Monday, June 3, 2019

Moon Rocks and Yellow Creek Preserve

My first Moon Rocks experience was during the 24 Hours of Canaan  mountain bike relay race in 1994.  I was on a five person team called Psycho Bike.  I was a new mountain biker still living in Morgantown after graduating West Virginia University with a degree in International Studies.  On a five person team, there needed to be a least one woman team member.  I wasn't a good mountain biker yet at that point and the team wouldn't let me do a night lap because they thought it would jeopardize the good team standing.  I was actually happy about that because I had never ridden anything as gnarly as that.  The whole course was hard, but the Moon Rocks was so next level difficult.

I survived and shortly after that moved to Davis for good and have been riding Moon Rocks ever since.  When folks come to town to ride bikes with me, we ride Moon Rocks.  It's still difficult, but oh so fun and unique.  I'm not going to lie, the trails need tons of work right now.  The legacy of the Blackwater 100 combined with laisse faire landowners and a tiny trail club has left some mud puddles that would swallow a Ford Fiesta and some major ruts.  The Moon Rocks are the big special feature for bikers to play on, but Yellow Creek and it's headwaters is the special thing for nature lovers.

The great news is that the WV Land Trust is in final phases of fundraising to purchase the 900 acres that contain Moon Rocks and Yellow Creek.   They would be buying it from the Vandalia Heritage Foundation to preserve it for both recreation and conservation  You can still donate! https://www.wvlandtrust.org/rec-access/moon-rocks-at-the-yellow-creek-preserve/

Read more in this article by Brian Sarfino of the Canaan Valley CVB

An auspicious “natural” feature came to be over 40 years ago just a few miles north-east of Davis, West Virginia. Massive sandstone bedrock, 480 million years old, rise up from wetland bogs forming what is known to mountain bikers and off-road enthusiasts as the Moon Rocks. To be clear, this is a natural feature that famously came about unnaturally. I went out to the Moon Rocks with Davis resident, former Trek World Team athlete, and current Enduro National Champion, Sue Haywood for this documentary. Or shall I say, rock-umentary.
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n 1975 a preacher in Davis, West Virginia was looking for a way to boost the local economy. He contacted Dave Coombs and his grand prix off road motorcycle racing series. This 100 mile race would be named the Blackwater 100. Circumnavigating around Canaan Valley and eventually making its way across the daunting sandstone, exposing rock and forming a clear path for nearly a half mile. Moon Rocks and the Blackwater 100 would quickly become nationally known and respected as the “toughest race in America”. 
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Laird Knight followed up the Blackwater 100 with the Canaan Mountain Series mountain bike races in 1983. This race continues to this day and is known as the Blackwater Classic. In 1993 the last Blackwater 100 would be raced and eventually those lands would become part of the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Mountain biking continues to this day thanks to a separate land purchase decades ago of over 1,000 acres. This Purchase included Moon Rocks, as well as Hoodoo Rocks and Yellow Creek trail. 
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The West Virginia Land Trust is currently stepping in to protect 900 acres of the original purchase, including Moon Rocks. The WV Land Trust goal is to secure permanent land use access for bikers, hikers, and hunters, as well as conservation of fragile ecosystems. Only $100,000 is left to be raised. By all means please check out their website and efforts.
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Ready to get down and dirty, tackle the nitty gritty? 43 years later and Moon Rocks trail still attracts skilled mountain bikers from Ontario, Canada to Georgia. The challenge is real and there is a route up. But by no means is it obvious and attempts are made numerous times before success is had. This is the epitome for many when journeying to Canaan Valley and Davis, West Virginia for good old fashioned mountain biking or hiking excursions.
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Cheers!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Dream Team of Mountain Bike Instructors

I'm pinching myself at this dream team of instructors coming to teach on Friday June 14 for the Skills Lunch!  This is a collection of experienced, friendly and authentic teachers.  They are also my friends!  And another year of homemade goodness from White Grass Cafe for our casual, catered lunch.







This year we will offer 5 different groups for the session.  Last year, we added a men's only group and this year we are adding a coed group for all levels.

The beginner group will be taught by   Meredith Erlewine. Meredith has nearly 30 years of experience mountain biking and racing. Technical trails with gnarly roots and rocks are her favorite, and she loves to help people discover what they are capable of doing with their minds, bodies and bicycles. She has been guiding mountain bike tours since 2002 and is an IMBA-Certified Level 2 Skills Instructor. She loves riding her bike to remote mountain vistas and taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the forest. She also loves the camaraderie that happens on a group bike ride and the feelings of euphoria that naturally follow a fun, challenging ride. In addition to being a mom, Meredith and her husband own and operate Athens Bicycle, a bicycle shop in Athens, Ohio.



Hillary Marques is teaching an intermediate group.  She has been riding bikes since 1997 and has tackled just about every type of riding out there.  Starting off as a bike messenger and continuing on to ride Cross Country, Road, Dirt Jumps, Downhill, Dual Slalom, Street Motorcycles and Dirt Bikes. Hillary snagged a national DH and DS championship while racing pro before shifting her focus over to instruction.  Hillary has been coaching since 2009 and has both her IMBA and PMBIA instructor certifications.



