Just Add Water, the Story of the Massanutten Trails (DNR)
SVBC Built Berms on the “Short Track Course” Mike Carpenter knows how to lean… (Photo Credit: Katy Martin-Smith)
Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA)
Just Add Water
There were a number of people there, so I asked how long we could ride. “It’s completely up to you,” said Kyle – the bike shop owner – as he raised the seat on the $5,000 mountain bike my stepson Connor would ride. “We have plenty of bikes. Go all the way to the top if you want.”
Cool. But, I still didn’t give water a thought even though bottles were provided. I had never ridden a mountain bike, and Connor hadn’t been on a bike since grade school. I figured we would only ride about halfway up. I figured wrong.
Picture Massanutten from the west. It’s high. And steep. Then picture yourself riding a bicycle to the top. Sounds awful, right?
In a way it is. The elevation gain is about 1,300 feet.
But, in a way, it’s not. The 15 miles of trails blend a fun and challenging ride with great scenery. The trail system is an incredible accomplishment. As we rode through the woods I kept thinking, “Who did all this?”
As it turns out, lots of dedicated people did all this. The trails are the result of an unusually effective partnership between a corporation and a nonprofit organization. (How often do the words “effective partnership” appear in the same sentence with “corporation” and “nonprofit”?) Massanutten Resort owns the land, and members of the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition have put in more than 3,000 hours of volunteer labor to help the resort create and maintain the trails.
“Twenty years ago, we had a few trails,” says Kenny Hess, director of business operations at Massanutten. “Some were old horse trails, and some were cut specifically for biking. But, our partnership with the SVBC has helped us turn the western slopes into a true destination for mountain bikers.”
Massanutten property owners and guests can ride the western slope. (Many people vacation at Massanutten just to ride the trails.) So can members of the SVBC: An individual membership is $15 per year, and a trail pass – required to access the property – costs either $50 or eight hours of volunteer labor.
“It’s definitely a great partnership,” Kenny says. “We work together with the SVBC to decide which trails to improve and what trails to built next. As a result, our trails are built by bikers, for bikers, while also meeting strict safety and sustainable shared-use guidelines.”
If riding the slope sounds too challenging, no problem: Everyone from novices to experts can enjoy the Rocktown Trails at Hillandale Park. The city provided the land. SVBC members built and maintain the trails. It’s free and open to the public. Take your kids. They’ll love it.
Also take water. Connor and I kept riding up the mountain, partly because I missed a turn, but mostly because I wanted to keep going. I have zero mountain biking skills – in comparison, riding a road bike requires all the skill of running in a hamster wheel – but I still was having a great time pedaling over rocks and logs, dodging trees and whipping around Daytona-style banked turns.
Plus, the farther you ride up, the longer you get to ride down.
So that’s how I learned, at the scenic overlook atop Dell Webb Drive, that people don’t keep spare bottles of water in their cars. I learned that, when you’re really thirsty, the old “put a pebble in your mouth” trick just makes your mouth dryer and dirtier. I learned that, when your stepson – who, I feel certain, was the only non-cyclist to make it all the way to the top that day, smiles and says, “So you ride bikes all the time … and it didn’t occur to you that water might be a good idea?” there really isn’t a good answer.
And I learned that while many clubs and organizations exist almost solely for the greater good of themselves, and even sometimes attempt to force their agendas on others, some organizations put in thousands of hours not only so they can benefit, but so that everyone can benefit.
Between them, the SVBC, Massanutten Resort and the City of Harrisonburg work very hard to make our area a better and safer place for cyclists.
No one will try to make you ride a bike. That’s up to you. But, if you do want to ride a bike, thanks to people like them, there are great trails and safer roads.
But take water. You never know how far you’ll want to ride.
For more info about trails, group rides, cycling initiatives and other events, visit the SVBC at svbcoalition.org.
Jeff Haden lives in Harrisonburg, is a bestselling ghostwriter, and is a featured business columnist for Inc.com and CBS MoneyWatch.com. He can be reached at www.blackbirdinc.com.