Saturday morning dawned cool with temperatures promising to get only into the upper 40’s. As Sherrie and I and the “wheel Chock” left home in our ’99 TJ, the westward skies looked overcast and gloomy. It wasn’t long however, before the overcast skies gave way to partly sunny conditions, and this set the stage for the rest of the day.
“This trail BTW is enjoyable because it has enough rocks and is steep enough, etc to make for a good ride, yet is not so hard that stock vehicles can’t make it.”
Somewhat of an event occurred as Sherrie and I pulled into the usual meeting place- Wendy’s in Manassas, just off of I66, WE WERE EARLY! We met Paul in his S10 P/U, Bob Yeager in his Ford Ranger P/U, and Mike Vincenty and Donna in their Jeep YJ, Julia, Paul’s better half, couldn’t make this trip and we missed her.
We got underway shortly, rolling west on I66 to US 29, and on into Charlottesville, VA. From there, it was a pretty short hop west on I64, over the mountains, and south on US 340 into the town of Stuarts Draft, VA. I always enjoy the scenery early in the morning, especially when the sun is out. We used the local Subway shop as a lunch depot, filling up with subs and the like, then headed for the Exxon gas station at US 340 and 608. Mike Keane met us there a short while later, and after fueling up, we proceeded to the trail.
The trail itself runs off of FR 42. After a fairly short run on the dusty fire road, we arrived at the trail. Trail preparations didn’t take long, (You know-removing the sway bar quick disconnects and those TORSION bars of Paul’s LOL, etc), and we were soon headed into the mountains. The overall trail is around 8 or nine miles in length, with the first 2 miles or so, being the most interesting. It wasn’t long before we came to the first real obstacle on the trail; a section where the trail is narrow, with high sides and several large rocks in the center. The largest rock has recently been moved somewhat, and this made the passage a good bit easier. Everyone made it, although not without due care and respect for that rock, as it was quite possible to slide sideways into it.
We came upon the most difficult, if not interesting, part of the trail, a short distance later. It consists of a very large “WAVE” in the middle of the trail, that runs at about a 45-degree angle to the trail itself. On either side at this point, the sides are high and there is a nice sized rock on the side at the upper end. In typical wave fashion, there was a large trough and it was this trough that gave everyone a lot of trouble. The bottom of the trough was filled with fairly loose dirt and gravel, and because it was at 45 degrees to the trail itself, no one could manage to keep all 4 wheels securely on the ground at the same time while transiting the trough. I think we spent the better part of an hour getting everybody through. Paul put his recovery strap to good use by giving Mike Keane a pull to help him out.
The remainder of the first 2 miles or so of trail was uneventful except for yours truly who attempted the play lumber jack with a large rotten tree that looked as if it might fall at any moment, onto the trail. I tried to “nudge” it a bit, hoping it would fall into the woods away from the trail, but only succeeded in bending my left front fender a bit and breaking the orange lens on the turn signal. It would have helped if I had been better lined up- Oh well! I believe the only other damage anyone sustained other than scratch marks due to the narrowness of the trail and the brush protruding onto it, was Paul, who sustained a small dent just behind his left front tire, the result of flipping a large rock loose.
This trail BTW is enjoyable because it has enough rocks and is steep enough, etc to make for a good ride, yet is not so hard that stock vehicles can’t make it.
We broke for lunch shortly after coming off the bottom portion of the trail. It was then that we appreciated the fact that we were in the mountains with the temps only around 40 degrees. The clouds didn’t help any, but halfway through lunch, they broke up and the sunshine that came streaming though was very much appreciated.
We completed the remainder of the trail run in about 90 minutes, coming out of the “woods”, onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. This last, longer portion of the trail, runs across the Big Levels area of the GWNF. It is very similar to the Peter’s Mill trail, but, I think, has more rocks, and in general, is narrower. There is little or no running water on the trail, although we did manage to play in a few puddles; the probable product of recent rains in the area. The trail’s end also affords a great view of the St Mary’s Wilderness area, which, incidentally, runs just to the south of the trail from the Big Levels area upwards to the trail’s end at the parkway. We had seen a number of cars parked along the trail, at a point where a footpath leads down to some falls. I couldn’t find the falls on a map of the wilderness area, but perhaps this is a trip for another day.
We were soon on our way to civilization, in good shape for the most part, although Paul had lost one of his sway bar connects. It didn’t seem to effect him that much as we rolled down the parkway and home.
Trail report written by Gil Campos. Pictures courtesy of Paul Woscek and Gil Campos.