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Elk River Touring Center, WV

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After nine hours in the truck we were ready to stretch out and get our knobbies dirty. Jeff, the bartender at the ERTC Restaurant, suggested the Tea Creek Mountain loop to "get a taste" of what all the WV hype is about. We parked the Rodeo at Little Laurel Overlook on Scenic Highway 150 just across from the trailhead. The view was incredible. We could only imagine the riding that lay ahead. The loop begins with a short climb on a rocky, rooted, single-track that literally hugs the mountain. Put a wheel wrong and you'll fall far. The trail meanders for a couple of miles before reaching a huge boulder field that is impossible to ride. However, you are rewarded after 100 yards of hike-a-bike with what has to be one of the sweetest single-track downhills this side of the Mississippi. It starts steep and gets even steeper after crossing the North Face Trail. We like to ride fast but heed this warning: keep your weight back and two fingers on each brake lever. You'll fly. Dips, bumps, and even banked turns are all part of the action. Assuming you reset your odometer at the trailhead, it will read some six miles when you bottom-out at the Tea Creek Campground. Then it's a two to three mile grind up the scenic highway to the overlook and your vehicle. Jeff's recommendation was right on, and that first "taste" of WV only made us hungry for more.

Saturday morning we awoke to overcast skies and typical mid-Atlantic summer humidity. After downing a healthy portion of home-cooked scrambled eggs and pancakes in the dining room the skies opened up. Luckily Gil, the owner of ERTC, was on hand to provide some expertise on where to ride given the soggy conditions: "If I were riding today I'd go over to Marlinton. The report is it's not raining over there." Marlinton is the Pocahontas County seat and also home to the Marlinton Ranger Station, starting point for a ten-mile loop of Marlin Mountain. The first three miles are a middle chainring climb on a Forest Service fire road. Before topping-out at a grassy intersection, the road narrows and bends towards the sky at a 20% grade for 100 yards. The descent is gradual at first, rolling fast through tall grass on one side of the double-track. Next, the trail steepens, becomes more rocky and on this particular day, like a rainforest. After about two miles the trail bottoms out at the Greenbrier River Trail, an abandoned rail bed that follows the Greenbrier River. We found a great place on the river to ditch our shoes and socks. After cooling off we high-tailed it into town for some grub. Back at the truck, we planned our afternoon ride.

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Highlands Mountain Bike Adventures 2002