Uwharrie NC Trail Ride

What do you get when you mix:
Varying weather from a rainy Friday morning in DC, 86 and sunny Friday afternoon in NC and lake effect snow on Saturday night?
Throw in some crawdads from a creek, squirrels in the trees and a few frogs?
Add a couple of tents, a roaring fire, a cookstove and some sleeping bags?
Then, just for good measure, add 16 miles of OHV trails?
What you wind up with is a great weekend in the Uwharrie National Forest near Troy, NC with CORE and Friends! On April 7-9, 2006 weekend, several members from CORE headed out for the trails at UNF and had a terrific time!

“We offered the use of one of the winches if they wanted (which was declined) and then we sat down to watch the show.”

Along for the ride were:

  • Keith in the BlaZeR2 with Little Guy in tow (member)
  • Mike and Donna in the 05 White Rubicon (CORE president)
  • Jason in the 05 Red Rubicon (CORE Board Member-At-Large)
  • Gary, Lauren and Kyle in the 88 K5 (guests)
  • Brandon in 99 Highrider GMC (guest)

The trails at Uwharrie beckon to CORE every year at least once since our first ride there. The trail system consists of 16 miles of OHV trail ranging from “Mild” to “Extremely Difficult”. The trail system is covered under a demonstration user fee system which charges $5 per day per vehicle for 4x4s and other OHVs or $30 for the season. You can find a lot more detailed info about Uwharrie National Forest and the activities and facilities by going to UwharrieInfo.us

We usually stay in the Arrowhead Campground which is run by Campground Hostess Extraordinaire, Janet who rode along with us some as well.

Friday morning found us leaving DC in a chilly rain which had the usual morning rush hour mess in a bigger knot. Our departure was delayed just a little as we waited on all to reach our designated meeting spot but we were all introduced and on our way down US 29 from Gainesville VA shortly after 10:00. The ride down was relatively easy with traffic thinning considerably as we exited the Washington area suburbs.

We pulled into the forest and made our way into the Arrowhead campground before 5:00. The campground was filling but we had made reservations online and knew right where to go. Kyle seemed rather definite about wanting to try sleeping in the trees but Dad nixed that idea. Jason joined us there and after setting up and handling some logistics (such as eating dinner!) we decided to hit the trails in the dark. There had been much discussion of a night ride for CORE but those of us on this ride hadn’t participated in the one at GWNF.

We decided to stick with some of the easier trails as we had some learning and exploring to do. Gary needed to be sure the K5 would have enough width on the trails and the night ride was new for many in the group as well. An early-rising moon that was over half full helped as well but not enough to be able to get many pictures of decent quality.

We initially went onto the trails at Wolf’s Den and took the Sawmill trail. We really had twilight for much of those two trails. The trail includes some off-camber sections as well as a few tight squeezes. A great place to initiate one to Uwharrie and driving trails at night. Our crew showed themselves to be adept and we enjoyed the ride.

Each year, just before re-opening the trails, a dozer operator comes in and grooms the trails. His work includes re-establishing the water bars which direct runoff from rain on the mountains and filling in some of the ruts that may have developed as well. The first couple of rides after he’s been through are often as much exploratory to see what’s changed as anything else.

We came back along the Falls Dam Trail, another relatively easy one but not without a story or two along the way.

Our first story involves a sharp left near the lower end of the trail headed up where the dozer operator had placed a 16-18 boulder in the middle of the trail turn. For the smaller vehicles, it wasn’t that big of a deal as we just picked a side to go around. Its shape didn’t lend itself to easily driving over so we had to position Gary’s K5 to pass to one side. Being particularly concerned about the possibility of expensive body work, Gary called for a spotter to ease him. The spotter and Gary got the front half by just fine by the big K5 wasn’t high enough up the slope to clear the rear tire and lower quarter panel. Ouch! That’s not going to buff out! (Gary was very gracious about it and said the dented piece was one destined for a Sawzall in the not-too-distant future anyway.) Gary also had a starring role in the rock in the puddle saga, a story of decent-sized rock which would be visible under most circumstances but not after turning the sharp corner and trying to see over that long hood.

