The North Bend Rail Trail project, begun in 1991, was formally a spur off the CSX system. The trail project began from four “model sections” which were then connected to form the current trail, which accounts for the change of trail conditions from county to county.
Finding current information on the NBT has been limited. Trail reports from 2009 or 2012 does not give you good beta on what you will find in 2018.
My best source was Traillink. I got some better idea of what to find by Googling North Bend railroad tunnels. There are 13 tunnels on the NBT, 10 passable.
My main concern for my two day trip would be for water source. This is a very remote trail-albeit running parallel to Route 50, there are not many towns along the trail. Once I started drilling down, my fears were allied-it looks like 26 miles would be the longest stretch between water stops. Food I wasn’t concerned about, I can carry plenty of food!
West to East
My trip runs west to east for logistical purposes. We have a family reunion in West Virginia a day after my trip. It would be an easy hour drive on the highway from Clarksburg to Sutton. My reward after my bike ride is going to be a world class meal at the Cafe Cimino Inn in Sutton West Virginia.
Since this was a plan for August, it doesn’t concern me that it will be hot and uncomfortable in July. With the hot weather, I am hoping lots of the alleged muddy areas will be dried out.
The official Rails-to-Trails Conversvancy Guidebook comes right out and says the NBT is best enjoyed by hiking it.
I am hoping by riding a fat bike-which can handle lots of conditions-it will be an enjoyable trip.
Today was a training ride on the fat bike. Helga is my Specialized Fat Tire bike. This was an experiement to see how my body could handle riding the fat bike for hours in a day. The North Bend Trail is a more rough rails to trails, so I will ride Helga.
Zoar Valley Trail
The Zoar Valley Trail was a good excursion for the fat bike. This trail follows the Ohio to Erie Canal. It is much rougher condition than the towpath that exists in Stark County and north. A fat bike performs superbly well on it! My NBT trip will be on mainly flat ground, it is another rails to trails conversion.
It’s always fun to go see the Zoarville Bridge, a cool looking Fink Truss Bridge in the middle of no-where! This is just one section of the bridge over Conotton Creek. The bridge originally had three sections which spanned the Tuscarawas River.
Bridge pic from 2013
The Zoarville Station Bridge is a rare survivor of the earliest period of iron bridge construction in the United States. German immigrant Albert Fink first developed this truss design for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in the early 1850s.
The bridge features the highly unusual Fink truss configuration. These endposts are vertical and utilize a modified Phoenix Column. Phoenix columns are also used for the top chord and vertical members. Phoenix columns were a special patented type of built-up member. Very few examples of them remain today.
Carrying on the Ride
I will be riding about 40 miles on Day One and 30 miles on Day Two. My only items to carry will be food, water, and bits of toolkit. My two bags fit comfortablly on the front rack of Helga. I will also wear my backpack with a bit more water.
My bike is not set up well for bottles. I have a holder for a small bottle, but I can’t put a bottle cage on the down tube (yes! I have learned some bike nomenclature!!!!) because that interferes with the Saris bike rack when I have to transport Helga. I did buy a water cage which can go on the front fork (look at me, whee!!) so I will have to try that out.
The North Bend Rail Trail is on my list for Bike 2018. With a family reunion following on a 4 day weekend in July, my little wheels started spinning. This also had to involve a dinner at Cafe Cimino (2nd best meal we ever had) and the reunion.
Where is the North Bend Trail?
The North Bend Trail stretches from Parkersburg to Clarksburg West Virginia, in the northern part of the state. It’s parallel, more or less to Route 50. The North Bend Rail Trail offers a scenic experience with splendid railroad elements and welcoming trail towns to be enjoyed. Stretching nearly 72 miles from Interstate 77 near Parkersburg (Cedar Grove) to Wolf Summit, the trail travels through an impressive 13 tunnels (10 passable), crosses 36 bridges, and passes through or near an assortment of state, county, and local parks.
Not Highly Developed
The trail link entry mentions this should be done on a mountain bike, as many sections are dirt, grass, unmown grass. In otherwords, this is not going to be a beautiful asphalt, coasting along bike route.
From all intel gathered, the NBT needs a bunch of work. There are not many towns along the NBT-and the towns that are nearby, these are tiny towns! Like population under a 1000 people small! Without folks interested in the trail, there are no trail maintainers.
