We are so proud of our athlete, Tim Snyder on his recent 386 mile bike packing adventure through the Allegheny Mountains. Although he does a lot of endurance events, this was his first bike packing trip! Here is his account of his journey:
Allegheny Mountain Ride 2015, by Tim Snyder
My trip to ride the Allegheny Mountain Loop started in Blacksburg VA on August 6, 2015. The route begins in front of the War Memorial Chapel at Virginia Tech.
I arrived in Blacksburg after a 7 hour drive from Virginia Beach, and decided to start right in. There was a lot of construction going on at Virginia Tech, so figuring out the starting route was a little difficult due to all the closed roads. Soon I was out of Blacksburg, heading towards the New River, tackling the rollers as I dropped down towards the river.
The paved road wandered back and forth across the train tracks, and then would jump up over quick steep hills before descending back down to the river. Sixteen miles in, I hit the first stretch of gravel road. The packed gravel was not bad to ride on, and since I was mostly in the woods, the sun was not beating down on me.
The humidity was really high, and I could see rain clouds starting to form. Soon I was leaving the New River Valley and began heading to West Virginia. While staying mostly on paved roads, there was one stretch were the road was “closed”, really meaning they had just built a new road and this section was abandoned.
I pressed on towards West Virginia, riding through the Jefferson National Forest. Heading in the clockwise direction on the loop, I was able to get over the Allegheny Mountains without having to conquer a huge climb.
As I entered West Virginia, a drizzly began to fall. As it was still fairly warm out, and I was already completely soaked from sweat, I did not bother to put on rain gear. The rain was refreshing as it washed the dried salt off of me and cleaned my biking kit off. My goal for the first day was to make it to the Greenbrier Valley and hopefully get some miles down the Greenbrier Trail. But the rain picked up, and with nowhere to stop and get out of the rain, when I arrived at Greenbrier State Park campground, I decided the best thing to do was pull off and get some sleep. It was 11:00pm, and I quickly cooked up a meal, and set my bivy tent up, without tent stakes, which I could not seem to find. I tied one end off to the picnic table and one end to my bike. I was under the trees, but it pretty much rained all night. About 5:30 am, I decided that I was going to be wet all day, and decided to get up and forge on. As I went up to the restrooms to fill up my water bottle, I noticed that the campground had showers! By then I was kitted up and ready to go, so I passed, but wish I had noticed them the night before. A moral building shower was missed.
The day was grey and dreary as I pressed towards the Greenbrier Trail. The Trail is a Rail to Trail route that runs 78 miles north to Cass WV.
The trail is nicely laid out with camp sites with lean to’s about every 20 miles, and water pumps about every 5 miles. The grade was very nice, only about 1% at the max. I saw tons of deer, and a black bear crossed my trail at one point.
As it is an old railroad bed, there were a couple of really neat tunnels that were part of the trail.
There were also other railroad items still along the trail.
What was really cool is how rugged some of the tunnels were.
I finally arrived in the railroad town of Cass, WV, and quickly decided a sit down meal and the dinner was needed!
After a nice hot meal, I began the climb out of the valley over to the North Fork Trail. Some steep punchy climbs got me over the ridge and I dropped back down to the North Fork Trail. This is another old railroad track, but is in the Jefferson National Forest, so there is no upkeep on the trail. It is pretty much just an open grass trail.
There were no services along the way, and this stretch was about 25 miles long. Here I had to break out my Katydyn Water Purifier to refill my bottles from the streams. Again, being an old railbed, the grade was nice, but I could see the ridge I was going to have to ride back south the whole time I was heading north. The best part was the sun finally came out! I made it to Gladys, VW just as the sun was setting, and turned back east and then south. I had covered 200 miles in 30 hours and wanted to at least get headed south and off the first ridge before I called it a day. I turned onto the fire roads, and began heading south. I slogged up and down the fire roads, with a goal of RT 250 before I called it a night. About 2 am, I finally made it to RT 250 and found a picnic shelter to sleep in for a couple of hours. I just threw my thermarest on the picnic table and wrapped up in my poncho liner. About 3 hours later, the mosquitos woke me up. (I would later regret not getting inside a tent, as I got eaten alive). With no chance of getting back to sleep, I packed up and pressed on.
I knew that the climb back over the Alleghenies over RT 250 was going to be tough, but after slugging it out in the gravel, the paved roads seemed easy. I climbed into Highland County VA and began the fun decent into Virginia.
Highland County is known as little Switzerland and it is always beautiful to ride through.
I pulled into Covington thinking I was going to stop for a hot meal, but the route did not take me near any services, so I settled for a quick bite from my food stores at the Humpback Covered Bridge.
Knowing the remainder of the day was going to be gravel, I pressed on. The climb up Peter’s Mountain started out nice with fresh black top. When this ended, the road got really tough. From there, most of the climbing was at 12-18% grade with a couple of hills at over 25% grade. No riding up those! They became hike a bike. As I rode on into the dusk, every hunter that was getting ready to go out into the night with their dogs for bear chase season, asked me if I was lost. After hearing what I was doing, they just shook their heads saying I was crazy. I was hoping to make Paint Bank before the store closed so I could get a hot meal and replenish my water supplies. Coming down Peter’s Mountain was almost as hard as going up, because the grade was so steep and the gravel fairly deep. I was really glad to get down with only a couple of spills. Making it to Paint Bank about 9pm, I missed the grill being opened, but was able to get a sandwich and resupply. I headed out, wanted to get within 70 miles of Blackburg before calling it a day. I rode on, mixing paved and gravel roads. At 1:30 am, I was close to my goal, and there was a nice meadow on the side of the fire road. I pulled off and sent up my bivy and fell right to sleep. About 4:30am, I awoke to the sound of dogs hot on the trail of a bear. They came running down through my camp, but I never saw the bear. With that excitement over, I decided to get up and move on.
The day turn out to be nice and sunny as I worked my way back into Blacksburg. Lots of rollers, both gravel and paved were along the way, and I was able to stop in New Castle, VA for a hot breakfast, which was a huge morale booster.
Finally, about 2pm, I was in Blacksburg.
Overall, the trip was 386.2 miles long, with 23,000 feet of climbing. I completed it in 70:56:25. This being my first bike packing trip, I was pretty pleased with how my gear worked, the food I carried and ate, and my overall time. There is definitely a difference between long distance road riding, backpacking and camping in the woods, and combining the two into a long distance on/off road ride. Looking forward to my next adventure in Bikepacking!