Trying to tell people we were building trails in Conway, South Carolina was like trying to convince everyone that there is mountain biking on the moon. For those who don’t remember their Eastern U.S. geography, Conway is very close to Myrtle Beach, hundreds of golf courses, and the Atlantic Ocean. Even we didn’t know what to expect, but we reviewed our sandy trailbuilding techniques and rolled into town with a very open mind.
As you’ve probably guessed, there aren’t a lot of mountains around Conway. Fortunately, there is fair amount of public land. The Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge covers about 22,000 acres of South Carolina Lowcountry terrain. Tall pines, forested wetlands, and black water rivers characterize the natural diversity of the area. Even better, a portion of the refuge (Cox Ferry Recreation Area) was the site of our weekend trailbuilding school.
It’s not often that we get to build trails in places like Waccamaw. As with all public lands, there is a delicate balance between the preservation of diverse ecosystems and the need for providing healthy recreation options in the region. Singletrack trails are one great way to bring these two things together. The idea is simple, yet very powerful; getting more people out enjoying nature will give them more reasons to protect it.
For two of the key players in the weekend festivities, the outdoor experience is at the core of their existence. The weekend was devoted to their cause; helping the local community to develop more recreation opportunities while becoming stewards of the land. Over the last few months Dr. Genevieve Marchand, outdoor education professor at Coastal Carolina University, and Craig Sasser, manager of Waccamaw NWR have worked tirelessly to prepare for the TCC visit. Their efforts were rewarded on Saturday as 30 people built a quarter mile of textbook, sustainable singletrack. It will be a model and foundation for the remaining mileage they intend to build in the future. Ultimately, it will be an amenity for both university students and the community at-large. I think all of us would agree that Waccamaw is going to be an amazing place to use trails.
Since the mountain biking scene in Conway is still in its infancy, we did something different for the Sunday group ride; we paddled a blue trail. As the water equivalent to riding singletrack, blue trails are designated routes on river waterways. Using kayaks instead of bikes, we spent two peaceful hours gliding along the flooded forests of Cypress trees, soaking in the gorgeous South Carolina landscape. For me, it brought an entirely new meaning to the idea of natural surface trails.
Thanks to Coastal Carolina University, Chanticleer Outdoor Adventures, Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, A Cypress Inn, The Crafty Rooster, and all of the volunteers!
More photos from the weekend: