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The Ponn Covered Bridge, also referred to as Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge, built in 1874, is 4 miles southwest of Wilkesville over Raccoon Creek. - Vinton County Courier: News

The Ponn Covered Bridge, also referred to as Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge, built in 1874, is 4 miles southwest of Wilkesville over Raccoon Creek.

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Posted: Wednesday, June 7, 2006 12:00 am

With the official start of summer just around the corner and schools out on break, thoughts turn to vacation time.

A favorite destination for many are the beaches that line the coast of North and South Carolina. Myrtle Beach is the perennial favorite, with beautiful scenery and a sometimes boisterous boardwalk.

But the cost of such a trip can take a heavy toll. For a family of four, flying may be out of the question. Add tourist season rates to the hotel or other lodging costs and the price skyrockets. And for those who drive must consider the price of gasoline.

According to the Oil Price Information Service provided by AAA, the nationwide average is $2.85 per gallon.

Stephanie Manring, manager at AK Fast Mart, a gas station in Hamden, said she predicts the price of gas will curb summer travel. “People just aren’t going to be able to afford to go on vacation,” she said. Manring added that the price of everything is going up, making extra spending a luxury more and more people are avoiding. Many will look closer to home to find a vacation destination.

Vinton County and the surrounding areas have a number of activities that are easy on the pocketbook and fun for the whole family. Whether you are looking for a sunny beach, hiking trails or just a place to rest and relax, the area is sure to please.

The pleasant waters and sandy beaches of Lake Hope, Lake Alma and Lake Rupert are a great place to start. With areas for fishing, swimming and camping, the county’s lakes are a restful alternative to more crowded destinations.

“We have cottages and camping and swimming,” Deb Cleavenger, a Lake Hope State Park staff member in the registration office, said. “We’re surrounded by forest,” she said. “(There is) a lot of wildlife. (The forest) brings them here.”

But Lake Hope State Park, along with the other state parks, has something to offer that many tourist destinations do not. “Peace and quiet,” Cleavenger said. “That’s why (visitors) come here.”

For those who love the outdoors, there are more than 70 miles of trails for hiking, mountain bike trails, horseback riding and backpacking throughout the county. More adventurous types will be thrilled with the rougher 300 miles of trails for off-road vehicles, hikers and horseback riders.

There is much to explore and enjoy among the state parks within the county’s borders. Zaleski State Forest, Wayne National Forest, Mead Paper Woodlands, Wellston Wildlife Area and Richland Furnace State Forest all offer unique sites for family fun.

For the historian, Vinton County boasts five historic covered bridges including the unique Ponn Humpback Bridge, which attracts covered bridge enthusiasts from across the nation. Other bridges are Bay Bridge, Mount Olive Bridge, Arbaugh Bridge and Cox Bridge.

Another historical must-see are the iron furnaces. Leftover from the mid 1800s, the furnaces tell the tale of a time when residents of Vinton County made their livings from extracting iron from the ores indigenous to the region.

The area is also home to a number cottages and inns, perfect for relaxation away from the bothers of everyday life.

Sue Maxwell is the owner and operator of Ravenwood Castle, an inn close to McArthur. “(The castle) is a good place to relax and get away from the real world for a few days,” Maxwell said. “We are lucky to be in a vacation area that people like to go to.”

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