Walking Stick – Stateline Trail Ride

The LATEST in a series of treks out to nearby Walking Stick (also known as the State Line or Tuscarora Trail) took place bright and early Saturday morning, October 19, 2002. The advertised purpose of this trip was to try and go where no man/woman has gone before (hence “the Trek”); that is, beyond the usual turn around point about 2.9 miles south, along the trail. Everyone met at 8:00 am at the West Side Market, On Va. Route 55, about 2 miles west of exit 296 on I 81.

Attending the ride were:

  • Gilbert Campos, member, 1999 TJ Missy (AKA Wheel Chock or THE MUTT)
  • Mike Vincenty, member, 1990 Jeep YJ
  • Donna Edwards, member, (with Mike)
  • Paul Woscek, member, 2001 S10 P/U
  • Roger (Paul’s Next door neighbor, although I wouldn’t have owned up to it!!)- Guest

The weather was kind of “Octoberish” with a bit of a cool breeze as we left the market and headed west on Va. 55 for the trail head which sits astride the Va./WV. State line, on Great North Mountain. It’s a short 9 or so miles from the market.

“…I watched in amazement (horror was probably more like it!), I saw Mike’s YJ bounce sideways a good two feet, coming to rest in the downhill edge of the rut.”

It took more than a few minutes to get everyone ready for the trail. Yours truly spent a good 10 minutes alone, attempting to locate the control for his winch, only to learn that it wasn’t in the pile of junk behind the passenger’s seat- it’s usual stowage spot. Someone, (SHERRIE?) had neatly tucked it away in the little seat back compartment behind the passenger’s seat. To make matters worse, the MUTT had managed to find a patch of what could only be described as loose diarrhea, somewhere in the woods, and had it all over her back and under her neck. I contemplated tying her to a local tree until we returned, but thoughts of bears and the ASPCA soon dissuaded me. Numerous industrial strength wipes barely managed to elevate her from the status of bear bate to smelly but acceptable travel companion. SO. Off we went! Needless to say, we didn’t get vary far down the trail before the plastic front door windows on my Jeep came off!!

The trail was it’s usual slippery Fall self. In dryer times, the trail is fairly easy to negotiate unless you get off into the loose small rock. However, with all the needed rain we had gotten recently, the trail was slippery. The worst spots consisted of combinations of wet leaves, dirt, and very rich loam, making for decidedly slick spots along the trail. This, combined with the loose small rock to be found at the trail’s most “interesting” passages, made for an exciting day.

Paul, in particular, who had accompanied me to this trail some months earlier, was anxious to try out improvements to his rig. His first trip (See trip report for March 9, 2002), was less than successful, although he and his wife and I had a great time. This trip, armed with a lifted S10, new and better tires, and several augmentations recently made in the name of ground clearance, Paul was hot to challenge the trail that had so easily turned him away earlier. Well, to put it mildly, Paul was like a kid in a candy store, and watching him have fun helped to make my day. He easily negotiated all of the tough spots in the trail, and breezed right on by the trail’s choke point, a short but steep little climb to a peak, with a blind, steep, right descending turn. This portion of the trail is vary narrow, slippery, and with drop-offs toward the west slope.

Not to be outdone, Mike and Donna also made things look easy. Sometimes I think Mike just puts the thing in “GO”, gives a loud “forward HO” and goes, LOL.

Everyone made it to the usual turn around spot, where Paul, Mike and I promptly left Donna and Roger to ponder lunch, while we took off for parts unknown. Actually, we walked the trail for close to ½ mile, checking it out with the thought of exploring it by vehicle after lunch. OK, OK, OK!!!! I couldn’t quite convince Mike to give it a try- even I had to admit that it’s probably going to be an overnight trip one future weekend. So, absent any good reason for standing out in the woods in the middle of nowhere, we hiked back to the turn around point and ate lunch.

I always enjoy lunch on the trail. It’s a time to relax with friends and share conversation over common interests. But- since one of the objectives of trail riding is to test our vehicles and ourselves, after lunch we proceeded to do just that. The turn around point provides some rather challenging turns and climbs over very confined terrain; all the more challenging since the recent rains.

