to beat the odds and be back next spring to take his place as ‘King of the Mountain’! Most bears are extremely shy and retiring and usually avoid direct contact with humans. They are generally solitary animals but at times they tend to congregate and Wilderness Inn is where it happens. Bruno was soon joined by Knockers and her 3 cute, cuddly cubs Moo, Chew and Luxie. What can I say … I was surrounded by bears of every age, size and description and loving every minute!
The others returned from the course and the evening unfolded with a blow-by-blow of who bested who on what hole, a sumptuous steak dinner, great conversation and unlimited entertainment, courtesy of the bears. As darkness descended, we retired to the deck with a class of wine to watch as the bears wander off one by one to find a place to sleep for the night. Bruno seemed reluctant to leave us and I didn’t want to head in but my bed was calling after a day out in the fresh mountain air so I slipped upstairs hoping that I would see him again. The next morning as the sun was coming up over the ridge I strolled out on the deck with coffee in hand, only to look down and discover Bruno sound asleep on the porch outside Kathy and Stewart’s room, apparently his favorite place to hang his hat! Down in the valley I watched Rinaldo scale an 80 foot tree with lightening speed to grab an early morning berry snack while I believe it was Ugly Bear, took a quick dip in the deer pond. An auspicious start to another glorious day! Both the bears and the golfers will return to Wildernest Inn in early spring. Don’t be disappointed, contact Kathy or Stewart now to book your next great adventure! The Wildernest Inn is located 12 miles south of Petersburg in Rough Run. Visit their website at: www.wildernestinn.com , email: email@example.com or call toll-free: 888-621-2948 or 304-257-9076. The Bear Facts
- Black bears are North America’s most familiar and common bears
- Black bears run 5 to 6’ feet in length and average between 200 and 600 pounds (90 to 270 kilos)
- Male bears may roam a 15 to 80 square mile territory.
- Cubs are born in January and are tiny at birth – no more than 10 to 14 ounces. They are the fastest growing mammal on the planet.
- Cubs will stay with their mothers for 17 to 29 months, so females only reproduce every 2-3 years.
- Black bears are highly intelligent and adaptable but they have lost over 60% of their historical range. As human encroachment increases, preserving large areas of undeveloped land where bears and other animals can thrive is vital.
- The best times to observe bears in their natural habitat is in early spring when they emerge from their dens when tree leaves and leafy plants are greening, or late summer and autumn when berries and nuts are plenty and the bears are preparing to hibernate.
Jane Finn is a Torontonian. This is her third piece for BuffaloGolfer.Com