MAFWDA Snow Run and Shoe Creek Trail

In past years a snow run has been hosted in MAFWDA’s name in Garrett County, MD by Preston Stevens, MAFWDA Director of Conservation/Land Use. Unfortunately this year we were not granted this special access, although hopefully will be written into the Forest Annual Work Plan by this time next year so this won’t happen again. Not to be dissuaded, Preston found us another option for the Snow Run this year by asking an old friend of his, Kevin Rogers of the Shenandoah Valley Four Wheelers, if we could join them on their annual Valentines weekend run with the Baltimore 4 Wheelers. Kevin welcomed us to join, and so out went the invite to MAFWDA to join on the snow run, this year to be hosted in George Washington National Forest. From CORE the following people came out for the run.

After he had slid about 20ft Cherie started yelling “Throw it in reverse!”.

  • Kevin and Gigi Barnes (Members) – Land Rover Discovery
  • Andrew and Cherie Taylor (Members) – Nissan Xterra
  • Paul Woscek (Member) – Chevy S10
  • Ben Maddock and Ally Leininger (Guests for day 2) – Jeep XJ

Kevin, Gigi, Cherie and I all arrived at The Village Inn in Harrisonburg, VA around 10pm Friday night. Happy to be in good company we checked into the Inn and then went out to Corgans’ Pub one exit north of the Inn for a late dinner and drinks. In the morning after breakfast at the Inn we all lined up at 8:30am just down the street at the entrance to the county fairgrounds. Twenty vehicles lined up, one came the whole way from NY! Once we were all accounted for off we went toward an unknown trail.

Kevin of SV4W led us to Union Springs Road, the entrance to Meadow Knob in GWNF. We stopped at the “Shale Pit” to air down and have a quick drivers meeting. Then we loaded up and headed further into the woods. After a few stream crossings and calm rolling hills onto the mountain we started to see lots of snow on the ground. Shortly after that we all came to an abrupt stop on a hill. We would later find out that we had stopped because the 4th vehicle in our line had lost traction on the ice under the snow, and had stopped forward progress. The result was Kevin Barnes (6th vehicle) stopping on a incline, and immediately he began to slide backwards on the ice, toward Cherie and I in the Xterra. Because we didn’t know it was icy we had all gotten a little close in our line, so as he slid back he was consuming the gap between us quickly!

After he had slid about 20ft Cherie started yelling “Throw it in reverse!” as I put the Xterra in reverse and tried to maintain control but at the same time accelerate backwards while Kevins Discovery continued to accelerate towards us. Paul, behind us, also went into reverse but only had a little room to backup. Kevin eventually came to a stop at a 45 degree angle across the trail, about 15ft from where we had had to stop (to keep from hitting Paul), but that was after Kevin had slid approximately 75ft down the trail which had a nice shelf off the mountain to the one side!

Well, now we were in a situation. It took nearly an hour before the 4th vehicle, a lifted Jeep Cherokee, was able to get up the hill. This was after finding out his winch wasn’t working, and after an effort to progress further had resulted in sliding dangerously close to the edge of the trail. Most of the rest of us decided to turn around and head back down the hill since it was clear that the ice under the snow would stop most of us, and an attempt would be at the risk of major vehicle damage. Paul was one of the few who decided to attempt the climb anyways, but unfortunately due to finding himself sliding backwards at a high speed he had to choose to take a tree in the rear bumper at speed, which put a small buckle in the frame of his S10!

The group heading back down the mountain ended up breaking into two groups. I ended up leading the second group, which waited for a bit at the bottom of the mountain for any other stranglers, before heading south toward Briery Branch Road which we would take back to the top of the mountain to meet everyone at Flagpole Knob. The drive to Flagpole was fun and uneventful. Shortly after arriving at Flagpole the two other groups (which had re-merged into one) showed up. After enjoying the view at Flagpole we moved on to Reddish Knob.

Following Reddish Knob we got separated from the rest of the group (on their way to air up at a club members house) and so the CORE group headed back to the Inn to air up with our own compressors. While in the parking lot airing up a brief but intense snow storm whipped up with 40mph gusts and thick heavy wet snow. By the time we were done airing up though it had passed, leaving the vehicles in the parking lot covered in an inch of snow with a sunny blue sky overhead!

Paul headed home, but Kevin, Gigi, Cherie and I decided to head back out for a bite to eat. Since Corgans’ Pub was so great we headed back for a second night, this time opting to purchase T-shirts to remember the restaurant. While at dinner we agreed that it seemed sad to head home Sunday morning, so instead we decided to go south in the morning to try our hands at Shoe Creek trail, from the south end which would be more difficult than how we had done it in the summer (when we started on the north end).

Sunday morning after a breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Harrisonburg (where we ran into Taylor Johnson who we’d met on the trail the day before) we headed toward Shoe Creek. We arrived at the trailhead at about 2pm, a late start, but the trail isn’t too long. As we finished airing down at the trailhead (where Perkins Mill Road turns into Shoe Creek Trail) another vehicle arrived. The newcomers were Ben Maddock and Ally Leininger, out for an adventure in his XJ. We introduced ourselves and offered that they could fall in with us since he had never done the trail before. Kevin lent Ben his handheld CB, and off the three of us went!

Ben did well, especially for a driver with little offroad experience and a stockish XJ, and kept up with no issues (other than losing a fender when his tire flexed into it at one point). We stopped briefly at the first “playground” where we had lunch last fall. After a few pictures we continued on. We had to get out and walk ahead at a few points, but we kept moving steadily forward. At one point we basically drove up a part of the trail that is normally very wet, but today looked like a frozen cascade thanks to the thick ice covering the entire trail. That’s what happens when it’s been below freezing for days! At least this time we weren’t near the side of a cliff.

When we arrived to the second “playground” Ben and Ally decided they needed to continue on alone since their end goal was to hike to Crabtree Falls that day. Kevin and I then played on all the different lines in the area for about 45 minutes while Cherie and Gigi got out, took pics and video, and laughed about boys being boys. Eventually we figured we should move on and so we did.

Other than stopping a few times to take pictures we moved through the rest of the trail quickly without any issues. We hoped to find Ben’s XJ at the Falls parking area because we realized after they left that they still had partially deflated tires. Unfortunately we couldn’t help because they had realized it was a little cold and late in the day to start that hike by the time they got there, but they apparently got air just down the road after they left the trail.

As we went from Shoe Creek Trail to Meadows Lane we got to the north side of the mountain, and into the shade, and we began to better appreciate the time. We decided to air up where Meadows Lane meets Crabtree Falls Highway as we could pull over and do that on pavement, off the treacherous part of the mountain. It was at this time that I found out that one of my tires wouldn’t hold pressure above 25psi. Apparently I had hit the edge of the wheel on a rock enough to dent it where the tire meets the wheel, and it would start to leak right as the pressure raised past 25psi.

Thanks to that we got to do a quick tire change, on pavement, which only took about 25 minutes thanks to having the right tools and equipment. Even though it was in the teens that day the tire change at the end of the day went smoothly and soon enough we were on our way home. We rode together for a while, until Cherie and I broke off to go home by way of Charlottesville, and her family. But we said goodbye on the CB and both vehicles agreed, this weekend had been an absolute blast full of surprises!

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Photo Album: 02/14/15 MAFWDA Snow Run

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Trail report written by Andrew Taylor. Pictures courtesy of Andrew Taylor and Kevin Barnes. GPS tracks courtesy of Andrew Taylor.

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