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The 2011 opening of the Arrowhead Trails, the much-praised IMBA-designed stacked looped trail system in the New River Gorge National River, coincided with our 7-year-old daughter being ready to ride real mountain bike trails. By “real” I mean not just ride a bike off the pavement, but on twisty, turny, up-and-down dirt trails, with roots and rocks. We’d started her on the straight and flat Southside Junction trail earlier that summer and had a blast. The short one-mile inside loop of Arrowhead called the Clovis Trail was the next step.
She was a bit nervous at first, so my husband ran beside her, holding the back of her t-shirt just in case she took a sudden turn into the trees. By halfway around, he had let go and was racing to keep up with her, yelling out for her to keep her speed up as she approached a hill. I took a turn on the next loop, again first running beside her with a piece of her clothing in my grip, then sprinting to keep up. Meanwhile, my husband and our older son stepped up to the second Arrowhead loop, the 3-mile long Adena Trail. The Adena Trail was perfect for an 8-year-old boy who was hungry for a bigger adventure. By dinner time, everyone was plenty tired and glowing from conquering a good challenge. The kids couldn’t wait to get back to the “whoop de dos,” a series of fun, short hills on the Clovis Trail. The Arrowhead trails had become one of our family’s favorite playgrounds.
For the next two summers, Clovis was our go-to loop for a quick evening family ride. Anyone who was tired could stop after one loop, while the rest of us got in as much biking as we needed. We’d end the day with my husband and I each taking a quick sprint loop while the kids listened to the frogs start croaking.
After a year or so of this, I was having so much fun on the shorter Arrowhead loops, I realized I hadn’t yet done Dalton, the longest and most difficult loop. So my husband and I set out for it without kids one spring afternoon and spent 8 miles feeling like kids again, banking tight turns (or so it felt) and letting it rip in the few open downhill sections.
Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora) was out. It’s a bewitching plant that has no green—it doesn’t practice photosynthesis—and pops up suddenly after rains kind of like mushrooms. Dalton’s twists and turns slowed me down enough to keep an eye out for the beautiful patches of this somewhat rare treat. As for the biking, there were a few technical sections that I proudly made, and others that I had to dismount to get through, silently planning a re-do soon. The challenge was just right for me, and I didn’t feel like I was just whizzing through a ride without taking in the scenery. Now it was my turn to be excited about the Arrowhead Trails: I’d found one of my favorite playgrounds.