Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend Adventure 2008

Although I've lived in West Virginia for the majority of my life, there are certain parts of the state that I have never explored. I've explored 45 out of 50 states, but haven't explored much of West Virginia. Five years ago, I moved back to West Virginia after a 10 hiatus and have decided to embrace my heritage and explore the most beautiful state. This past weekend, my wife and I, traveled to Pocahontas County, WV to do some outdoor Adventures.

I was swamped at work on Friday, so we got a very late start on our 4.5 hour drive to Marlinton, WV. We didn't arrive at the cabin until 11:30 pm, we were tired and exhausted from the day so we crashed in bed and got a good nights rest. We made reservations at the Jerico Pre-Civil War Cabins, and we stayed in the Patton Cabin. Named for the great-grandfather of the famous Gen. Patton (see photo above).

We slept in on Saturday and made our breakfast at the cabin and decided to do some horseback riding at Watoga State Park. So we made the trek to the park and went to the office. There was a really nice lady there who told us they no longer offer horseback riding. Although we had 2 brochures that stated they had horses at the park. Apparently, the insurance premiums went through the roof and they could no longer afford to offer horseback riding. In fact, no one in Pocahontas County offers horseback riding to the general public. We were thoroughly disappointed and took a short drive through the park on our way out. It's a beautiful, small state park with a lake with boat rentals and fishing, but we were too disappointed to really do anything at the park.

Our disappointments didn't last too long as we drove over to Beartown State Park. On our way to Beartown, we stopped by a small country/folk store called Mountain Folk Art. I bought some WV salsa and we also bought a Bluegrass Fiddlin CD. After taking a few pics and a short break enjoying complimentary cookies, we made the final trek to Beartown. Beartown State Park was donated to the WV park service by a family in memory of their son, who was killed in the Vietnam War. It has a boardwalk that takes you through some very unusual rock outcroppings and caves. It has a canyon feel to it. It's a short 30-40 minute walk and is a must-see if you are in the area. The pictures that I took, do not do it justice.

We were starting to get hungry, so we left Beartown and drove back to Marlinton where we ate Lunch at The River Place. It has a wrap around porch and you can sit outside overlook the Greenbrier River as you eat. We both got the Pork BBQ sandwich and enjoyed it. We were feeling a little tired, so we went back to the cabin and crashed for a few hours.

When we woke up, it was early evening, so we decided to get on our bikes and hit the Greenbrier River Trail. We didn't have much time before dusk would hit, so we took a short, easy ride of 13 miles, which was my wife's longest ride to date. We went north on the GRT trail and enjoyed the ride immensely. The scenery along the GRT is absolutely amazing. Here is a photo that I took of an abandoned house that sits in a meadow. It's a shame to see houses like this go to shambles. It had 4 outbuildings with it and they sit alone in this huge meadow.

We turned around and headed back to the cabin, where we ate our dinner. It was a good day for us, we got to see lots of scenery, enjoyed Beartown, got plenty of rest, and took the bikes out for a spin.

I woke up at 7am on Sunday morning to a brisk 40F. I didn't bring my Under Armor along and boy did I wish I had it with me for this ride. I decided that I wanted to ride from Marlinton to Clover Lick and back to Marlinton. From the cabin, this was a total of 33.2 miles. Our cabin was only 1 mile from the GRT trailhead in Marlinton, so I left around 7:30ish and rode to the trail.

It took me a good 5 miles just to get warmed up. All I had on were shorts and a cycling jersey. I wanted to pedal faster to build up more body heat, but the faster I pedaled the colder I got. So I found a good medium and just held on for dear life. I kept thinking to myself, Lance Armstrong wouldn't quit, so neither will I. As you can see, the GRT is crushed stone and is well maintained. I could tell that some areas were recently filled in because the stone was a little soft. The WV State Parks does an excellent job at maintaining this trail. They do a much better job than the National Park Service does for the C&O Canal Towpath.

At around the 10 mile mark I stopped just before entering the Sharps Tunnel (circa 1900). At this point the GRT crosses the river on a wooden bridge, and goes through the tunnel. From this point to Clover Lick, the trail is on the left side of the river instead of the right. I'm not sure why it crosses the river, but the GRT has 35 bridges and 2 tunnels during its 79 mile trek from Cass, WV to Lewisburg, WV. This is the Clover Lick side of the tunnel. The Marlinton side is not quite as fancy.

I continued my trek to the Clover Lick depot where I turned around and headed back to Marlinton. I needed to be back at the cabin by 11am because we had reservations to go canoeing. We decided to rent a canoe instead of lugging ours on the 4 hour drive to Marlinton. Here are some more photos of the Greenbrier River from the GRT. The one on the left is from the Clover Lick side of the tunnel, and the one on the right is from the middle of the bridge on the Marlinton side. I like to believe that on the eighth day of creation, God created West Virginia.