There has been a feasability study released by Rails to Trails Conservancy about the possible Parkersburg to Pittsburgh (the P2P) trail. The 238-mile Parkersburg to Pittsburgh (P2P) rail-trail is already nearly 80 percent complete; just a few short gaps exist in West Virginia to unlock a contiguous 150-miles-plus stretch of the rail-trail from Parkersburg to the state’s border with Pennsylvania. Linking up with the Great Allegheny Passage Trail could also mean you could bike from Washington DC to Parkersburg West Virginia!
What is my Plan?
The trail is 72 miles long. A popular method is to bike 29 miles and then spend the night at Norrth Bend State Park-my orginial plan. The Lodge is booked! Plan Two!
If you ever travelled between Parkersburg and Clarksburg, it’s a great four lane highway. There are just a few tiny towns. There does happen to be a Sleep Inn in Ellenboro, about 40 miles from Parkersburg which happened to have a room available.
I will be dropped off at the Parkersburg end of the trail, bike to Ellenboro, spend the night there, and finish the 30 miles the next day in Clarksburg.
What Will I Ride?
I am taking Helga! My beloved fat bike. She will need a bit of work. I need to get the fenders up on her. I also need to make sure I can carry my front handlebar bag.
I may also swap out my Terry saddle to Helga. I’ve not biked long distances on Helga. I need to get a few long distances up on Helga.
Time sure goes quickly! Here are my conclusions, tips, lessons learned while riding the Ohio to Erie Bike Trail 2018:
1. Just go do it.
I was completely undertrained for this ride-or was I? Maybe I was overtrained for last summer CO/GAP trip? My longest ride was 34 miles this spring, cold weather dimmed my opportunities and desires to make it outside for long rides. I did ride my trainer about every day for one hour. I don’t know what *mileage* that would work out to.
2. Less Would Be More
I pushed myself mileage on this journey. I knew I was going to do more than one seventy mile day. Could I do it? Sure, I knew I could, I just didn’t know how tired I would be. 40 or 50 mile days would have been more pleasant, with more time to kick around, if one could afford that *time away*.
3. More Trails Being Added All The Time
It is impressive how much bike trail there is in Ohio. There are more areas in Ohio developing. I’ve come to realize how versatile and valuable bike/walk/rail trails can be to a community-both for the physical health and the economic (tourism) for Ohio.
The number one resource is the Ohio to Erie Trail Organization maps. The set of 4 is about fifteen dollars. Another resource, printed recently, is a book about the route, “A Path Through Ohio-A Cyclist’s Guide to the Ohio to Erie Trail” 2nd Edition, by Mark Looney. Third resource would be to read bike reports from the Crazy Guy on a BIke Website. Crazy Guy is a web site devoted to bike touring. BIke touring reports are very interesting to read! But a caveat! Only read the most recent, like Looney’s 2nd edition, for good intel. The OTET has changed route parts, so a 2009 route is nothing like the 2018 route. For example, part of the OTET through Columbus used to use the Olentangy BIke Trail, now it uses the Alum Creek Trail.
5. Want to Ride The Ohio to Erie Trail Supported?
OTET has a fully supported ride every September! So if you don’t want to carry all your stuff, want company, and a place to sleep every night, check out the Ohio to Erie Adventure Ride!
I was eating breakfast at 6am at the Hampton Inn and out the door at 630am. There were 70 miles to arrive at Lake Erie.
Most of today’s miles would be on the C&O Towpath. I have previously biked 50 or so miles on the trail, this would be mainly familiar territory to me.
The section from Massillon to Barberton was a portion I had not biked. I got to yell at my first human through here. He was walking, looking at his phone, I was trying to pass on the left, he almost veered right into me.
Next gaggle of humans was a running race in Canal Fulton. Now I’m a previous runner, so I had the moral high ground here. They were not running yet, just walking to the start line. It’s amazing the dirty looks I got as I rang my bell and yelled “passing on your left! passing on your left! Still passing on your left!”
I got away from the humans (my goal for the entire bike ride) and the towpath was almost deserted in the 9am hour. Soon I was at Summit Lake, where the towpath goes across a huge boardwalk.
I’ve biked through Akron before. They have good signage through here. You go right behind the baseball stadium for the Akron Ducks.
I now run into my second running race! This is the “Bold and Bright” Color Run. Luckily, I’ve blundered into the very back of the pack, so it’s just walking. I carefully steer my way through the colorful runners/walkers, and am happy when the race veers off into Lock Three and I exit Akron.
