Fall’s warm, golden days are fleeting as we move towards the end of yet another season heading into winter and snowy, icy weather. These are days to be treasured – savored with all of our senses. There’s nothing like a bike ride to help you drink in all the loveliness of a rich autumn day.
Every week I pass by Smith Bridge Road in Allegheny County, Virginia where the trailhead for the Jackson River Scenic Trail is located. This is a Rail-to-Trail conversion project which currently runs from the Smith Bridge Road through Petticoat Junction to Intervale for seven and two-tenths miles. Taking advantage of 65 degree temperatures, Mark and I decided at the last minute to get out the bikes and explore this “new” trail.
The afternoon sun was warding off the chill from the air as we pulled into the Smith Bridge trailhead. Only one other vehicle was there at the time. The trail is well prepped with fine crush gravel for smooth riding as it heads towards Covington adjacent to a nice residential section. It runs along the Jackson River as it meanders along farmland and wooded tracts offering pleasant views along the route.
At first, I mistakenly felt that this trail was underutilized, but as we made our way heading toward Petticoat Junction, I found that I was wrong. We started meeting joggers, people out walking their dogs and other folks on bikes. There were signs along the way of horseback riders, though we did not encounter any on this day. Along the way we saw nice picnic tables inviting you to stop, enjoy the view, or have a lunch break. High shale banks skirt the trail and add interest to the ride.
We raced through the cool breeze in the blue shadows of the mountains gliding into the warm rays of the sun on the other side as the fallen leaves crunched under the bike tires. Across the river, we could see fields with big round bales of hay and were serenaded by the lowing of cattle as they came down the riverbank to enjoy a cool drink of water.
When we got to Petticoat Junction trailhead, there were several vehicles in that lot and we stopped to look at the map. It is a little over two more miles to the Intervale trailhead. A little gas station is in sight, so we rode down there to check that out. They have the usual gas station type of stuff but also have a grill where they serve a limited menu.
We decided to head back and the shadows were starting to fall long onto the trail. Canada geese swam in formation in the river, honking away and paying no attention to anyone. The pleasant scent of wood smoke was starting to rise from some of the camps along the river… that always reminds me of fall. The fresh air was inviting as I pushed up some of the slight grade heading back.
We passed a farm that had two friendly ponies and two wonderful gaited show horses. They came running to the fence as if I had a carrot or apple to share with them. I had neither, so their attention was short lived. We watched as the show horses ran and galloped in the shadow of the mountain. What beauties they were and watching them run was a pleasure.
We had gotten in a little over ten miles on the ride and by the time I got back to the trail head, I had to shed a layer. I had gotten a little warm on that last push to the trailhead. Someone was there from North Carolina, inquiring as to where the Falling Spring waterfall was located. Mark gave directions and they headed out. I checked out the other side of the road where at some future time, the trail will be extended. The grassy rail bed is waiting for its transformation which will add another seven miles as it heads north to connect Smith Bridge and Natural Well.
So thankful that Mark and I were able to enjoy the ride on the Jackson River Scenic Trail. The forecast for the rest of the week is rain and ends with a possibility of snow showers. The seasons pass quickly -grab those golden days as they present themselves because after they are gone, they’re gone.
Published in the Day Tripper a publication of Mountain Messenger in Lewisburg, West Virginia November 3, 2013.