Tuesday, May 6, 2014

North Bend Rail Trail

The North Bend Rail Trail (NBRT), the 72 mile former B&O railroad line from Parkersburg to Wolf Summit (a small community just west of Clarksburg), has been getting some good news lately. Grant money has been secured for maintenance to the eastern portion of the trail in Doddridge and Harrison Counties. Meanwhile, Parkersburg and Wood County officials are working towards connecting the current western terminus at Happy Valley Road to the “Point” at the confluence of the Little Kanawha and Ohio Rivers. It won’t happen immediately but at least they are making some progress.

There are about a dozen railroad tunnels and about three dozen bridges on the NBRT, which help to make the ride interesting (as if the natural scenery, wildlife, and history were not enough on their own). In Ritchie County, the trail runs through the edge of North Bend State Park, and thus was added to the park’s responsibilities.

The trail crosses under Route 50 at Ellenboro, Smithburg, and Bristol, and can be seen at numerous other locations along the highway (see the picture below for an example). When the leaves are off the trees, if you know where to look you can see the “black hole” where it veers from the roadside and into a tunnel on the side of a hill near Sherwood.

The area around North Bend State Park has always been the most heavily used (and best maintained), from Cairo (a quaint old town) on the west to Ellenboro (with its modern wooden bridge over Rt. 16) east of the park. It is convenient for folks to come to North Bend for easy access to the trail at the point where for over 130 years the westbound trains would emerge from a tunnel to cross the Bonds Creek bridge. Now bicyclists can choose to venture either direction from this point, and can even enjoy an ice cream snack at either Cairo or Ellenboro before pedaling back to the park.

I was very familiar with the Wood County portion of the trail, having ridden as far as the Eaton tunnel and back numerous times. I had also taken family and friends to North Bend for rides through Ritchie County. However, several years ago I decided I wanted to explore the whole trail.

I started by riding all the way to Cairo and back to cover the entire western end of the trail. Then I drove to Ellenboro one Saturday morning and rode to West Union and back. On another Saturday, I parked my car in downtown West Union (after exploring the beautiful old courthouse there) and rode to the eastern terminus. Upon completion of that trip, I had ridden on the entire trail—but not all on the same day.

Then a friend of mine was driving to Morgantown from Parkersburg, and agreed to give me the transportation I needed to try riding the NBRT in a single day. She met me at the Happy Valley end where I left my car, and took me and my bicycle to Wolf Summit that morning. I spent the rest of that beautiful day alone on a 72 mile westward trek back home. It was a glorious adventure! I was tired when I made it to my car, but the sense of accomplishment was worth it!

Now whenever I am driving along Route 50 where it is possible to view the NBRT, I remember what it was like that warm summer day, looking at the traffic whizzing by as I pedaled my way home. If you get the chance, you should give this bike trail a try (but you don’t have to do it all in one day).

In a scene easily visible from Route 50, Tenmile Creek and Marshville Road both squeeze underneath this bridge carrying the North Bend Rail Trail near the eastern terminus in Harrison County, WV.
[A shorter version of this story appeared in the May issue of Two-Lane Livin' magazine (http://www.twolanelivin.com/).]

No comments:

Post a Comment