It’s a nice downhill out of Akron, to the planned detour which won’t be complete for another year, and back to familiar towpath for me.
Lots of folks are out around the Beaver Marsh.
I can see the interstate bridge and know I am close to Boston Store. This is the new bridge that was just reopened right before my trip.
The other detour is at Hunt Farm which was advertised on the NPS website. No problem, I pull out onto Riverview Road. I bike up the road, and then re-enter the towpath where construction equipment has put in a temporary driveway. By the amount of bikers in this section, I’m not the only one doing this.
New Territory for Me
This is the farthest north I’ve biked on the towpath, the Route 82 bridge, onto new territory for me!
I’ve been in contact with a friend from the Buckeye Trail Association, Henry. He is a long time biker and offered to meet me around Cleveland and escort me to Lake Erie. I’ve been sending him texts with location updates, and he meets up with me just south of Harvard Blvd.
The Cleveland Metroparks starts about Rockside Road. The trail is all asphalt here. These are the two new bridges that cost slightly over budget, Henry tells me.
Henry is a great tour guide! He keeps telling me history of the area, the trail, local Cleveland news. He points out the former Crawshaw Plant that refined uranium in WWII, and the ground is contaminated and can’t be moved around. (Sounds like the Peter Cartridge Factory in Loveland!)
We come to the end of the bike trail as it is know. Now we will be heading through Tremont and other local landmarks, like the “Cleveland Sign” and West Side Market on our way to Edgewater Park.
The Cleveland Sign
Henry suggests we stop and take pictures at the Cleveland sign!
No Pictures Through West Side Market!
I had printed out maps to maneuver through the streets to the lake. With Henry as my guide, I just had to follow Henry. Henry is a bit more confident and risk taking thru busy Cleveland streets! I just blindly followed him and tried to keep up! My energy was starting to lag a bit-I’d been riding my bike since 630 am, and he told me the final bit to Edgewater was a downhill-and it was!
I did it! I biked from the Ohio River to Lake Erie! I decided to roll my bike up onto the pier for my official picture. As I didn’t do the dip the tire in the south, I wasn’t concerned about doing it in the north!
Boy was I ready to be done riding my bike! I will have some conclusions about my trip. The Ohio to Erie Trail is a good way to see Ohio!
It was hard to leave my buddy Levi in the morning, but it was time to get on the trail as early as possible. I had many miles to bike, and the hilly Amish section of road to get through.
The morning was cool and humid. It was easy to click off the miles on the nicely maintained Koskosing Trail.
Famous little structure in Howard. Headed toward the Bridge of Dreams, the second longest covered bridge in the US.
The Kokosing Trail ends in Danville, which a small road section through town. I pick up the Mohican Valley Trail. I came across the Covered Bridge, the Bridge of Dreams. I paused to let an Amish gentleman get through.
I then begin the Holmes County Trail which will take me to Glenmont.
After a bit of an uphill, it was fun to coast down the trail. I popped off the trail in the small village of Glenmont.
I stopped at the Glenmont Market for a Gatorade and some cold water. I knew I had a few road miles coming up, and I wanted to make sure I was hydrated.
The road section was not too bad. Very little traffic and it wasn’t quite noon yet. I was on Route 520. I overshot the turn and got an extra mile or so. In Killbuck, I decided to stop at Snowside for lunch as it was high noon. I had a nice BLT wrap, homemade coleslaw, iced tea, and a scoop of ice cream-for eight bucks!
Leaving Killbuck, it was back to trail on the Holmes County Trail. Being from the local area, I didn’t spend any time in Millersburg other than a restroom break and water top off at Hipp Station.
I knew this was going to happen. I got shaded trails in the morning, when it wasn’t too hot out. The afternoon was going to be in the open countryside.
I passed under the Rt 83 tunnel. Then it was through Holmesville and Fredericksburg, out into the sunlight. I spotted an Amish grocery store shortly outside of Fredericksburg, and stopped in for a lemonade and another bottle of cold water. You can’t have too much cold water!
Apple Creek to Dalton
I made it to Apple Creek! I didn’t go into town. I stopped at a gas station, and drank a cold Gatorade in their air conditioning. Now all I have to do is get to Dalton. Ten Miles. Then another ten miles on the Sippo Trail, but it’s trail, shaded, and a downhill.
