Saturday, April 15, 2017

Greenbriar River Trail - Day 3

One of the challenges with riding the Greenbriar River Trail (GRT) is that there are few road crossings. This is why I'd felt like I had to do such a big mileage day yesterday, so I could break it down into sections to work through it.  My original plan had me completing the entire north half in 3 days of riding! The trail is 80 miles long and I'd turned around on Monday at mile 40 so exactly halfway.  Last night I was checking out the map and saw that there was a road crossing I'd missed at Clover Lick.  You had to drive down Laurel Run Road - Road 1/4 - for 4.2 miles but it said there was horse trailer parking, so I figured it would be RV friendly-ish. Despite the fact that it's route number was a fraction, I was hoping it would be a real road, in West Virginia you never know! From there it was 5.5 miles to the bridge and tunnel I'd attempted to ride to yesterday.  And 7 miles from there to where I'd turned around. So, I could complete the section, and just have a few miles at the end to complete. 

It rained overnight, but it never got really cold! I was too hot sleeping with socks on! It was still cloudy and cool when I left the campground this morning.  The sun was predicted to come out later, but it was only going to be in the 60s today.  Much nicer than nearly 90 from yesterday! 

I drove back to Marlinton on 219. 219 runs almost parallel to the rail trail, only it goes over a few mountains in the 10 mil distance! There were two big descents - one 10% grade and one 7% grade and many "KYA" or "kiss your ass" turns.  Seems funny to me that the rail trail is a flat straight trail yet all the roads around it are really hilly! Wonder why they didn't build the road next to the railroad tracks? 

I quickly got through Marlinton and headed up 28, through Seneca State Forest and found Road 1/4 and headed down it.  It was very narrow, one lane, but it was paved! It was a nice easy drive and soon I was at the trail parking area at Clover Lick.  There were 2 people sitting on their front porch enjoying the morning and their very friendly lab mix, Buddy, was running around.  He and I got aquatinted and he wanted to play, but I rode off! 

This section was another pleasant section of the trail! It all looks very similar, but it's also all unique! The tunnel was big and kinda scary! Very dark! I ended up walking the bike through it because I couldn't see a thing inside and there were rocks and stuff on the trail surface! The bridge was a regular bridge, nothing special.  

I decided not to press on to complete the last 1.5 (3 RT) miles of the section.  My body was definitely reminding me that I'd biked a lot over the last few days and while it felt good to get out and do more I knew that shorter was better today.  My Map My Ride app calculated my mileage at over 6 miles from Clover Lick so I'm not sure if the map was off or my app. I decided I was ok with not finishing every inch of the section and headed back to the van! 

After a quick lunch and a few chapters in my book I drove back out Road 1/4 and headed into Cass to check it out.  

Turns out Cass is seasonal and this isn't its season.  Nothing was open and the town was deserted. Now what? The campground I was planning to go to, Seneca Shadows near Seneca Rocks, was only an hour away and I knew there wasn't much to do there.  I decided to take the scenic route to the campground past Snowshoe, up 219 to Elkins and then down 33 to Seneca Rocks.  I was hoping to find some hiking along the way and maybe take a quick trip into Kumbrabow State Forest. 

My grandpa used to take my uncles, and later my Dad and my aunt, to Kumbrabow for "Turkey Hunting" trips. Only no one was allowed to shoot turkeys, so it was more "Turkey Stalking" or just an excuse to spend the weekend hiking! I've been to Kumbrabow twice and we have more pictures of it than we have pictures of each other! Since I was so close I thought I'd go wander around, maybe walk out to everyone's favorite spot in the creek and get some pictures. Dad had warned me that I wouldn't like driving Roxy on the road in because of the bumps.  It's been more than a decade since any of us have been there so I decided there was a chance the road had been improved. 

The first part, almost a mile, of the road was paved! It went straight up with many hairpin turns, but it was paved! Then it turned to dirt. Not many bumps, certainly smoother than the road to the Catherdral Lake Trailhead near Aspen! But it was very narrow, with a sheer drop off on one side and it was continuing to climb and twist and turn. I did see a turkey! Came right out about to cross the road! I didn't get a picture.  More troubling was that I didn't remember even one bit of driving this road.  The last time I'd been to Kumbrabow I'd driven and this wasn't matching up at all with my memory of the drive, not was it at all familiar. Since I had no idea where I was or where I was headed and the road didn't look like one I should be continuing down without knowledge of my destination I decided to turn around.  Easier said than done. I did find a wide spot in the road where I could do a 4 point turn without backing over the edge and turn around.  Once I got turned around I picked up my phone and noticed that I had full cell & data signal! No way! So I checked google maps, I was right on the edge of the green area labeled "Kumbrabow State Forest", so I might have been almost there, but I was already turned around so down I went. And, I'd seen a turkey so technically my turkey hunting experience was compete! It was so steep going down that 1st gear wouldn't hold it! I had to keep braking to keep my speed under control! 

