Saturday, May 23, 2015

Nineteen Miles on the Brooke Pioneer and Wheeling Heritage Trails

Trail Just South of Wellsburg
One of my favorite bicycle rides is a nineteen mile back and forth route on the paved rail-to-trail Brooke Pioneer Trail and the northernmost section of the Wheeling Heritage Trail. With ample parking spaces usually available in the gravel lot just south of Wellsburg and Buffalo Creek and north of Smith Oil on the river side of WV Route 2, I usually begin the riding between 6.7 and 6.8 on the Brooke Pioneer Trail and head south.

Ruby Park, 4 ½ miles south between mile markers 2.2and 2.1 offers a small clearing, sitting bench, and one of the cleanest outhouses I have ever seen. The park is a great place to get off the trail  for a rest and stretch break that is at about the halfway point for a nineteen mile ride from Smith Oil to the Pike Island Dam and back. I usually lean my bikes up against the post and rail fence while I walk and stretch. A small mowed trail leads down to the Ohio River to a fishing spot that offers a water level view of the river and across to Ohio. An access road from the park leads up to WV Route 2. In the past there has been a trash receptacle at the Ruby Park but I have sometimes it found it overflowing. The last time I stopped at the park, however, there was no receptacle. I wish there was also a picnic table at this park. The Pike Island Dam lies another 4.9 miles south of here.

Ruby Park from the South
2 ½ miles south of Ruby Park I make a seamless transition from the Brooke Pioneer Trail in Brooke County to the Wheeling Heritage Trail in Ohio County when I ride across the bridge over Short Creek, which is also the county line. This is the northernmost terminus of the Wheeling Heritage Trail, mile 13.83. After crossing the bridge over Short Creek, the Wheeling Heritage Trail lies traverses an open area offering a sunny ride on clear days but also a windy ride on blustery days. This section of the Wheeling Heritage Trail is also closer to four lane Route 2 than any section of the Brooke Pioneer Trail but I have never felt traffic was a safety issue.

Nine and half miles south of my starting point and located at mile 8.7 on the Wheeling Heritage Trail, the Pike Island Dam offers a great place for halfway rest stop. It is offers a paved parking area to access the trail to ride north toward Wellsburg or south toward Wheeling. A small bike rack and a bench are situated near the entry gate to the dam. Modern, clean restrooms, one for men and one for women, are usually open to visitors during daylight hours. I have sometimes used the sink in the restroom to splash cool water on my face and neck after a hot, humid summer ride and to refill my water bottle with fresh, cool potable water. The last time I rode to the dam, however, the walkway to the restrooms was locked and a sign stated the restrooms were closed due to a security issue, the security level being “Brown”.

At The Pike Island Dam
The character of this ride changes as the season changes. In early spring and late fall the view of the river is almost totally unobstructed. From late spring to early fall, however, trees in leaf and high weeds can block the view of the river. Various colorful wildflowers and blooming bushes and trees offer a spectrum of colors other than green from mid-spring to mid-summer. I have also seen rabbits, groundhogs, geese (sometimes a lot of geese) and deer on, crossing, or near the trail.  During midweek rides I have made this trip without seeing another person on the trail. On weekends I have seen not only other riders but in-line skaters and walkers, some with baby carriages.

When I felt like I wanted a longer trip I have continued riding south of the Pike Island Dam for another 8.7 miles to the southern end of the Wheeling Heritage Trail.  When I have returned to where I started and want to ride a little longer I have continued my ride north into Wellsburg on the Yankee Trail. While crossing streets and sometimes on streets, the streets of Wellsburg are usually not that busy. Several eating establishments, including Subway, Dairy Queen, the Station Grill, Wendy's, and Pizza Hut are located within sight and just yards from the Yankee Trail. The Crooked Dock, on the banks of the Ohio River, lies just a few blocks west at 12th Street.

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