As I came back into the Marlinton area, I was surprised to find my wife out on the trail. She slept in, and I apparently locked her in the cabin (long story). She had to climb out of the window in order to get out. So we rode back together to Marlinton. This is a photo of me in front of an old water tower. The GRT is a rail-to-trail project which means it used to be a railroad line owned by the C&O (Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad), but after the railroad shut down, the WV State Parks bought the land and converted it to a biking, hiking, horseback riding trail. No motorized vehicles are permitted on the trail.

After 2:37:50 on the trail, I completed my 32.2 mile bike ride from the Jerico Cabins in Marlinton to Clover Lick and back to Marlinton. Instead of having to ride my bike back to the cabin, my wife also brought the pick-up truck so we could get back a little quicker so we could get ready for our 10 mile canoe trip. Here is my wife and I as we finish up our ride on the GRT before our canoe trip.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Greenbrier River Trail. I can't say enough about the trail conditions that I experienced. Over the 32.2 mile ride, I only hit 3 potholes. There was some washboarding on the Clover Lick side of the trail, but very minimal. It was a blast to ride and I will definitely return to ride the entire trail this year. I'd like to go back in July or August and ride it in one day. This would make an excellent training ride for riding the C&O Towpath. I'm going to attempt to ride the towpath in 2 days this fall. The GRT is 79 miles long and the C&O is 184.5 miles long.

We got off the GRT around 11am and we hurried back to the cabin to clean up and change clothes and get our gear for our canoe trip. We had decided to rent a canoe from Appalachian Sport in Marlinton, so we wouldn't have to lug our canoe 4 1/2 hours. Appalachian Sport was busy on Sunday afternoon, so fortunately we had reservations. We drove to the pick-up point (Seebert) and left our truck, then we got aboard the shuttle and they drove us back to the put-in back in Marlinton. We were excited to finally get on the water this year. We've had a combination of family illnesses/death, bad weather (cold and rain), so we haven't been able to get on the river until this weekend. Fortunately for us, everything worked perfectly for us on this trip. The weather was phenomenal on Sunday afternoon and we enjoyed ourselves as we paddled down the river.

This was our first time canoeing the Greenbrier River and the water conditions were perfect. The Greenbrier is a fairly calm river with rapids never exceeding Class 1 this time of year. However, it had more Class 1 rapids and they were longer than the rapids we experience on the Cacapon River, South Branch of the Potomac, or the Shenandoah River that we usually canoe. This was an added bonus for me as I enjoy the challenges of the rapids. This is our fifth season canoeing, and we could tell immediately that out skills have improved over the years. Also, my wife wanted to see if Chief Saggy Butt (my nickname) would cause the canoe to scrape the river bottom. Last year, the back of the canoe, which is where I sit was constantly scraping bottom.
The Greenbrier River is a great river to canoe, and there were tons of fishermen out so I imagine its a great place to fish.

We finished up our canoe trip and headed back to the cabin to get cleaned up, eat dinner and took a nap. We were pretty tired and crashed for the rest of the evening at the cabin.

We woke up around 7:30 am on Monday and packed up our gear and headed to French's Diner in downtown Marlinton and ate breakfast. It was pretty good West Virginia cooking! About 30 minutes later we were pulling out of Marlinton and began our trek to Lost River State Park. According to my research on the internet, this is the only place between Pocahontas County and Hampshire County to go horseback riding. We weren't sure if they were offering rides on Memorial Day, but we thought it was close enough to be on the way home that we would go by and see. Our luck paid off and they were doing rides, so we were able to go on a one hour ride. My horse was Nugget and Cam's horse was Rascal. The stables apparently have another name for Rascal, but they wouldn't tell us the other name.

There were fourteen of us in our group with 2 guides and 12 riders. We took a fairly flat route through Lost River State park, and the ride included about 8-9 stream crossings. I haven't been on a horse since I was about twelve and had never crossed any water on a horse, so it was really cool to be able to do it. Nugget was fun to ride because I had to do very little steering. He pretty much knew the routine, and it made the ride a lot more enjoyable. Hidden Trails Stable is the name of Stables that guides the rides. Their rates were really affordable, and we enjoyed our time on the horses. We'll definitely be back this summer to ride again.

We finished our ride and had about an hour's drive to our house. We were blessed with great weather all weekend, and enjoyed biking, canoeing, and horseback riding together. Oh by the way, we got to see some of the most beautiful scenery in all of West Virginia in Pocahontas County.

This Week's Mileage: 52.40
Previous 30 Days Mileage: 215.20
This Year's Mileage: 386.30
Current Weight 216.0 lbs

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