George Washington National Forest

On Saturday morning I awoke early in anticipation of a great day 4-wheeling with friends of CORE and to hit some of the overlooks in the George Washington National Forest outside of Harrisonburg VA. A look out of my window indicated that I would not be going to enjoy the overlooks today as the clouds were low and thick but it was not raining yet.

” Going into the forest with the fog made for an eerie experience as the trees took on a new look and feel.”

Along for the adventure were the following brave souls:

  • Bob Weaver, Jeep Rubicon, CORE
  • Ian Kluge, Toyota 4 Runner, CORE
  • Loc Pham, Jeep Wrangler, CORE
  • Jim Klan, Toyota 4 Runner, Guest

We met at the Wendys in Manassas and after introductions, the mandatory checking out of each others rigs, and a brief driver meeting to discuss the days plans we were off on our adventure. Jim had heard about the run on a Toyota group list and I think he was expecting a group of 4 Runners. (Ian and Jose might want to get in touch with Jim for further talks). Ian informed us that 2 more Toyotas and a Bronco would be joining us at the Sheetz in Harrisonburg. So off we went down I-66 and I-81 to the Sheetz. We all got gas and food for the trail at the Sheetz and waited for the other guests to show up. A cell phone call later we learned that the Toyotas were just leaving Richmond and were at least an hour away from us. At 10:30 we decided to hit the trails and hopefully the others could hook up with us later. (A lesson learned here is to get the cell numbers of all folks planning on going or risk delays for the rest of the group).

Heading out RT 33 we started climbing up into the GWNF and very soon ran into dense fog. We would be in the clouds all day today. As we made the turn to go down to Switzer Dam at least the fog kept the dust down. Going into the forest with the fog made for an eerie experience as the trees took on a new look and feel. At the first stream crossing we stopped to air down and regroup. It has been so dry in this area that we had no water in any of the stream crossings today. I think that Jim even asked over the radio if this was a stream crossing as he was not sure.

The forest service has placed new gravel on the first part of the trail and I was wondering how much trail “fixing” the forest service had done. Thankfully it only lasted in a few places. The trail today was a fairly easy climb up to Flagpole Knob. Once we reached the top at Flagpole Knob we stopped to enjoy the view and eat lunch. Of course the view was about 50 feet or less in all directions as the clouds/fog were all among us. We had the company of several hunters at the top of Flagpole Knob with their dogs.

After lunch I decided that a trip to Reddish Knob overlook would be a waste of time so we started back down the trail when we spotted a campsite that made an interesting entrance with a slight hill climb. It was here that Loc stalled his engine several times before he noticed that he was not in 4 low. Once corrected Loc went right up the hill with no more problems. We were going to explore more in this area when Loc saw a forest service sign closing the rest of the trail so we made a U turn and went back.

We turned on what I call “Stonehouse” road but the maps call this RT 225. As we approached the stone house ruins we stopped for pictures. A quick story of what can happen to drive shafts at this rock ledge lead to a discussion of rock climbing and a quick pile up of rocks to make it a little safer to climb. It was noted that you could by-pass this obstacle if you wished. I was the first to try the rock and took a harder approach path to increase the difficulty a little. I was doing fine until I tried to turn sharp to miss a tree and was not successful in negotiating the turn and hit the tree. I had to back up and try again with better luck this time. Next up was Loc who decided to take a different approach that made it easier to do. He made it look simple. Next up was Jim and Ian who took the same approach as Loc and were both able to complete the climb. I think that Jim was amazed at what his truck could do.

Further down the trail we encountered another slight climb with some rocks on each side of the trail. After I made it up I came back to spot for the rest of the group. All made it up with no problems and we continued on. Not much mud this time but still a good ride. Back down the mountain to paved road and into Harrisonburg to air up and then head home. A good time was had by all.

Trail report written by Bob Weaver. Pictures courtesy of Jim Kahan, Loc Pham, and Ian Kluge.

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