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Our mud-spattered mini-convoy—a trio of aggressive, high-powered sport UTVs—has been tearing through these dense backwoods since first light. Behind the wheel of a machine that boasts more horsepower than the car that brought me to the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, I’m hustling to keep sight of our local trail sherpa as he blazes across narrow ridgelines and around an endless succession of gritty switchbacks. So I’m somewhat relieved when he eases off the accelerator on a rare level stretch. As he suddenly swerves, though, it becomes apparent that he was simply pausing to locate the gap of a narrow side trail. Unlike the mapped, sprawling Hatfield-McCoy Trails system we’ve been navigating, this new path isn’t marked, and zags up a rise at a neck-popping angle—steeper than anything we’ve so far tackled.

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