Next stop was Elkins, where I went on a mini ice cream bender! When I got into town the first place I saw was Dairy Queen and thought I'd get a treat, since I didn't get DQ yesterday. But before I committed I decided to search and see if there was anything local.  When I searched "ice cream" one of the hits was The Custard Stand. That rang a bell, I think it was featured in a list my mom sent me of 101 places to eat in West Virginia.  When I clicked the link however, I learned that they are famous for their chili. Apparently they make some pretty amazing chili, both hot dog chili and soup chili.  Who knew those were two distinct types of chili? (Hot dog chili is a topping for your hot dog.)  The reviews mentioned 50 some flavors of soft serve though so I decided to give it a try. 

Navigating to the location was more complicated than I expected but I found it, wedged the RV into the tiny parking lot and headed in.  They did offer many flavors of soft serve, but it was with syrup poured over the ice cream so I opted for a basic chocolate.  It was pretty awesome! Thick and chocolatey and just enough in the small cone! While I was eating my ice cream at the counter I was reading the rest of the menu and noticed that one of the sandwich toppings they offered was Miracle Whip! I'd never seen that on a menu before! My mom was and still a Miracle Whip fan. In fact, I don't think we ever had mayonnaise in the house until fairly recently.

After The Custard Stand I went over to Kroger because I suspected I might need cash for the campground so I figured I could buy something and get cash back.  Only I didn't really need anything.  Ice cream still sounded good, so that's how I found myself in the ice cream section of Kroger where I realized that Kroger sells Greater's! I briefly debated black raspberry chocolate chip vs mint chocolate chip and went with the black raspberry.  I even remembered to get cash back.  But, I only got $20 which ended up not being enough for an electric site! Oh well, I did have enough for a dry camping site and I'm very glad I thought ahead to have cash!

By now it was after 3 and I decided it was time to head over to Seneca Shadows! Seneca Shadows is a very nice forest service campground right off 33 in Seneca Rocks. It's about 2 hours from Front Royal where I'm meeting Kathy for lunch tomorrow and about 3 hours from home.  There aren't very many people here tonight. I'm surprised by how deserted all these places are during Spring Break! I spent some time reading and fixed dinner then took an evening walk around the campground.  It's not very walking friendly. The two dry camping loops are separated from the tents and electic sites and you have to road walk. The other section has great views of Seneca Rocks, which are really neat at sunset (when I was out walking!).  Wishing I'd gotten $40 rather than $20 because I could have been over there! Oh well! It's dark now and all the sites have the same view after dark! 

Greenbriar River Trail - Day 2

My plan today was to ride from Seebert to Sharps Tunnel and Bridge - 20 miles there and 20 back for a 40 mile day.  Seemed like a lot but I've done several 40, even 50 mile days so I thought if I took it slow, took breaks and brought enough food it would be great! 

The overnight low was forecast to be 50 and when I got up it didn't feel cold at all! I ate breakfast at the picnic table and even though my hands were cold, it wasn't so bad.  As I worked to finish my chores my hands were getting colder and colder, so I decided I definitely needed to bring the gloves.  

I had decided to drive the mile and a half to the trail rather than ride, 40 miles was going to be enough, I didn't need to add on an extra 3!  So I was surprised when I started the van and saw that it was 43*! A bit chillier than forecast! I headed off down the trail bundled up in 2 layers on the top and gloves and it took me five miles before I was warm enough to take anything off! 

My first clue that my 40 mile plan was a bit ambitious was right when I got on my bike.  My butt hurt immediately. Not a good sign! 

