Thursday, March 18, 2021

Save the Date June 18-20 2021


 There are lots of details to be worked out, but Blackwater Bicycle Association will have a scaled down mountain bike festival this year.  Missing will be the group rides, trials and party.  We think it will still be lots and lots of fun!

Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Puzzler: Skiing all(most)of the White Grass Trails in a day




 I consider skiing all the trails at White Grass in a day a backyard challenge, a choose your own adventure type of activity.  It's advertised that there are 50k of skiing trails at White Grass.  But, if you add up the legend on the map it is over 60k.  Then if you ski every trail known to Chip in the adjacent area ,  it is well over 100k.   If we've learned anything from this last  year, the truth shouldn't be open for interpretation, so let's just say, we spent an incredible  day skiing at WG trying to make a pretty picture with our gps track.



This is the second time, I've done this.  The first time was March of 2018 with my mountain biker friend, Paul Broughton.  We did a different route then and took several hours longer and temps were colder.  Paul isn't a super experienced skier, but he's great company and he's a mountain biker.  Which in my book means you are tough and are used to some slogging.  According to the New York Times writer, Sam Anderson, "Cross country skiing expresses something deep about the human condition: the absolute, non-negotiable necessity of the grind. The purity and sanctity of the goddamn slog."

This time,  me and mountain biker friend and owner of Blackwater Bikes, Rob Stull gave it a go.  On February 24th with 24 inches of snow on the ground, we started at 9 with the temperature 36 degrees.  The high would go on to be 48 that day.  Of course  when we turned our skis downhill for the first time of the day, was on Fern Gully and it was icy and spicy!  Later in the day, the snow was pretty slow!

Our equipment was typical White Grass gear...Heavy and light at the same time!  I choose 170cm Alpina 68T with NNNBC Alaska and Leki poles.  Rob had Rossignol Evos 190cm with 75mm Alaska boots and adjustable poles that he never adjusted probably.  First low point for me was getting a hot spot.  Now, I ski a lot and have worn those boots for longer days many times this year.  But I hadn't done so much flat tracking at that high of temperature, so I was getting a rub.  Later I changed my socks and put a little tape of it.  It never got worse, so I always had a little hot heel.  Next time, if conditions are similar, I'll use my lightweight Alpina Snowfields.  Rob's borrowed skis from Chaga were sticking even with loads of F4.  So he switched back to his own skis...Fischer 88s, a heavier, metal edge ski.





If you look at the WG map, one thing that stands out is there are a lot of options.  I don't know the history of how or when each trail came to be, but I can assume many of old logging roads/skids and many are old farm roads.  I don't think any were "purpose built" in a modern fashion for xc skiing. That makes many of them hard blues on the difficulty scale like Upper Falls, Weiss Ascent, and Sawmill and then legit black diamonds like Cathedral, Plum Orchard and Double Trouble.  And surprisingly the easy trails are scattered all over the mountains, down low like Harr Farm and up high like Shenandoah.


I haven't been to many Nordic Centers, but I believe that there is no place like White Grass.  The trail system is interesting, gorgeous, harsh, difficult and rewarding. The trails are fun, and skiing them with friends is especially fun.  I might consider doing this challenge again, but more of a race pace with a few more mtb buddies.  Another next challenge for me is to ski all the glades that are marked with blue ribbons and try to get over 20k in vertical feet.  Because White Grass is almost more of a backcountry park than a normal trail system.  It's way too fun to only ski on skiiny skis and stick to the groomers, but without that great grooming, it would be more of a slog.

We didn't need to carry much water because there are many springs on the mountain that sustained us.  My favorite snacks were pringles and beef jerky.  Rob's were shepherds pie and snickers.  Once in a while we would kick up the speed, but mostly we just skied at a mellow pace.  Very little telemark turns were made as the snow was a bit slow and grabby in spots.  Of course the Horn and pipeline and Spring Orchard are always great for getting a few in.


