THE SUMMER is an exercise enthusiasts favorite time of the year.
No more being stuck in the gym. The excellent weather and outdoor scenery awaits, begging to be utilized.
And no one benefits more from higher temperatures and sunny weather more than the cyclist.
Peddling through inches of snow and frigid temperatures will steer all but the most hardcore biking enthusiast toward indoor training.
Thankfully, the Ohio Valley has ample opportunities for biking enthusiasts to log their miles, from roadways to specifically designed trails.
Communities in both Ohio and West Virginia have worked to develop land along the river for riding. Towns like St. Clairsville have also made specific roadways for riding even without the backdrop of the Ohio River.
But for those who long for a bit more excitement than the relatively flat bike paths along the water provide, there is mountain biking.
The Ohio Valley isn't blanketed with numerous off-road trails, but the Ohio Valley Mountain Bike Association has sought to spice up the ones that are available.
The association sought and was granted permission from Barkcamp State Park near Morristown to maintain and make additions to the biking paths that run throughout the park's acreage.
Mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners all have carte blanche of the park's pathways, minus the horse/snowmobile trail.
Association members have volunteered their time to help clear the pathways of fallen debris and overgrowth, as well as installed various implements to further the enjoyment for the riders.
On one portion near the entrance to one trail that begins near the main fishing dock at Barkcamp, a large tree log crosses the path.
A few OVMBA members decided to utilize the terrain and build ramps up and down the log, enabling riders to traverse the log, or if they choose, speed up and leap over it.
''It's not really for beginning riders and for those who might be a little worried, there is a short detour around it,'' said David Crow, a OVMBA member and cycle tech at the Quick Service Bicycle Shop.
There are also bridges and other implements installed that add a greater degree of difficulty and enjoyment for riders.
Crow explained that there are numerous loops for riders to follow, branching off from the main path. Some are more difficult than others but there are trails even the most novice of riders to find and enjoy.
And considering one of the main gripes of the fitness averse is the potential for monotonous movements, it's hard to beat the ever changing woodland scenery and elevation of the trail.
Striking a unique balance, it's a great way to relax while working up a sweet and burning some calories.
But as Crow pointed out, it's not just for the enjoyment of the mountain bikers.
''There is a trail runners group that comes out here and takes advantage of the trails,'' he said. ''They have some hardcore runners.''
The benefits are the same for the runners. Why run on an unending flat surface or a circular track where the scenery never changes when you can hit a wooded trail?
Crow said his association plans group rides at Barkcamp and other locations for its members and is also looking at holding a large-scale event at Barkcamp in the coming months.
OVMBA has a page on Facebook, which provides members the opportunity to seek out other riders for impromptu or regular trips through the park.
While mountain biking and trail riding isn't for everyone, for those that do attempt the sport, it's a definite break from treadmills, elliptical machines and stairmasters.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org