George Washington National Forest Trail Ride

On Sunday morning I awoke in anticipation of a great day 4-wheeling with CORE. Larry had organized a trail ride and the Plan for the day was to head to Flag Pole Knob in the George Washington National Forest outside of Harrisonburg, VA. I had been under the weather for a while and was not sure that I was going to make the trip. Luckily I felt better this morning and was able to go. Cooler packed and Jeep gassed up I headed to one of several meeting spots that Larry had designated beforehand. The Weather Man was promising a hot day with a few clouds in the sky. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for 4-wheeling.

As soon as you get on this trail you encounter several rock ledges and drops.

Along for the adventure were the following brave souls:

  • Bob Weaver, Jeep Rubicon, Member
  • Larry Pope, Jeep Wrangler, Member
  • Gary Owens, Jeep Rubicon, Member
  • Andrew Taylor and Cherie Wood, Nissan Xterra Pro-4X, Members
  • Robert Rixham and Fred Granruth, Silver 4Runner, Member/Guest

We were all eventually to meet up at the Sheetz in Harrisonburg. I was running a few minutes behind and worried that I was not going to get to the Sheetz in time. However, soon my fears abated as I passed Gary on I-81. He was going slowly and I wondered if he was ok. A quick wave and check that he was ok and I continued down the interstate to meet the others. Soon I had caught up to the others traveling down the road and then I knew that I would not be late. At the Sheetz we gassed up and got food supplies for the day ahead. We were ready to hit the trail. One problem, we were still missing Gary. Just as we were ready to call him, on cue he pulled into the Sheetz (something about a tour of downtown Harrisonburg as he had taken the wrong exit).

After a brief driver meeting to discuss the day’s plans we were off on our adventure. Heading out RT 33 our first stop was the local park and quick tour of their facilities. It is located along the stream and is a great spot for a picnic. After that we started the climb up into the GWNF and made the turn to go down to Switzer Dam and lake. At the first stream crossing we stopped to air down and look at the causeway. Here Andrew found a giant spider waiting for him at the water’s edge. After a few quick pictures, we headed back to the trail.

The trail today was a fairly easy climb up to Flagpole Knob. It looked like they had recent rain and the trail had several mud holes along the way. We ran into several dogs with their radio collars on along the trail as the hunters were out training their dogs. Once we reached the top at Flagpole Knob, we stopped to enjoy a spectacular view and eat lunch. While we were eating another group came up to check out the knob and we learned that they were from the Woodbridge Ham radio club and were checking out the area for their weekend Ham fest in September.

After lunch our next stop was to head over to Reddish Knob. Along the way the trail becomes paved but very narrow. I always worry about meeting oncoming traffic along this stretch of the trail (ok, road) but we did not have a problem with that today. We were not alone at Reddish Knob as several other groups were there enjoying the view also. After a quick picture opportunity we backtracked to Flagpole Knob. Along the way we met some folks riding horses and I think that our vehicles spooked the horses at first. After checking to make sure that everyone made it past the horses ok, we were back on track again.

Passing Flagpole Knob we came back down the Mountain and turned on what I call “Stonehouse” road but the maps call this RT 225. This is one of my favorite roads in the GWNF. It is less traveled than most trails in this area and is more overgrown and rougher than what we had been on earlier in the day. As soon as you get on this trail you encounter several rock ledges and drops. You need to stay in low gear or risk losing your brakes. There are a few mud holes along the trail in this part of the forest. The trail at this point follows the mountain ridge with views on each side of the trail. One of the landmarks along this section is the stone house ruins and we stopped for pictures. It is also here that the “famous” Chevy driveshaft can opener rocks are located (Sorry Paul, I have to tell the story every time I pass this spot).

Further down the trail we encountered a slight climb with some loose and big rocks on the trail. After I made a bad first choice of a line thinking that the folks behind me would not be able to do this obstacle, I backed up to try again and got very close to the trail edge. I asked Gary to spot me to make sure that I did not get too far past the trail edge and lined up a second time and went right over and up. You can pick from several lines here from difficult to easy. Each member of the group picked their own line and got over the obstacle and did it with ease. I was impressed with our group. It is here that they have also added a bypass if you do not want to try the rock ledge. No one in our group needed the bypass. After a few more mud holes we were back to gravel roads. I did not remember how far we had to travel on the gravel road and at one point stopped to make sure that I was indeed on the right road. After returning to the Sheetz we all aired up and said our good byes. A good time was had by all.

Trail report written by Bob Weaver . Pictures courtesy of Larry Pope, Andrew Taylor, Cherie Wood, Robert Rixham, and Fred Granruth.

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