Beware of Beauty

by | Aug 25, 2023 | Perspective, Stories & Expeditions | 3 comments

The day after exploring Snowshoe, we headed over to another iconic West Virginia attraction. The old, historic Cass Scenic Railroad!

230721_James Staddon_0693 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-160 sec at f - 5.6, ISO 100

The 11-mile long heritage railroad takes you back in time to an era when steam-driven locomotives were an essential part of everyday life. The sights and sounds surrounding a ride on an operating, restored steam engine chugging its way through switchbacks and up mountain slopes is a thrilling experience indeed!

230721_James Staddon_0730 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 60 mm, 1-125 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 800

But the train ride wasn’t a cheap experience. The 4.5hr option was better bang for your buck and offered amazing views at it’s final destination atop Bald Knob. But the whopping $79/person made the 2hr option at $59/person appear a little more reasonable. Which option should we go with? If we were already investing in the the first half of the experience, what would $20 more be for the entire experience?

230721_James Staddon_0835 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 35 mm, 1-640 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 100

We run into conundrums like this all the time in life. But this particular one reminded me of a quote from William Gurnall, a Puritan author form the 1600s.

He said, “Many have yielded to go a mile with [someone] who never intended to go two.”

In place of “[someone]”, you could plug in just about anything!

You could plug in “a friend”. A friend asks you to go for a walk . . . and you enjoy the fellowship so much you end up going two with them.

You could plug in “God”. When we yield to God’s leading, we discover the enjoyment of being with Him so much that we find ourselves walking two, yielding yet another area of our life to Him.

What if we plugged in “beauty”? When we find ourselves at a location of great beauty, its attraction beckons us to spend double the time there (especially if you’re a photographer!).

This could be to our advantage. Or, it could be to our disadvantage. It all depends on what our responsibilities are, or, what our priorities are supposed to be.

William Gurnell plugged “Satan” into his quote. “Conversing with Satan is a dangerous policy indeed. Many have yielded to go a mile with him who never intended to go two. But once on the way, they have been lured farther and farther, until at last they are so lost and confused they do not know how to leave his company.”

How clever of him! He’s a wretched wolf dressed in the beauty of sheep’s clothing. He is the epitome of darkness clothed as an angle of light. He loves to use good to accomplish evil. So, just because something appears to be good, doesn’t mean it is. Consider the consequences. Where does attraction lead?

Satan loves to distort. Companionship is good. So Satan does what he can to use companionship to accomplish his agenda. Beauty is good. Just beware that it is only as beautiful as the one who is holding it.


Not that this had anything to do with our train ride! I just couldn’t help but see the analogy in the decision we were trying to make between those two train-ride options. Smile

In the end, having weighed all the factors, we did decide to go with the “first mile” ride, as much as we would have loved the full experience of the long hull.

230721_James Staddon_0700 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-400 sec at f - 5.6, ISO 100

Departing the Cass depot, we enjoyed the 8-mile round trip to Whitter Station, passing the remains of the dilapidated lumberyard sawmill and the current machine shop where the world’s largest fleet of geared Shay locomotives are repaired.

230721_James Staddon_0710 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 43 mm, 1-200 sec at f - 5.6, ISO 100

After following the picturesque Leatherbark Creek for a while, we climbed up the slopes of Cheat Mountain. Because the grade was so steep, the train zigzaged through two switchbacks, the engines alternately pushing then pulling the passenger cars up the mountain.

230721_James Staddon_0740 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-250 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 800

At Whittaker Station, the railroad levels off, and the green meadows offer fine views of the surrounding countryside. The experience was definitely worth the investment!

230721_James Staddon_0771 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 38 mm, 1-400 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 100

230721_James Staddon_0760 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-100 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 100

230721_James Staddon_0785 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-25 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 100

230721_James Staddon_0757 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-500 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 160

Beware of the attractive nature of beauty. It is all around us, and God has given us the choice of what to do with it. Instead of letting it be a cause of discontentment, may we not be highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but find contentment in the living God, Who gives us richly all things to enjoy (I Timothy 6:17).

230721_James Staddon_0820 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-125 sec at f - 3.5, ISO 400

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  1. Warrior Princess

    Oh my! That train ride was awesome! I love photographing trains. That will be on the top of my to-do list of photography jaunts.

  2. James Staddon

    Yes, I had never photographed old, historic trains like that before! That made it especially fun. I was super happy to find out that I could photograph them close to the station there too, for free, in the future without having to pay to go on the ride.

    • Jonathan and Esther Frazer

      Beautiful pictures and thought-provoking article! Thanks for sharing, James!


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