Even though my non-husband XFE and I are fully vaccinated, we have still held off on traveling. Which, if you’ve read this blog before, you know it’s a big, big change for us.
And, as the COVID breakthrough cases went up over the summer, and news of ICUs being full and hospitals overwhelmed, we wanted to stick with that decision. We did not want a breakthrough infection and we did not want to potentially expose anyone else.
Still, we needed a vacation. Not a ‘work 12-hour days AT your vacation home’ vacation, but a real break. A COVID-safe vacation. Preferably something outdoors with minimal human interaction.
So we went ATVing on the Hatfield-McCoy Trails System, a network of off-roading mountain trails in southern West Virginia.
I take no credit for this vacation. It was all XFE. He found it, he researched it, he booked it and he was very, very excited about it.
I was a bit more reticent. After all, we’ve never really done anything like that before. There was that one time we went dune riding in Peru, but we were not allowed to drive those dune buggies. This would be a total self-driving situation. For three full days. On muddy trails. Plus, we’d be staying in a cabin, which seemed silly to me since we HAVE a cabin. And a really, really nice one at that.
This whole thing was not exactly my typical luxury travel vacation. Still, it was a vacation and a chance to unplug from work and other distractions.
We packed up the SUV and drove five hours west towards the border of West Virginia and Kentucky for our ATV adventure.
We (and by we, I mean, XFE had actually timed it perfectly because there’s a huge festival – National TrailFest – that takes place every October and brings in thousands of people from all over the world. This year it took place October 7-11. XFE arranged our vacation for the week before, which was perfect. The trails weren’t crowded at all, especially on the weekdays. By Thursday afternoon though, you start to see an uptick in traffic.
We chose Gilbert as our home base and rented a self-catering cabin at Canebrake Cabins, which is just across the street from a trail entry point (RockHouse trail entry #17). Our cabin (the Willow) had a grill and a full kitchen, and it was clean and well-equipped, if a bit noisy (it’s right on a busy road), but it was perfect for our purposes. It also had an ATV washing area in the parking lot, which we definitely needed at the end of each day.
Gilbert wasn’t much to look at. In fact, considering it’s such a tourist destination, it seems a bit run down, if I’m being honest. Since we’d brought all our own food and beverages, we didn’t spend much time in town, so I can’t really speak to any of the amenities there.
The first morning, we picked up our super fancy Kawasaki KRX 1000 side-by-side from Mountain Top Adventures at the Twin Hollow Campgrounds. After filling out some paperwork, purchasing all our trail permits ($50 for non-residents), and a brief run-through of how to operate the ATV, we were allowed to drive off and start getting muddy on 700-plus miles of trails.
I will say, ATVing is a lot more fun than maybe I had expected. Yes, it’s loud and bumpy and even muddy, but it’s also really fun. It feels a lot like being a kid again and riding the rides at a carnival or amusement park. Getting dirty was just part of the fun. And, there’s no cell service on a mountain trail, so nobody was checking phones or replying to emails. All you can do is hold on and ride (or drive, which was mostly left to XFE. )
We obviously didn’t hit all 700 miles of trail, but we did rack up 200-300 miles each of the three days we were out there. We made it out east to the Buffalo Mountain system in Delbarton and Devil Anse system in Matewan. We got up early on those days and drove the ATV on the highway (albeit, slowly) to get to the far side of the system and work our way back towards Man or Gilbert via the connecting trails. But our favorite trails turned out to be in the system closest to our cabins, RockHouse.
And ladies, if you are worried about whether ATVing is for you, just think of it as a very primitive spa vacation. You start early in the morning with a cryo-therapy treatment (those mountains are cold and foggy in the morning). This is followed by alternating treatments of microdermabrasion (in the form of sand) and organic mud facials, all while receiving an all-over body massage via the constant rumbling. Aromatherapy comes in the form of the forest plants and shrubs whipping past you at 25 miles an hour. Plus, there’s the adrenaline flush you’ll receive as you look over the side of steep mountain inclines sans guardrails.
If that doesn’t convince you that ATVing is for everyone, I’m not sure what will.