July 12, 2014.
My friend’s family and I decided to set off on what we thought would be a pleasant, couple of miles bike ride. We started at the Greenbank Observatory. We coasted past the dishes and took in the awesome size. Eventually, we came to a dirt path that spurred off to the right. At first, the grade was very gentle, but it got increasingly steeper as we went. At one point, we were all off of our bikes and pushing up the steepest part of the hill. We saw evidence of bear activity in the area, but didn’t run into any bears. The trail follows a stream, then cuts uphill through a hardwood forest. When we made it to the top, the blazes for the Allegheny Trail began, and a sign (on the forest floor- I’m guessing it fell off of a tree or post) said that the Horton Trail was in the same direction. After passing through a puddly, mud-filled section full of newts, we began a super steep, very narrow, rock-and-downed-tree true mountainbiking experience. This section was a blast! We were jumping over downed trees, flying over big rocks, and bouncing through washed-out parts of the trail. Eventually, the trail leveled out as it once again…..and immediately began going uphill again. Thankfully, this grade was less steep than the first and had a few level spots. You’re back into a rhododendron jungle when the trail levels out again. You’ll find a few places where you can pop down to the Greenbrier river for a swim, and eventually, you’ll come across this bridge:
It seemed a bit odd for the giant swinging bridge to be this far out into the middle of nowhere. After crossing the bridge, you’ll reach a flat, meadow-y area with several Autumn Olive bushes growing in it. There’s a bit of a mountain view from here, and this is where the Horton Trail crosses paths with the Allegheny Trail:
The signs here recommend that this is a great trail for cross country skiing in the wintertime. I can see why- this trail is almost entirely flat. Since, at this point, it was getting kind of late and we weren’t entirely sure where we were, we decided to call it a day and take a few more photos around the bridge before heading back.
And let me tell you…..the return trip was nowhere near as fun as the way down. It was impossible to ride your bike back up the long, fun path we had taken before because the large rocks and downed trees were too large to bike over and far, far too numerous to keep stopping. When we finally made it back to the asphalt road of the observatory, we realized our second mistake- it was over 90 degrees, there’s no shade on the paved road, and it’s all uphill (remember how we had gently coasted down the hill the whole way past the equipment? Yeahhhh…). After what seemed like a lifetime, we finally made it back to the truck and headed to the visitors center for some well-deserved ice cream.