Ridge and Valley: Bikepacking Virginia
Six riders set off to bikepack a portion of the VMBT through Virginia’s Ridge and Valley region. Along the way they met some incredible fall foliage and crazy weather… and brought back photos and a short film to tell the tale.
The trip was pretty simple — ride bikes using the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail to the 2017 annual AORE (Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education) National Conference in Roanoke, VA. where outdoor professionals from across the county assemble “to exchange information, promote the preservation and conservation of the natural environment, and address issues common to college, university, community, military, and other not-for-profit outdoor recreation and education programs.”
Conveniently surrounded by an abundance of world class outdoor adventures, Roanoke is within striking distance of the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail on North Mountain. Joey Parent, director of the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Outdoor Adventure Program and AORE attendee, seized the opportunity and brought together a group of colleagues/administrators from the University of Arkansas, Auburn, and Middle Tennessee State to go for a multi-day bike ride in preparation for the event.
Along the ride, the group was greeted with peak fall foliage and amazing single track in Virginia’s Ridge & Valley region. Highlights of the ride included of the Southern Traverse on Shenandoah Mountain and the Dragon’s Back of North Mountain. However, the stunning beauty of fall in Central Appalachia was hard to surpass. It wasn’t all campfires and rainbows on this trip though. The crew was dealt a variety of weather conditions as they attempted to follow the official VMTB Trail. A monster rainstorm dropped five inches of precipitation the first night as they camped along the Cowpasture River. With the following daytime temperatures only reaching a high of 34 F, they decided to re-route off a few ridge tops and settle into a grind down valley dirt roads.
After descending the last section of single track on North Mountain, the hard riding was done. 20 miles of pavement into Roanoke provided a good opportunity to slowly come back to reality. Mountains and farms gave way to suburbs, that eventually transformed into an industrial town center. The bikers were tired but felt accomplished. They traversed the James River Watershed, climbing over 15,000 feet in 160 miles. Colleagues who had only exchanged emails previously, now felt a unique connection and a shared sense of accomplishment.
These are things that cannot be gained in a conference room. It comes from pushing yourself to overcome challenges and finding camaraderie in the natural environment – things that mean so much those who’ve made a career in the outdoors.
You can follow Hunter on Instagram @homeonthejames. Also, if you missed it, make sure to watch his recent film ‘Bikepacking Stokesville’. In addition, find Colt’s full photo gallery from the trip here, and read his review of the Chumba Stella Ti here.