George Washington National Forest

It all started innocent enough. I thought that I could go up in the George Washington Forest near Harrisonburg Virginia for a leisurely trip with CORE. I was hoping that we could get some good scenic views along the way of mostly stock trails. After all, it was late March and the temperature was in the 50’s. I had no worries right?
We all assembled at the Wendys in Manassas. I thought that this was safe, as it is our normal meeting place. I arrived a few minutes early so that I could go get breakfast before the trail ride. Mike, Donna, and I went into the Wendys to get breakfast and were told that they no longer serve breakfast. (We were wondering why they would be open at 8:00am if they did not serve breakfast anymore.) So much for my Breakfast.

” I was hoping that we could get some good scenic views along the way of mostly stock trails. After all, it was late March and the temperature was in the 50’s. I had no worries right?”

The cast of Characters for this trail ride included:

  • Bob Weaver, Jeep Rubicon, CORE
  • Mike and Donna, Jeep TJ, CORE
  • Bruce Copping, Jeep TJ, CORE
  • Dave Dorrin, Jeep Rubicon, CORE
  • Jose A.Avila, Toyota 4-Run, Guest
  • Gary Hallman, Chev S-10, Guest
  • Jeff Kimmel, Chev S-10, Guest
  • Don Brown (DJ), Chev S-10, Guest
  • Jeff Beasley, Chev S-10, Guest

After a quick driver briefing and introductions we all loaded up and hit the interstate around 8:40am. The only thing noteworthy on the way out to the trail was a wreck we saw in the median strip of I-66 where a car and trailer had run into the ditch. (I am sure that they were not having a fun day). We all arrived at the Sheetz in Harrisonburg and got gas and food for the trail.
We headed up Rt. 33 towards the trail head. The start of the trail going down to the lake is crushed gravel and can get dusty at times. Today it did not seem too bad. The lake has the most greenish water that I have seen in a long time. As > soon as we got to the other end of the lake the road takes a turn across the creek. We stopped at this point to air down, disconnect, and get ready for the trail. While we were stopped we met a family that was camping in an A frame pop up camper with huge solar panels on the side. They were quite friendly and we struck up a conversation about CORE. They were going to West Virginia for some fishing but could not make it that far due to all the snow. Well, we all laughed since we were wearing short sleeve shirts standing in the sun shine. This was the first clue as to what was in store for us today.

Sarting up the trail we crossed several small creeks before we arrived at a large camping area. We made a brief stop here before continuing up the mountain. The trail is still easy going at this point. About another mile further along the trail we ran into the first patch of snow and ice on the trail but I still don’t think much of this as the other tire track is void of this nasty stuff. A few hundred yards away the whole area is starting to turn white. I made a call on the CB to be careful and give lots of room between vehicles. Several minutes of dry trail and then it all turns to white stuff again. At this point a call over the CB indicates that this is the first time that a few of the rigs are using their 4-wheel drive.

By the time that we get to the next switch back the whole trail is snow and ice. Bob W. starts to slip a little and I end up going up the trail at a slight angle. As I look back to see how the rest of the group are doing I see Mike V. slightly sideways on the trail and stopped. Donna gets out of the jeep to check on the situation. Mike is not making any progress up the hill and I think that Donna is getting a little nervous at this point. I thought that I might back down the trail and strap Mike out of the jam, when Donna pops up from behind my spare and asks that I not run over her (oops, sorry Donna). Mike and I decide that the best action will be to use his winch to pull him up and get him back straight. That worked and Mike was now up with me.

The question then turned to the rest of the group. I asked if they wanted to turn around or try to continue. Because we could not find a good spot for the big wheelbase S-10s to turn around we all decided to try and continue up the trail. One by one we took turns going slowly up this slippery section with the S-10s making it look easy to my relief.

A short distance more found us with traffic coming the other way. A discussion ensued on the conditions ahead of us and we learned that we could possibly make it to the first overlook, but that we would not be able to go down “Stone house road” today. They had a member get stuck the night before and ended up leaving the rig on the trail overnight. When we got to the point on the trail where they had gotten stuck, we took their advice and went around to the left to avoid the bad spot where they had been stuck. At this point I would guess that the snow is around a foot or more in spots.

Soon we had all made it to the overlook three hours after leaving pavement. We had lunch on top and enjoyed the view. By the way, the overlook did not have any snow at the top (go figure).

The way back down the mountain was kind of anticlimactic, as we all took it slow and gave a lot of room between vehicles. Back down at the first creek crossing we all said our goodbyes and headed for home. A good day was had by all, even if it was a little more challenging than advertised.

Trail report written by Bob Weaver. Pictures courtesy of Bruce Copping.

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