What do you get when you mix sunshine, temperatures in the 80s and an uphill climb with rocks ranging from softballs to basketballs with the some occasional boulders for good measure? You get a great ride on Stoney Run Trail in the Glenwood-Pedlar District of the George Washington National Forest.
” What do you get when you mix sunshine, temperatures in the 80s and an uphill climb with rocks ranging from softballs to basketballs with the some occasional boulders for good measure?”
Representing the Lifted Rubi group on the ride were:
- CORE Vice President Bob in Blue
- CORE Member-at-large Jason in Red
- CORE Member Loc in yellow.
- Representing “other vehicle” category was CORE Member Keith in the Blue Blazer.
We could hardly have asked for better weather or a nicer time. The only real downside to the day was series of missed direction cues that seemed to just keep on coming and that proved to be more annoying than disastrous. In spite of an excellent and detailed set of directions, I — leading the ride — managed to misplace us on the west side of I-81 instead of the east. Perhaps writing 100 times that Shoe Creek and Stoney Run are south of I-64 and between US 29 and I-81 will help. Nah, guess not. But I think the lesson is sunk in.
We left Wendy’s in Park Ridge Center about 8:15 which should have put us at the trailhead around 10:45. That should have been a clue! Without going into all the gory details, we managed to arrive at the bottom of Stoney Run a little before 1:00 and had lunch before starting. Let it suffice to say we took the long way around. Coal Road, the gravel road leading to the trailhead had about half the obvious camping sites occupied. There was some dust kicked up on the road as we drove along so the area obviusly idn’t et as much rain the DC area had in the last week.
Stopping at the trailhead, Bob discovered that there was a quiet place to eat lunch alongside the babbling stream where the water was crystal clear and cool. Very nice ambience in the shade of the forest. Lunch and airing down completed, we started up the trail which appears to be just another two track with a few golf ball sized rocks lining it.
There are really two paths up the mountain. One is similar to the view at the trailhead and zigzags up in a sereis of switchbacks. The other tends more towards stright up and has obstacles of varying size and complexity. The series of zigs and zags essentially creates a bypass for every obstacle.
We started up and took the straight and very narrow path at our first opportunity. It took me a couple of tries to get past the first hump. But after I accepted that crawling was not going to work for me, it worked out fine. I did notice that the bypass there (which had been an option on our last trip) had been closed. To bypass any obstacle really required that one use the switchback road. Bob, Loc and Jason had no trouble with the first hump as the lockers and higher ground clearance paid off.
As we continued up, we encountered several other people. There were a couple of campers who had apparently used the zig zag road to reach their campsite. One was on a mountain bike and was headed up. I admire the will and stamina of those who choose to participate in that activity but I don’t think I would have gotten into that even if it had been as popular when I was younger.
Our next significant obstacle is captured in several of the pictures and was a pair of good sized boulders which had significant voids around them. At least for me, they created the worst combination for the Blazer (essentially open/opne) where the right front and left rear wheels lost contact with the ground simultaneously. I tried several different angles and combinations but none were working. Bob then spotted me through with some minute steering corrections that did the trick. Once again the Jeeps with higher clearance and lockers made easy work of it.
One of the straight sections between the switchbacks had been closed by the FS with a berm/tanktrap and some trees piled on top. We didn’t walk it to find out why. As we got back to the straight up section, there is one stretch near the top that is less straight and still narrow.
As we rounded the corner, we saw a vehcile with its hood up blocking th trail. Closer investigation showed it to be an XJ with no occupants nearby. The hood was up. There was a 12 volt electric fan zip tied to the grille and blowing towards the radiator. The windws were down and the key was in the ignition (as it should have been, especially if blocking the trail. Other than the fan, there was no indicaton of why it woudl have been left there. We assume that it had developed some type of overheating issues and had the owners had walked out or hitched a ride with someone else to go for parts? At any rate, there wasn’t any gettng around it so we backed and turned to go back to the switchbacks and proceed to the next section that way. That was about the last section of the harder trail and we stayed on the easier route the rest of the way.
After we crested the summit, our ride was not over but the terrain changed significantly. There was more water around and also more soil and fewer rocks. We did find a couple here and there that made for nice posing spots. We came eventually to a fork in the road — unmarked, of course. Relying on the GPS units, we took the left fork and very quickly found ourselves at the Forest/National Park boundary where further vehilce progress was prohibited. One more time, we turned around and had to go “the other way”.
The Forest Service lists the trail as about 12 miles long. It ends at the Blue Ridge Parkway, a scenic and paved winding road along the mountains from its southern end in Tennessee to about Front Royal VA. We stopped for a few pictures there and were soon joined by two more Jeeps from the DC area. We introduced ourselves and handed them cards and asked them to look us up on the website.
The morning’s missed turns had broght the time to about 4:30. Jason needed to head for home so we bade him adieu and Loc, Bob and I headed in the opposite direction towards Shoe Creek, hoping to get in one more trail this day. We passed by the Wintergreen Resort (wow! that place is HUGE!) and made a stop for gas. The map showed us heading on down to the end of the our road and needing to make a turn right. As we approached the stop sign, it became apparent that we hadn’t reached the end f our road (just of pavement) and there were no route markings on the crossroad. We proceeded forward and looped to come out on the road we had just crossed. As planned, we turned right and headed on. After a few minutes it occurred to me that the loop had reversed our direction and that turning right had led us further away from Shoe Creek.
It was so late in the day, we had been plagued with going the wrong way and I recalled my last quick trip up the Shoe Creek trail where we waited for hours and hours for a tow truck from AAA. I made the call that it was time to accept our situation and head for home. We stopped in Charlottesville to air back up with a high pressure, high volume air compressor at a local gas station and then made the uneventful trip home.
A couple of lessons hopefully learned frm this one dealing primarily with maps and directions. If you have written directions, be sure as to where they assume your starting position to be. Of course, verify, verify, verify the diretiosn by tracing them out on the map ahead of time. It might be useful to actual mark them on the map itself. Stoney Run is a seasonally open trail. Call the FS District office to verify the trail is open. One other attempt to this trail was aborted when the grup arrived to find hte gate closed for some special circumstances. Most importantly: A great day on a great trail covers a number inconveniences when enjoyed with friends.
Happy trails to you. Stay safe, stay sane. TreadLightly!
Trail report written by Keith Holman. Pictures courtesy of Keith Holman and Jason Grogg.