Can you tackle these pizzas?

Fire up that appetite. Fayetteville’s newest colossal pizzas aren’t for sissies.

Big Dam Pizza
Better believe it. At Big Dam Pizza, owner Kellie Villenave and her team make 28-inch-wide pies. It’s the maximum size allowed by current take-out boxes. Maybe that’s a good thing. These pizzas are a force of nature— almost as mighty as the nearby Summersville Dam, which inspired the restaurant’s logo. So unless you own a truck, expect to fold someseats in your car.

Of course, slices are another option. These don’t require any reorganization with your car. But Big Dam Pizza treats its slices pretty seriously, too. In fact, just one piece fills two paper plates! So unless you’re ravenous, bring a buddy. You might want to divvy it up.

Freakish sizes are great for the camera, but flavor has to count. After all, pizza is meant to be eaten!

To that extent, Big Dam Pizza keeps things basic. Just four permanent pies line the menu; each one is made from scratch with fresh ingredients, many of which are sourced locally.

Here’s what you can get whole or by the slice:

  • Cheese
  • Pepperoni and cheese
  • Sausage and cheese
  • Mushrooms, garlic, and cheese

Big Dam Pizza also has daily specials. Thus far, chefs have experimented with one-offs like meatball-parmesan and pineapple-porchetta with red onions.

Big Dam temptations
Not everybody is into pizza. If that’s you, it’s still worth a visit. Big Dam Pizza has appetizers, sandwiches, salads, pasta and homemade desserts.

No party can do without Big Dam Nachos. It’s a crowd pleaser with generous servings ofshredded chicken, jalapenos, black-bean-corn salsa, cheese and tortilla chips. Other starters include turkey wings, pepperoni rolls, fries and hummus, most of which are stamped with the “big dam” label. You’ve been warned!

Joking aside, Big Dam Pizza offers half-sized portions for most meals. They won’t charge full price, either. Just ask if you want something trimmed down.

You can also order sandwiches. These arrive at 4, 8, or 16 inches long— also known as The Whole Dam Thing. Options include French dip, meatball and chicken pesto. They even have a Big Dam Dog.

Save room for dessert, too. It’s worth it. Pies and cheesecakes are made locally, while a Virginia creamery supplies the ice cream. Big Dam Pizza sweetens the deal with à la mode chocolate chip cookies and apple dumplings. Go “dam” big or go home, right?

Bon appetit!

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Pulse-pounding adventures for Valentine’s Day

February 14 doesn’t have to be sweet n’ mild. Live a little! Go beyond those candy hearts … and make your real ticker pound with action-filled dates.

A walk like no other

Ever gone on a catwalk that’s 876 feet high and 3,030 feet long? Bridge Walk tours of theNew River Gorge Bridge are like nothing else!

It’s also where you can get an incredible Valentine’s Day deal. On Feb. 14, the Lansing-based company will have two-for-one deals. Reserve those tickets and go! The stupendous views and unbelievable height are unforgettable. Can’t make it that day? Bridge Walk has daily tours that fit your schedule.

Dramatic yet safe, these hikes never fail to stir your heart. How perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Pedal Power

Chase after love through the New River Gorge. The region has outstanding bike trails, most notably Arrowhead. It’s a stacked-loop system with easy and difficult paths. Flowy and invigorating, they appeal to riders of all levels.

Kaymoor Trail is another hit. If you’re comfortable with “moderate” workouts, this 8.6-miler has intriguing mine sites, old roads, and forest scenery.

On the other hand, there’s something to be said for leisurely rides. The Park Loop Trail is perfect for chatting while pedaling. It’s 1.1 miles long (total) and goes through a forest. As another bonus, it’s minutes from downtown Fayetteville. When you’re done biking, venture in for dinner or coffee!

Rentals and gear are available in town. Marathon Bicycle Co. has top-of-the-line mountain bikes you can borrow for the day. Another option is New River Bike, which has trips. They have part-day and full-day outings for everybody: beginner, intermediate or advanced. It’s a great way to tour the gorge outback.

Solve a mystery—together

Teamwork makes the dream work. How about love? Find out at Epic Escape Game: New River Gorge in Fayetteville.

