Zach and I left Monday on a 4-day trip along the Greenbrier Trail in West Virginia. We started in Caldwell, WVa., just west of White Sulphur Springs, and rode up to Marlinton and then back to the car. We finished Thursday afternoon.
The plan had been to camp each night in beautiful trail-side primitive campsites. We camped the first two nights but a park ranger warned us about the severe weather slated for Wednesday night, so rented a cabin in Renick, W.Va instead. That turned out to be a great move.
The trail is an old C&O Railroad logging, passenger and freight line that was in operation through 1978. It’s 77 miles long and stretches from Caldwell to Cass, W.Va. We rode to Marlinton (milepost 56) then turned around and rode back. Here’s an article I wrote about the trail back in the 1990s.
What follows are pictures from our adventure. Zach’s been listening to my bike trip stories for years (I’ve been bike tripping since 1976). This was his inaugural bike trip — and he’s already planning the next one.
The Greenbrier is a mostly shallow river except in the spring, when it’s swelled by melting snow. The water has a decidedly green tint; this is the way it appeared Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Click on “More” at the bottom right to see what it looked like Thursday morning, after Wednesday night’s storm.
By Thursday, the river seemed to have widened at least 50 percent, and it was green no longer. Certain islands that we’d seen on our northward journey had disappeared beneath the muddy brown rushing water, which carrying all kinds of flotsam and jetsam downstream.
There are two tunnels along the Greenbrier Trail. This one is the 400-foot long Droop Mountain Tunnel, which is south of Renick. It curves slightly as you go through it, and it’s not lighted, which mean you’d best use some sort of flashlight. The other tunnel, through Sharp Mountain, is north of Marlinton — we didn’t get to it on this trip.This is what it looks like inside the tunnel when you turn the flash off on the camera.For the most part, the trail is packed cinder (it was larger gravel on my first visit to it back in the mid-1990s. Heading northward (upriver) there’s an imperceptibly slight grade. On average, it climbs about 10 vertical feet per mile.At times, the scenery is astounding. We passed by lush farms such as this one. There also are some elaborate weekend homes along the river — some 5,000-square-foot or so palaces set on giant pilings for when the river rises far out of its banks. There also are plenty of rustic riverbank trailers, or small hunting/fishing cabins set in the woods, such as the one below.This cabin was in Anthony, about 10 miles from the trail’s southern terminus. Anthony was one of a dozen of so community stations along the rail line up to Cass, W.Va. I believe the next shot was the actual former station house; the name should be familiar to any fan of the Grateful Dead.It’s difficult to make out the faded lettering on the sign above, but it reads Terrapin Station General Store, and it’s seen far better days.The mountains on both sides of the river are very steep, and what that means is steep rock wall — and many, many trail-side waterfalls. Here’s one of the more spectacular ones. I wish I’d thought to get Zach in this shot to give you some idea as to scale.
What you see here is about 30 feet tall, and it actually goes up much higher than that.Above is one of many morel mushrooms we found in a large patch — there must have been 100 or in a 50-foot long stretch that sprouted right next to the trail. This one appears to be past its picking prime, as did the others. It’s hard to believe nobody came along a couple weeks and snatched this beaut or its cousins.One of the best things about bike trips are the people you meet along the way. Above are Glen and Twyla Diehl, who live in Renick. Glen’s a (retired) colonel in the Army Reserve (he was called up to 3 years of active duty at age 57 — can you believe that?) and he’s also retired from the MeadWestvaco paper mill in Covington.
Their home is a former church in Renick (milepost 25) which Glen renovated by himself. They also bought other property in the village, including a three-bedroom, fully-furnished cabin next door, with an updated kitchen and full bath, which they renovated and rent out for $100 a night. It’s darn nice. Our first night out we turned down their invitation to stay in it. But when we heard about the approaching storms Wednesday, I called them and made a reservation for Wednesday night.Above is the cabin where we took shelter from the storm. Shameless plug: If you’d like to stay in the G & Cottage, email them at Gt2Diehls(at)aol.com.Zach loved scampering up the waterfalls, and on large riverside rocks overlooking rapids.Here’s the last shot of this great adventure, and one that epitomizes the kind of sights you’ll see if you check out this trail yourself.