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!

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.

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”. 
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. 
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.
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.