Recap: Bikepacking West Virginia 2016
Doug F, Doug M, Bill F, Peter D, Nathan F and I decided to go on an adventure in WV. After months of planning the group expanded and then shrank as reality sunk in and life got in the way. During the trip we would question how many ounces were in a cup, reference Bob's Burger multiple times and thank the fact that cell phone service was non-existent. We also had serendipitous situations and met some of the most friendly and accommodating people along the way. You learn a lot about people when you spend time with them in close quarters and I had a great time with great people I am honored to call my friends. ~ Ray
Day ONE: Elkins, WV to Laurel Fork Campground
It rained off and on during the ride and the uphills and downhills were slippery and rocky. The rough roads tested our packing methods and equipment. My saddle was knocked out of adjustment throughout the ride because the saddle bolt kept backing out. The descent into Bemis was especially rocky and featured a stream in the road bed for several sections.
The Shifflett’s bar/grocery store in Bemis was packed with people celebrating something and we took up their offer of fresh fried trout and sides plus a cold beer to wash it down. The bar was also way warmer than outside and we realized it as soon as we headed out. At the bottom of the next hill we passed through Glady, WV. After a final gravel climb and descent we made it to the Laurel Fork Campground. After dinner and discussion we fell asleep to the rush of Laurel Fork. It rained throughout the evening. Day one ended with 25 miles and 3500+ ft climbing.
Day TWO: Laurel Fork Campground to Gatewood Group Campsite at Spruce Knob
After we left camp we slowly climbed through an amazing valley full of streams and farmland. Over the ridge we encountered a lamb that had escaped from the field and the sheep dog decided we were a threat to the flock. At the next turn we trekked down to see the Sinks of Gandy, where Gandy Creek drops into a cave through the mountain. At the Spruce Knob campground we found our water source to be dry. After investigation by Peter we discovered that work was being performed on the water pump on the ridge. The super nice campground manager brought up water and firewood to our campsite later on in the day. The afternoon brought more rain and we huddled under the tarp with hot coffee in between naps.
The skies cleared up by late afternoon giving us the chance to climb to the top of Spruce Knob for some amazing views. We headed back to camp for dinner and a nice bonfire. Day two ended with 28 miles and 2900 ft climbing.
Day THREE: Gatewood Group Campsite to Seneca Rocks
We left the top of the world (Spruce Knob) and headed down, down, down 31 miles with 4000 ft total drop and only 1400 ft climbing. The route took us along the Gandy Creek where a lot of dispersed campsites are located. From Whitmer we climbed over the ridge and down another wonderful valley with rhododendron’s and waterfalls. At the bottom of 33 we ate lunch at the Front Porch Restaurant in Seneca Rocks. Doug headed over to the campsite early and when we arrived we found out our campsite was too small for the group. The manager at Seneca Shadows Campground allowed us to move closer to the entrance which made it more convenient for our group. After setting up camp we headed back to the rock.
The weather was great so we climbed up to the top of Seneca Rocks which is a 1000 ft climb in 1.5 miles and then kept climbing. I swear the rocks sway up there. Back to the Front Porch to eat. We couldn't finish the three large pizzas and we forced Peter to ferry them back where it became breakfast for some. A nice bonfire and some bourbon ended the day.
Day FOUR: Seneca Rocks to Dolly Sods
From Seneca Rocks we followed the Potomac River valley north to the climb to Dolly Sods. Temps were in the 80's and 90's. We stopped at a local general store for snacks and drinks and rest before the 4 mile 2,000 foot climb to Bear Rocks end of Dolly Sods. I pushed sections of the climb and rode the last 1/3. After setting up camp at Red Creek Campground we checked out the view as the sun set over the mountains. The other campers at Red Creek looked like historical figures. We saw Jane Goodall, Ernest Hemingway and met a woman that looked like the female version of Stephen King.
Yes, we setup photos to look like Doug Fisher fell off the edge and Michelle was not happy. After some hiking around some more we gathered some wood to start a nice fire to end the day. Day four ended with 28 miles and almost 4000 ft climbing.
Day FIVE: Dolly Sods to Blackwater Falls
We woke up early to have breakfast and coffee at sunrise over the ridges. From the Dolly Sods plateau we dropped down into the Red Creek area and headed up over the ridge to Canaan Valley. We had two flats in that area. We fueled up at Big John's with a lot of meat and cheese. Climbed out of the other end of the valley to Canaan Valley Loop Road. Canaan Valley Loop road follows the ridge and drops down through amazing scenery and climbs back up to a high clearance vehicle section with mud holes, rock gardens and stream crossings.
We stopped at Lindy Point Overlook before checking into our cabin. After cleaning ourselves up we headed down to Davis for dinner at Sirianni's Pizza Cafe. During dinner the owner of Blackwater Bikes stopped in to see if we needed anything. We talked with him again after dinner as we walked to the store for supplies. There was a beautiful sunset as we headed back to the cabin, Day ended with 32 miles and 3300 ft climbing plus the trip into Davis which I didn’t record.
Day SIX: Blackwater Falls to Elkins, WV
We left the comfort of the Blackwater Falls State Park cabin and headed into town. Along the way we trekked down to see the falls which were running fast with all the recent rainfall. We fueled up at Bright Morning Inn before hitting the trail in Thomas, WV. The trail is single track with a few tree falls to navigate around.
The trail opens up to double track and is paved near Parsons. Snacks and lunch in Parsons at the Sheets. The trail is paved out of town and then turns to gravel up and over the ridge before leveling out into Elkins. We dropped 2900 feet over 40 miles and had 1600+ ft climbing.