A real highlight was making it to the high point via Powderline, Stonecoal Ridge to Sheanandoah, Coal Robbie and the real Bald Knob.  When we got to Shenandoah the trees were snowing sunshine!  That is how magical White Grass skiing can be!  The sun was melting the snow off the trees and creating this kaleidoscope color amongst the Spruce trees.  We were getting snow down our backs and getting soaked but loved the exhilaration of being high on our skis on a gorgeous February day.  Right before all this magic, I totally spaced on going out to Stonecoal Flats and doing the circle.  I realized that after I looked at the gps picture and didn't see that circle.



While that was a mistake, I purposely left out Cabin Mountain and National Nordic.  For sure, they are on the map and might be skied by me on these future epics, but I was sticking to the front country stuff and Cabin Mountain trail definitely isn't a favorite of mine, but Natty Nord is!  We did add the Escalator and Doc's Drift though.  One part of the "slog" was going out and back on trails to complete them.  We did our due diligence that way and made it fun by ringing the bell of hitting our poles on the sign posts.







It was fitting hitting the snow farm to complete the day.  It was a nice way to finish seeing the fruits of  Chips labor and ingenuity skiing on 4 feet of snow out in the middle of a wetlands.  What a winter it has been.  One for the books for sure!



We decided not to share our route because it's not a FKT type of thing. Honestly, the athletics of the day  isn't that hard.  Rob has completed the Great Allegheny Passage in 32 hours and I've done The Ring and several 24 hour solo races.  But the fun and mind twisting part is configuring the route so it's enjoyable and has some flow and mostly is efficient. And then there's always the spontaneity of choosing the day and dealing with conditions.  Carpe Skiem and thanks for reading. Cheers!




Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Festival postponed to October 16-18

We have to roll with the changes that our current reality deals us.  We love the idea of seeing you walk in the shop with great stories about your rides.  We love raising our beers with you in honor of techy West Virginia trails. We love the energy of the trials and the quirkiness of the Hash.  The festival is the biggest fundraiser for our trail club, Blackwater Bicycle Association, and we really count on that money to do our business. The monies donated and great attendence of the festival sustain the club, but it also stokes our local riding community to keep riding and do the good work of  advocating for mountain bike trails. We also hope our Tucker County community benefits positively from our event and we would never want to threaten that relationship. So, we have decided to postpone the festival to OCTOBER 16-18 2020.  We don't know if it will be the exact same format as in years past, but we will adapt and flow with what needs to be done for the health, safetly and quality of life of our residents, guests and mountain bikers.  October weather is highly unpredictable, but after all this lockdown, won't that fresh air and mud with your friends feel awesome?

We still plan on selling our awesome t-shirt designed this year by local artist, Jen Iskow, and might also add other things to our store.  We still plan on doing fundraising for our club, especially, the Thumb project on Camp 70. 
 Keep tuned for updates and keep getting outside and following the guidelines for safety.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

2020 Festival Poster by Jen Iskow

Jen Iskow has designed our  Canaan MTB Festival poster for 2020!  This is the 12th edition of the Festival and her design this year is so cool.  She captures the epic spots for mountain bikers that spark joy...the Moon Rocks with the American flag, a sunset at Lindy Point and the idea that mountain biking can lift you up from your earthly ties.



Sometimes, it is unbelievable to realize how many creative and talented people live in our tiny mountain hamlet of Tucker County. Jen Iskow is one of those people.  Jen lives in Thomas  with her dog, Marcel, where she is an artist and works offering design services to other artists, musicians, farms, small businesses, non-profits and beyond.  She is a musician as well, and plays in local gloom rock band, Corpse Factory.  In 2017 Jen, did a yearlong fiddle apprentice with master fiddler John Morris.  She said, "It was the hardest yet most rewarding things that I have ever set out to do. This music, these stories, this feeling can't be bought or sold, imitated or extracted. If you are trying something new, and very challenging don't get discouraged...even if you are not very good at all...it is still very much worth it.  Those moments of discomfort teach us so much...stretch yourself beyond your limits and watch the universe unfold."


Check out Jen's website https://jeniskow.com/



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."