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ERTC, continued...

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After lunch we hopped in the truck and headed out of Marlinton to where Scenic Highway 150 meets Route 219. Parking just off the road, we geared up and made for the US Forest Service grazing allotment atop Gay Sharp's Knob. (Gay Sharp was a Civil War hero, seriously) The trek begins with a moderate climb on a dirt fire road but soon leaves the road for open pasture. Follow the XC skiing trail markers and watch out for the cow patties. Once atop the knob, break out the camera for some incredible photo opportunities of the Elk River Valley. It's tough to pick a line for the descent but looking west if you head for the pond below, you will pick up a single-track that winds through small trees and ends at a gate. Hop the gate and ride once again in open pasture down to a barn and a dirt/gravel road that will take you back to Route 219. At about five miles, the loop was a perfect distance for an afternoon ride, especially after hammering all morning. Back at ERTC, we hosed down the bikes and compared notes with others. ERTC is filled with mountain bikers during the summer months and the ability to share stories and get recommendations on where to ride is one of the great things about staying there. Outside the bike barn after our Saturday afternoon ride we struck up a conversation with one of ERTC's guides. Already thinking about Sunday morning and our last ride of the weekend, we asked her about Props Run, a long single-track that careens down Gauley Mountain and winds up just outside of ERTC's front door. After assessing our ability with a few careful questions, she highly recommended we give it a try.

We woke Sunday to a perfectly blue sky and temps in the fifties. Since we were short on time, we had Gil take us to the top of Gauley Mountain in the back of his Toyota pickup to avoid the three-mile fire road climb that begins the loop. With rain the day before, Gil said Props would be wet but not the "stream" it could be. We unloaded at the intersection of the Tea Creek Trail and Gauley Mountain Road. This would give us a relatively level three-mile warm-up on the ridge before getting to Props. From over 4,000 feet the view was incredible. The top of Props is extremely narrow and rocky. It was evident that water routinely had its way with the earth and rock here and we understood why the Forest Service would be rebuilding this part of the trail later in the year. This was by far the most technical riding we'd done all weekend. The trail's grade lessens after a mile or so but remains extremely rocky and wet. Numerous blow-downs and boulders try to impede your progress and "cleaning" these sections of the single-track is personally rewarding. Maintain momentum and try to pick a line. For nine miles, Props keeps throwing challenges at you. It's relentless and loads of fun. Cross the Elk River and emerge at the sawmill that you pointed at from the top of Gauley Mountain. A few hundred yards on Route 219 and you're back at ERTC.

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Highlands Mountain Bike Adventures 2002