Thursday, March 18, 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
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.
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
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.
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
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
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
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
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.