Three interactive mysteries are yours to solve. Each one has an atmospheric setting with clues, riddles and a “locked” door. You only have 60 minutes to solve the puzzle. Try to beat the clock and escape in time! Win or fail, one thing’s for sure: your heart will definitely race.

Bend a little

Love and yoga? They’re more compatible than you might think. Come to New River Yoga in Fayetteville for a class (or classes!). Friendly teachers offer everything from power workouts to vinyasa flow. Beginners are more than welcome, too.

As a special tribute to Valentine’s Day, New River Yoga will have an “Open Your Heart” workshop on Feb. 10. Bend that back, free your chest and bring your favorite quote about love. The class is $25 for non-members or $20 for members.

Regardless of your experience, yoga is great for the heart. It’s a gentle exercise that strengthens muscles, improves flexibility and eases stress. You’ll also learn how to meditate. Drop by for a class! Lessons are available all week.

Happy Valentine’s Day! What moves your heart?

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An evergreen ride that’s perfect for winter

Ever wanted to fly above a snowy forest? The New River Gorge’s hemlocks and ziplines can help you out.

Wild, wonderful hemlocks

Meet the relative of your Christmas tree. Stately and majestic, eastern hemlocks can grow more than 100 feet tall. They also live for centuries if conditions are right.

That’s what makes the New River Gorge so special; the steep terrain, sandstone crannies, and river especially appeal to hemlocks. Ever seen one? Like most conifers, these grow into rough pyramids. Hemlocks also have distinctive double-row needles: dark on top, pale green on the bottom. Still not sure? Take a look at the bark; hemlocks have gray-red trunks that grow in elongated ridges.

Striking looks aside, these trees benefit the environment. In fact, hemlock forests lower surrounding temperatures in summer; their massed canopies provide lots of shade. They also shelter animals in winter. If you look carefully, you might see deer resting beneath their branches. Birds— from turkeys to warblers— like to roost in conifers, too.

And in the New River Gorge, you can get to know these trees as well!

Winter ziplines

Outdoor recreation never goes out of season in West Virginia. “Zipping” is just one example. The New River Gorge has several rides that you can enjoy— even if it’s snowing. In fact, fresh powder makes flights even better.

Here’s where you can fly among the hemlocks:

TreeTops Zip Line Canopy Tour

Adventures on the Gorge likes to keep nature wild, and its TreeTops Zip Line Canopy Tour really heightens that illusion. Old-growth hemlock forests surround you like evergreen skyscrapers. It’s easy to think you’re almost as high, too; some tree platforms rest 80 feet above the ground.

Of course, aerodynamics add to the thrill. The canopy tour features 10 ziplines of varying lengths and speeds, plus 5 sky bridges and a rappel station. It covers lots of acreage, too. Most riders finish the course in 2-3 hours, so dress warmly if you’re going to ride in winter.

Zip-Line Canopy Tour
Oak Hill

ACE Adventure Resort’s zipline course swings through spectacular New River Gorge scenery— some of the region’s best.

In fact, you’ll get to see a spectacular hemlock during the Zip-Line Canopy Tour. Part of the course swoops past Graybeard, an ancient conifer that rears above a sandstone ridge. You’ll see “him” on “Sunshine,” one of the 9 zips available.

Other favorites include “Rigor Mortis,” a 40 mph ride that’s 100 feet above the ground. You can also duel with a friend on “The Racer”; it’s the only zip in West Virginia that you can ride forwards or backwards. Need to catch your breath? Lofty sky bridges let you pause and drink in the glorious New River Gorge.

Have you ever gone on a winter zipline?

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Trade the winter blues for winter magic

Trade the winter blues for winter magic. From forest ziplines to snowshoeing, there’s plenty to do during the frosty months.

Above-the-ground enchantment

Frosted boughs, sugared undergrowth, silent, crisp air— a snowy forest is like something from a fairytale. And in the New River Gorge, two resorts let you fly above the pines.

Your flight starts with Adventures on the Gorge. The Lansing-based resort is known for its outstanding— and imaginative— recreation. One such highlight is the Treetops Zip Line Canopy Tour. Open all year, the ride features 10 speedy zips, 5 sky bridges, and a rappel.

