Potts Jeep Trail

The first club trip of 2003 to the Pott’s Jeep Trail took place on Saturday, April 26, 2003.

“Since we had traveled a long way to get here, I wanted our group to get the biggest bang for the buck.”

Attending the run were:

  • Gil Campos and Sherrie Burns in Gil’s TJ (along with the Mutts Missy and Maggie)
  • Paul Woscek in his S10 P/U
  • Bob Weaver in his new Jeep TJ

The trip got off to a somewhat cool and wet start, with a low-pressure system sitting directly over us at trail’s point. However, light rain and some drizzle gave way to just overcast conditions, by the time everyone met at the Orchard Creek Auto Plaza located at exit 205 of Interstate 81, in Virginia.

The Pott’s Jeep Trail is located several miles SSW of Covington, Va., with no really direct way of getting to it. On my first run there with Sherrie, and Keith Holman, we traveled down I81 to just south of Roanoke, Va, then worked our way back up to the trail. This was a very long approach, but Keith, our guide for the day, had only been to the trail once before, and this was the only way he knew to get there.

I decided to try a different way in, getting off at exit 162 of I81, and then proceeding south on US 11 and west on routes 639, 630, 606, 615, 611 and 617. The trail entrance is located on route 617 a few miles NNE of the Pines campground. This seemed to save about 40 miles or so off the original routing. We also checked out the Pines for future use as a campground, and found it to be ok. There is water via a hand pump and rest room facilities.

We arrived at the trail at about 11:50, only to find 2 other vehicles coming off the access road. A brief conversation revealed that this entrance to the trail was closed by the USFS at 2 points, one at the bottom of the access ramp; the other across Barbours Creek and up slope some distance. Conjecture was that this entrance had been closed due to the recent stocking of Barbours Creek with Trout. Indeed, there were signs posted on trees along 617 that indicated the recent stocking.

We were told that entrance and egress to the Pott’s Jeep Trail could be accomplished from the other end of the trail, as a good portion of the trail itself was still open to the public. I asked if our little group could follow along to the other end of the trail as our fellow 4×4’rs were heading in that direction. I figured that it would be easier to follow someone who knew how to get there. After close to an hour of driving, we finally arrived! I checked out the map later and it seemed to me that our guide had driven a good 20 or so miles out of the way in order to avoid one small section of road that was very curvy. But, at least we made it!

Not quite in one piece however, as our guide soon pointed out my right rear tire, which was rapidly airing itself down! I had been carrying a tire repair kit for some years now, wondering if I’d ever get to use it. My tire had a fairly large slit in it, mid tread. Fortunately, whatever I had run over put a manageable sized but not to big a hole into the interior of the tire. I was able to plug it without taking the tire off. After getting our rigs ready, we headed into “woods”, and up and onto what is actually Pott’s Mountain.

It didn’t take long to realize that entering the Pott’s Jeep Trail from this direction was much more fun than leaving it that way. I don’t think we had traveled more than a couple tenths of a mile when Paul came over the CB and announced that he really liked this trail. We paused soon for lunch as food had been on the minds of most of us, owing to the time of day (it must have been closing on 2 pm at that point!)

The trail itself is divided roughly into 2 segments, with a large meadow in between. There are mud holes on either end of the trail and plenty of rocks on either side of the meadow. The trail itself was not as slippery as I had supposed it would be, as I had assumed rain had visited the area very recently. In fact, although it was overcast for most of the day, and we witnessed some afternoon thunderstorms to the north of us, except for a few drops of rain here and there, our day remained remarkably dry.

Paul delighted in challenging nearly every rock on the trail, while Bob W. moved a bit more cautiously. I can’t blame Bob- his TJ is barely a few months old. He joking said he wanted to give it about 10,000 or so more miles before he got “serious” with the rocks, LOL.

We managed to appreciate the beautiful views available from the Pott’s Jeep Trail, despite the fact that it was overcast and at times foggy. In particular, there is one spot that looks out towards the NW that provides the opportunity to do a little rock climbing as well as get great pics. Needless to say, boys being boys, Paul and Bob were all over those rocks. Sherrie and I also got in on the act, and we got some good pics of Sherrie and Bob dangling their feet over the edge of the rocks.

I was having some trouble in remembering the exact sequence of where every interesting point on the trail was located. It seemed like it took forever to finally get to the meadow. Since we had traveled a long way to get here, I wanted our group to get the biggest bang for the buck. Eventually, though, all of the landmarks I had remembered on my first trip with Keith, fell into place one by one.

The most interesting of these is of course the one section of trail that actually has a bypass for the rock formations at that point. The bypass, however, is not all that easy! It is designed to get you by one single rock formation that has a drop of about 3.5-4 feet, with a sharp drop off on one side. The bypass isn’t much easier than the main rock formation. This owes to several factors: There is a solid slab of rock on one side, angled steep enough to make getting any traction on it very difficult. On the opposite side of the rock slab, the trail drops off pretty sharply, and the trail itself at this point is narrow. Added to this is a steep up grade along with a large tree at the top left, and rocks top right.

After chatting for several minutes with a couple of horsemen who happened upon us, we got down to business. Bob was able to maneuver his Jeep through most of this section of the trail, but could not get past the slab of rock and the steep upgrade with loose soil and rock. We finally winched him up and over with no damage. A note here: Bob had not aired down for the trail- a tactical consideration each driver has to make. He was mostly concerned with the loss of clearance that would result. I think this played a part in his not being able to negotiate this part of the trail. Not to worry though! After all, the object is to have fun, not to push oneself way past your comfort limit and risk banging and tearing things up. Confidence in self and equipment can only come through experience, and we gave Bob plenty of that today, LOL.

Paul, on the other hand, is more comfortable at this point in his 4×4 experience, with powering his way over obstacles when necessary and he used his experience to get up and over this last rock obstacle. Not without considerable effort though. I think it took Paul a good 10 different tries to make it, but with his typical exuberance and big grin, he finally popped over the top.

We managed to find a large mud hole before heading home and Paul, typically up to the challenge, made short work of it in grand splashing fashion!!

Tired and hungry, we headed for home. Paul discovered later that his front drive shaft had been damaged, with the CV joint not functioning properly. 2-wheel drive worked well for the ride home, however, and we quickly motivated ourselves in that direction after returning to pavement. Of course, a stopover for dinner was in order, and we raided the Cracker Barrel Restaurant at exit 222 on I81. I’m fond of saying that I like the companionship afterward almost as much as the 4x4ing itself. This evening was no exception. It was late (around 10 or 10:30 pm) when we parted and made our way home.

One last note: Juliette, Paul’s better half, had remarked via email that Paul was pooped when he got home. A sure result of having expended much exuberance up on the mountain!

Some good pics are coming folks, as Bob, Paul, Sherrie and myself all took a bunch. Hope you like them and hope to see all of you on trail with us soon.

Trail report written by Gil Campos. Pictures courtesy of Gil Campos, Paul Woscek, and Bob Weaver.

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