My primary purpose in wanting to run the Peters Mill Trail today was to see just what the Forest Service had done to the closest legal public trail to DC. I expected to be disappointed and really wasn’t.
“Our little band got out in the woods for a nice drive, saw a little mud, and had a good time.”
Along for the wet ride were:
- Keith Holman and Len Thompson in the 91 Whitenblue Blazer (CORE member plus guest)
- Mike Keane in the 92 S-10 Blazer (CORE member)
- Chad Perry in the Project Empty Pockets TJ (CORE Guest)
- Dave Woodbridge in the K5 (CORE Guest)
All but Mike met at the Wendy’s in Park Ridge Centre. It was unusual to see the parking nearly full with customers but I guess that’s the difference in Sunday lunchtime vs. early Saturday mornings.
Chad was on time and the rest us weren’t terribly late. The ride out 66 was wet and slow because of it. Spray from the trucks didn’t make it pleasant. Dave called over the CB that he thought we were headed for Front Royal as we went past Front Royal and down I-81 towards Edinburg. Mike was waiting at the Amoco/Subway as we pulled in a few minutes late. Gas up with that cheap (by comparison) gas and we were off the the trail head where we aired down. Just ahead of us onto the trail was an F-150 with MD plates. We passed him shortly along the way where he said he was waiting for the engine to cool down before deciding to proceed. We told him we’d be on CB 5 if he needed assistance.
The first parts of the trail are basically unchanged except for side berms and signs to keep you on the main trail. It looked throughout the day like the yellow trail markers had all been recently painted as well. The part where the deep and often muddy ruts used to be had been smoothed some. The ruts are already starting to reappear but there was ample evidence of the Forest Service reseeding bare spots along the trail and especially in the places where the dirt was freshly bulldozed.
The first sharp turn to the right and up used to be mainly rocks and that has been smoothed some. There is more dirt in the mix now which gets a bit slippery. The next real change in the trail is at the area known as the steps. The trail has been re-routed here and goes to the right side of the tree that presented the major obstacle here. The tree now passes to the driver’s left and works through some pretty goopy clay.
The major obstacle on Peters Mill is the big rock. We were in a traffic jam as we approached with 2 ATV’s and a Jeep meeting us headon just before arriving here. The Jeep backed down to the rock to let us by but in order to get past him, we all took the bypass. The bypass has a larger rock sticking up in the center than I remember and the downhill edge of the roadway is soft. After going by the rock to let the Jeep and ATVs by, we attempted to back up so we could play on the rock. Chad and Dave acquitted themselves well here. Mike had some problems backing up because of the rock in the bypass. Attempting to go around it got him into the soft stuff on the edge. Better safe than sorry, he consented to a strap from Chad while manuvered back to the roadway. A combination of wet rock and folks behind us wanting by convinced us to move on down the trail. Keith and Mike had nothing to prove on the rock as they had both climbed it before. As you work past there, the trail goes downhill and has a couple of curves to the left. At the second curve, there appears to be a branch trail headed off to the right. Running a little behind schedule, we did not go down that trail to see where it might lead.
In making the erosion control areas, the Forest Service has created multiple turnouts along the way but it is quite clear that these are not trails as the metal “Motor Vehicle Prohibited” signs are almost omnipresent.
At the lake, the small trail around the lake is blocked by rocks and the metal signs. Directly across the trail is a renewed berm/tank trap and the metal signs. The turnout to the meadow there is also blocked by dirt and the yellow signs about 2 vehicle lengths from the trail. If you wanted to camp there, you could still park off the main trail but could not take the vehicle all the way into the meadow.
That little side loop to the left that was always questionable is very clearly gone now. The next mudhole to the left (that was pictured on the FS website) is also filled and seeded. That area has tank traps and signs about every six feet on both sides of the trail. The pathway back to the much disputed meadow has tanktraps and signs too. It appeared as though a bulldozer had drvien back in to do the repair work on that area and many trees had been felled across its exit path on the way to more tank traps and signs.
The tree long used for posing/ramping pictures seems to be gone now. In general this sounds like a lot, but truthfully, the primary losses seem to have been the ATV-width loops that keep springing off the trail The mudhole with the deep ruts by the barbed wire fence and gate have been filled in.
One more noticeable change is at the ATV lot at the north end near the campground. The slope at the side of that has been made more gradual and covered with seed. The slope has also been blocked by a line of boulders and those little yellow signs.
My curiosity has been satisfied. The trail has been changed but survived. As four wheel drivers, we really gained a clearer delineation of legal trail. Those who choose to ignore the legalities will have a harder time doing so.
Our little band got out in the woods for a nice drive, saw a little mud, and had a good time.
Until next time,
Happy Trails! TreadLightly!
Trail report written by Keith Holman