As if that’s not enough, it crosses through an ancient hemlock forest. These magnificent evergreens can live for centuries; some reach heights of 100 feet or more, too. Imagine soaring above them! Well, that’s what makes the Treetops Zip Line so unique. Half adventure, half biology lesson, it’s an unusual chance to admire the forest and native wildlife.

ACE Adventure Resort in Oak Hill keeps the airways open, too. Its Zip-Line Canopy Tour features 9 zips, 2 aerial bridges, and a drop tower. These rides are pretty inventive. Some, like “Boulderdash,” have blind endings— that is, you can’t see the finish until the last moment. Others are really swift and high. “Terminal Velocity,” for example, is 800 feet long and 120 feet above the ground. But if one thing connects them all, it’s sheer fun.

Saddle up

Horseback riding carries you away from the modern world and deep into the woods. It’sone of the few frontier experiences left in America.

Fayetteville’s Equestrian Adventures has outings for folks of all levels. If you’re experienced, request a private ride; it’s for anybody who wants to go faster than a walk. Prefer to go slow n’ steady? There are family beginner rides, sunset rides, and scenic excursions aplenty.

Winter walks

Ever tried snowshoeing? It’s an old-fashioned experience that you mostly see on vintage postcards nowadays. But every winter, New and Gauley River Adventures in Lansing has rentals for anybody who’s interested.

Getting the hang of it is easy. After a few minutes’ worth of practice, you’ll be ready to go. Snowshoeing burns calories as well— another perk. It’s also easy on your body. All you need to do beforehand is wear removable layers; you’ll get warm while cruising around, but quickly cool down during breathers. So don’t wait for the snow to melt; try this unusual sport before spring arrives!

What’s your favorite winter activity?

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Beat the chill: 5 parkland exercises for winter

Looking for winter exercise inspiration? You’re not alone. Join Active Southern WV and the National Park Service for free guided exercises in the New River Gorge!

Burn off those calories with:

1. Tai Chi
Feb. 17

Graceful and meditative, this ancient discipline once had military uses. It’s now popular as a gentle exercise. Over time, the slow, low-impact motions pay off with improved balance and muscle tone.

Tai chi is also relaxing. It’s a contemplative form of exercise, so you learn how to meditate and breathe deeply while stretching. Now that’s a two-for-one deal!

If you’re interested, the Sandstone Visitor Center in Sandstone will have tai chi classes throughout winter. Contact them for more details.

2. Winter Hike
Jan. 13

Go on a refreshing ramble through the woods! This year’s Winter Hike will be on Long Point Trail, one of the New River Gorge’s most breathtaking paths. Much of the 3.2-mile (total) walk goes through hardwood forests. Then comes the grand finale: a jaw-dropping overlook of the canyon, New River Gorge Bridge, and surrounding mountains.

Long Point Trail is mostly flat. However, it gets somewhat tricky towards the end— hence the “moderate” rating. You’ll have to step over boulders and climb some steep sections. The dramatic ending is worth the effort, though!

3. Hike for Health
Jan. 27

Feeling ambitious? Try the Hike for Health, a 10.5-mile outing through the New River Gorge. Everybody starts at the Park Loop Trailhead in Fayetteville. From there, you’ll cover Town Loop Trail, Craig Branch, and Kaymoor before heading back to town.
It’s a lot of ground to cover, but imagine the satisfaction afterwards! Reservations required.

4. Yoga Chi
Jan. 27 and Feb. 9

The name pretty much says it all! Combine yoga with tai chi, and you get an exercise that maximizes both disciplines. Just about anybody can do it.

The Sandstone Visitor Center will have lessons in late winter. Contact them if you have any questions.

5. Community Hike
Feb. 10

Here’s a worthy goal for 2018: hiking Endless Wall Trail. Named by USA Today readers as America’s top trail in 2015, it’s a national and local favorite. Seemingly endless sandstone ridgelines stretch towards the horizon— a showstopper nobody should miss!

The Community Hike is your chance to try this wonder for yourself. Expect moderate difficulty and 2.4 miles of walking. Reservations are required.

Let the calories burn! Which activity are you going to try?

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