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Smoke Hole Caverns, West Virginia


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See my post above, and I also replied to you in the other thread you posted.  And if there are people selling peaches by the side of the road, Seneca area peaches when ripe are one of the major things that make WV almost heaven.  You will also find some gas stations with some good hot food, but you kind of have to know where to find stuff.  There is also a little place in Petersburg, across the river from downtown we go to a lot for breakfast, can't remember the name.  It's better to go for the country food diner type places, then fancy, just a rule of the area.

That's a gorgeous area, I hope you are also going to the Smoke Hole Canyon too, it shouldn't be missed.

I'm very surprised I didn't post about my experience at Smoke Hole Caverns in the Spring of 2009 - or maybe I did, and decided to delete the post.

The summary: If Jerry Hedrick still has anything to do with the ownership of these caverns, or the surrounding accommodation properties, do not give him your business.

It seemed like a nice weekend getaway at the time. We ended up pulled over on the side of the road near Petersburg, trying to get our bearings with a map, and a "maintenance man" from the nearby cabins, riding an ATV, pulled up to us and very politely asked if we needed any help. We told him we were going to visit the caverns and spend the night, and he told me he knew of a nice place nearby. He asked us to follow him, and we did - he blazed off on his ATV, going about 75+ mph ('I hope he's friends with the police in this town,' I thought to myself.)

We pulled up behind him to a lobby that had a large, touristy gift shop. He walked inside, and we followed him, noticing that there were about five people lined up near the front door. As he walked in, we walked by them, and each of them said, "Hey! Jer! Long time no see!" and exchanging hand shakes and back pats with their long-lost friend" - he had alerted them we were arriving on a hand-held radio - he then walked us back to an office and introduced us to a lady running the operation, who, if my memory serves me correctly, was his wife (I vaguely recall seeing a sign with her name in the office, but this is the one thing I'm not entirely sure about).

Well, it turns out that "Jer" was Jerry Hedrick, co-owner of the entire operation including the caverns. He had tricked us into coming.

But so what? We needed a place to stay, and these were as decent as anyplace around - why did he have to do this, we were wondering? Okay, so he's a flim-flam man, but he's trying to drum up some business with this little schtick. Shady, yes, but not unforgivable. However we were quoted one price, my credit card was run, and then the next morning we were charged another. Trying to convince the morning worker that this happened took about twenty minutes, and we essentially parted ways in a shouting match: the entire operation - caverns, lodging, gift store - was one big charade, with everyone in on the little game except for the customers. That was our unanimous impression when we departed, fuming, and genuinely worried about being pulled over by a small-town policeman who was undoubtedly this scumbag's buddy - I literally breathed a sigh of relief when we crossed the county line.

Okay, but even this doesn't sound *that* bad, does it? Yes, we were duped, but I've been short-changed by vaporetto drivers in Venice, accosted (unsuccessfully) by a pickpocket in Vienna - so what? So what if this entire operation was one big family-run scam as long as the caverns are there, the tour is given, and the rooms aren't crawling with roaches?

Well, the fact that I was so angry when I left (I can't remember one other time this has ever happened to me), and the fact that I'm still this passionate about it five years later, says something. But hopefully this will say even more:

"Most Unprofessional Resort I've Ever Dealt With" on TripAdvisor.com - and I believe every single word of this review, and also some of the reviews that follow.

And if that's still not enough, this happened several months later:

"Hedrick Sentenced On Sexual Abuse"

Quoting the judge from the article, "Mr. Hedrick, you may be a millionaire, but you're morally bankrupt."

Mr. Hedrick also appealed the sentence and lost the appeal.

And is now a registered sex offender living in Seneca Rocks, WV, after spending just a little over two years in a penitentiary.

Pick your movie: "Psycho," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Hostel," "Motel Hell" ... now think of non-existent hidden cameras ... makes for a pretty good campfire horror story, doesn't it?

It wouldn't surprise me at all if he was now "retired" from his family-run operation, but they couldn't possibly have taken his ownership away.

Enjoy your stay.

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I much prefer Smoke Hole Canyon to the Caverns.  There is a nice camping area owned by the Yokums, the General Store at Seneca Rocks is a good thing to get a few provisions.  If you don't mind staying in Petersburg, my sister (full disclosure) owns the Fort Hill Motel, we stay there sometimes for big family events etc when all the bedrooms are full.  I think it is probably the nicest in Petersburg.

The Canyon is what I like to think of as Yosemite of the East, Seneca Rocks is cool too, both are more worthwhile than the caverns.  There are some cabins in that area that aren't too bad.  I think Jerr had a fire that was quite suspicious since your post.

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