Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

An Easygoing Resort Region

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

An Easygoing Resort Region

Article excerpt

For several years, Larry and Katherine Shaw searched throughout the Northeast for a country house for their ever-growing brood, but weren't satisfied with what they found.

After unfruitful searches throughout New England -- from Connecticut to Maine and points in between -- they decided to canvass regions closer to home, but their efforts were met with frustration. Much of the Catskills had become too gentrified for their taste; the Poconos were too crowded on weekends; and the Hamptons were too expensive and status-conscious.

"We wanted to be away from it all without the added stresses that often come with popularity and cachet," said Larry Shaw, a payroll specialist who lives in Wallington and works in Manhattan.

Then, on the suggestion of a trusted family friend, the couple, in their 30s, made their way to West Virginia's Canaan Valley. When the pair visited the tiny town of Davis in 2011, they had only planned to "poke around the area to see what it was like."

The pair was immediately taken with the sparsely populated region, filled with mountains and dominated by state and federal park land. Covering some 25,000 acres about three hours west of Washington, D.C., the valley consists of two vibrant small towns, a smattering of unincorporated rural areas and vast stretches of hilly, forested Appalachian terrain crisscrossed by trout-filled streams and treaded by white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and the occasional red fox or black bear.

As with many other second-homers, the Shaws were looking for raw nature, fresh mountain air, opportunities to engage in outdoor pursuits and the chance to catch a glimpse of wildlife and be far from daily demands. The family makes the nearly six-hour drive from their North Jersey condo to the four-bedroom hilltop house that offers sweeping mountain views, for which they paid $219,500 two years ago.

The couple and their three children, who visit at least twice monthly, fill their days with back-to-nature recreation while catching up with one another through family-focused fun -- video and board games, playing cards and watching television together. Larry Shaw says he appreciates the natural beauty, informal atmosphere and simplicity that local life offers.

"There is a kind of bygone quality here," he said. "It's really a nature lover's dream, and we all like the no-worries pace and peaceful setting. And of course, the attainable real estate is also a big plus."

Though prices are still considerably lower than those in better- known retreats, the area's strong vacation and retirement home markets have helped to significantly push up housing costs over the years. Even so, on the low end, buyers can still find fixer-uppers, intimate cottages and condominiums for less than $100,000. …

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