Cherie and I have continued a tradition started by former CORE member Roland Thro who would host a camping trip to Crabtree Falls Campground in Tyro, VA every Memorial Day weekend and then hit Big Levels trail on Saturday. For the last few years we’ve also wrangled some of our family into attending as well as CORE members and guests. Along for the trip on Saturday were the following:
- Andrew & Cherie Taylor – Silver Xterra
- Bob & Sue Taylor – White Tundra
- James Bullock – White LR3
- Chris Beauregard – Black 4Runner
- Jan Merka & Lenka – Blue Frontier
- Sergey Revashev – White JKU Rubicon
- Wook Kim – Tan Tacoma
- Jendra Rambharos – Orange JKU
The main entertainment for most of us Saturday would be hitting the trail! My folks hopped in their Tundra, James in his Land Rover LR3, Chris in his 4Runner, and Cherie and I leading in the Xterra. We met the rest of the club at a gas station 45 minutes away, topped off on fuel, and away we went. We went to the trail head on Coal Road. After airing down and a brief drivers meeting we were on the trail!
I won’t go into detail of every rock we passed but there were a few highlights. My Mom drove the entire day (because she had to keep her arm clean… sure!). She actually was the only one to get stuck the entire day out of our group. Once was in a deep mud puddle which my Dad valiantly hopped into to attach the recovery rope to their receiver hitch. The second would be on some big rocks which we knew she would high center on but we figured we’d try out those new rock sliders and skid plates! That one ended up with her stuck good. At one point Jendra was winching his Jeep toward the stuck Tundra rather than the other way around. But with several new pieces of recovery equipment properly used we got the truck off in a few minutes.
My Dad also brought his quad along and got some great aerial shots at lunch and shortly after at the only overlook on the trail. Despite how many times I’ve done this trail I’ve never seen aerial shots of it. It really is a thin ribbon of dirt through a thick forest!
Most surprising were the puddles at the top were very low or completely dry.
Other highlights included pushing a few other vehicles. This was a shakedown run of sorts for Wook with his recently upgraded suspension. It was Chris’ first time wheeling a trail this difficult in his stock 4Runner. Jendra got to try his new winch out and Wook got to try out his Maxtrax. And Jan let his friend Lanka drive his Frontier for most of the day which I believe was her first time doing this!
Most surprising were the puddles at the top were very low or completely dry. Cherie and I have never seen the mountain as dry as it was that day. It was odd to see what the bottom of the biggest muddiest puddles looked like devoid of water.
At the end of the trail we aired back up and headed different directions. For me a highlight was trying out for only the 2nd time my new automatic tire inflation system. The group heading back to Crabtree Falls Campground stopped by the Montebello Country Store to grab a few more supplies needed back at camp, like fudge.
We wondered if the increased wind was the first sign of what could be a tornado!
Saturday evening shortly after returning to camp the heavens opened. My in-laws were back from their adventures for the day and we all huddled under our popup trying to stay dry. This was a largely futile effort because the storm that was upon us was an utter downpour. At one point, as hail had been falling for a few minutes and we were all standing in 1in deep streams that were unavoidable, we wondered if the increased wind was the first sign of what could be a tornado! Lucky for us about an hour after it started, and after we were all at least a little wet, the storm passed and we were able to pull together some dinner.
The rest of the weekend was a pleasant relaxing break from the regular hustle of our normal lives. My family decided to head further south on Sunday to enjoy the Caverns near Natural Bridge. All in all it was a great weekend with friends and family both on and off the trail.
Trail Report courtesy of Andrew Taylor. Pictures courtesy of Andrew, Cherie, Bob & Sue Taylor, Jendra Rambharos, Chris Beauregard. Video courtesy of Andrew Taylor.