Bicycling is gaining popularity around the nation in 2020 due to restricted public transportation and social distancing. Mountain biking is also growing in participation for those seeking a rural adventure. Active Southern West Virginia encourages the residents of Nicholas, Fayette, Raleigh, and Summers counties to include biking in communities as a way of staying active.
A West Virginia University researcher says exercising on local trails has doubled during the pandemic and is safe as long as people use best practices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Abildso says he hopes that trail use, and outdoor activity, in general, continues to climb, given its effect on one’s well-being. “Physical activity is critical to our mental and physical health, and that benefit is amplified by being outside while active. Access to safe places for physical activity is critical now more than ever,” says Christiaan Abildso, associate professor at the university’s School of Public Health. Read more here.
Richwood Trail Progress
We caught up with Steve Jones who has been working with the Monongahela Outdoor Volunteers groups to improve a trail system just outside of Richwood, WV. What started as a passion his wife, Brenda Korte, had to clean up the trails in the national forest, has grown into clearing and maintaining 60 miles of hiking and biking trails as short as 2 miles and one as long as 30 miles. This system connects to 60 miles of grated gravel roads maintained by the Monongahela National Forest and other trail systems for a total of 200 combined miles.
“Back in the day the Monongahela National Forest would have 80 staff and volunteers coming out for trail work, but in recent decades there are less resources to put towards trail work projects,” Steve shares. He goes on to describe the first time he and his wife attempted the Fork Mountain Trail as a planned two hour ride that took 10 hours with downed trees and hard to follow routes. This inspired Brenda to do something about it and as Steve describes, “put her powerful work ethic into gear.”
Slowly, and together, they would work a section at a time on the Fork Mountain Trail discovering beautiful aspects of the land along the way. “One section has a 15 foot stone tile surface through a drainage area. The tiles are hand cut massive pieces of stone laid by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) back in the 1930s. With some gaps between the stones now, it is amazing the integrity of this work almost a 100 years later. Trails are easily sustainable assets worth investing in.”
MTB Project – website with mountain bike trails and resources.
Lay of the Land
Just as you leave the main street of Richwood and begin north-east into the Monongahela National Forest, there is a ranger station on the right providing access to the Gateway Trail. This is a flat, almost rail trail intersecting with the Fork Mountain Trail. The terrain is varying with some uphill and marsh areas.
Continue on Marlinton Road to the North Bend Trailhead to find facilities, a beautiful bridge across the north fork of the Cherry River, and a gentle incline to the Fork Mountain Trail. The top of this trail dries out nicely and provides interesting overlooks.
The Monongahela National Forest Nature Center is another convenient place to start with access to 30 miles of trails. One being the Poke-a-Fork trail which was recently improved.
Trailforks – website with trail maps and conditions
How to Prepare for a ‘Mon’ Adventure
*Follow local and state guidelines for traveling during the Covid-19 pandemic. Avoid risky behavior that may impact the health care system and result in more exposure for you. If now is not a time to travel, use this time to thoroughly plan and prepare for your next adventure.
Steve and Brenda have some good advice for those ready to explore the trails.
- Take some time to study the roads and trail maps. If you use an app, such as MTBProject you don’t need cell phone coverage (after you have downloaded the WV map), it runs via satellite signal. Much more accurate than a paper map and the app shows you where you are.
- Pack for a full day; water, snacks, extra layers, extra bike parts, and first aid supplies.
- Don’t bike alone if you are unfamiliar with the area. Even in a group, let someone back home know your agenda and contact them when you are finished with the ride.
- Be on the lookout for wildlife. This is a true wilderness experience.
- As you prepare for your trip, muster up your resiliency mentality. Think of the Appalachian pioneers canvasing these mountains hundreds of years ago with grit and determination. These trails are a journey back in time and you should be prepared with supplies and a can-do attitude.
The Monongahela Outdoor Volunteers, in partnership with the Monongahela National Forest, seek to provide a beginner to intermediate mountain bike trail system for the residents and tourists of the Richwood area. Recreation user surveys have been distributed and funding plans are progressing. This vision is to see the trail system sustained by its own non-profit and fundraising.
Bikers are invited to come to the trails to explore and join in following the progress of the Monongahela Outdoor Volunteers group.
And, if you see Steve and Brenda out on the trails, stop and ask them to tell you the resilience story of Richwood’s Peg-leg Pete.