Green Ridge State Forest Volunteer Weekend

CORE has in the past participated in or sponsored community volunteer projects. Members have been involved with the cleaning of junk off the banks of the Patuxent River to projects within GRSF and Potomac State Forest. It has been awhile since such CORE sponsored projects have been organized. So as club President I made contact with GRSF Manager Mark Beals and we put a plan together for a project to plant some trees. The following tells some of the happenings of the weekend.

“Rain Drops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”

Participants:

  • Mark B, Silver Silverado 4X4, Host
  • Mike V and Donna E, White TJ Rubicon, Members
  • Andrew T and Cherie W, Silver Xterra Pro4X, Members
  • Gary O, White TJ Rubicon, Member
  • Larry and Berna P, Blue JK, Members
  • Robert R, Silver 4Runner, CORE Guest

Berna and I headed off for GRSF early Friday morning arriving there around 11:30 a.m. We met Robin and Robin who work at the Forest Headquarters (HQ) Information desk. After registering for the camp site Mark had reserved for us and receiving information on where to purchase supplies if required and information concerning camping in the forest we headed out to set up CORE HQ.

The site Mark and I had prearranged for us was Group Site #1 on Wallizer Road and conveniently located next to White Sulpher Pond. Wouldn’t you know I packed everything except our fishing gear; it was still setting inside the garage next to the garage door where I placed it so I wouldn’t forget it. Anyway, Mark ensured there was a Porta-Potty on site; thanks Mark, the ladies appreciated that very much. After we had HQ established we took a stroll over to the pond. The only thing we caught was a couple of pictures of the pond. Remember the fishing gear’s location? Later in the afternoon there were a few fishermen crowding the banks of the pond. I don’t know if they were catching anything or not.
We spent the rest of our afternoon gathering firewood and such. I failed to mention it was a hot and humid day. If I recall correctly the thermometer on the Jeep registered 90° F.

As night fell I built a fire, well you have to have a camp fire if you’re camping, awaiting the arrival of Andrew and Cherie. We knew they would be arriving later in the evening but not sure of an exact time. We tried to stay up and wait for them but the sand man was calling our names. They arrived sometime prior to day light; however, we never heard them when they did arrive.

Those who were to participate in the project were to meet at the camp site at 9:00 a.m. and Mark meeting us there around 9:30 a.m. Upon Mark’s arrival everyone introduced themselves and Mark gave us the details of the day’s work. So off we went following Mark in our rigs to the location where we would be planting trees. The route we took followed Green Ridge Road to Pack Horse Road then a right turn onto Maniford Road. We then arrived at the gate of the trail that would take us to the planting area. After a little while we arrived at a cleared area under a large tree and on the bank of Town Creek. Mark had the 19 trees we were to plant already on site and he had all the shovels and other required tools in the back of his truck.

We put a plan together and it was time to get to work. Saturday was to be another hot day and believe me at 10:30 a.m. it was already hot. Everyone was prepared and came with plenty of water and Gatorade. The plan was to remove saplings that didn’t make it from a previous planting and plant the new ones in their place. People grabbed a shovel and started digging out the old and making a hole for the new tree to be planted. Donna and I started carrying the trees to be planted to the field. There were three varieties of trees; Persimmon, Paw-Paw, and Saw-tooth Oak. As trees were planted Cherie began carrying water from the creek she gathered in a five gallon bucket to water the newly planted trees. Mulch was then placed around the base of the trees to help retain the moisture. I was beginning to think Mike was going to work himself to death. If you’re in for an inch then you’re in for a mile. The work went quick and we were done by noon.

Mark had placed some picnic tables under the big tree some time back so we all took the opportunity to sit in the shade and cool off. We sat and talked about everything from the forest history, the infestation of destructive insects and fish (and other living things), to who likes or dislikes snakes, spiders, and such. As we were talking about snakes right on cue Mr. Blacksnake makes an appearance and begins slithering up the big tree we are sitting under. This thing must have been at least 6 feet long. Ok, it was about 3 to 31/2 feet; long enough. The snake went on about its business and we continued our conversation with at least one eye on the snake. It was finally time to go since people were ready to get lunch and Mark’s two year old was waiting for him to get home. We all told Mark we enjoyed the morning’s work and looked forward to doing more volunteer work for him. We followed Mark out to the main road and the gang headed back to camp and Mark headed home.

