Timberline Mountain Biking Trip Report
August 15, 2005
As promised, here is another Canaan Valley Mountain Biking trip report - this time for Timberline. Anyone who has read my posts on this board regarding the state of Timberline's mountain biking trails is aware that IMO the condition of these trails has degraded significantly over the last couple years to the point of just not being worth riding anymore. So, with so much first hand frustration with Timberline's trail system why do I keep giving them a second, third, fourth chance? Well, first off Timberline is a quick 5 minute spin from my place in the Valley and I have a thing about riding to the ride versus driving there. Second, there is some decent climbing up the mountain that I use to gauge my fitness level each year; there is also some excellent riding up top bordering the Dolly Sods. Finally, I knew there was a mountain bike race at Timberline the previous weekend. The promoter had been working on the race course for several weeks preceding the race. I was hopeful that he had cut some new trails to avoid the sections of the old trail system that are now completely trashed by ATV tracks or postholed by horse hooves.
The "bike shop" was open when I rode in Friday AM. I was hoping to get the low down on the new race course from one of the bike guys who usually run the shop; unfortunately, there was only one person from the resort office working when I showed up and she was not too knowledgeable about the trail system or conditions.
I set off on my own straight up Salamander to the base of Off the Wall. This rates as a pretty exhausting climb in my book - somewhere around 450 feet in a little less than a mile. I found the trail head in the woods to the right (looking up) of Off the Wall and headed in. This trail was in OK shape, but was not well marked or maintained. The trail cuts across the mountain - crossing the Drop, Silver Streak, White Lightning, before dropping down through Glade Runner to Mid Station.
So far so good, but this is the point I always seem to end up on the Salamander mountain bike trail. This trail continues across the middle of the mountain and heads off past Dew Drop towards the new ski trail. This trail continues to be an absolute mess. Though it has been pretty dry in CV this summer, the Salamander trail was pretty much a mudpit along its entire length. It is obviously heavily used as a horse trail, and the soil has been pretty churned up from the ATV races. This left about 6-8" of thick mud covering the trail - along with mounds of horse poop. I pretty much walked about a half-mile section of the trail until I reached the junction with Sidewinder.
Bearing right onto Sidewinder, conditions improved significantly. Sidewinder remains a pretty fun, and technical trail down the mountain. Near the bottom I found a side trail to the left that led right to the jeep road and the small plank bridge over a creek near the horse stables. This is obviously an access tril from the stables - but oddly enough was in pretty decent shape. Once across the plank bridge, I began THE CLIMB of this ride - 600' over 1.8 miles up FS80. FS 80 is all gravel now making it a much easier climb than it was last year when good parts of it were muddy and rocky. Still, this is an exhilerating ride which only feels good when you get to the top of it! Once over the top, FS80 reverts back into a very rocky jeep road which I loved blasting through on my DS MTB.
After about a mile, a side trail appears to the left which tracks back into Timberline and empties out on the Salamander ski trail just above the "S" curve. At this point, if you want more climbing go left and head up Salamander to the top - this stretch is known as "the Wall", probably another 300' of climbing over less than a mile. I had enough climbing and headed down the slope.
Now, being a mid-40's something family man riding down ski slopes is not normally something I enjoy. I usually leave that style riding for the younger guys without health insurance. However, I had a blast flying down Salamander this time. The trail is striped with water bars - all the way down. It seemed to me that they filled in the low parts so these rode more like berms and allowed for some excellent air catching all the way down. This made the normally anticlimatic downhill ride into one of the highlights of my loop.
8.9 miles, 1400' of climbing, and 1:30 minutes later I was home! I had more fun at Timberline on this ride than I've had there in over a year; however, the mud, horse poop, non-existent trail markings, and general poor conditions in the woods make this a hard place to enjoy or recommend to anyone else. I regret not having a chance to speak with a true bike person at the office to get the inside scoop on where the good trails are and which ones to avoid. The Salander MTB trail is definately one too skip; however, I have not found another way across the mountain. There is another ATV race scheduled for this weekend, so it is anyone's guess what trail conditions will be like afterwards. Thanks for reading.