Home City Avid Athens cyclists hike the Baileys Trail

Avid Athens cyclists hike the Baileys Trail

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The hikers cross Coal Run over rocks as the bridge has not yet been built. Photo by Emily Crebs.

Braving the frigid morning temperature and a frozen mudded trail on Sunday, a party of about 15 hikers and two dogs traversed 5 miles of the Baileys Trail System.

The party was joined by two avid hiking dogs. Photo by Emily Crebs.

The group included passionate mountain bikers, volunteers who worked on the trail’s production and members of the Wayne National Forest Service. During the hike, conversation flowed from racing events, like triathlons, to forest wisdom such as explanations for curious tree shapes.

Rob Delach, the communications officer for the Athens Bicycle Club, led the party. While Delach had not been a leader in the trail’s construction, he describes himself as a “Baileys cheerleader.” In the past, Delach encouraged supporters to attend Athens City Council meetings to advocate for the trail.

Other party members expressed excitement for the Baileys during the hike. When completed, the trail will be almost 90 miles in length, which the bikers expect to draw many visitors from the cycling community.

The party congregated beneath a pavilion at Chauncey-Dover Community Park. Delach said the first phase of the Baileys, 14 miles of trail, had been completed.

A hiker taps against an “artifact” left behind from a coal miner. Artifacts are left on the trail to preserve the coal mining history. Photo by Emily Crebs.

The party hiked a loop that will be named either “Coal Run Trail” or “Coal Run Loop,” according to Dawn McCarthy, the project’s public information officer. Coal Run creek marks the entrance of the Baileys, and it can be seen throughout the loop. The creek’s name references Chauncey’s mining history, which the Wayne National Forest wanted to maintain in the loop’s naming. 

On the trail, hikers observed old mining roads left untouched by the trail builders. Portions of the trail had an orange hue in the soil because of past mining, and in Coal Run Creek, hikers can stir up orange debris if they step in the water.

The party recrosses Coal Run, stirring up debris from coal mining. Photo by Emily Crebs.

Mountainbiker Molly Morris hiked with her dog, Logan. Morris has mountain-biked across the continent, including far-off destinations like Mexico. 

“My friends from all over the world are really excited (about the Baileys),” Morris said. “To have this many miles of trail in one spot is really unique.”

Malcolm Idleman was one of the volunteers who flagged a portion of the Baileys to help define the path. Idleman has worked closely in the construction of Lake Hope State Park’s mountain biking trail.

Brightly colored flags remain from the early in the trail construction process. Photo by Emily Crebs.

Idleman was prompted to ask the forest service if he could create a mountain biking trail at Lake Hope. An officer who previously arrested Idleman twice in two different counties for violating trail rules, told him that a mountain biking trail would be okay if he built it. 

The Lake Hope mountain bike trails are about 25 miles long and constructed without machinery; the trails were “hand-built” by tools from volunteers.

Idleman recalled his experience flagging the Baileys. Initially, the trail’s map was drafted on a computer program. 

“You’re in a virgin forest here, and you’re following — well — a computer screen that defined the way you should go,” Idleman said. 

The volunteers were able to have some say in where the trail ended up, even though the trail builders had final discretion in determining its position. 

Idleman explained details of the trail’s design during the hike.

In some areas, the trail undulates with small hills. Without adequate hill grade and drainage, Idleman expressed concern that some low points could collect water. He pointed out the placement of culverts, which are structures that allow water to flow underneath the trail, and trenches.

“Water is the number one killer of any trail,” he said. 

Idleman admires the “armoring” done on the trail, which refers to the large rocks impressed into sections of the trail to prevent muddied areas. 

Malcolm Idleman admires the “armouring” done on the Baileys to prevent muddying. Photo by Emily Crebs.

Idleman mountain bikes for the thrill, but he said cost is a limiting factor to mountain biking. He said he owns six bikes, and the cheapest was $4,000. 

“The only thing that I have done that is more thrilling is skydiving and rock climbing, for the sheer adrenaline rush,” Idleman said. “Mountain biking comes as a close third.”

Bob West, the president of Athens Bicycle Club who was also present at the hike, expressed that his tenure would likely be known for the Baileys, even though he has not been a central force in leading the project. 

West indicated that, despite the fast pace of the project’s development in recent years, the project has faced delays.

Athens City Council recently addressed complications concerning the trail system’s funding, according to previous report by The New Political. 

“It was pretty idealistic and optimistic that all the funding would fall into place,” West said. “But I always wish it was faster, better, smoother.”

West discussed cross country skiing as an option for the trail if enough snow accumulates. West also said, however, that mountain bikers normally do not fear the cold if the trail can freeze over. When the winter is warmer and wetter, bikers retreat to concrete paths rather than fighting the mud.

Throughout the hike, McCarthy and other nimble hikers tore flags off of the trees that volunteers like Idleman had put up. 

A hiker removes flags from a tree now that the first phase of the trail’s construction is complete. Photo by Emily Crebs.

“What’s really cool,” one of the hikers said, “is the cycle of flagging (in the forest) and actually deflagging when there’s a trail here.”

The current trail of the Baileys can be viewed on openstreetmap.org

Chauncey overlooks the Baileys trail. Photo by Emily Crebs.
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