Bikepacking with Russ
West Virginia’s state motto is “Wild and Wonderful”. It certainly lived up to it this past weekend. Three bike packers set out on an adventure in Pocahontas County WV. Durbin, a tiny town with no stoplight, one restaurant, one bar and a coal fired steam engine, was our starting point. We rode the West Fork rail trail for 19 miles steady climbing at 1 or 2% the whole way.
The trail followed West Fork Greenbrier River to the headwaters. It was very scenic and enjoyable.
The High Falls Trail was next up in our plan. The trail is pretty, but the vast majority of the one mile climb was not suitable for mountain biking. However, the descent was mostly suitable. It took us an hour and a half to conquer the mountain.
The pay-off was the High Falls of the Cheat River, an amazingly beautiful waterfall. We arrived late in the afternoon and that resulted in quick camp site selection. That is unfortunate because later exploration revealed a few really nice waterside campsites just far enough from the falls to dampen the roar of the falling water.I awoke early on Saturday and enjoyed the stillness of the deep woods with a hot cup of coffee and watched the water. To quote an Eagles song “I had a peaceful easy feeling”.
We decided that a return trip over the mountain was undesirable. That left us with following the train tracks to the town of Bemis. We tried to leave before the first train of the day but we were too late. The engineer waved as the train rolled by and he did not seem to be annoyed with our presence. About ¾ of the way down we saw a very scenic section of the river and decided to take a break. We walked down the hill to the river bank and enjoyed the water for about 45 minutes. Mike fished a little and we all swam in the swiftly moving water. We finished the train track and faced our first steep road climb out of Bemis. Even though it was steep, the smooth surface was welcome after the track side trail. We stopped in Glady and ate lunch in a picnic shelter by the road, thank you Glady Church of the Brethren! The next section turned out to be much nicer than I had anticipated. The road was free of traffic, smooth, shady and at a reasonable grade. We then descended right back down to the Laurel Fork Campground.
Our next leg was to the Sinks of Gandy. This ride was gorgeous! The hills were a little steep but still rideable. It felt like we were in Colorado above the tree line, except we could breathe! I have never seen a creek that flows into a hill before, it was really cool and creepy. The birds were circling in the cave and it was difficult to know they were birds and not bats.
Our final day started with a climb of 1.5 miles to the top of the ridge. We were rewarded with mostly descent for the rest of the trip! The road was shady, smooth and again, rarely traveled. We stopped at Middle Mountain Cabins, a rustic setting in the Wilderness area that would be a great getaway for a group of friends desiring solitude with a roof over their heads. They are managed by the Forest Service if you are interested. We investigated all of the intersecting roads for possible detours. We settled on route 17 which followed a river through a beautiful forest. This road ended at the West Fork Rail Trail mile 7. A downhill finish makes the memory sweeter. We stopped at one of the two restaurants in town to reward our efforts with a burger, some fries and two pitchers of beer. We all appreciated “chairs with a back” one of life’s underappreciated pleasures.