I finally have a BHAG about biking. This post was first penned as “Dream Bike Tour Announcement” but it’s not going to be a dream it’s going to be a GOAL.
This bike route has intrigued me from my first reading of Jill Homer’s book “Be Brave Be Strong” when I didn’t know anything about biking. I thought it was just a good epic read of an adventure.
Accounts of the route would drop into my reading space every now and then, they would always be interesting for the huge suffer fest that the riders experienced. A friend just rode it this summer, and I followed along via FB posts.
The Great Divide Route is the world’s longest off-pavement cycling route. It travels through Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, and the United States of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico (map). By route’s end a thru-rider will climb nearly 200,000 feet of vertical.
It’s Not Happening Anytime Soon
The goal is to do this in my 60th year or sooner. That gives me seven years to get in some sort of buff biking shape. Hey, I dreamed about running the Hardrock 100 for years before I actually got to do it.
It Sets Me up with More Short Term Goals
I have much to do and learn before attempting. Let alone figure out how to get that much vacation time off.
Learn all those parts on the bike and how they work
Yes, I finally am going to get interested in my bike and figure out how the parts work together.
Learn how to fix my bike
The only reason to learn all those bike parts is to be able to FIX my bike when it breaks down. This is a good goal to have regardless of where you are biking.
Become a better Biker
I’m now interested in becoming a better biker. I need to learn how to ride hills, gravel, dirt roads..which is good, because I have all of that available to me! I ventured out of my comfort zone just Thursday. Instead of riding my local seven mile flat asphalt trail out and back, I chose a route which turned that ride into a loop. Unknown to me, that meant taking a road so steep I had to walk the bike in two spots. But I did it, instead of turning around back to flat land!
I am now interested in different types of bike rides instead of looking for easy flat tours. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a focus in training. This is a good goal for me.
Not my elevation profile, from Ride With GPS https://ridewithgps.com/routes/9893679
That evening I do some elevation checking. Wolf Summit 1297 feet. It’s a gradual uphill from Pennsboro, 866 feet. Oh yeah, I’m going to start at Wolf Summit and go west to Pennsboro! The hubs has agreed. It’s not that far driving.
Wolf Summit Harrison County
It’s fairly easy to find the trail. The North Bend Rail Trail is VERY undermarked. I start down the trail and then find the official “mileage” start.
The first miles west are a bit rough, then the surface becomes packed dirt, grass, single track. The first tunnel is very soon.
Brandy Gap Tunnel 1086 Feet Long
The town of Salem is a full service town-IGA grocery right on the trail, followed by a Dairy Queen, a bike repair station.
I stop for water right outside of Salem and talk to the only biker I see on the trail. He advises me a way to avoid the boggy section right outside of town.
I’ve outlined this on the map above. I doubt this wet section ever dries out. Ride the street-Long Run-parallel to the trail. The trail then intersects with the trail and pick up the trail and head west again.
The trail runs a bit parallel to Route 50, then veers off. The next big landmark is the Mark West Energy Sherwood Complex. It has been open since 2012.
The trail is asphalt for about 1/10 of a mile as it passes by the plant.
The signage is the best on the trail! Then it was back to a grassy trail.
I pass by another pipeline being built. As of July 18, 2018, this area of the trail either had the pipeline laid, or was just getting ready. I had no problem biking across the area.
Sherwood Tunnel 846 feet long
I am approaching civilization again. This tiny town is Smithburg. There is a bike repair station here. There is a general store across the road.
The sky is looking a bit omnimous as I bike through Smithburg. I start to turn on my phone to see what the weather will be like, but it won’t change anything. I bike on.
It is not long at all until the next town of West Union. Due to time constraints, I keep on biking.
I know I would be encountering the longest tunnel on the trail next, Central Station Tunnel.
It’s funny how some tunnels look. You can see to the other side-it must be about 350 feet long. Wrong! It’s the longest tunnel.
I get my big light out, turn on the two small bike lights, and ride the tunnel. I again forget to look at my watch to see how long it takes.
