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Lately the weather’s been foul with cold rain and wind to go with it, but those conditions don’t seem to bother the ATV riders heading back to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail and the Spearhead Trail. Rain equals plenty of mud for their adventure, and I’ve got to admit that I’ll take mud over dust any day.

Last week, the Spearhead Trail in Tazewell County, Va., reopened to riders, and the Hatfield-McCoy Trail in southern West Virginia is scheduled to reopen today. Local ATV resorts started getting phone calls and messages as soon as Gov. Jim Justice announced that the trail would be reopening on May 21. The sight of big pickup trucks hauling trailers loaded with two or more ATVs is becoming common again.

Naturally, we decided to do a story with photos the day the Spearhead Trail reopened. Photographer Jessica Nuzzo and I headed for the trailhead near Bluefield, Va. and soon learned that they were getting busy again. Cabins were being booked up and people were on the trails already. Jessica wanted to get on the trail for some good photos, and I decided that I better go, too, to get a better sense of how to write the story.

We traveled with a local guide, Vince “Muddman” Rogers, and he led us up some twisty trails and down slopes that made me think we were going to fall over. First we had dust. A fine layer of the stuff settled on my notepad and made writing difficult. I had a digital recorder with me, but that doesn’t work well next to a roaring engine. I improvised notes and listened as best I could when the dust gave way to mud as we forded a stream. We got out and Muddman lived up to his name by going through a big puddle so Jessica could get some good pictures. I just avoided the splash.

A press ride I took a couple of years ago on the Hatfield-McCoy Trail near Bramwell occurred during wet weather, so the mud flew and I came away knowing what the trail both smelled and tasted like. I can testify that the Spearhead Trail has the same earthly aroma and flavor.

Both rides helped me to appreciate why ATV riding is so popular. It’s exciting and gives you a taste of adventure out in the wilderness. Maybe high-speed camping could be another term for it. You either camp or spend time in a local cabin or lodge. You can cook out or visit a local restaurant, and you can explore the local area and see more of the local history. After a day of roaring along the trails and getting caked with several pounds of mud, you can clean up and gather around the fire pit when the evening arrives. 

Closing the trails was a blow to the local economy, but the fact they’re reopened in time for the Memorial Day Weekend offers hope that business can get back to normal. People are itching to get outdoors and ride, so the fact so many people have had to stay at home could boost enthusiasm for the ATV sport. I’ll confess that I’ve looked at ATVs and wondered which one I’d get if I could afford it. I know my nephews A.J. and Alex would love it, but I’m not sure I’d let either of them drive it right away.

“If it’s safe, it can’t be any fun,” is A.J.’s motto when it comes to outdoor sports. This is from the young man who once skied down a slope at high speed and skimmed over a pool of freezing water, so I believe him.

I’m planning to be out on Memorial Day and seeing for myself how ATV activity has picked up. More ATVs are being hauled into the region already, so that’s a good sign that Memorial Day Week is going to be a lively one for the trails. It’s important to get the local tourism industry back up and in operation.

I’ll probably fantasize about owning an ATV, but I’ll have to temper those fantasies with thoughts about where I would store it and things like that. Of course, if I could afford a really good ATV, I could afford all the expenses that go with one. Then I could get trail passes and spend a day exploring the trails without thinking about writing something afterward.

 

— Greg Jordan is the Daily Telegraph’s senior reporter. Contact him at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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