Upon returning to the camp site everyone quickly got their lunches put together and was ready to dig in. It was a good thing I took a canopy along and put it up because shade was lacking otherwise. We moved a picnic table under the canopy so everyone could sit in the shade. It was still hot and the bugs relentless but we were in the shade. Discussions during lunch led to the group wanting to do another volunteer project for Mark in the fall. There is nothing like a little sweat equity and manual labor to get motivated and the gray matter kicked into gear. After lunch it was time to do some touring of the forest. The trails that used to be open in the forest for off road vehicles are now closed. There’s no need to go into the reasons why or pointing of fingers in this medium. So we would use the available roads within the forest to do the touring around. Some in the group had never been to Green Ridge and others hadn’t been there in a couple or so years. I had never been able to find where to do the Town Creek water crossings. Come to find out the version of the forest map in my possession doesn’t show the route. Mike and Donna had to leave because of other commitments so Gary said he would take the rest of the group to the creek crossings.

After our goodbyes to Mike and Donna off we went following Gary to Town Creek. As it turned out we were going the same way we went earlier for the tree planting. The exception was we would continue on Maniford Road past the gate for the trail. As we were heading down Green Ridge Road it began to rain. Not too heavy but enough to get plenty wet. I called Gary over the CB to see if he wanted to stop. See he was going topless; his TJ. I asked if he wanted to stop to put his top up but he didn’t respond. Berna and I looked at each other and said at the same time “Rain Drops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”, the quintessential classic by B.J. Thomas. The rain did help settle the road dust (headlights on and at least a six vehicle length following distance were required) we had been travelling in earlier. The rain began to let up and we eventually drove out of it. Gary got us to the first of three crossings of Town Creek. As we arrived at each they each got a little more interesting.

After the third and last crossing we had to turn around and go back the way we came. The reason for this is because the bridge is out on the Old Williams Road. On the way back at the first crossing, which was originally the third crossing, don’t worry you’ll catch on, Gary was stopped by a group of people asking him if it would be alright if they used the little area on the opposite bank that had a “Posted” sign and swim in the creek. Gary recommended they stick to the creek since it was considered a state water right of way and not private property. That was a lesson we received earlier in the day. We wondered what made those people think Gary had any authority. Maybe it was because he was topless. By the way Gary did not have a top with him for the TJ. Yes, we had more rain.

After the creek crossings were completed Gary gave me the lead so I led the group to Gordon and Twigg Roads since these were rougher than the more maintained roads. After we finished those two roads, with a couple circles included, bad GPS bad, we headed to the overlook on Carroll Road. We stopped at the south end of East Valley Road, now closed, so I could give those not familiar with the area a little history of the old trail. Andrew informed me he needed fuel and the fuel gage was pegged just above the big E. I gave him directions to the Exxon station and told him we would just meet back at camp. Come to find out Gary was low on fuel also. It was getting late in the day so he was heading home since he had to work the next day. So only the two rigs were left to traverse Carroll Road to the overlook. When we had enough of viewing the Potomac River and the great state of West Virginia at the overlook it was time to bid Robert farewell. When we got to the intersection of Carroll Road and Old Town Orleans Road we took the left fork and he took the right.

We were already at camp when Andrew and Cherie returned. The four of us sat around and talked and enjoyed a refreshing beverage. As it started to get dark, man time flies when you’re having fun, Andrew started a camp fire and we began getting things prepared for making dinner. We sat around the fire and ate and shot the breeze some more until I called it a day and turned in. I think the rest were not too far behind in doing the same.

Sunday morning it began sprinkling rain but nothing heavy, just enough to have to pack some things wet. I beat everyone up so I got a fire started, you know that last camp fire before you have to leave and go home. After everyone was up and moving about we started tearing down tents and canopies and packing things away. But not before Andrew and Cherie could roast their Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts over the camp fire. You say, what is this? That’s what I said. They both swore they are great that way and the best thing since sliced bread. At least they looked like they were having fun roasting them. We finally got all packed up, ensured everything was fine with the camp site, said our goodbyes and headed off. We headed home. Andrew and Cherie headed to the Carroll Road overlook since they had missed it the day before.

It was a great weekend and a great experience. We, CORE, make an effort to give back to the resources we use and have fun doing it. I hope all club members, and anyone else who wants to volunteer, get to participate in future projects. It is my goal to have more CORE sponsored volunteer projects within GRSF and elsewhere. I want to thank the members and guests of CORE who participated in this adventure. A special thank you goes out to Mark and his staff for hosting us.

Trail report written by Larry Pope. Pictures courtesy of Larry and Andrew Taylor

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