WHEELING - The generally calm waters of the Ohio River and its main tributary, Big Wheeling Creek, look like the perfect spot for kayaking.
Both experts and novices alike can enjoy pushing in far up the creek and paddling down to its mouth just south of WesBanco Arena into the river.
Looks like fun doesn't it?
And given the recent rash of nearly triple-digit temperatures, those cool waters look mighty inviting don't they?
However, for those wanting to try out kayaking, one major obstacle is poised as a stumbling block ... cost.
Even the most basic kayak is going to run you a few hundred bucks. It's not quite the investment of a new car but it's not cheap either.
Then, factor in the slight chance you might not even like paddling down the creek. That's a considerable investment for an activity you may only partake in a few times per month or more at best; only once if you don't enjoy the activity.
Thankfully for Ohio Valley residents, there is a simple solution.
Mountain Mama's Kayak and Bike Rental in downtown Wheeling has been offering that solution since the summer of 2010.
Owned by cousins Ryan Teufel and Natalie Hamilton, Mountain Mama's offers kayak and bike rentals in 1, 2, 4 and 8-hour increments.
Originally housed in the first floor of the McLure House hotel, the business relocated to Main St. across from the Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center.
The locale offers dressing rooms and lockers to its patrons to store their personables while out on the water. Helmets and life jackets are included for their customers' safety.
No previous experience is necessary to rent a kayak.
A quick training class is offered before taking to the water for the first time then the novice kayakers are off on their aquatic adventure.
At that point, it's just you, the kayak, a paddle and the water. Speed and direction is up to you as the Ohio River, including the shoreline of Wheeling Island, along with a mile-long section of Big Wheeling Creek are at your disposal.
It's good for a change in recreational activity and also a great workout. It can also serve as a taste-test of kayaking for those wishing to test the waters, so to speak, before purchasing their own kayak and seeking out adventures at other Ohio Valley waterways and beyond.
In addition to the kayaks, stand-up paddleboards are available for those with a greater sense of balance or for folks wanting a twist for their water excursion.
But water recreation isn't the only form of fun available at Mountain Mama's.
The greater Wheeling area boasts a plethora of bike trails, including the Ohio River Trail and Wheeling Creek Trail which make up the Heritage Trails.
The Ohio River Trail, which begins at the city line in South Wheeling and runs north along the river to the Pike Island Lock and Dam, is 8.5 miles in distance.
The Wheeling Creek Trail is five miles in length, running West to East and ends in Elm Grove. A highlight of the trail is the Hempfield Tunnel, a converted railroad tunnel.
Along the routes, bikers can view historical signs detailing the area's rich history.
For those who don't have their own bikes to travel on these trails, Mountain Mama's has an assortment of two-wheeled rentals available for use.
Kids bikes are available too and each bike rental comes with a helmet.
The staff at Mountain Mama's asks that patrons call ahead for rental prices and to make reservations.
Kayakers are asked to keep an eye out for boats, jet skis, watercraft and, in particular, barges while traveling on the river. It is illegal to come within 1,000 feet of a barge.
Mountain Mama's opens daily at 10 a.m. and most rentals must be back at the shape no later than 6 p.m.
For more information, visit www.kayakwheeling.com, visit Mountain Mama's on Facebook or simply call (304) 232-7368.
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