Saturday, October 3, 2009

Shenandoah National Park - to bike or not to bike

 Dicky Ridge Trail
a cool switchback
off camber singletrack
cool rock features along the trail
someone placed these bark strips in the trail tread
the new brooks shoes liked the texture
kinda spongy
nice open drainage armored with rocks
water diverging technique
not very bicycle friendly
its ok, this trail is not open to bikes
michel heading up
Steve is really excited to share this experience with his pal
the goofy dude behind the camera
a good steady climb
nice views
nice evening sky!
wish i got out this way more often
i bet they do too!

What a great place just 1 hr from Washington DC. When I bought my park pass today I asked if some of the revenue went to maintaining the trails for me to ride my bicycle on. The clerk didn't even crack a smile, "you can't ride your bicycle on the trails in this park, you can ride on the next mountain over with ATV's". I amused myself. This one very trail cultivated my penchant for backcountry bicycling. Switchbacks, narrow side hill trail with rocks in and along the trail. The best there is to offer. I didn't know the trail was not open to bicycles in 1989 when Thomas took me out to the mountains for a great adventure. Our buddy Steele told us about the trail and he isn't into "breaking the law".

President George Bush has been to this park. He told the park staff he wanted to come ride is mountain bike here sometime. They were a bit blown away. The park staff doesn't think that Skyline Drive is a good place to ride a bicycle; in fact, they won't recommend it if you call and ask. They think it is too narrow for bicycles and it often has poor visibility that makes it even more dangerous. That is their opinion. Not only Skyline Drive itself, but the trails in the Shenandoah National Park were built by people who rode bicycles up the mountain to work everyday. It was a great ride then. It should be a great ride today. It was a great run.

I have had a few meetings with the SNP staff including the past park superintendent to discuss this. We are interested in having access to the dirt and gravel "carriage roads"" that bisect the park. These roads are great access routes between Harrisonburg and Charlottesville, and between Luray and the Culpeper area. Great safe alternatives from having to take Rt. 211 and Rt. 33 over the mountain on a bicycle. We have not even given a nudge about access to singletrack trails in the SNP. There are only a couple trails that are not in Wilderness in the SNP. Bicycles are not allowed in Wilderness Areas.

Our dirt road bicycle inquiry was met with 1) we will have to do a road inventory first (something they were planning on doing anyway) 2) then we would have to do a study on the maintenance requirements (all the routes we want to ride behind gates are driven regularly by park staff and VIPs’ who have access for various reasons).

The meeting was pretty humorous for many reasons. Tanners Ridge is a great access point from Stanley, VA to Big Meadows. The SNP super said that was out of the question because park staff drives it too often and they don't drive safely on it. Consequently, that means it would mean it is not safe to ride this road on bicycles. I was laughing sooooo hard on the inside when the park Super told us this was his reason. They went into another vague reason about user conflict on the dirt roads. I told them we would try a 6 month introductory period that was night riding only. They could study our use impacts and there was guaranteed not to be any user conflict because a horse or hiker could see our lights coming very easily. Another great benefit to this would be a solution to one of the SNP's largest problem "poaching" of plants and animals at night. A lot of bicycles riding the perimeter roads at night would be a deterrent to poachers. Increasing recreational users has proven to be a successful method to clean up parks in cities and remotes sections of the country, like a 1 hour drive from our nation’s capitol.

Met some cool canucks shortly after my run as I was getting ready for a spin up Skyline Drive. Steve and Michel, both competitive XC skiers who had come south for a training mission. They work for Brooks (running shoes). I happened to be wearing my brand new pair of shoes from The Sole Source in Harrisonburg. I told them they can ski at Whitegrass during the day in the winter and return to Harrisonburg for a 2-3 hr ride in 50+ weather if they cherry pick the right days. I can't wait for some of those days (it takes a early start for that action!)


  1. This was interesting Chris. Thanks for sharing the information about the SNP. Hope you enjoyed your trail run and the Shoes! Annie

  2. Great info Chris! Thanks for keeping us informed on the SNP news!