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!