When I started this website I intended for it to be dedicated to OHV trails around the Mid-South (it's since expanded to mountain biking, but that's another subject). Growing up in Coal Country, we didn't have a clue what 'an OHV' was, much less know where an OHV Trail was. Outlaw trails, meaning coal haul roads, old logging roads, and strip mines were all we knew - quite frankly that was all we needed.
Trail riding is a way of life in Coal Country. A 4wheeler is a basic household item and many families have more than one. Living in the mountains means you can head up the holler and be on a trail that's going to connect to a basically endless amount of others.
Trail maps are nonexistent. People just know. If you don't know, holler at the oldest feller in the holler and he can link trail upon trail, county upon county. It's nothing for some of these folks to pack up and make a loop from Kentucky, through Virginia into Tennessee and know every mudhole along the way.
Several years ago when they first began planning for an actual trail system in my home county, people threw a fit. "I'll never go over there [other side of the county] when I got better trails right up the hill. And I damn sure ain't payin' fer it." Since then, coal mining has taken an incredible hit and when there's no coal mines there's no 'trail' maintenance. Shut down mines get gated off. Mountains get reclaimed. Trails get abandoned. Less and less mountains are able to be connected on 4wheeler. So where do we go? Developed, dedicated trail systems. Odd how that works, ain't it?
Since starting this site I've come to realize how good we had it growing up. I'm all about developing dedicated trails for people to enjoy but it's still unbelievable how great the riding is in Appalachian Coal Country. I have yet to hit an actual trail system this year. Even at the expense of this website, I'm OK with that. The riding has been great.
A group of my brother's friends from way up in the Midwest came down for a week of 4wheeling. They spent an entire week riding from strip mine to strip mine, never hitting one of the many trail systems folks travel down this way for, and they couldn't get enough. It just goes to show that no matter how much bad press Central Appalachia gets, this is a truly incredible place. What better way to experience it than behind a set of handlebars? Or in their case, the steering wheel of a side-by-side.
To wrap this up, even though I love to see counties and local governments continuing to acknowledge the benefits of OHV trail building, sometimes the best trail isn't a trail at all. Sometimes the best riding happens when you don't have a map. The freedom of open exploration is something that many people never get to experience and that's a damn shame. Go out there and get lost, you might find what you've been looking for all along.
Having said all of this, please keep supporting local trail groups, trail systems and everyone who pours their hearts into advocating for our lifestyle. Don't take these places for granted because although outlaw trails can be great, they're not always safe and they're always frowned up from the outside... But maybe that's what make them so fun.
This isn't a political pro-coal post. This is just intended to shed light on a lifestyle that I, along with many others I grew up around. It's what sparked a love and it's what will keep me fighting for the right to enjoy beautiful areas around the country - whether on a motorcycle, bicycle, or by foot.