Okay, after Central Station I have one more tunnel and I should be very close to Pennsboro and the end of my ride! Which is good, because my rear is getting a bit sore on the bike. I should have changed saddles, but ran out of time pre-ride. Now I’m paying for it.
Ritchie County Again
Contrast the two photos, the one above in Doddridge County, and crossing the line back into Ritchie County-that’s a big change! I heard via the interwebs that Doddridge County had gotten a million dollar grant, hence the nicely new gravel and limestone trail I had been riding on.
Biggest bank heist
The trail through here is impressive. It’s been rebuilt sometime recently, you can tell.
Only loose dogs
In this area, the trail makes an annoying habit of crossing roads in a curve. I had hopped off the bike to walk it across a busy road, when I looked left, and then heard the barking-three small dogs out in the road barking at me! Thankfully a car stopped and didn’t hit the dogs. The dogs were all friendly, in fact one small one followed me down the trail-I had to bike quickly to finally get the little guy to stop!
No more Pics
The rain is coming down heavily. There is thunder, but no lightning. I blow through Toll Gate (I only know it’s Toll Gate due to the wooden sign). Now I’m on an incline up heading toward my last tunnel. The rain is turning the trail treads into little rivers. Where is that last tunnel? I have to rest twice on the way up. Finally! The last tunnel!
Now I’ve maybe a mile to go. I call the hubs to tell him to meet me at the Crossroads Cafe for lunch and order me a BLT and fries. I start biking-and drop the chain. Argh. I wipe the condensation from my glasses and behave nicer to Helga-just less than one mile, girl! I get to the Pennsboro Depot and every vehicle in the area seems to go down the street before I can cross. I snap a pic of the depot and triumphantly end my ride at the Crossroads Cafe.
Day Two Conclusions
The North Bend Rail Trail in 2018, is fine to ride. PROVIDED you ride the correct bike. A road bike won’t work. A loaded tour bike would be miserable. A bike with big tires, a mountain bike can handle this just fine.
Weather conditions will also temper your trip. I planned for mid summer or late summer. I got lucky and West Virignia had little rain before my trip.
This would be good for a two day journey with possible bike camping or treat yourself to the hotel in Elleboro mid way.
Come visit West Virginia and ride the North Bend Trail!
I did it! I biked the North Bend Rail Trail in northern West Virginia over two days. The shape of the trail is NOT as bad as advertised. In fact, this is why this ride report is rather long and full of pictures of empty trail-I wanted to get the word out in 2018, you CAN ride the NBRT!
We missed the trailhead driving down the road on Happy Valley. Heads up, it is next to a big blue farm. Soon as you see “Miller’s Landing” on your left, you will see the trailhead sign. Off I go. It’s a dry day, going to get hot soon. The trail is fine. It’s compacted dirt, sometimes grassed over, often just a single track-similar to the C&O Towpath Trail.
The first six miles the trail runs along the Little Kanawha River. There are houses and summer cabins along the trail. I encounter no loose dogs and only two people walking their dog along the trail this morning. It’s just a nice green tunnel with occasional glimpses of the water.
It gets very quiet once the trail leaves the river. It’s remote and quiet…and remote and quiet. I wonder where my first tunnel is, thinking it’s about mile 11. I keep planning on stopping and taking a break, then decide to do so at the tunnel.
I pass the town of Walker on the backside. I can see there is a post office there. I wonder how far it would be from the highway in case one wanted to drive into Walker and cache water on the trail…and where is this tunnel anyways? I consult my little list I made of major locations. Okay, tunnel isn’t until Mile 15! Time for a break!
Eaton Tunnel 1840 feet long
This tunnel is near a road and hence, graffitied. I was happy to see this was the only tunnel with graffiti. I turned on my two little bike lights. They were sufficient but I should have had them turned more toward the ground.Once through the tunnel, it’s some gradual downhill-whee! Biking is fun again!!
The trail conditions do not change as I enter Ritchie County (there is a small sign announcing the change.) I stop at mile eighteen, which is Petroleum. There is a nice gazebo with seat and a pit toilet.
