So with the last run over a month ago and nothing planned for a while, I figured a trail run was in order. And considering we haven’t been there since last year in July as well, and the fact it’s a fun trail, a trip to Stoney Run near Stuarts Draft, VA sounded like a good idea for a nice mid-summer run. Plus, we got to do Shoe Creek afterwards making it a double run.
For this trip we had the following folks show up on the beautifully clear sunny day:
As I went over it, I went up on 3 wheels due to the drop on the front wheels…
- Alex Hinson with Katie and Steve riding
- Dave Nichols with Anastasia riding
- Russ with Corinne, Ryan and Tabitha
- John Tompkins
- Walter Forlini
- Loc Pham
- Keith Holman
After meeting at the Sheetz in Bealeton, VA off US-29 around 7:30, which Loc was the only one to meet me there, and after getting slightly lost and finding the wrong Sheetz, we headed to Stuarts Draft. Despite the delay, we made good time and arrived just on time to meet everyone else who had arrived early making us seem like the late ones. With all of us gassed up and stocked with our lunches, we headed for the trails.
Now, Stoney Run is almost hidden away. It’s on a back country road called Coal Rd. And it’s a small entrance off the side of the road that unless you knew it, would probably just fly by and never even see it. I know, I’ve done it before, but luckily not this time. Once past the entrance gate to the trail we stopped to air down and disconnect. We also discussed the attack plan for this trail.
For those that don’t know, this trail can be rather challenging and is extremely rocky at some points. But there are 2 trails in one here. One trail is rather easy, while still providing some challenge. It takes its path up the mountain via switch backs with loose dirt, and small rocks along the way. The alternative path is the one that goes straight up the mountain crossing the switch back several times on the way up. This path has rocks the size of basketballs and bicycles. It has some off camber spots, and plenty of full flex points. We decided to do that one.
We did the first section at the start of the trail and when we came out at the top on the next switch back of the trail, there was a yellow sign on the tree’s for the next section of the hard trail from the park rangers saying that the trail had been closed. So, we were forced to take the switchback to the next crossing. At that point, the hard section was open again, so we hung a right and headed up again. And once again, at the top of that one, we were forced to take the switchbacks due to the next section being closed. But this time, not because of the park services, but because of a number of large tree’s that had fallen and blocked the trail. So after going up the switch backs some more, we found the last section of the hard trail and once again turn on to it.
Now this final section is the longest of them all and ends at the top of the mountain and it also doesn’t cross the easy trail again till the top. The easy trail goes around the mountain a bit before starting a set of switchbacks. This section provided all of us with some good flexing, plus plenty of marks on our paint. These trails are very tight and with all the small trees along the way, and old pine trees as well, it’s like a bunch of nails of forest monsters sticking out from the side of the trail just waiting to mark your paint with their claws.
Once at the top, we pressed on along the ridge. Here the trail is a dirt road with mud pits along the way and a few minor hill climbs and short descents. We also stopped to grab some pictures of the old school bus in the woods that’s on the side of the trail. Shortly after this was the end of the trail. The trail comes out on the Blue Ridge Parkway and once again, if you were cruising the parkway, you’d probably never notice this trail. We came out at Bald Mt Overlook which has a lovely view in both directions, as well as a nice shady place to sit on the grass and eat lunch, which we took full advantage of.
After a relaxing lunch, we decided there was still plenty of time to get another trail in, so we headed on to Shoe Creek. There was a little bit of a delay here because I didn’t think ahead far enough, but I had to find the location for the trail entrance again on my GPS. It’s because I have two GPS programs, one for tracking and off-roading, and one for navigating and on road. The navigational one didn’t have the trail head on it, and I couldn’t remember how to get there from here. So it took me a few minutes to move the coordinates over, but once I did, away we went.
Shoe creek is a rather nice trail for three reasons. One, it stays cool even in the hot summer days because of the extensive tree coverage and because of reason number 2, which is that the trail follows a creek the entire time, making for excellent camping. And reason number 3 is that it is still stocker friendly while giving a few optional challenges.
Having started at the north end of the trail, we were on top of the mountain so the entire trail was for the most part, downhill. There are several uphill sections, but they were short, and shallow.
After a few miles on the trail we came to “the rock”. It’s a spot in the trail where there is a large rock with a 2 foot drop on one side is sitting in the trail. There are several way to do this, one of which is to completely avoid it using the bypass. I however chose to go over it. Now, it’s not wide enough to support an entire SUV, so only the driver’s side of you goes over the rock. It also has a bit of a dip on the other side for your passenger side wheels. As I went over it, I went up on 3 wheels due to the drop on the front wheels being more flex than I can handle. Surprisingly, the jeep was still very stable, for being on 3 wheels, and still relatively level to the ground. After getting a few good shots of my three wheel action, it was time for the next person. John and Keith opted for the bypass due to their stock vehicles and limited flex. Dave was the only one to remain on all fours thanks to having 35” tires.
After this, we had a few more small rock steps to go down, a few good creek crossings and plenty of mud. We also stopped at one spot along the trail that has easy access to go down to the large creek and get your feet wet. We all got out to stretch a little and take in nature. From here, the end of the trail was only a mile or so.
Once off the trail we all aired up and reconnected. Keith showed off his air tank by not only filling his tires back up, but also mine, and two of Loc’s tires. All that and the needle on it still didn’t move. Not because it was broken, but because there was just so much air in that portable tank that 10 tires didn’t affect it. It’s a nifty thing to have off roading. And what’s even nicer is that it uses CO2, so it doesn’t get hot during use, just really cold. Over all it was a great day with clear blue skies smiling on us. Good friends, good trails, good times. You can’t beat that.
Trail report written by Alex Hinson. Pictures courtesy of Alex Hinson and Keith Holman.