Disclaimer: this is a long post with a lot of pictures. I hope you can hang in there an enjoy it. I know I did.
Another long weekend of traveling, riding, hanging with buds, drinking beer, and burning stuff is in the books. This Fall, six of us returned to where the now nearly infamous bi-annual (and then some) tradition has its roots: Davis, WV. Years ago, three of us – practical newbies to the mountain biking scene – set out on a journey to to get a taste of trail riding in West-By-Gawd-Virginia. We made the 10-hour round trip to spend two nights camping and one day riding trails.
A lot has changed since then. Three of us became four of us, which became 6 or 7 us depending on the trip. A lot of miles have been ridden, a lot of knowledge has been gained, and a lot of money has been spent on new bikes, clothes, & accessories. There’ve been a lot of sweet rides together and solo. Trail systems have been explored locally, across the state, and beyond. There have been crashes. There have been injuries – minor and severe. There has been night riding. There has been trail work and there has been trail poaching (shhh). There have been changes in our lives, changes in perspective, and changes to the slivers of dirt, piles of rock, and stacks of wood that we love to roll over. So much has happened, yet one thing remains the same. We are all still getting pretty high on all of it.
It was time to revisit Davis and take along some folks who had yet to experience it. We decided that this time we needed a better drive-time-to-ride-time ratio, so we settled on a Thursday departure.
MS, JB, and I hit the road early Thursday morning and the rest of the gang (DP, KR, and JR) left later in the day. We arrived in time to set up camp, get a ride in, and grab a bite at Hellbender Burritos before returning to camp, starting a fire, and waiting on the rest of the crew. Lights out was about midnight. The latest night of the weekend for me.
The first ride Thursday afternoon was interesting. We rode the Balsam Fir Trail right out of the campground. It took some trial and error, but we finally found our way to the Dobbin House trail. I think we missed a turn somewhere and continued to follow the canyon/river. It was a tight, rocky trail at times with quite a drop off to one side. It didn’t always feel like a bike trail, and that wasn’t the last time I’d feel that way over the weekend.
One of the highlights was when we were exploring a rock outcropping looking over Blackwater Canyon and two fighter jets flew right over us. One of them dropped down in the canyon Top Gun style and serpentined his way around the distant bend while the other one maintained a higher path. I’m not sure we remembered to tell the other guys about this.
If you look closely, you will see specks just up and to the right of center and another just below the tree line and to the left. Those are the jets. They were moving a little fast to get a better picture, but I hear JB has some amazing video.
Further down the trail, we hiked down to the water to check things out. JB even dropped a line in. Nothing was biting, but at least he tried. Shortly thereafter, the trail seemed to end…at least if on bike. Not wanting to bushwhack, we backtracked and made our way nearly all the way back to where we started and took an offshoot that led to some much more fluid and flowy trails. We wandered along a bit of a ridgeline with barely discernible trails, through pastures, and dense pine forests before popping back out above Pendleton Lake and the ride back up Balsam Fir to the campground.
Saturday morning we rode the CVI loop. This is the trail that we did our last time here. It is a diverse trail to say the least and includes meadows, woods, slop, gravel, good ol’ fashioned singletrack, creek crossings, rocks, moonrocks, hoodoo rocks, and more rocks. It pretty much throws everything at you and its a blast. It turns out we may have missed part of it, so our ride was only about 10 miles, but its a rugged and tiresome 10 miles.
Afterwards, we went back to camp, carbed up (ahem) and most of us hit up Yellow Birch which had its trailhead within the state park. Not far in, JR mangled his derailleur. It really was puzzling how he did what he did, but the consensus was his ride was over and he had a little time to get to Blackwater Bikes to see if things could get repaired for riding the next day. We wished him well and journeyed on.
Turns out we rode the hiking trail for a bit, but it was freakin’ awesome. And based on the tracks, we weren’t the only bikes that found their way onto this trail. Eventually, we got on the Davis Trail and grinded our way up, up, up. To where exactly, we didn’t know. We were outside the boundaries of the state park and off the map we picked up at the campground office. We learned the next day that we were only a few hundred feet from the western terminus of the Plantation Trail. Good to know.
At one point, I had all but given up, texted JB, and was about to head down after refueling with a tasty snack. It was then that I heard the bellowing of MS. Thank goodness for how far his voice projects. I got back on the bike, started climbing, and probably 100 feet up the trail I saw the bikes leaning on trail-side trees. Off the trail was a shelter which had lured the others in. I joined them and we hung out a while, refueled, took some pics, and got ready for the glorious descent. The top was rocky and washed out in places and demanded your attention. Down lower it smoothed out to a welcomed bombfest.
On the way down, KR blew his front tire. While he got things repaired as fast as a NASCAR pit crew, JB was long gone. We texted him to let him know we were delayed and eventually caught up with him toward the end of the trail where we learned he had endo’d and was concerned he might have broken a finger, not to mention the other tasty scrapes and bruises (not to worry; the finger wasn’t broken)
Saturday our plan was a little up in the air. Plantation Trail? Splashdam? We ended up going with Splashdam – a relatively new trail from what I can tell. Before we could get started though, JR was throwing the flag. The bike shop had worked on his bike the night before and in the morning, but something wasn’t right. We rode back into town so the bike shop could take another look. While waiting, lots of bikers came and went and we met a local named Robby. Eventually, they got things working — I think – and we hit the trail. Robby tagged along and was our guide for the day. We rode Splashdam, followed by the Brown Mountain Overlook, and finished up on some of the CVI trails we had ridden the day before. It was a great day of riding under the constant threat of stormy weather, but things held out for us.
We ended the ride with another trip to Hellbender and then back to camp for our last night. The morning after was about bacon, pancakes, breaking down camp, and saying farewell. Til next time. There is always next time, and it will be a sweet ride.
And I hope it’s a sweet ride
Sleep tight for me
Sleep tight for me I’m gone