Sue Haywood is teaching an intermediate/advanced group. Sue  is an east coast mountain bike icon. Her mountain bike career was baptized in the mud bogs and slippery rocks of Canaan Valley, West Virginia. She raced professionally for  many years at both the national and international level. She is a multiple-time national champion and Pan American champ and excelled at both long endurance and short sprints. She still races on occasion, loving the exciting Enduro events. She is the 2019 Masters Enduro National Champion.  She loves teaching mountain bike skills, especially to women and kids through day and weekend camps and private lessons. She is the creator of the Canaan MTB Festival, president of Blackwater Bicycle Association and the maker of HaySue's Spicy Salsa. She is a combination of laid-back and tough. She believes the essence of mountain biking is being outside, moving our bodies, loving nature and riding with friends.


Harry Geyer  will teach the men's only group. Harry hails from Pittsburgh, PA.  He is the creator and owner of The Wheel Mill, an indoor bike park in Homewood.  He is a former professional motorcycle racer and loves all two wheel activities.  He's a husband, science nerd and a virtual father to 5,000 kids that ride at the Wheel Mill. Harry taught at the Festival last year and also did the Run What Ya Brung Trials.


Kelly Hazlegrove, from Lyncburg, Virginia, will be teaching the Coed class. Kelly  fell in love with mountain biking in her late 20’s and was immediately drawn to developing her bike handling skills and tackling technical terrain. In 2014, after earning her Level 1 certification, she offered skills clinics and group rides. In 2015, and after only a few months of becoming a mother she completed her Level 2 instructor certification and began coaching women’s clinics throughout the region. Now, Kelly is BICP Level 3 Certified and has her sights set on developing the next generation of mountain bikers by founding and coaching her local middle and high school NICA team!


When she isn’t going for a rip with friends or witnessing the excitement of a student conquering a new skill or tackling a new trail feature, she’s a freshwater biologist for a state regulatory agency, participates in and supports local mountain bike races for fun, AND helps her husband’s bike shop.



Wednesday, March 20, 2019

2019 Poster Design by Vicky


It is always a great honor to have an artist design the poster for the Canaan MTB Festival.  I'm always in such awe of each artist's interpretation of the what the Festival represents and the actual skill it takes to design something beautiful and cool.  It's  really fun when the poster gets unveiled and we read the artist statement.  Over the past 11 years, we have had so many sweet designs and the 2019 edition is very special.

Victoria Weeks of Verglas Media is our artist.  Vicky is my neighbor, my friend, a fellow rider and a West Virginia Wonder Woman and a Tucker County Business Person of the Year.   She  spent over a decade as a science media producer at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. She moved to Canaan Heights full time in 2012 and started Verglas Media the next year. 

Artistic sensibilities combined with technical expertise and the endless pursuit of perfection define all of Vicky’s creative endeavors. We are very lucky to have Vicky's talent in Tucker County. And Vicky has a big heart with lots of love that she shares with her husband, Eric, her family and friends. Vicky and Eric have hosted the Run What Ya Brung Trials on their property since 2014.





Vicky's Statement:

"For me the Canaan MTB Festival has always been about connections—with friends old and new; with the natural beauty of the blooming forest; with the earth via complex routes of rocks and dirt. I’ve always been fascinated with mandalas as abstract representations of our connection to nature and to each other. Creating a traditional mandala is a healing experience, and riding   through the forest with your friends is one of the most healing experiences I can think of. My hope is this wheel of colorful images and symbols evokes the unforgettable experience that is the Canaan MTB Festival." 














Run what ya' brung Bike Trials








Trials was super popular and cool back in the eighties and nineties.  The Canaan races  would have observed and stock trials.  It became pretty specialized after a while taking cues from the Europeans, especially the Spaniards. Trials bikes were the most capable, but not that practical for riding trail.  Canaan Trials leaned towards the Scott trials format.  It proved who was the best and most balanced rider and maybe gutsiest!  It wasn't about the big showy party moves of Danny Macaskill.  It proved who was the best and most balanced rider on technical terrain.  Then the next's day xc race proved who had the lungs to back up the skill on the same bike.  Nowadays in Canaan, we play Run what ya brung Trials.  It was revitalized in Canaan in 2014 due to the efforts of Zach Adams,  Jason Cyr and the dynamic duo and our trials hosts Vicky and Eric.

As Vicky says , it's a spectator event! It's fun to watch, cheer and wince as the riders tackle the course.  I love seeing the kids line up to throw down.  We've seen some kids grow up around the trials and other old riders become young.  We've seen plenty of endos and some amazing feats of talent.

It's another example of West Virginia doing  the organic, free, wild and wonderful version of something that makes it almost  bike heaven here.

Our trials has a limited number of participants, it's not for everybody.  We usually have about 18 riders who are skilled and prepared for this hardy endeavor.  And then we throw in a few wildcards for their particularly entertaining characteristics.



