On a gorgeous fall weekend in early November, the CORE club decided to take care of some unfinished business in the George Washington National Forest (GWNF). Specifically, it was the unfinished part 2 of our GWNF squiggle trip we tackled in December of 2020.
- Jendra – Orange JKU
- Andrew – Silver X-Terra
- Niels – Black JK
- Thomas and Mercadez – Orange Ranger
- Jason – Black JK
That trip in 2020 was broken into 2 parts, based on an observation Andrew and I had while researching some maps in the area. We noticed a lot of very squiggly roads/trails in the area, in addition to the popular well traveled Flagpole Knob via Dunkle Hollow route we had traveled many times. The first part was a northern route, via 85-2 from the starting point at Skidmore Fork Lake. The second part was a southern route, going from Skidmore Fork Lake to the Flagpole Knob overlook, then down into the Shenandoah Wildlife Management Area towards Stokesville. For that 2020 trip, we had planned to tackle the northern route on Saturday, and the southern route on Sunday. But as seen in the trail report, we encountered a significant amount of snowfall on the mountain, slowing us down, leaving the southern route unexplored.
With the southern route unexplored, we decided to tackle it on the weekend of November 5-7 in 2021. Similar to part 1, we decided to camp from Friday to Sunday on the trail between Skidmore Lake and Flagpole Knob. This time, however, we had two folks joining us on Saturday morning for the ride.
With the campsites in GWNF being first come, first serve, we weren’t sure exactly where our campsite would be. We aimed for a club favorite, “River Bend,” but unfortunately it was taken before we could grab it. But, we found another site, “Seattle,” which was also a great site, and large enough to accommodate our 3 vehicles and 4 tents. We settled in, made ourselves dinner, and hung out around the fire, as we enjoyed great company, stories about other trail rides, and the beautiful quiet of being away from cell service and distractions. Temps got down into the mid to upper 20’s overnight.
The next morning, we got up, whipped up a quick breakfast, and went down to the lake to meet the other folks. Once we had our drivers meeting, collected trip waivers, we set off on our journey. For this trip, we were familiar with the ride up to Flagpole, and then towards Reddish Knob, but beyond that, we’ve never explored that area, so while it was a bit of an unknown, we were excited to add it to our club repertoire. The ride up to Flagpole was beautiful as always, the scenic forest trails and tight switchbacks lent themselves to beautiful fall views of the mountains and valleys on either side.
After reaching Flagpole Knob and breaking for lunch, we then set off towards Reddish. We then turned onto the first unknown section of the drive. It was a paved mountain road, very windy and beautifully scenic. After travelling that road, we took a turn off back onto trails, where we descended into the valley, with beautiful forest all around, with creeks and small waterfalls scattered throughout.
We then took an out-and-back detour to explore a very squiggly route up the mountain, and were not disappointed! It was another scenic drive, coupled with a lot of small mud puddles, and a handful of large ones! After traversing a deep and boggy one, and some rutted out muddy paths, we reached the end, a big open area with a creek. It was labeled Rock Lick Spring. After turning around, we checked out what looked potentially to be another trail, but realized after walking up the hill that it turned into a hiking and biking trail, so we continued on, backtracking our route, until we got back onto the main path.
This section was a very smooth and graded dirt road. After another turn off onto some more dirt trails, we continued on until arriving at another smooth graded dirt road, then leading back to Briery Branch Rd. From there, we were at a good wrap up point, where the day trippers would go one direction to head home, and the campers would go the other to get back to camp. We all fueled up, said our goodbyes, and parted ways.
We headed back to camp, and settled in for another clear, beautiful, and chilly night. After enjoying a good dinner, and comradery around the fire, we recounted the fun we had that day, exploring amazing roads and trails, and adding to the club’s knowledge of the area.
The next morning, we got up, got a fire going to warm up, had breakfast and coffee, and started breaking down camp. We also did a big walk around the area and collected trash that had been left there by other groups, fitting into our ethos of Tread Lightly, and leaving these beautiful places in better condition than we found them. Three large garbage bags later, we departed the forest and headed home.
It was an amazing weekend, with perfect weather and the trees lighting up with color! We look forward to getting back out into the area and doing some more exploring!
Trail Report written by Jendra Rambharos. Pictures contributed by Jendra Rambharos, Andrew Taylor, and Alex Whitelock. GPS track provided by Jendra Rambharos.