By Sarah Richardson
I would like to consider myself an adventurer. Maybe even an outdoorsman. Growing up in Greenbrier County meant a lot of childhood memories spent in creekbeds, swinging on rope swings found over the river, catching snakes, hiking, biking, camping, horseback riding, fishing, building forts, and generally braving the elements all 4 seasons of the year.
But I somehow never spent any time exploring the outdoors via something with an engine. (I blame my mom for her constant reminders of the dangers of 4-wheelers, ATVs… basically driving anything at all.)
That being said, I was excited to reach out to Greenbrier Off-Road Adventures to set up a Polaris off-roading tour across beautiful Kate’s Mountain for HashtagWV. As someone who makes sure to take local tours whenever we go on vacation, I absentmindedly assumed this would be in the same vein. Something fun, yet very much guarded for the tourists benefit, and promptly put no more thought into it until the day of the actual tour.
My husband was able to join me, which ended up being a very good thing, and we met up with John Murphy and Robert Camp at their spot in downtown White Sulphur.
John let us know that this is the number one rated activity at The Greenbrier, which is where you book the tours through. However, you don’t have to be staying at the hotel to book a tour!
We were joined by 3 other couples, two of whom were staying at the resort, and grabbed helmets, our protective glasses, and sat down for a safety video before heading out. Feeling very well-informed, I graciously told my husband he could be the first to drive (haha). Looking over our Polaris RZR XP 1000, he was like a kid in a candy store. Boasting an impressive screen with tons of options (including a radio! I wasn’t expecting that), we were able to track not only our speed, but direction, elevation, and more.
I stupidly brought my notebook and pen along, anticipating jotting down notes periodically as we perused the countryside. (Seasoned off-roaders know exactly how ignorant I was at this moment in time).
Our guide Robert was very knowledgeable and eager to get us on the trails. He was thorough with making sure that each team knew how to operate their machine, which to my newbie self made the whole process much less daunting than it could have been.
We hit the road and cruised down Main Street to Kate’s Mountain. In high gear there was NO lack of get-up-and-go with the Polaris. With 110 horsepower it’s no wonder we were hitting 25 mph with the smallest tap of the gas.
I didn’t realize the full scope of what I had signed us up for until we reached the start of the trails themselves. Straight ahead of us was a hill that shot directly upward. I looked at my husband and immediately began panicking.
However, it was too late now to do anything else, so into the woods we went!
While the actual path we took wasn’t the straight-up route (thank goodness), we hung left for the “training course” which is where I would’ve bailed had I been the driver. Thank goodness I wasn’t, because it ended up being one of the funnest times I’ve ever had in GBC.
With ruts and holes as deep as my waist, mud pits, and sheer downhill portions with slick slate rocks, I was immediately humbled and gripping the handle for perceived security right off the bat. I have no idea what the engineers at Polaris get paid, but they need a raise, because none of that should be accessible via a wheeled machine. I quite literally do not understand how it physically makes it over and through the deep, angled pits that are full of mud and should have zero traction.
Over the next hour and a half, we covered 17 miles of mountain trails at speeds between a crawl and nearly 30 mph in some stretches. At our periodic check-in stops most of the other groups were switching drivers, something that did not happen on our end (I want to live, thanks).
It was absolutely not ever something I thought would be labeled as a “tourist” activity, but then again, it turns out I might not be as adventurous as I thought. The sheer speed and exhilaration coupled with the variation in terrains we were cruising over kept my husband on his toes as we tried to keep up with the rest of the group. It was a drizzly day, and right after a beautiful, and foggy, overlook stop where Robert snapped some pictures of each group, the skies opened up into an absolute downpour. The next 20 minutes felt like we were trying to escape Jurassic Park or something, just blasting through the untamed jungle while being pelted with heavy raindrops and now (somehow) EVEN MORE mud. I snapped as many photos as I could in the slower stretches (I don’t recommend trying to get your phone out, thankfully the mud didn’t get inside any of the important parts) and took a few videos that ended up being unusable due to my extensive cursing.
Close to the end, we were warned of a steep hill that was coming up. There had already been quite a few steep spots (both uphill and down!) and in short, we had to go full-bore and nearly floor the gas for OVER A MINUTE while we dug ourselves up this half washed-out trail. I was convinced we were going to simply flip backwards. Once we finally forced our way to the top, I realized that was the most fun I’ve had in recent memory. How intense!! How often do you get to get outside like that?? Like, REALLY get outside, to places that make so sense physically to even get to? Is this why off-roading is taking off all over WV?? I have no doubts that this industry will continue to grow in popularity with each new rider that visits.
Overall, the entire run I was ADAMENT that I would never this again, my hands were sore from the constant full grip onto the passenger handles, and I was soaked from head to toe with a high-vis jacket that was so muddy it had become a regular jacket.
But the second it was over and I realized that we, in fact, did NOT die, I wanted to go again. And maybe even drive this time.
Be a tourist in your own backyard! Booking a tour is easy through The Greenbrier Resort. You do not need to be a guest of the hotel to book this excursion. Call 855-453-4858 with questions or to make a reservation, which are required. Minimum driver’s age is 16 years old with a valid driver’s license, and the passenger minimum age is 12 years old and 4’9” tall. Drivers must be at least 25 years old to drive minor passengers. Drivers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Two-hour sessions are priced per RZR. Call for more information or visit www.greenbrier.com/Activities-Events/Polaris-RZR-Driving-Adventure.aspx