Slatyfork, West Virginia
Like any vintage West Virginia ride, the Gauley Epic begins with a plunge into a classic East Coast hardwood forest. Thank your fork manufacturer as you bounce over a long section of 80-year old logging railway, complete with original ties. It's all about rhythm and momentum here. Keep it up and you'll sail through the day.
Busting out into a beautiful meadow, you'll be impressed by the stature of the Monongahela National Forest ("the Mon" in local-speak). Then loosen your jaw and relax your elbows as you dive back into the woods for more fun in the rocks. Stay way behind your saddle as a phenomenal singletrack descent - locals say it's the tightest downhill in Pocahontas County - drops you into the Tea Creek campground. You can refill your water bottles and prepare for more mossy, shady, rocky, singletrack en route to the headwaters of Tea Creek. Just when you think you've seen enough rocks and hills, you'll be rewarded with smooth sailing on downhill doubletrack. You'll push yourself hard and you'll wonder how you can feel so tired when you're smiling so wide.
Location: The Gauley Headwaters Epic is located in Slatyfork, West Virginia, high in the Allegheny Mountains, about 5 hours southwest of Washington D.C. Snowshoe Mountain resort is nearby, and Marlinton, WV, is 16 miles south.
Length: 37 miles
Elevation: 2,700 to 4,200 ft
Climbing: 4,500 ft
Terrain: Technical rocky singletrack, long descents, water crossings.
Season: July to October, expect some mud.
Highlight: The legendary Tea Creek Mountain descent.
Details: Elk River Touring Center, 304-572-3771, http://www.ertc.com
Club: West Virginia Mountain Bike Association, 304-291-0780, http://www.wvmba.com
Lodging: Pocahontas County Tourism Commission, 800-336-7009, http://www.pocahontas.org
Brew: WV Brewery Appalachian Ale and Blackwater Stout
Events: WV Fat Tire Festival, August 3-8, 24 Hours of Snowshoe (formerly Canaan), June 10-11