Greenbrier River Trail Bike Ride 2002

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Sharps Tunnel


First a little background.  In May of 2002, we spent 5 days camping at the Greenbrier River Campground near Alderson, WV.  Had a wonderful time.  We spent 2 days kayaking but my wife wanted to check out the Greenbrier River Trail.  After hunting high and low, we found bikes to be rented at Jack Horner's Corner.  After a short ride, she was hooked.  The trail is a 77 mile old railroad bed with a 1% down grade.  It starts in Cass, WV and ends in North Caldwell, WV.

The bikes waiting for the ride to startWe started planning a 3 day bike ride.  Of course, we didn't have any bikes.  Didn't have panniers (saddle bags) either.  Lightweight backpacking gear for camping along the way?  Of course not.  This was shaping up to be a very expensive bike ride.  We even got a dehydrator to fix meals and jerky for the trip.  We planned about 25 miles per day, camping where we could.  We wanted to have time to relax and maybe play in the river.  We weren't in great shape but thought we'd be OK.

We made reservations for a cottage in Cass for October, 2002.  Found someone to ferry us from our car in North Caldwell to Cass.  It was the start of a wonderful trip.  The leaves weren't changing yet but it was still very pretty.  It was a little warmer than we hoped but still not too bad.

After arriving in Cass and checking in, we looked around town.  This was my first visit there in 20 years.  The Front Streetparts that had been refurbished were very nice.  The cottages are nice and reasonably priced.  WeOur cottage had dinner at the snack bar in town.  Had a glass of wine in the swing and watched the Greenbrier River go by.  As we went inside to get ready for bed, we heard a strange noise.  Turns out, the cottages have tin roofs and the drought was about to end.  As the rain gets harder, you realize your car is 50 miles away and all you have is a loaded bicycle.  It was a funny feeling.

In the morning, we loaded the bikes and headed out.  The main thing that saved us was trash bags.  We knew it could rain so we had rain gear and extra trash bags.  We lined the panniers and covered the tent and sleeping bags.  Things stayed generally dry.  Those things, anyway.  We got wet.

The trail on a rainy dayOur goal was Marlinton.  We hoped to spend the night camping in a park just on the other side of town.  Surely the rain would be gone by then.  Off we went on the big adventure.

The riding was much better than I expected.  It was raining but warm.  The trail isSue loaded down and ready in excellent shape.  The only problem was that there was too much gravel in some places.  The trail follows the river and should be beautiful most days.  Sharp's Tunnel appears from out of nowhere.  You need a light to help stay in the middle.  You probably should walk it but we didn't.  The tunnel is 511 feet long.  Its about 15 miles from Cass with another 10 miles to Marlinton.

The bridgeWhen you come out the other side, you are on the bridge that is used for pictures to advertise the rail.  Its very pretty in that setting.  The views of the river should have been pretty too.  By the way, it was still raining. 

Old Tunnel

The trail has a few campsites along with water pumps and chemical toilets.  You can tell on some of the maps where they are.  The trail would benefit from a few more camp sites.  They aren't real conveniently located if you break it up into 3 days as we did.

From Sharp's, we cruised on into Marlinton.  Cruised is a stretch because my butt was dragging and it was raining harder.  As we got off the bikes in Marlinton, I told my wife to camp wherever she wanted but I was going to a motel.  We found The River Place near the bridge over the Greenbrier.  Nice restaurant downstairs and 5 rooms upstairs.  We locked the bikes up and carried the wet panniers upstairs.  We had wine in the water bottles and water in the camel backs.  The wine helped the attitudes some but not nearly as much as a hot shower.

In the morning, we had a big breakfast and loaded the bikes.  The weather?  Raining harder.  (Maybe someone would pay us to end droughts.)  Off for day 2 of this fun.  As you leave town, the trail is asphalt.  It kinds of builds up false hopes.

Jack Horner's CornerThe ride was again very pretty.  Assuming, that is, that  you like low lying clouds.  Still following the river.  We stopped at Jack Horner's Corner (remember the first paragraph about what started this madness) in Seebert for snacks and a break.  This place is on the way to Watoga State Park.  About this point I started taking "butt breaks" every mile or so.  My legs were fine but my butt wasn't dealing well with the bike seat.

Droop Mountain CornerWe passed through Droop Mountain Tunnel (402 feet).  It isn't as impressive as Sharp's but is still pretty cool.  It was also dry.  See the haze outside the entrance.


We pulled into Renick after about 30 miles that day.  We weren't sure where to set up the tent (inRenick Shelter the rain) but they had a community park.  We decided to eat dinner there and worry about it later.  Re-hydrated lasagna and wine tasted pretty good.  My wife asked the guy living next door if we could set up a tent in his yard.  He initially said sure but then said to just stay in the shelter.  He came over later and offered us a beer.  Nice West Virginia hospitality.  Wish I could remember his name.

Home for the nightWe got up in the morning and it was only sprinkling.  That seemed good until my wife got a flat tire 200 yards from the shelter.  Proved to be a pain but not a problem.  There isn't a whole lot to see on the rest of the trip.  The trail gets further from the river and isn't as pretty as the first parts.  It is, though, only 20 miles into the parking lot at North Caldwell.

We made it

The sun came out about a mile from the car.  It was welcome even then.  We unloaded the gear and hauled our tired, stinky bodies to the Greenbrier River Campground.  We stayed there earlier in the year when all this bike ride madness started.  We had a trailer with a Jacuzzi rented for the night.  Iced down some wine.  Re-hydrated some left over food and had a good time.  It was a very nice way to end the ride.

It was worth itThe Greenbrier River Trail is a nice way to pass a few days.  Very pretty and not too challenging.  In the fall without the rain, it could be spectacular.  The scenery is beautiful.  Just try to schedule the ride when its dry.