The next story on Falls Dam was the ATV rider who seemed interested in passing our slow moving group. He’d been back there for a bit so we found a spot to pull to the side and allow him to go on around. He declined the opportunity and instead came up to Mike and Donna in the tailrunner vehicle and asked if they knew where they were. He had gotten separated from his buddies and was interested in just following us out! In addition, he was having motor problems. Normally, we wouldn’t go off and leave someone but he assured us he would stay right there with his ATV if we would send his buddies back for him. We agreed and started moving on. He stayed with his ATV but not with the tree as he followed us off and on along the road. Janet had her FS radio with her and called out to have his friends notified of his whereabouts and need to come get him. We decided we would also find the buddies and ensure they went back for him or we would return with the intention of towing him out ourselves. We met a couple of his buddies as we turned onto the connector road. We stopped them to confirm they were headed after him and to report where we had last seen him. He seems to have gotten out of the woods okay.

Not terribly late but we had been driving all day and decided to call it a night after returning to the campground and lighting a fire.

Had a little rain during the night, but nothing torrential.

Saturday morning rolled around and the activity around the campground picked up. Brandon was due to join us around 9:00 but Keith hadn’t stirred out of the Little Guy yet. Whether because he was especially tired, especially comfortable or just because it was great sleeping weather, he had to be roused just before 9:00. A check of the cell phones indicated a message from him. He had checked the weather reports and seeing thunderstorms in our area decided to come along later. As it turned out, the storms passed us by. Uwharrie is a different place in the rain when the clay turns to slop so we were glad it had passed us by.

We decided to go back in the same way as on Friday night but took the Slabpile Trail up to Rocky Mountain Loop this time where we watched some of the hard core play on Kodak rock for a while. They seemed to be having fun and several put on quite a show for us.

We decided to head on out and went to the backside of Daniel where we stopped for lunch and to watch a group of Jeep Liberty’s go down the hill. Gary and Kyle also took the opportunity to visit the geocache that was hidden near the top of the hill. Although sticking to the bypass side, one guy had quite the problem as he got hung up in a spot where forward progress took him further and further off-camber and backing up couldn’t get him quite the line he needed to get past. We offered the use of one of the winches if they wanted (which was declined) and then we sat down to watch the show. First they tried to use a tow strap to anchor the KJ’s rear to a tree but couldn’t make that work. Finally, one of the others in their group hooked a strap to him and pulled him part way back up the hill to allow him the line that worked for him. We didn’t see or hear of them again so we don’t know how they fared on the ledge past the switchback. The radio was talking of a tow truck dispatched to come get a Liberty which had lost its power steering.

We turned and headed back out Daniel with plans to meet Brandon and drop Janet at the campground. When we pulled into the campground entrance, we found Brandon. After a few minutes rest, we headed back out. This time, Gary chose to stay and do some local exploring with Kyle and Lauren rode along with me.

We headed over to Dickey Bell. After we had gotten a ways past the entrance, we met a group coming out which seemed to be following an evacuation order. It was one of those situations where you wonder if you are the only one who didn’t get the word that you should all leave. There were easily 30 vehicles. As it turned out, a couple of groups had merged together on their way out towards food near the end of the day. Dickey Bell allowed the opportunity for a few photos and we too were headed back towards the campground and dinner.

When we arrived at the campground, Kyle showed us several crawdads he had caught in the creek and transferred to a bottle for later amusement. We loaded up again and headed into Troy for dinner at the famous Zeno’s. Dinner included fried dill pickles (which got passed around the table for samples) and the tremendously large portions. A “medium” pizza had 3-4 pieces eaten by Gary and Lauren with a box to go for later and probably later again.

When we got back to Arrowhead, the weather was changing and a cold wind blowing across Badin Lake stirred up some very fine lake effect snow as we worked on the fire. A long day left us passing on the opportunity to grab another night run and Mike and Donna announced an early start towards home on Sunday morning to accomplish some overtime needed by the job. Gary and family were non-committal about return time so we contemplated a morning ride.

When Sunday rolled around however, it turned out that all were headed towards home early. Gary and family, Brandon and Mike and Donna all left shortly after 9:00 for other destinations.

All in all, Uwharrie and its trails and hospitality lived up to our expectations. It was a great way to spend an early spring weekend.

Happy Trails to you!

Trail report written by Keith Holman. Pictures courtesy of Keith Holman and Jason Grogg.

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