Riding in Monongahela National Forest | The Mountains are the Reason

West Virginia

By Jim Vota, Photography by Kristen Massucci

After a mild downhill hike back to your motorcycle, head northwest to Smoke Hole Caverns. The caverns, opened to the public in 1940, are said to contain the largest ribbon stalactites in the world. It is believed that moonshiners and bootleggers stored their goods here during Prohibition, both because of its cool temperature and remote location. Though the cavern has experienced some damage at the hand of man over the decades, its vibrant colors and unique textures still reflect off the modern lighting strategically placed throughout.

Just southwest of the caverns, you will jump onto Jordan Run Road. A steep, dusty climb above the trees takes you to a unique geographical feature known as Dolly Sods, one of the last identifiable glacial cuts in the east. Symmetrical valleys cascade into the distance, as if you were standing between two mirrors. The weather is unpredictable at this point, and clouds move quickly. Time takes on new meaning up here, and the rocks reveal the “blink” of time that we occupy. Sit for a while and you will almost hear the rock piles chuckling at your modern problems. Their gift to us is perspective; a sense that we can get past that which may sometimes seem unsurpassable, given time. And Dolly Sods will even be so courteous as to provide silence while you reflect on that.

The last stop before the trek back to Laurel Fork is Blackwater Falls. Dropping five stories from the Blackwater River, the falls reside in a tightly confined valley (or ‘holler,’ to the locals). Tannic acid from the fallen hemlock and spruce needles creates an amber color to the water, and the valley ridge provides views of the landscape from countless angles. Rocks protrude out from the ridges, where you can sit, feet dangling above the valley, as mist crawls between your feet and the trees below. Although this is the final destination, you still have miles of trails between you and Laurel Fork. So let loose and tear it up!!

These mountains have dictated life here for generations. They have demanded harmony, rewarding those who welcome it, and punishing those who reject it. The forest offers solitude, and if you accept its terms, it will graciously provide you with everything an adventure should have. Whether it is historical, geographical, or recreational, the mountains are the reason. me

Make sure you stop and enjoy the view above Blackwater Falls. It’s not always about the riding.

Weapon of Choice: 2002 Suzuki DR650

Acerbis 5.3 Gallon Tank
Vapo Speedometer
Protaper Bar Risers and bars
Dual Take Mirrors
Upgraded Rear and front sprocket with 520 chain conversion
Jet Easy adjuster on Carburetor
Hi-Flow DT1 Air Filter
SUN Rims
Black Body Kit
All available at Pro Cycle

Cyclops Adventure Sports Rally Light,
at Cyclops Adventure Sports

Aerostich Roadcrafter jacket
Aerostich Darien pant
Joe Rocket Moto Air gloves
Fulmer ADV helmet








By Jim Vota
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