With a Saturday, Jan 26 looking more and more like I had nothing to attend to around the house or with family, I decided to host a trip (similar to last year) to GWNF via Flag Pole. Luckily for me, a number of other members and guests were able to make it out as well. Those in attendance were as follows:
The trail quickly turned to solid ice with a lot good amount of tire slippage and skidding.
- Jason Grogg-Trail Leader (Jeep TJ),
- Dave Dorrin-C.O.R.E 2008 President (Jeep TJ),
- Alex Hinson-C.O.R.E. Member (Jeep JK),
- Ian Parker-Guest (Jeep JK)
We started our day by meeting at the Haymarket Sheetz (intersection of Rt. 15 and Rt. 55) at 8:00am. We gassed up and were on the road headed to Harrisonburg, VA by 8:20am. The trip down 66 and 81 was pretty uneventful and we pulled into the Harrisonburg Sheetz at approx. 9:40am. It’s no secret that the Harrisonburg Sheetz is a primary meeting location/pit-stop for various 4×4 groups before heading out onto the trails. Just as we were readying to depart for the trails, 3 heavily modified Jeeps pulled in. We did not communicate with those individuals but something in the back of my head said we’d see them again.
We were soon on our way out to the trail head and everyone in the group sorta had the feeling that this was going to be a unique day with the surrounding mountains covered in snow. After just pulling off Rt. 33 the trails/fire road was intermittently covered with snow and ice but snow become completely covered. We made it down the trail just prior the first stream crossing and stopped to air down and quickly go over any final questions. As we finished up and were getting ready to hit the trail, the Jeeps from Sheetz pulled up and started their trail preparations. All of those jeepers were from Northern Virginia. It’s important to note that we had a trash bag and picked up a # of items that were found on and around the trail.
After conversing with the fellow jeepers, we headed up the trail. The trail quickly turned to solid ice with a lot good amount of tire slippage and skidding. Just prior to the 2nd stream crossing, we stopped to gauge everyone’s thoughts on continuing up the trail, I felt a need to make sure that if anyone wanted to turn around that we needed to do so at this point. After everyone agreed, we continued on up the trail to a camp site area where we pulled up for a quick break. While pulled off, the group of jeepers from before passed our group and continued on up the trail. Dave and I were in agreement that we could use that group as our barometer for further trail conditions. Luckily, this would pay off.
After another 5 or 10 minutes, we piled into our jeeps and made our way up the trails. Again, the trail was extremely slick and I keep thinking turn into the hill if I felt the jeep were to start sliding off the ledge. Just as we were approaching the major switch back on the trail, the trail leader from the jeep group came across the CB that they were turning around, things were too dicey to continue. I quickly decided that we would do the same and would turn our group around. We would go down to the dry river trail system and adventure around.
We made it down to the “salt” shed, which to me looks more like a dilapidated shed that some individuals have used for backing their vehicles onto the roof. I have to admit, I had never ventured into this GWNF and I don’t suggest that anyone just “wing” it when trying to find trails in GWNF. I asked Alex and he stated that he had been in this area before, so I felt confident that we could find our way around if need be. Therefore, when we came to a fork in the road, I asked Alex if we should go left or right and he picked left. This took us into a loop area that presented us with some fun obstacles and we ended up stopping for lunch.
From there, we made it back to the fork in the trail and went the opposite direction to see what we could find. Alex spoke of a mud-pit that he believed was on the trail where a Land Rover owner ended up hydro-locking his rig and was pretty certain we were going to find it in going this particular direction. After about a mile down the trail, we came across the mud-pit and our jeepers from earlier in the day. As our C.O.R.E. luck would have it, one of the vehicles was stuck in the mud-pit and the group was getting ready to utilize their winch for recovery. At this time, we stopped to lend a helping hand and chat with this group, again. I handed over a few C.O.R.E. business cards and hopefully we’ll hear from those individuals again. After some work, they were finally able to remove the jeep from the hole and quickly departed the area. At this point, decided that he wanted to take a shot at the mud-hole and see if he could make it without being recovered. I’d like to point out that the ice was approx. 3 to 4 inches thick and Alex would have to cross about 15 to 20 feet of ice before the pit opened up to water and mud. Alex locked up the axles and took off across the ice and was able to power out of the mud hole without any problem.
However, Alex wanted to test his luck in an adjacent mud-hole that someone else had already tried their luck with. Something about this other mud-hole made me feel like this might be the last thing we do for the day. I was right. Alex pushed into the hole and made it about 2/3s of the way through before he was stopped in this tracks with blocks of ice keeping him from moving forward. We quickly decided to remove some of the broken pieces of ice and see if Alex can maneuver forward. This didn’t help. We then tried to have Alex reverse his course and we made some progress but not enough to get him out. We removed some additional blocks of ice and somehow Alex was able to back out of the hole. Unfortunately, this broke a front skid panel underneath his Jeep-it’s plastic so it shouldn’t be much to fix.
After we were able to wrap up this situation, we decided to call it a day and head back into town. Though we didn’t actually completely wrap up a full trail, I now know more about the area and some capabilities I can utilize for future trips.
Trail report written by Jason Grogg. Pictures courtesy of Alex Hinson.