2017 event










Friday, June 8, 2018

Thomas Trails





There are dozens of  trails  and miles of single track in Tucker County.  That is one big reason why a mountain bike festival can happen, a bike shop can exist and thousands of tourists come to ride bikes here even though there's only a population of 650.   It's also a big reason why many of us live here.  Trails are currency and quality of life indicators.  Unfortunately, many of those trails were built in the 1930s by the  Civilian Conservation Corps.  Our beloved Canaan Mountain Backcountry area and the famous Plantation trail is a result of a complete and devastating clearing of the entire forest and the subsequent efforts to restore. 

More than 1500 acres were planted with nearly a half million red pine seedlings. A system of trails called The Plantation Trail was carved out of the mountain by the CCC. Before the CCC arrived the land was completely barren, covered only by roots and stumps. Read about it in an article by the Friends of the Blackwater. History

Those trails on Canaan Mountain and many of the trails that were used by the motorcycle race, The Blackwater 100, are very difficult and gnarly. Also, those trails were not built with the knowledge that we have now about sustainable design and in particular  proper water drainage.


 The need for both modern and easier trails  is being addressed by  New Historic Thomas.  NHT is 
a non-profit community group dedicated to revitalizing the city by preserving history, cultural heritage and resources.  They aim to preserve and energize so residents and visitors alike can thrive.


NHT along with Zach Adams of Appalachian Dirt have worked together for a total redesign of the Thomas City Park trails. The park was originally built by locals Jr. Davis and Dale Pase.  The outer loop, "Junior Davis Trail"  is now one continuous trail. "Dale's Trail' the inner loop is now the beginner trail.  Dottie's trail was named after the former mayor of Thomas.   While the groundwork was laid years ago, NHT and Appalachian Dirt are executing new modern, sustainable trails that will seamlessly flow into already existing trails.  It's really amazing this town of 562 people is making this happen.


 To fund the trails, NHT has applied for a variety of grants and have received funding through the Oakland Foundation, People for Bikes and the Tucker County Parks and Recreation.  They have also been able to almost complete the funding through private donations and fundraisers such as the Mountain State Fat Bike Championships.


If you can make it out to the trail work at the festival, you'll meet some of the folks that have made this happen including Zach and trusty sidekick, Lona ,and energetic AmericaCorps worker Natalia Dutt.  The trail work will be on Dale's Trail.  We are all looking forward to having a beginner trail and some flow trail in Tucker!






Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Laird Knight, our mtb pioneer

The history of mountain biking in Tucker Country runs deep and  muddy.  The very first bike mountain bike races here were in the 1980's started by Laird Knight. He also started Blackwater Bikes and the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association(WVMBA) He put on the first NORBA race east of the Mississippi.  Laird invented the 24 Hour racing format that was hugely popular in the 90's and really put Canaan on the map for mountain biking.


Check out Laird's story here   If you have ever met Laird, you know he has a huge smile, a vivid imagination and works hard to make his visions come true.

I did my first 24 hour in 1994 and it went across the Moon Rocks.  I was a newbie mountain biker and it was pretty intense.  The next year the race got moved out to Timberline and it was the infamous mud year.  Read about that race in the New York Times.

photos by iplayoutside


While we no longer have 24 hour racing here, Blackwater Bicycle Association continues the long standing tradition of racing by putting on the Blackwater Classic and the Revenge of the Rattlesnake. And we hope that the Canaan MTB Festival upholds the spirit of bikes, friends and trails.


Festival T-shirt


First year, we are doing a T-shirt!  Art work and printing done locally by our long-time friends and supporters at East-West Printing.

Located in the remote mountain paradise of Davis, West Virginia since the early ’80s, East West Printing is a family-run business that started as a basement operation serving regional adventure outfitters. These days EWP prints t-shirts for events, businesses and organizations nationwide out of a 10,000-square foot facility, while still remaining true to their small town roots. Known as pillars within their community, EWP is a coveted workplace, generating multiple 20-year veteran employees. What's their secret? For one, they're a meticulous and passionate crew with an appetite for the creativity and puzzle-solving that comes with the print industry. With a communal lunch room, flexible work schedules, freshly harvested food in the fridge, and best of all, laughter ringing throughout the building, EWP has been a model for ‘Working to Live’ long before the phrase was ever coined.

East-West has been making T-shirts since the beginning of bike racing in Davis.  They made T-shirts for the original 40k and the legendary Blackwater 100 off road races as well.  They did all the T-shirts Laird Knight's famous 24 Hours of Canaan relay races.  

Often times, these t-shirts were badges of honor for some of the toughest races at the time.  People collected them and wore them proudly.  I recently saw a couple of these on Ebay even.


Alice and Bill are the owners and pillars of our little mountain community.  Alice's brother Luke made the sacred vessel for the Hashes.  Nick, their son, started biking as soon as he could walk and went on to become a National Champion in mountain biking and a professional road racer.  Ruth did the artwork for this year's shirt.  

We love having good humans like these in Tucker County and a part of our festival.