CORE has for a number of years chosen New Year’s Day to be somewhere on a trail, generally a rather easy one within easy driving distance as well. This year, Mother Nature choose to pull a fast one on us and was supposed to give us icy conditions on the roads on New Year’s Day.Because I was leading the ride in my stock ’96 Geo Tracker, I really didn’t care to deal with this kind of mess and postponed the ride to a latter weekend. Of course the ice for New Year’s Day ended up being a big spoof and it would have been a perfect day to go wheeling had we pressed on with the ride. Live and learn with the weather conditions in this area! Joining us on this year’s ride were CORE members:
This year, Mother Nature choose to pull a fast one on us and was supposed to give us icy conditions on the roads on New Year’s Day.
- Mike + Debra Kupec, with Magnum the foster Beagle! (’96 Tracker)
- Bob Weaver (Blue Rubicon)
- Gary Owens (White Rubicon)
With the ride rescheduled for Sunday, Jan 13, the three of us met at the Wendy’s off Business 234 in Manassas. Weather forecast called for a sunny day with temps up near 70, however this morning it was in the upper 40’s with a good fog covering, putting visibility at less than 1/4mile. Well, at least it wasn’t snowing!
We left the Wendy’s and headed west on I-66 to the Gainesville exit (Rt. 29) then took 29 South, next stop the Sheetz just south of Madison. Trip went uneventful to the Sheetz where we picked up subs, drinks, and snacks for the trail. I had instructions for two trails in this area, one was the Blakely Ridge trail and the other was one we had never taken before. Since we wanted to go to Blakely Ridge, it was our first trail of choice.
Haven’t been down this trail in over 5 years, it was a bit of a challenge remembering the turns. I missed one and realized it when route numbers changed on the road we were on. A quick u-turn and a short distance back up the road, the turn-off to the trail was quickly found. The text said we were to turn at a “T” in the road and I was assuming that the road ended at a “T”, but in reality, the trail head turn was a left off the main road, thus creating a “T”. We turned onto the trail head and started heading up into the mountains.
A lot had changed on this trail since we were last here. Lots of large houses on both sides of the trail with several steep climbs that had been paved, we assumed to make plowing them easier. On the way up we passed one of the residents walking her dog, Deb thought she said something to us as we passed by, but with windows closed, we couldn’t make it out. Shortly after passing her, we came around a bend to a clearing to be confronted with a closed gate. Not good…
We all got out and started checking the set of Deloreme maps that Bob had brought, trying to determine if we had made another wrong turn, or if we were on the right trail and that unfortunately it is now closed. From what we could figure, we were on the correct trail and sometime in the last five years, the FS had decided to close the trail. I’ll need to find the route for the reverse way back via the trout stream access road. We’ll schedule another exploratory trip to see if the reverse direction is also closed.
While we were stopped, Deb and Magnum checked out the posted sign on the gate and Magnum left his impression of what he thought about the gate by hiking his leg on it!
We decided to check out the second trail since no one had ever been on it so turned around and headed back out to the main road. A short while later, we were on the access road to the second trail and winding past more new homes and horse farms. We finally arrived at the trail head to hit our second stopping point. This trail is not closed but there was a big sign within the lean-to stating that “Effective Jan 1, 2012”, access to the trail would be by permit only. We snagged a picture of the sign and decided to look into this more when we got home. Apparently this trail may have access restrictions similar to Peters Mill in that you have to purchase a pass in order to access the trail. So another trail no longer freely accessible by those who wish to enjoy our nations resources. 🙁
By this time, Bob was “jonesing” to run something that would be a mountain trail and suggested we check out Flagpole Knob and the Reddish Knob. Looking at the maps, I didn’t realize we were so close to Harrisonburg and the two Knob’s were not that much further away, so we turned around again and followed Bob towards Harrisonburg and then Flagpole Knob. Along the way, via CB radio, Bob mentioned points of interest like the quick stop on 33 in Rawley Springs where we use to stop and stage trail runs. The proprietors started closing down on folks doing this since some abused the privilege of the parking by leaving broken down rigs there until they could be towed away. We also passed by access points that have now been closed by the FS that lead to old trails some of us fondly remember.
We pulled off from Rt-33 onto Skidmore Fork Rd. and proceeded towards Flagpole Knob. We made a quick stop for photos at the culvert crossing of one of the streams that feeds the Skidmore reservoir, and then onward to Dunkle Hollow Rd and finally to Flagpole Knob. The ride went fairly uneventful, the nice thing was, the fog had cleared and the views were great! Flagpole Knob is approximately 4300 feet above sea level and it’s clear all around it for viewing the valley’s.
From there it was a fun, bouncy ride over to Reddish Knob. Traveling to Reddish Knob is always fun and a great ride in the fall or spring. Most of the way to it, you’re traveling on a trail that’s not much wider than our 4X4’s with Virginia on one side and West Virginia on the other. Ice and snow make this ride even more enjoyable!
After we had our fill of looking all around Reddish Knob (and we paid our respects to the listening station NW of Reddish) we headed back down into Harrisonburg for Bob, Deb and myself to have dinner and we said out goodbye’s to Gary since he had a 2+ hour drive back toward Annapolis & home. Nice quick one day trip out into the mountains of Virginia. A bit of a letdown that another set of trails may no longer be available for use to drive and waiting on another date to go back and re-explore the second “permit only trail” and to check out the opposite end of the first trail to see how much of it has been closed.
Trail report written by Michael Kupec. Pictures courtesy of Michael & Debra Kupec.