Ok, ok, I don’t really have blue tinted glasses. I do, however, suffer from wintertime blues. But, then again, who doesn’t? The days are shorter, the nights are colder, and all we want is a little color in the world. That was my frame of mind as I set out on a Saturday afternoon. I was on the hunt for color.
In recent weeks I have been exploring trails in the Fayette County area. Growing up here, there are many trails that kids inevitably know inside and out. As an adult, I have come to realize there are a vast number of trails that I have yet to explore. One such trail is the Rend (Thurmond-Minden) Trail. To get to the there, take the Glen Jean exit off of Rt 19. Make an immediate left. At the bottom of the hill (less than a half mile) turn right and follow the signs to Thurmond (WV Rt 25). Drive for five miles, the trail is on your left. There is good signage and it’s hard to miss. Parking is good (large graveled lot) and there’s a restroom in the parking area.
You can find a great Rend Trail map here.
Thurmond is an area that I know and love so well. Growing up less than ten miles away from the area (and now owning the house I grew up in), I have explored the sandy river beaches, made my way in and out of the back alleyways of the abandoned mining town and have inner-tubed the adjacent Dun Loop Creek. If you love to take pictures (whether pro or amateur) this is a great area to find the perfect shot. Through my years of exploring the area I never gave Rend Trail a single consideration. Although I regret not previously giving time to it, what a joy it was to explore Thurmond from “the other side of the river.” The main trail itself is an easy-comfortable trail. It’s five people wide and well maintained. There are two entry points (Minden and Thurmond) and the entire walk is 6.4 miles roundtrip. The foot traffic was minimal; in three hours we passed fewer than ten people. There are benches along the way and at each overlook making this a great trail for all ages and experience groups.
The Rend Trail dates back to the early 1900s, when the Rend Branch of the Chesapeak & Ohio Railroad (C&O) first used it as a route to haul coal into Thurmond, where it was shipped out to its final destination. Along the trail are several wooden expansions (I assume these bridges replaced the old trestles that once stood during active railroad days). The rails have been long removed in all areas except one—there is a site where a large chunk of rock broke away from the mountain. It severed the rails and has remained there ever since. It looks as if Mother Nature stopped the flow of industry. This didn’t stop the trail-makers though. They built stairs and a wooden pathway around the rock.
This trail did deliver the color I so desired. Along the trail there were a number of downed trees with brilliant fungus on the edges and bark. The oranges against winter’s bleak brown grey were a welcome sight. I started searching for the different fungus types and colors along the way. Another burst of color came from across the river. It was the old town of Thurmond, the bright yellow and red of the train station cutting through the gloom. In researching this trail, I knew hikers would be afforded this amazing view. While on the actual trail though, I fretted for a few hundred yards because I thought the view was obscured by the trees. Not so. In fact, there is a specific overlook with a clean view of the town. So while hiking, fear not. There is a great view for picture taking purposes. Also along the trail are waterfalls that are accessible and also great for pictures. Be careful of your footing if you venture off of the trail. Although leaves make it appear like solid footing, sometimes it’s not the case.
A couple of safety notes—there are a number of rails that are still active in the Dun Loop Creek area, so be very careful and know your surroundings. Also, though the rocks look sturdy (and I know they would be fun to play on) it’s still very dangerous. Unless you’re an experienced climber (and even then), think twice and do not try to climb the fallen rock. I hiked this trail in January after a decent rain and was reminded of the importance of proper footwear. Although the path did not have mudholes, the wooden expansions were a bit slick. There are side trails (Church Loop) which have not been maintained this winter and are obstructed and rendered difficult to pass. Hopefully, by spring the park service will be able to clear those out. There is no lighting, so daylight hiking would be optimal.
Overall, this is a great trail. Springtime would be the best for those wanting to take picture while the trees and flowers are in bloom (I plan to return in the spring, camera in hand). However, one can find color in the world, no matter what time of year you seek it. I hope you take the Rend Trail! Please leave comments about your experiences on this trail or make suggestions for other trails you would like to hear more about. I am an adventurer at your command!