GWNF Dry River Mystery Trail

A small band of us decided to head out west to GWNF for some wheeling and relaxing. The plan was to hit Dry River and this time do the whole trail, and if there was time, we’d tackle a 2nd trail.

After this there was some more hills, pits, dips, and everything else you’d like on a good trail.

Those in attendance were as follows:

  • Alex Hinson & Steve in a blue Jeep JK Unlimited,
  • Josh Felts in a lifted Chevy 1500,
  • Ian Parker in his black Jeep JK Unlimited,
  • Garry Parker in his red Jeep JK Unlimited,
  • Chris Carswell in his blue Jeep TJ
  • Paul Lofgren in his green Jeep JK

The bulk of us met at the Wendy’s in Manassas at 7 and after a short delay we were off to meet Paul at the Sheetz in Harrisonburg. We were running late and with no way to tell Paul, he started to wonder what happened to us. Once we got there and met up, he said that another 5 minutes and he was going to go home. Good thing he stuck it out. After gassing up and grabbing food for the trail, we headed west towards GWNF.

Now, this was the first time I’ve done this trail “backwards” and silly I forgot to bring the right GPS map data which meant I didn’t have either entrance marked. We almost blew by it and had to hang a u-turn right there on 33. We stopped and aired down real quick and then head down a part of the trail that loops back around to the same spot. At the far side of this loop there is a clearing where I figured we could stop for lunch.

Along the way we found everything from sharp hills, mud puddles, and creek crossings, to even a pair of glasses stuck in the mud. We all had a little fun dropping off a log and finding out that trailer hitches should be removed or they’ll make a lot of racket.

After stopping for lunch we got a small river crossing and continued back down the loop to where we came in. I did make a wrong turn going back out which made us do a small loop. No big deal, but it is hard to tell which trail you are suppose to take there since there are hardly any land marks.

Once back to the entrance, we then headed down the normal trail. At this entrance/exit if you go left coming in, you’ll do the loop, going right will make you do the trail. Not too far into this did we come across a pine tree that had fallen and blocked the trail, so we had to take the detour path. This was simple going down a steep hill, running along that and then coming back up. We all took turns using the various ways to get back up the hill and just seeing what we can do. Chris snagged a root on one attempt and warped his side step.

After this we moved on to the mud pit collection. This is the same area I got stuck in last time with all the ice. All 4 mud pits where very low, one of them was almost completely dry. So we didn’t stop to play this time, everyone seemed anxious to get to the river crossings. This was going to be the highlight of the trip, I could tell.

Now, the unique thing about this trail is the two river crossings. One is about 1000-1200 feet long and the other is half that. Since we are doing the trail backwards, we hit the larger one first. Now keep in mind that I have never done this trail backwards before, so it made the river crossing very interesting considering we came out at the wrong place. We went about 300 feet and came out. During this, the river got very deep, so deep that Gary’s head lights disappeared at one point. Josh didn’t have any problems at all, I’m almost certain he never got his bumper wet.

After talking it over with the group since it seemed we had several options and I wasn’t sure where the trail exit was. We decided to all get back out on the river and park on this island for a minute while we figure out what to do. When backing out into the river, Ian and Gary both ripped their skid plates off like I did last time we were here.

Now once everyone was on the island, I did a little recon work and found the real exit that gets us back on the trail. After regrouping everyone we did out little trek down the river and back onto dry ground. After this there was some more hills, pits, dips, and everything else you’d like on a good trail. Josh and I both took our chance in a nice deep mud pit on the side of the trail. It was also here that a digital camera got up close and personal with that mud pit. Worst part was that it was mine, and I didn’t drop it. No worries though, it still works just fine. Just no more pictures after that from me.

Now after a few more mud pits, twist and such, we came to the 2nd river crossing. This one didn’t look so bad, but being first in, I quickly found out that it was getting deep real quick. I hung to one side to keep my air box above the water and made it without any problems and everyone else followed. Chris and Gary both took a small short cut to avoid the deep part of the river. From here there wasn’t much of the trail left, just a gravel path leading back to the road. Chris tried his luck at a very big hill climb and almost made it. A running start would’ve gotten him up and over it no problem. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to test my recently rebuilt locker. With 4wd low and lockers on, that hill climb was nothing, and my rear locker seems to be fixed, finally.

After this we decided to hit 2nd mountain and run up it real quick since it was only 3. Although upon arriving there we found the trail was closed. So now it seemed our only option was to call it a day, until someone mentioned they saw a trail with a gate on it that was open. So we headed back down 33 and sure enough it was a trail none of us had ever been on and the gate was sitting open.

This trail wasn’t much; it was kind of like flag pole, only no switch backs. The trail followed a small creek running through the woods. And after about 3-4 miles, it dead ended at a very nice camp site. I marked it on my GPS for a possible future camping trip. The site looks like it would only take 6-8 people. It was hard enough for the 6 of us to get in and turn around.

After this, we were ready to call it a day. Now originally we thought the air compressor at the Sheetz was useless because it’s failed on us the last couple of times so we stopped elsewhere to air up. We were going to take turns using Paul’s compressor, but Josh was the only luckily one. After the 2nd tire it started randomly giving up. Paul managed to get his tires inflated, but just barely. Ian and Gary took off early and aired up elsewhere. Chris had his little compressor but after airing his up, it was ready to quit as well. Looks like I was on my own. I headed to the Sheetz as did Josh and Paul for some snacks for the road. We all said our good byes and each headed our own way home.

I wound up airing up at the Sheetz and it turns out that that compressor is a little better now. It aired each of my tires from 20 to 37 in about 2 minutes each.

It was a great day, the weather was sunny and in the 50-60’s all day. Had a great time with some great friends. Hope to see you all again next time.

Trail report written by Alex Hinson. Pictures courtesy of Alex Hinson.

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