Monday, October 10, 2016

Hiking, Cycling, and Kayaking Near Wellsburg, WV

I never thought of my home town of Wellsburg, WV as an outdoor playground because it is not, but that seems to be changing. While growing up in Wellsburg I would play and hike in woods near my home, ride my bike around town, and occasionally fish and swim in nearby Buffalo Creek. Over three days, however, I recently enjoyed day hiking, cycling, and kayaking, all about twenty five miles or less from town.

The Appaloosa Trail
At Raccoon Creek State Park
Last Wednesday I hiked a five and a half mile loop at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA, about twenty five miles from home. The temperature was a little warm for early October and the leaves had not yet started to turn. Since it was a week day, I saw only two other people, two teenage boys, while I was out on the trail. Other than the occasional low flying jet on its approach or departure from Pittsburgh International Airport, reminding me how close I was to civilization, I could have imagined that I was in a remote wilderness.

I did not know about Raccoon Creek State Park while I was growing up. In fact, I never heard of it until I moved back to the area about three years ago. I have since hiked about every mile of the forty-four miles of trail in the park. In addition to regularly day hiking there I have also kayaked on its 101 acre lake.

The Brooke Pioneer Trail
Near its Northern Terminus
The next day I cycled twenty miles on the nearby Brooke Pioneer Trail and Wheeling Heritage Trail. Parking at Smith Oil just south of Wellsburg, I rode south on the Brooke Pioneer Trail, a paved rail trail. At the southern end of the wooden trail bridge over Short Creek and the Brooke County and Ohio County line, the trail becomes the Wheeling Heritage Trail. I have cycled this trail all the way to the southern end of Wheeling, but this day rode just past the Pike Island Lock and Dam before turning around and riding back to the car.

I did not ride the Brooke Pioneer Trail when I was young because it did not exist. What is now a paved rail trail was, back then, an active rail road. The Brooke Pioneer Trail started being developed about twenty years ago. While the trail surface is completely paved, amenities along the trail, like shelters and outhouses, are still being developed. This superb rail trail, offering beautiful views of the Ohio River, is also filled with local history and lore. I hope that Wellsburg business will learn to be more cyclists friendly and better promote themselves to people using the trail. Once a trail connection is made from Wellsburg to the western terminus of The Panhandle Trail in Weirton, a cyclist could ride from Wellsburg to both Pittsburgh and Washington, DC and points in between. That also means that cyclists from Pittsburgh and Washington could also ride to and through Wellsburg.

Cross Creek Lake, Washington County, PA
After hiking on Wednesday and cycling on Thursday, I took one of my kayaks to Cross Creek Park in Washington County, PA and kayaked on the parks 258 acre lake.  I could have kayaked on the nearby Ohio River but I prefer not to paddle against a current and dodge river barges. With a picnic area, playground, toilet facilities, and launch site with docks and a ramp less than eleven miles from Wellsburg, Cross Creek Lake is the closest flatwater kayaking I have available to me.  It is near enough that I am willing to drive there to paddle for just an hour or so, but the lake is also large enough that I could easily paddle for three or four hours  if I wanted to.

I could not have kayaked at Cross Creek Park when I was growing up because, like the Brooke Pioneer Trail, it did not exist back then. It opened in 1984 and is still being developed, the access area nearest to Wellsburg opening only in the past year or two. I hope that eventually a few more miles of hiking trails and even cycling trails will be developed there so that I can enjoy all three of my favorite outdoor activities in one location.

1 comment:

Bear Groch said...

Thank you John for this wonderful piece. Nice to hear of the new opportunities near and around our home town.