Fall Foliage Run, Madison County, VA

A group of members and guests of the Capital Off Road Enthusiast 4×4 Club made an easy run out to Blakey Ridge Road and the Old Rapidan Road in Madison County, Virginia on Saturday, October 18.

“The victory came with a bit of payment though…”

Those who attended included:

  • Michael & Debra Kupec (1970 Ford Bronco) (CORE & MEB Member)
  • Paul Woscek (2001 S-10 4×4) (CORE Member)
  • Bob Weaver (2003 Jeep Rubicon) (CORE Member)
  • Don Lawson (2003 Jeep Rubicon) (CORE Member)
  • Roger & Judy Payne (1977 Ford Bronco) (MEB Member)
  • Chris & son Mark Soliday (1974 Ford Bronco) (MEB Member)
  • Jeremey & Jennifer Albrecht (2003 Jeep Liberty) (Guest)
  • Frank & Chad Merrill w/friend Bill Whitney (2000 Nissan Frontier) (Guest)
  • We also had a second S-10 4×4 with us, sorry, but I didn’t get their names.

All total – nine vehicles of various types – was a real good turnout!
Almost all of us met at the Wendy’s in Manassas. Don was closer to Madison, so he met us at the Amoco in Madison. Drive down to the Amoco went uneventful, other than upon comparing speedometer reading, we figured my speedometer is reading about 10MPH slower than actual speed. Nice to know the Bronco in overdrive can cruise at 70 while only turning over 2400RPM’s!

Blakey Ridge Road is a mild little trail in Madison County Virginia that provides access to a state Forestry Service fire watch tower and FAA radio site (you can hike up to them from the road) as well as hunter access to some private and state hunting grounds along the route. The road is mostly rocky dirt with some stinky mud, a few tight switchbacks and a couple of steep climbs/decents. Nothing too terrible that a stock 4×4 can’t make. After gassing up at the Amoco, we headed on down Rt29 to the trail head. It was upon making our first turn off RT29 did we realize that there is now a Sheetz at that intersection. Something to keep in mind the next time we plan on taking this run, the Amoco has a limited selection of food and gas pumps and the Sheetz has their MTO sandwiches and lots of pumps. We proceeded on to the trail head and up into the mountains.

The ride along Blakey Ridge Road was basically uneventful – lots of downed vines hanging in the trail made for some to have to stop, get out and move them lest the leave WVA pin striping on their vehicles. Also, there was lots of fallen trees across the trail that someone has come along and chained sawed up and moved to the side. These provided ample opportunity for Paul to try out his new locker on his S-10 while climbing them and driving down their length. Hurricane Isabel really made a lot of changes to the hills around Blakely Ridge with all the trees that were fallen. In a couple places views out across the valleys have been opened up with the tops of some trees snapped off like toothpicks. It will be interesting to see how the trail looks over the next couple of years as areas re-grow.

After Blakey Ridge Road, we ran part way up the Old Rapidan Road. This road is mostly dirt and gravel, but has two fun stream crossings (kept open in case the bridges wash out as they have done several times over the years) where the Rapidan River passes through the Rapidan Wildlife Management Area (VA State hunting grounds). Upon approaching the first crossing, we came upon several horseback riders congregating around the one end of the crossing, heading up the bridge crossing and doubling back to the stream crossing allowed us access to the stream. Myself, Chris, Bob, Don, Paul and Frank all crossed via the stream while the others took the bridge. From all appearances it now looks like they have a formidable bridge at this crossing that just may hold up to those summer run-offs. We gathered on the other side of the stream and headed up to the next crossing.

Upon reaching that crossing we were greeted with campers parked on the other side. Fortunately they had pitched their tents out of the roadway, but little did they realize they were still camped in the floodplain area of the river. Seeing that we were gathered on one side and wanting to cross via the water crossing, they moved their vehicles out of the road way and allowed those of us who dared to cross. This second crossing has changed considerably since I was last there two years ago. The side by the camp site is still easy to enter the stream, but the opposite side is now steeper and a mix of beach ball sized boulders that you have to traverse to get back on the road. It’s no longer passable with stock vehicles, definitely not something that an Expedition or stock 4×4 could make without causing some serious damage to it undercarriage.

Of the nine of us there, myself and Chris were the only two who choose to cross. I proceeded across first and got to the steep side where it required engaging the front ARB and dropping into low range to walk up over the rocks. I was quite surprised – first time in a long while I’ve tackled something as rough as this was and didn’t break anything! After I made it through, Chris proceeded to head across. Chris’s Bronco is set up like mine with a similar 3 1/2″ lift and 33″ tires but with limited slips in front and rear. Chris initially had some problems with entering the river – we were trying to direct him through a better line than what I took, but it ended up getting him stuck between a large rock behind him and one up against his drivers front wheel. After some judicious gunning of the thin pedal, he managed to get over the rock in front and pointed in the proper direction. Since his LS’s were not really working as well as they should, Chris choose to use the brute force approach to climbing the steep side and with several good bounces he managed to hop up over most rocks and was back onto the trail. The victory came with a bit of payment though – Chris’s Bronco ended up with a little extra toe-in when he managed to bend his tie rod upward slightly.

Accessing the damage to Chris’s Bronco, we decide that he can manage till we get to hard pavement and if he has problems then we can to some repairs to reset his toe-in to more manageable specs. We headed back on the trail back to Madison so those of us who need to could gas up and then made plans for dinner back in Manassas. Don said his goodbyes at the Amoco and headed home, Frank and company also headed home and Chris headed back home to Stafford Co. Paul, Roger, Judy, Bob, Deb and myself headed back to Manassas and stopped at the Roadhouse Steakhouse for dinner and further conversation.

It was a great day for wheeling. We’ll be back again maybe in the spring to see how the trees have fared over the winter.

Trail report written by Mike Kupec. Pictures courtesy of Paul Woscek and Mike Kupec.

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