A Kite Above the Rest

By ,

July 2, 2024


Have you seen Dragons, Octopi, Shark, and Butterflies soaring through the Skies of West Virginia? You might be at Experience Learning's annual Kite Festival at Spruce Knob! With food trucks, live music, local brews, and awesome views, you won't want to miss this high elevation adventure!

Title text "A Kite Above the Rest" on a background of dozens of kites in the sky.Despite the plume of dust that follows you like a shadow on any country road worth its gravel, I can’t help but roll the windows down as I drive up West Virginia’s highest mountain range in the last weekend of a waning June. The air may be warm, but thanks to a steady climb in elevation, the humidity of summer’s dog days has been swept away by a cool breeze. It’s another perfectly normal, beautiful day in the Monongahela National Forest- except for, that is, the menagerie of fantastical monsters approaching just over the horizon. Dragons duel F-35s and sharks skirt the wake of enormous kaleidoscopic octopi chasing the running children below. But I haven’t arrived at the set of the newest Hollywood blockbuster or the site of an alien invasion. Along translucent threads glimmering in the sun, these otherworldly creatures are drawn back to the earth as the wind buckles and breaks before being cast back into the open sky at Spruce Knob’s Annual Kite Festival.

Dozens of colorful kites fly in the sky above Spruce Knob

Dozens of colorful kites drift through the sky.

Held at Experience Learning’s Spruce Knob campus, a blend of futuristic solar punk aesthetics and traditional stylings, the free multi-day Kite Festival is just one of many programs held each summer that connect children and adults alike with the principles of stewardship in the great outdoors and their communities. Emerging from the Mountain Institute, founded in 1972, Experience Learning’s educational opportunities cover everything from backpacking, mountain biking, caving, rafting, and climbing across the Mon Forest region while cultivating an atmosphere of service and exploration. Additionally, eager adventurers can visit the campus’ Sweetwater Farms Trail Center, which has over 8 miles of specially designed single-track mountain biking trails, with an additional 17 miles currently in development. Brave riders can also visit the campus during the 312-mile Gravel Ride Up Spruce Knob (GRUSK) cycling festival in mid-July.

Wooden Yurts surrounded by trees at Experience Learning's Spruce Knob Campus

Blending futuristic and traditional styles, Experience Learning’s Yurts host live music and a beer garden during the Annual Kite Festival.

Walking beneath a fleet of astronauts and pirates, I am led nearly by smell alone to some of our Mon Forest Town’s most iconic eats, now conveniently situated at the top of Almost Heaven. Deciding between the Venezuelan stylings of Randolph County’s El Gran Sabor and Pendleton County’s classic Deans Gap BBQ might have been the most challenging choices of the day, save for the decision between Tucker County’s Stumptown Ales and Greenbrier County’s Greenbrier Valley Brewing and Hawks Knob Cider waiting for me at the Beer Garden! (For more Mon Town Brews, check out our Breweries Trail)

Bubbles Fly with Trees in Background

Kites aren’t the only things flying up at Spruce Knob!

Finding a nice spot in the grass, I spoke with some Experience Learning staff members, relaxing after a week-long backpacking camp. While their first flight had met an Icarian fate, they swiftly assembled a new kite, a colorful crab that, launched from nearly 4000 feet elevation, took to the wind as naturally as any bird I’d seen. Running the spool dry, they knotted on a new line, sending the crustacean further and further into the sky until it was nearly invisible to the naked eye. Despite the earlier setback, they turned to each other with a slow-spoken yet wonderous pride, “That’s probably the highest kite in West Virginia.” Although I couldn’t know for sure, gazing out at the endless rows of mountains, I would wager they were right.


Red and Blue Kites with Tails fly above Spruce Knob

Two Dragon Kites Soar above Spruce Knob.