Mike opted out on this one but served as photographer while Paul and I. did our thing. The turn around point has changed considerably since I first visited it a couple of years ago. There are now three distinct, short climbs that lead to the trail as it continues on into we don’t know where yet. The first climb takes you up and over a large boulder, which in dryer times should not be much of a problem. The second is a climb up and over a series of rock ledges, and the third is basically devoid of challenge except for that created by the slickness of the soil, and the loose rock.

Paul was first. It’s necessary to move down from the main trail, off camber onto loose rock and slippery dirt to challenge the second of the two climbs. Paul gave it his best shot. He was able to move into position to go up the second climb, but only after numerous attempts, However, he couldn’t surmount the loose small rock and slick soil long enough to make it to the rock where he would have stood a good chance of making it up and over. After considerable maneuvering, he gave it up as a lost cause. Naturally, I had to challenge the same hill. After all, a considerably modified Jeep aught to be able to negotiate such obstacles. Well folks, let me tell you!! After spending a good bit of time just trying to get into position for the climb on the second hill, I finally had to give it up also. I even ended up having to winch myself 3 or 4 times in order to get free of the loose rock and wet soil. Not a good feeling in such a well equipped 4X4 on such a seemingly innocuous little hill. At this point ego was pushing me along so I decided to give things one more try. I attacked the first of the hills.

This hill is a lot easier to get to as there is not as much loose rock and soil leading up to it nor as much off camber terrain. Once at the base of the rock however, things get tough. There are no supporting rocks to grip before the big one, only loose clay. Above the main rock there isn’t anything to grip either. The main rock is sizeable though not insurmountable. Given the clay approach and the terrain above the rock, I spent some time and numerous tries before finally climbing up and over. I was feeling good at that point- you know- vindicated, so just for spite, I came down the second hill. This time I managed to climb back up to the main trail without incident.

After the fun, it was time to head back to civilization. However, the 4X4 experience was not over. The same choke point that had given Paul so much trouble his first trip, proved to be a challenge coming back. Paul followed me but had trouble with the last 20 yards to the crest. The trail is very narrow, with some deep ruts and lots of slippery soil and loose rock if you stray too far to the left. Going too far right is not an option either as the terrain maintains a steep ascent to the north-south crest of the mountain. With some very deft steering and use of the accelerator, Paul managed to climb up and over the high point in the trail and the rest was a piece of cake.

Mike and Donna also had problems with the same part of the trail just before the high point. Mike attacked the problem differently however, trying to stay high to the right and using liberal amounts of power. He got to the point where Paul had gotten stuck and while I watched in amazement (horror was probably more like it!), I saw Mike’s YJ bounce sideways a good two feet, coming to rest in the downhill edge of the rut. Donna jumped out abruptly (more like flew out LOL) and assisted in spotting Mike as he tried to move out of the rut. Further attempts only moved the left rear side of Mike’s YJ closer to the edge of the rocks. We gave the situation a very careful look and decided to try to move Mike up and to the right, then left and over the crest in the trail. With careful handling this worked. We then took a better look at the rocks, and discovered that Mike had been much closer than anyone had realized, to slipping off the edge of the rock and probably rolling over backwards. Mike had been on a ledge whose steepness and depth had all but been obscured by brush. Mike didn’t betray any anxiety he might have had, as he wore a smile during the whole affair.

Well the rest of the trip back was uneventful, except for Paul who found a rather tall stump. He had been talking about this stump, which others apparently have used as a “ramp”. I barely had time to park my TJ and jump out with the camera before Paul was up and tilted over swaying precariously, but with a giant grin on his face (one of his trademarks). During the rather swift ascent up the stump, I heard Roger shout something rather loud but unintelligible, LOL. He was heard to say afterward that he needed a six-pack!

Paul and I aired up at the start point and met Mike and Donna back at the market where there was free air to be had. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, (Rog got that six pack I think LOL) we all headed home. I think I was the only one who sustained any damage, and that’s good. I had a fun ride home. Every time I would let up on the gas or give it gas even slightly, at high speed, the TJ would veer back and forth. I didn’t have time that weekend to really check out the problem other than for a quick look underneath which yielded nothing. The following week, though, I got dirty, getting up under the TJ. I found that the right rear upper control arm was missing a bolt at the axle attach point. A quick run to the hardware store for a grade 8 bolt, etc, fixed the problem.

Enjoy the pics all. We had a great time!!

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

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