It was an enjoyable ride into Marlinton, the biggest town around and one of the biggest towns the trail passes through. Most of the scenery in this section is farms! It reminded me a lot of the section of the Virginia Creeper between Abingdon and Damascus. The trail is even paved for about five miles around the town! It was about a mile outside of town that I realized that I'd forgotten to pack the food I'd wanted to get out of the fridge! I'd made my sandwich but I'd forgotten the hummus, veggies, apple, cheese, grapes, yogurt, etc that I'd planned to bring! I only had my sandwich and granola bars I'd packed last night! Agh! I'd been planning to stop at the Dairy Queen in Marlinton on the way back anyway - always gotta have ice cream on long bike rides! So now I was hopefully that I'd have enough with just the granola bars!  Then I got into town and looked at a map, the DQ was out of town on 219, a long way from the trail! No way was I riding extra and it was too far to walk! I didn't take the time to explore them, but I was hopeful there was a food option closer!

In Marlinton the trail ran right by the old trail depot which has been turned into a neat craft shop set up by the Pochantas Artist Co-Op! It's a bit like Tamarak on I64 but here the artists themselves take shifts to run the store and all items are made in Pochantas County. Ann, the lady who was working today was very friendly and explained everything to me! I looked around, found a few things I might like to buy and promised her I'd return on my way way back! Didn't want to carry any purchases an extra 20 miles! 

I continued up the trail toward the bridge and tunnel.  The sun was now all the way up and it was getting warm! I applied sunscreen but decided to leave my lightweight long sleeve shirt on, not for warmth but for sun protection! With no leaves on the trees the sun is fierce! The trail continued along the river with rocks and rhodendron beside it! Occasionally the trail went over a feeder creek with cascades and waterfalls! The scenery on the trail reminds me of a mix of The Virginia Creeper Trail and The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP).  It seems more wild and remote than either of those trails, but the scenery is similar. 

Around miles 17 my thighs were really beginning to protest all this biking.  I decided it might help if I walked a bit, I remembered that taking a walking break helped on my GAP trip so decided to walk a mile. Then it started to occur to me than maybe I should reconsider going the whole way, I did have to ride back, and my body was already protesting this.  I stopped at a campsite with a picnic table at about mile 18 and ate my sandwich and decided to turn around.  If I ride in from Cass sometime, maybe tomorrow maybe another day I can pick up that 1.5 mile to bridge - it would still be under 20 miles from Cass.  

Turning around was a good option, it was obvious very quickly that I'd been riding uphill, even though it was gentle, it was still up! One thing about the rail trails is that they are mostly flat, which is good, except that you have to pedal the whole time, no coasting down hills! This is why it makes my thighs hurt! I still had to pedal going down, but it was easier and I was going faster! 

Soon I was back in Marlinton exploring food options.  There weren't many.  There was a Tudor's Biscuit World, which sounded interesting but a quick check of them menu proved otherwise.  All meat filled options that didn't appeal.  There was a gas station with a subway in it so I went there. I didn't want a sandwich, but I got some pretzels and a Klondike Bar!  The Klondike bar made me remember the amazing cookie ice cream sandwiches in Grand Teton and I was wishing they sold those in Marlinton, WV! 

After my snack I headed to a park to use the strong cell signal, then back to the artists co-op where I had another nice chat with Ann, made my purchase and headed out of town.  It was 10 miles back to the van and my thighs weren't happy about that at all. And the sun was doing its job heating things up well!  It did occur to me that I'd ridden about 50 miles in a 24 hour period after having not ridden my bike at all since Nov, and I haven't ridden with any regularity since Aug.  Next time I should probably plan a 20 mile day first then go big with the 40 mile day! 

When I got back to the van I found a shady spot for a snack (my Map My Ride app estimated my calories burned at 2600! Wow! No wonder it's always a challenge to bring enough food!) and the headed back to the campground. The sun was blazing at my site so I put the awning out.  Only it didn't help, it shaded the inside of the van, which was nice, but I wanted to sit outside! I spent the rest of the day reading, walking the campground (not many people here!), and doing some chores. 

I'm headed out from Watoga tomorrow, my original plan was to go to Cass and ride down to where I left off today which would have been a 30 mile RT ride.  Now it's going to be a 33 mile RT.  Not sure what my thighs think of that idea! I may go check out Seneca State Forest and hike a bit, then ride 10 or so miles.  We'll see! 

Greenbriar River Trail - Day 1

I left Kathy and Jeff's a little before 9 heading to Watoga State Park in the heart of West Virginia. It was south on 81 to Staunton then through the mountains to get to the park.  All the roads were good, but it was a remote route with few services, no cell signal and lots of twisty, turns mountain roads!

