Peters Mill

Traditionally, CORE is going to be on the trail somewhere on New Years Day each year. Many clubs have trail rides that day and call them Hangover runs. We call ours Grandma Holman’s Ride as my family’s lore includes a firm belief from my grandmother that whatever you do on New Years will be repeated throughout the year. She manifested this by avoiding tasks she didn’t like to do. There were also beliefs that your first visitor of the year could bring good fortune, especially if it happened to be a good-looking man. My father used to rise well before dawn on New Years to ensure that he was the first visitor at his aunt’s home 80 miles away and tucked deep into the woods of north Florida. The family also held beliefs about traditional meals but I’ve never particularly cared for black-eyed peas.

“Each successive try moved him a little closer and sent a few more handfuls of dirt sliding down.”

Joining us on this year’s run to Peters Mill were:

  • Keith Holman, BlaZeR2, CORE member
  • Mike and Donna Vincenty, CORE President in Rubicon
  • Bob and LeAnn Weaver, Ben and Sam, CORE Vice-president and family in Lifted Rubicon
  • Dave Dorrin, CORE Secretary in Rubicon, with guest, Amanda Carr
  • Jose and Tracy and David Avila, CORE Treasurer and family in LandCruiser
  • Bruce Copping, CORE member with guests, Paola and Claudia
  • Alex Hinson, S10 Blazer CORE member with guest, Daniel Cole
  • Paul Woscek, SFA S10, CORE member with guest, Jonathan Castillo
  • Loc Pham, CORE Member
  • Pat Grant, BlaZeR2, Guest
  • Alex Petrovsky, TJ, Guest
  • Miles Oliver, Dakota, Guest
  • Eduardo, Teresa, and Maria, Suzuki XL7, Guest

The week before the ride, there was some joshing on the email list about needing a wakeup call (a reference to the year I overslept and nearly missed the ride) and about the lack of challenge in running the Peters Mill at all since a generous grant from the Porsche folks has hardened the surface and smoothed the ride, particularly at both ends of the trail.

We met at the Wendy’s in Park Ridge Centre and shared our “good mornings” and met some of the new folks.

Although Peters Mill is a significant distance, especially for those traveling from east or north of DC, it remains the closest legal ‘wheeling spot for the majority of our membership. Its about 70 miles from Manassas via I-66 and I-81 to the little town of Edinburg VA where we stopped for gas and lunch from the Subway store.

Since last having visited the trail, a significant amount of work has been done. As you enter the trail by the Taskers Gap ATV parking area, the first dip which added credence to the “4Wheel Drive Recommended” sign has been replaced by a short stretch of concrete which has eliminated the muddy water that has collected there whenever it rained. Come to think of it, I don’t recall seeing the 4 Wheel Drive Recommended sign either.

We slowed long enough for Paul to engage his hubs and kept on moving. The formerly rutted area past the first clearing has been smoothed considerably but the clay content of the road surface combined with the rain left that area still a bit slippery. We continued on relatively uneventfully along the way. We met and were overtaken by several riders on ATVs and dirtbikes (motorized). The area that had once been known as the step where long ago you went past the tree on the left but now pass to the right has been hardened a bit as well.

We met another group of ATVs as we approached the large rock outcropping. They allowed us passage by stopping on top of the obstacle. Several of us went on past and pulled to the right to keep the road clear as we surveyed to see who was interested in playing on the obstacle (assuming we could change its parking lot status).

Bob decided he was up for the challenge this day and proceeded to make the climb. LeAnn and the boys decided to observe from the sidelines instead of the passenger seats. Although there was plenty of milling about by pedestrians, Bob went up without a spotter as he had, after all, climbed this particular obstacle many times. This particular day, the rear diff on the Rubi caught a rock and stopped its forward progress. Bob backed a little and tried again but moving to the right put him very close to the crumbly edge. Each successive try moved him a little closer and sent a few more handfuls of dirt sliding down.

Recognizing that driving out or going back were not the safest ways to accomplish this, 12-15 different voices called out with (sometimes conflicting) advice on what should be done next. Then a lower-volumed conversation between Miles and Bob lead to a request for winch controls and a tree strap. The cable was let out to anchor the front of the Rubi. The area was cleared of helpful voices and additional bodies. The lockers were engaged. The cable pulled the front of the Jeep past the crumbly area and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief as Bob drove on over the obstacle and down the other side. Way to Go, Bob!

Paul was next and went part way up before deciding it just didn’t “feel right” and backed down to go around.

This particular episode will likely be discussed for a while to come but there are a couple of points that were readily agreed upon.

One, and only one, spotter is appropriate in tricky quarters. That spotter needs to be someone that the driver trusts and that understands the planned course. If other sets of eyes see something that requires attention, pass that information to the designated spotter.
Winches and cables are handy items but potentially deadly. If one is not essential to a winching operation, clear the area by at least the length of cable extended.
When you find things not working the way you planned, STOP. Assess the situation and get help if you need it in developing and executing the remaining maneuvers.
Bob added a couple more points in the post-trip discussion having to do with trails and obstacles being dynamic and not necessarily the same as the last time you drove it.

We continued on along the trail to stop at the pond for our lunch stop. The recent warmer weather left it ice-free. In fact, we only saw little bits of ice in the shadiest areas anywhere along the trail. Kids, adults and dogs romped a bit and we were on our way again.

Whether because of fires in the last couple of years or as a way of minimizing the effects of runoff, the northern end of the trail has been re-routed some from a point about 50 yards south of the Carerra bridge at the northern end. It should also be noted that the forest service website (http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/gwj/lee) and signs posted at the trail’s ends advise that:

The Peters Mill and Taskers Gap will be closed Jan 23 to Mar 20, 2006. In future years, the trails will be closed every fourth Monday in January until the third Monday in March.

This short period of time will provide much needed resource protection by allowing the trail to thaw and dry out without vehicle traffic to cause additional break up and erosion.

We rolled on out to the gravel lot and took a couple of posed group shots and talked about what a great day it had been. The weather cooperated and besides, a bad day on the trail beats a good day on pavement.

Good times with good friends. (I hope Grandma Holman was right that this foreshadows the way this year will turn out!)

Happy Trails!

Trail report written by Keith Holman. Pictures courtesy of Paul Woscek, Grant Patterson, Alex Hinson.

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