15 down, 5 to go…

Do you love visiting West Virginia’s state parks?  With nearly 40 designated parks, forests, rail trails, and wildlife management areas, chances are there’s a state park or forest within an hour of your home.  Not only do they offer a slew of activities for free or a nominal fee, the state parks system has also implemented reward programs for your time spent at West Virginia’s parks.  Among these are the Hiking Program, Adopt-A-Trail, and my personal favorite — VIPP.

VIPP stands for “Very Important Parks Person” and the basis is simple: you must visit 20 state parks, document your visit, and when you are finished you receive a nice jacket with the VIPP logo.  Of the 20 state parks, 15 are required and you may choose the other five from the remaining parks.  When you contact the WV State Parks office to sign up, you are mailed a participant card so you can keep track of your visits.  Once at a park, find the VIPP birdhouse at park headquarters (or sometimes inside a lodge if the park has one), stamp your card, and date it.  When it’s filled up, mail it back to claim your jacket!

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The VIPP cards you use to record your visits. The left shows the 15 required parks, while the right image shows the five electives you can choose from.
The other half and I began the VIPP program in March 2012 and hoped to finish it in six months, which will be this October.  Sadly, we still need five parks that are scattered throughout the state and I don’t think our six-month goal is going to be achieved.  We have enjoyed traveling the state thus far though, and look forward to an update when we complete the program!  For now though, here are some highlights of our VIPP excursions:

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The VIPP birdhouse outside park headquarters at Kanawha State Forest. This was the very first stamp we claimed!

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Jon (the “other half”) stamping our first park – Kanawha State Forest!

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Our stamped cards!

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Being a VIPP is much more than driving to park headquarters and stamping a card; it’s also about exploring everything the park has to offer… like this suspension bridge at Babcock State Park. After all the times we had been to the park, we never saw this bridge until we went exploring after we got the VIPP stamp!

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Me opening the VIPP birdhouse at Babcock State Park. Inside is a stamp and ink pad that you use to stamp your card. You also need to write the date you visited.

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In the beginning, we attempted to take a picture at each park sign but that fell by the wayside early on. Here is me modeling the Babcock State Park sign, though!

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When you sign up for the program, you also get a window decal!

The program looks like fun, right?  If you’re interested in participating, visit the VIPP Homepage for all the details.  You may also call the WV State Parks at 304-558-2764 to sign up and request your card today!

VIPP Website: http://www.wvstateparks.com/community/vipp.htm
Map of all WV State Parks: http://www.wvstateparks.com/map.html

Until next time,
Sara (WV Travel Queen)

Welcome to West Virginia Travel Queen (the WordPress version)

Welcome to West Virginia Travel Queen’s NEW blog, now on WordPress!  For the past few months, I have been hosting my blog on my Weebly website, but I have decided that hosting a blog on a site that specializes in blogs is a smart thing to do.  So, here I am 🙂

For those of you who followed me from my original site, you already know who I am.  But for those of you who are new, here’s the short version:  I’m an aspiring blogger, vacation planner, and love traveling the Mountain State.  Need advice on a local eatery?  When is the best time to see the fall leaves at their peak?  What on earth is the Mystery Hole and why should I visit?  Ask and I’ll tell.  I truly enjoy helping people plan vacations in West Virginia and hope to eventually create a sustainable business doing just that.
Now, if you want to know more….

My name is Sara and I am in my mid-twenties and currently work for a nonprofit organization in West Virginia’s capital city of Charleston.  Although I am young, I have had the pleasure of becoming well acquainted with my home state through extensive travels as a child with my family, as a teenager with my friends, and finally, as a young adult with my own journey.  If you consider personal interest as experience, then it’s safe to say I have nearly 25 years of experience within the West Virginia travel industry.  However, I have also been fortunate enough to have worked for the State of West Virginia as a pioneer for the state’s first official geocaching organization, ExploreWV GeoChallenge (if you’re scratching your head wondering what geocaching is, don’t feel bad; just click here or here to relieve that confusion).  My year and a half internship and part-time position with ExploreWV allowed me to visit new parts of West Virginia that were largely untouched during my endeavors (i.e., the Northern Panhandle).  Of course, traveling to new regions of the state led to other trips and, ultimately, I can say that I have been to nearly all 55 counties in West Virginia.  And, if for some reason I haven’t had the pleasure of exploring a county, then you’d never know it because “research” is my middle name.

Besides my passion for West Virginia, I am a planner by nature and extremely enjoy helping others plan their vacations, regardless if they are vacationing in the Mountain State.  My level of organization and planning for a trip has had the tendency to be overbearing to those with whom I’ve traveled, but I’m the type of person who would rather be prepared with a back-up plan and knowledge of an area than have no clue at all.  Scoping out an area for hidden gems, researching accommodations and restaurants for the best quality within my budget, and developing sample itineraries are things that I absolutely love doing — and when the opportunity arises to help others with their planning, I can’t turn it down.

So, if you’re planning a trip to West Virginia or if you are a Mountain State resident looking to experience another side to your state, consider sending me an email and seeing what I can do for you.  As a self-proclaimed Travel Queen, I am confident I can help make your West Virginia vacation one of the best you’ve ever had.

Until next time,
Sara (West Virginia Travel Queen)