Stories of the River: Jesse Wilson

Jesse Wilson is a recreation-loving bike tour manager at Ohiopyle’s Wilderness
Voyageurs. When he isn’t in his office doing all of the logistical backside work to plan other
people’s adventures, he is out on his own exploring all the Laurel Highlands has to offer. Jesse
is originally from Ohio, but after spending a few summers raft guiding on the Yough he, like
many of us, fell in love with the area and came to call it his second home. Jesse transitioned
from the whitewater rafting scene to biking in an effort to get more exercise, but also to get out
into the parts of nature that are only accessible by bikes (or really, really long hikes). Biking
allows Jesse to escape from the flocks of tourism on busy weekends, and find solitude cruising
through a blur of wilderness.

Jesse is currently working on mapping out a bikepacking trail system that would better
allow bikers to navigate the Laurel Highlands. Bikepacking is essentially a combination of
backpacking and mountain biking, and while it has started to boom in recent years, we don’t
really have anything to support it in our region. Jesse is working to develop this by exploring the
area on his own and collecting data from others to figure out what connects where and what
other gated backroads and trails can be utilized. Jesse has seen the way the hikers come from
far and wide for the Laurel Highlands trail, and the way the Yough ignites a community of
whitewater enthusiasts, and he wants to see the same opportunity for bikers in this area.

While Jesse is out on his adventures deep in the thick of it, he is often dependent on the
creeks as a source of drinking water. Due to extensive resource extraction, AMD runoff, E. Coli,
etc., the water is frequently not drinkable even after filtration. As tourism continues to grow in
the area and more businesses develop, Jesse is happy that MWA is here advocating for more
ethical tourism and the preservation of this land, its waters, and its communities. “MWA is
fighting the good fight and going up against the big hitters to restore this place to what it is
meant to be.” Jesse says. He is excited MWA is working to complete the ICV trail as it is
another means for people to get out of vehicles and onto bikes to get around. Jesse hopes that
the work he does continues to act as a bridge to connect people to all the wonders this region
has to offer and inspires them to do their part in keeping it safe.