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Follow roads less traveled into West Virginia (WV) and some of the world’s most inspiring landscapes. Ghost towns, mountain trails, and whitewater rivers await. Start now, or join the Explorer’s Club and share your experiences online.

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1863 map reveals change in the West Virginia landscape

How has West Virginia changed over the last 150 years? Three counties in the southern state had yet to be created and two had yet to be added to the Eastern Panhandle when Augustus Mitchell produced this 1863 map of Virginia and West Virginia. But far more changes come to light when one examines the map in detail.

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Harpers Ferry event explores U.S. Colored Troops

Sgt. Peter H. Butler

Sgt. Peter H. Butler of the U.S. CT

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. -- Harpers Ferry National Historical Park this weekend hosts a two-day commemorative event exploring the 1864 recruiting party held there for the newly established U.S. Colored Troops only five years after John Brown's raid and attempt to free and arm slaves. "Desperate Courage: Raising a New Army of United States Colored Troops" will focus on the stories of the 19th Maryland, the regimental battalion that marched through the streets of the town, according to Kim Biggs of the National Park Service.

Activities will include living-history exhibits from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and ranger-guided programs at 2 p.m., April 26-27. A special display, “Raising A New Army: The Men of the 19th USCT,” will be open on the second floor of the John Brown Museum.

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Trail weekend at Gorge resort attracting more participants

New River overlook at ACE Adventure Resort, New River Gorge

New River overlook at ACE Adventure Resort

OAK HILL, W.Va. — Now in its eleventh year, the annual trail maintenance weekend at ACE Adventure Resort on April 26-27 is attracting more participants than ever, in large part because the event has become a tradition, officials say. Sixty-six volunteers and counting are signed up to prep the trails for another season of hiking, biking, and racing, but additional help is welcome, event organizers say.

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Forest fire burning southeast of New River Gorge Bridge

Smoke wreaths Idol Point, New River Gorge, New River Gorge National River

Smoke wreaths Idol Point

UPDATE (9:47 a.m., 4-24-2014): The fire that swept the wall of the New River Gorge southeast of the New River Gorge Bridge was 90 percent contained as of 9 a.m. Thursday morning, according to ranger Leah Perkowski-Sisk of the National Park Service. Based on the weather forecast and continued suppression efforts, she said, full containment is expected Friday.

"There are a couple of spots that continue to burn and put up smoke, but they are within the interior of the burn area and pose little to no threat of escaping the containment lines."

On Wednesday, firefighters worked with CSX to identify and remove any hazardous trees that could potentially fall on railroad tracks. Park Service staff and the Cumberland Gap Wildland Fire Module will continue to manage fire-line construction, monitored hot spots, and continued the mop-up process, she said.

The Endless Wall Trail, which follows the cliffline along the rim of the gorge above the burn area, will remains closed to public use while crews continue to assess and mitigate safety hazards.

UPDATE (8:04 p.m., 4-22-2014): A fire that has spread along the wall of the New River Gorge southeast of its legendary bridge will likely cause no lasting damage, according to a spokesman for the National Park Service.

Ranger Leah Perkowski-Sisk reported Tuesday evening that a National Park Service specialiist found that mortality among mature trees is likely to be low and that the impact will hardly be notiiceable within a few months.

"Ecological impacts will be assessed over time, but this was a surface fire that removed the leaf litter. Fire behavior was low to moderate and soil moistures are high. Average char heights are approximately five feet," she said.

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Festival season launches with a roar and a drone of bagpipes

May is strawberry season, West Virginia Strawberry Festival

W.Va. Strawberry Festival: May 10-18, Buckhannon, W.Va.

Festival season in West Virginia launches in earnest in May and doesn't end until the weather grows too cold to support outdoor activities again in November. May 2014 is no exception. The W.Va. Division of tourism is helping us provide a list of some of the best festivals in the Mountain State this year, to be published as a bi-monthly feature at West Virginia Explorer.  Are you in charge of a May festival you'd like to see listed here? Please use the Contact Us form to let our editorial team know more.

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