Cooking in Amish Country
I thought it was hot on Thursday. Nope! I was cooking out here on the asphalt. Nice blue skies, not a cloud in sight. Now I’m climbing up a gradual hill. An Amish man on a bike blows by me. When I look up, dripping sweat, he’s almost out of sight up the hill!
The above picture doesn’t look like it, but this is the high point in the area. I have gotten over my fear of fast downhills. There is nothing like being tired and overheated to drop my fear factor. Zoom! Downhill I go! That means I don’t have to pedal! And my sweat dries slightly!
I walk up about three hills. Not that the hills were that big, but it was to manage my body temperature. I’m about red-lining. I stop in every other spot of shade that I find. Am I ever going to get to Dalton?
I finally reach Dalton. I don’t have many pics, because all I wanted to do was cross Route 30, get into town, and find the factory, because I know the Sippo Trail is behind it!
My secret weapon is I’ve biked the Sippo Trail. From the Dalton end to Massillon, it’s a slight downhill. I’m ten miles or so from Buffalo Wild Wings, air conditioning, and my husband.
I book it down the trail. These pics are from my previous bike trip. I wasn’t stopping for anything this day.
What was great, when the Sippo Trail ended, and the Ohio&Erie Towpath begun, I could see the Hampton Inn from the trail. Sweet! I had arrived!
My calculations add up to my penultimate day being 68.74 miles, with 9.28 hours on the road. Last day will be about seventy miles to Lake Erie.
After my late afternoon drama, I was happy to be leaving Columbus for Day Three on the Ohio to Erie Bike Route. I believe I could consider I was halfway there!
I was still concerned on the few miles of road I had to travel through downtown Columbus. But first I follow the lovely Scioto Trail through the downtown.
However, I do overshoot my turn. Consulting the smartphone map, I know I can just cut up High Street and make my way over to Nationwide Blvd. I decide to ride the sidewalks.
So far, so good. I find the little 1-670 Downtown Connector Trail. This takes me from Cleveland Ave to the Alum Creek Trail. I admit it felt pretty good pedaling on my safe trail while the car traffic poured into the downtown area.
Alum Creek Trail is lovely to bike on. It’s nice and cool in the early morning, I bet it gets buggy as it warms up!
I stop for lunch at Panera Bread around Schrock Road. It’s nice to take a half hour downtime to eat, take off my shoes, and recharge a bit-plus my phone!
My only complaint-or second complaint, the first complaint is how MANY people blow red lights-Westerville seemed to use their own signage for the OTET. I prefer to just keep looking for the distinctive OTET signs.
I continue down the OTET/Genoa Trail, bike thru Galena and Sunbury. I’m not finding water too readily available through here.
After Sunbury, there are ten road miles before I reach the Heart of Ohio Trail. It’s hot out. It’s exposed. It’s terribly warm out. I stop in some shade and realized my cleat screw has fallen out, and it’s now impossible to remove my right shoe from the bike. Oh well. This means I have to slide my foot into the shoe, tie it, and keep biking. There is nothing to do about this now.
I hit a section of gravel road. It is horrible. I’m biking on big wide tires and skidding all over. I stop in some shade to consult the map, I sure hope I am still on track. I see that the gravel section is only 1/3 mile long. (Why some weird little gravel section of road, surrounded by asphalt?)
I start down the Heart of Ohio Trail. Not very far into it, I pass a sign that says “free water at shelter”. I pedal a few strokes and turn around. I have nothing to lose but a few minutes.
I am stunned to see cold bottles of water in the frig! I drink some water, then pour water down my back. Yooow! I now know how HOT I have become. I drink down an entire bottle. I pour more water on my back, and into the my bike bottle. This stop probably saved me from some sort of heat stroke/exhaustion. Now I understood how hot I was, and that I needed to control my temperature the best I could. Thank you Centerburg Church of God!
I am pretty glad to get to the outskirts of Mount Vernon. I call my friend Ron to arrange where to meet, I’m spending the night at his house. I’m too tired and hot to visit the Ariel Foundation Park
or climb up the observation tower!
Ron mentions there is a bike shop right in town, and sure enough Y-Not Cycling Shop extracts and fixes my shoe for me-thanks so much!
I get to hang out with my friend Ron and his best buddy Levi for some good food and drinks for the night!