I came into the park through the north entrance from Huntersville. I had no idea where I was going once I got to the park, just that I needed to find the campground. Usually this is very easy.  Watoga SP is huge! Several entrances, 2 campgrounds, a few picnic areas, a lake, and more! I saw almost all of it! It's a really pretty park with more rhodendron than I think I've ever seen in one place! I'd love to be here in June when it's in bloom! I decided to aim for the Riverside Campground. I knew there was camping close to the bike trail and the bike trail goes along the river, so I figured that would be my best choice! 

I did eventually locate the Riverside Campground, as promised it was right next to the Greenbriar River with the Rail Trail directly across! Despite the nearly perfect camping weather, the campground was mostly empty! I scored a prime site right on the river! And, my site is even in a little sweet spot where there's cell signal! I didn't have cell signal all day until I got to my site! YAY! 

It was 2:00 by the time I got parked and paid so I decided to take a quick exploratory bike ride south on the trail. There is a bridge over the river and trail access a little more than 1.5 miles from the campground so today I decided to ride my bike there and leave the van on the site.  It was a perfect afternoon - temps in the 70s, few high thin clouds! I passed mike marker 45 right after I got on the trail so I decided I'd ride until mile marker 40 and turn around. That would give me almost 15 miles for the day. 

I wasn't far down the trail when I heard a very loud scratching-type sound - almost like fireworks when they rain down mixed with a freight train on steroids coming from behind me. Whatever it was was gaining on me quickly. I was trying to duck and cover and steer the bike thinking whatever this was was going to hit me soon.  And then I realized I knew what the sound was, I'd heard it before, it was a fighter jet! An F-16 something similar! I looked up just in time to see it soar overhead! And just when I'd caught my breath, it's buddy flew over! The 2nd one wasn't as loud though! I did pass two ladies out walking and asked if fighter jets were a normal occurrence and they assured me it happens all the time! 

The rest of the ride went with out any other drama! I saw some red trillium right by mile marker 40 where I turned around. I had a nice snack break at the Mill Creek campsite and then proceeded back to the campground. It was now very hot in my campsite in the sun so I did chores and walked the campground while I waited for the sun to sink down some before I settled in at the picnic table to eat dinner and read! 

Tomorrow I'm planning a 40 mile round trip on the trail! 

Off to West Virginia

Spring Break finally arrived and I was more than ready to get out and go somewhere! I was very happy when both the RV and the generator started! My last camping trip the generator didn't work and the last time I'd planned a trip the RV wouldn't start, but those are stories for another time! This trip looked to be going well so far!

I'd been wanting to explore the Greenbriar River Rail Trail for several years now, however the campground I'd found that is right by the trail didn't open until April 1, so I needed to wait until Spring Break was later and this was my year! I developed a loose plan, starting with dog sitting for my friend Kathy on Sunday night into Monday morning! 

I headed out Sunday morning, stopping at Cava - a Mediterranean "Chipotle" type resteraunt in Gainesville - for lunch and then to my friend Kathy's.  I'd spent a week with Kathy's dog Selena a few years ago so it was a treat to get to spend time with her again! Selena was very surprised by my arrival in the RV and spent several minutes barking at it and me until she was willing to check us out and realized that we were ok!

I'd thought about taking Selena hiking somewhere, but decided that we'd just stay at Kathy & Jeff's - walk the trail they have on their land, walk the mountain road and binge watch Big Little Lies on HBO OnDemand. I don't get HBO and I'd been wanting to watch the mini series based on the book! I got about halfway through and lost interest.  The book is way better! 

This is the first time I've packed the RV to live in it and then attempted to stay at someone's house! Usually when I visit someone I continue to live in the RV and I'm not preparing meals and stuff.  This was kind of a pain! Everything I neeed was in the van and had to be brought in and I hadn't brought a bag or tub so I was carrying things in one at a time.  But it made sense to use Kathy & Jeff's microwave vs running the generator and showing in the house vs the van! 

It was very hard to try and sleep in the house, when I knew that my very own bed was sitting in the driveway. I wasn't sure how Selena would take this, she is used to having free reign to get up and go out whenever she wants and in the van she'd have to be closed up, but my sleep is important to me so I tried it! She was very confused at first but did settle right down and slept curled up next to me! Of course more my bed is full of dog hair, but we did it!