I have a snack and water and chat with a NBSP worker. He told me he and the other mower (that I had just passed) were responsible for mowing the entire trail. Once they got to one end, it was time to start mowing again.
There are four bike repair stations along the trail!
Silver Run Tunnel 1376 feet long
This is the haunted tunnel!
Silver Run is reported to be haunted. I turn on both lights, and bring out my big headlamp. I see no haunts in the tunnel. It is pleasantly nice and cool in the tunnel.
I come to the town of Cairo, which looks kind of deserted. Shemp’s ice cream store is closed and for sale. (I find them again operating a food truck in Ellenboro-far more profitable.) Ice cream hopes dashed, I decide not to go into the restaurant next door.
I just want some water and Gatorade. I find that at Country Trails Bikes. I rehydrate, call the hubs and tell him where I am, and back into the green tunnel.
About two miles later, I come to Bonds Creek Bridge, which was the sight of a huge derailment and fatalities. The trail to North Bend State Park is at this intersection.
The Bonds Tunnel is the next tunnel to traverse.
On the other side of the Bonds Tunnel is the Matt Turner Gazebo, a large shelter.
Tunnel 12 577 feet
The next tunnel is not too far from the Bonds Creek Tunnel, Tunnel 12
Patterson’s or Dick Bias Tunnel
The next tunnel is not too far down the trail. This tunnel is called Patterson’s but renamed in honor of Dick Bias. The late Dick Bias played a key role in getting a trail established, forming the North Bend Rails to Trails Foundation and leading the negotiations with CSX. He personally directed the initial fundraising to acquire the old rail line for $350,000. Tunnel No. 10 is named after Bias, who died in 1995.
This tunnel is different. It was never lined with wood or bricks, just left as is.
All tunnel-ness aside, I’m getting pretty tired of riding my bike and happy to be getting close to Ellenboro. I know I am getting near when I pedal under Route 50. I know about the little incline up to the bridge-it’s fine. I phone my hubs to bring me water so I don’t have to top at the very busy gas station in Ellenboro. I continue to pedal down on my way to Pennsboro.
Finally! I see the Pennsboro Depot, but more importantly I see the sign for Crossroads Cafe, where I am meeting the hubs and hopefully eating dinner! They have great food-I had a burger and scrumptious fried green tomatoes-I definitely recommend them!
Day One Conclusion
Tunnels-Five tunnels to travel through. Do Bring a light
Bridges-Lots of bridges, I was counting, but then lost count
Water Supply-town of Cairo, Ellenboro, Pennsboro; ride to the Lodge at North Bend State Park
Food-town of Cairo, Ellenboro, Pennsboro, ide to the Lodge at North Bend State Park
Trail Condition-being mid July and a dry month for the state of West Virginia, trails in good condition. Your ride may vary! I would not bring a road bike on this trail, or a loaded down tour bike. I think you would be miserable. There are some gravel, dirt, cinders, grass to ride on. A mountain bike or a bike with nice wide tires would be appropriate for this trail.
Trail markings-the North Bend Rail Trail is pretty much unmarked. BUT it’s kind of hard to miss this big flat surface that resembles a jeep road. You have to use common sense. This is about the only type of marker you will see:
Accommodations-you could camp pretty much anywhere on this trail. I might not camp in the next six miles around Parkersburg, as there are still houses along that section. But other than that, look at my pictures-no houses in sight, you could plop your tent right down on the trail. Other than that, North Bend State Park is on the trail, you could follow the side trail to the campground OR the lodge.
If you would rather stay inside halfway through your trip in either direction, I recommend the Sleep Inn in Ellenboro. It’s on the south side of Route 50, maybe 1/10 mile from the trail. It’s a new hotel, indoor pool, great rooms. The included breakfast starts at 430 am! That turned into a great halfway point for me to rest and fuel up.
Stay Tuned for Day Two of my North Bend Rail Trail Adventure! Thanks for reading, leave me comments or questions, I would be happy to answer!
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!