Adventure time: Rivers, Trails & Ales Festival weekend full of activity

With over 50 activities for outdoor enthusiasts that covered many parts of Washington County, the ninth annual Rivers Trails & Ales Festival kept hikers, bicyclists, kayakers, music lovers and beer connoisseurs busy for four days.

The popular festival is a celebration of paddling sports, mountain and road biking, hiking plus appreciation of live entertainment and fine local ales. The Rivers Trails & Ales Festival is dedicated to encouraging active lifestyles while promoting the beauty of the region’s outdoor natural resources and activities as well as supporting the local Southeastern Ohio economy.

“The weather is awesome and our expanded headquarters, now that it is in Muskingum Park, has benefited us very well,” said Eric Dowler, RTA Director.

“This event keeps growing by leaps and bounds,” he said. “We have folks coming in from other areas as well as locals, which is what we like.”

One of the primary goals from the founders of the festival, according to Dowler, is to showcase what the local area has to offer with its two bodies of water, miles of trails that can be used for hiking, biking, running and walking plus the beautiful roads of Washington County for road cycling.

“There are things to do here all year round to be outdoors and active,” said Dowler. “We hope that the people that traveled here to visit will come back to do more and that those locally will understand that these activities are available to them.”

Another primary part of the festival is to give back, said Dowler. The festival is very appreciative of its many sponsors. Any profits from the festival go back to the community such as Marietta Main Street, the Marietta Trail Maintenance Fund and other organizations that are close to the festival’s mission statement. Organizers were also grateful to the approximately 100 volunteers that helped to make the festival successful.

The area waterways were busy with kayaks, canoes and paddle boards navigating their way on Veto Lake and the Muskingum and Ohio rivers.

An annual popular festival event is the Lowell to Marietta Lock-Thru Paddle where paddlers experience a 12-14 mile trip that includes going through the historic hand-operated Devol’s Dam Lock #2. Over 100 paddlers took the trip down river. As many as 40 kayaks were locked in before the water level lowered and Lock Master Cody Wagner hand turned the 20-25 ton lock doors open for them to pass through.

“That was very cool locking through the historic lock and dam,” admitted Noah Landis, of Dayton. “I was a little nervous at first, but the water receded 10 feet and the gate opened then we were good to go.”

On land, there were many biking events. Saturday had cyclists peddling out for mountain and road trips.

Mountain Bike Coordinator Ben Sewell said they had mountain bike rides Saturday for different levels. There was a big ride that was 15-20 miles and a mid ride that was eight to 15 miles. Both took off from Muskingum Park in Marietta.

“I enjoy every bit of this festival,” said Austin Forshey, of Belpre. “It’s really inviting for everybody to come out and enjoy. This is something that I look forward to every year. It gives everyone an excuse to go out and have some fun.”

Amy Koher, of Marietta, opted for a road trip in the countryside.

“I love biking. It’s a great form of exercise,” said Koher. “This festival is awesome, so well organized. It’s just a lot of good people having a lot of fun.”

Dave Genung and his wife are from Akron and bike with their 11 year-old Jack Russell dog named Pistol Pete.

“He mostly likes to run along beside me, but I give him a break by putting him in the bike basket,” said Genung. “He’ll bark to let me know he wants to run again.”

Cyclists always need to consider safety. Using helmets, mirrors, lights and other safety equipment is important, but Roger Kalter, a longtime bicycle enthusiast, said the secret is to be visible and predictable.

“If possible, try to get eye contact with motorists so that you know you are aware of each other,” emphasized Kalter. “It’s important that you have situational awareness and know what’s going on around you. That includes way ahead and behind you.”

Kalter feels that Marietta would be a perfect town for having bike police. On a bike, officers would have an awareness of things and develop personal relationships that can’t be gained any other way.

Those on foot enjoyed hiking in many locations including the Broughtons Nature and Wildlife Education Area. According to long-time board member Dale Leeper, the area has a 800 acre footprint just outside of Marietta off of Ohio 821. The area offers miles of trails for walking, hiking, running and mountain biking.

On Saturday, two Rivers Trails & Ales Festival hikes took place at Broughtons depending upon skill level. Washington County Commissioner David White led the less experienced hikers.

“Hiking is my forte, I love to hike,” said White. “With this hike, we take a few breaks and I teach them about mushrooms and things of nature along the way. I encourage people to get out in the forest and hike and learn about their surroundings.”

Chuck and Kathy Davis, of Whipple, were a couple of the people that joined White on the hike. Chuck said his wife has been wanting to do this and saw it listed.

“This is a nice easy hike and it’s a nice day for it, it’s nice and cool,” he said.

The festival also included many other fun activities including a Gnome adventure, a scavenger hunt, a bike rodeo, yoga, a family fun ride and a parade.

The Beer Fest on Saturday afternoon in Muskingum Park was a great way to finish an active day. The Beer Fest featured 15 different beers from 66 different breweries in Ohio. Samplers enjoyed tasting their beer in small keepsake glasses. Food trucks, vendors and entertainment were also in the park adding to the experience.

An admitted passionate home brewer that got obsessed, Cameron Fuller, of Devil’s Kettle Brewery in Athens, said he has now been in business four years. One of his offerings this year included “Helles Awaits,” a German light lager.

“This spot is beautiful right near the river and the organizers are the most organized and friendliest of any festival that I’ve been a part of,” said Fuller. “I love this festival.”