On Saturday, March 17th, a small band of us dared to tackle the snow covered mountains and venture to up to Flagpole Knob in the George Washington National Forest. Along for the journey of the day were:
“The first heart stopper of the day came when he began to slowly back up.”
- Alex Hinson in an 07 Jeep Wrangler 4 door on it maiden voyage, with guest Laura Sissom, and George Hinson riding along
- Joshua Felts in a Chevy 1500 Pickup
- Keith Holman in a Chevy S10 Blazer
The day started off nice, we all met up at the Sheetz in Haymarket, VA around 8:30. After greetings and a quick look over of the new Jeep, along with grabbing some breakfast and coffee, we pulled out a little before 9AM. We also stopped at the Sheetz in Harrisonburg, PA to top off and grab lunch. We then headed along US-33 to the trail head arriving around 10:45.
The mountains were still covered in a nice thick layer of snow from earlier in the week; it varied from 6 inches to 3 feet deep throughout the trail. It looked as if some one had already been along the trail before us, leaving a set of tracks. However, due to some snow storms earlier in the day, they were almost completely filled in. We made a quick stop near the entrance for me to make sure I’ve got the right directions, and to make sure everybody was doing ok and ready for the day. Little did we know that it would only get worse.
The first part of the trail was very scenic and relaxing. The snow covered mountains glimmered in the sun, patches in the trail were exposed due to running water from all the melting snow. The whole area was very quite; even the sounds of out trucks were muffled. With some navigation through the trees, across a few rivers, we began our climb up the mountain on a series of switch backs. At one point Josh lost his momentum which in turn due to worn tires, made him loose his traction. After several attempts to go forwards, it was decided that he should back up to get some grip and then gain momentum which would allow him to continue up the hill.
The first heart stopper of the day came when he began to slowly back up. After applying the brakes, and having all four wheels lock up, he continued to slide, heading straight for Keith’s Blazer. After stopping only a foot or two away from impact, Keith decided to back up some himself, just incase.
After a few attempts of getting moving again, Josh’s truck began sliding sideways off the trail. It was then decided that I would try to pull him out using my Jeep. This led us to another heart stopper. While backing up to get close enough to Josh, I began to slide down the hill towards Josh’s truck unable to stop. Fortunately, I stopped only inches from his bumper, a close call indeed.
Unfortunately, the Jeep was unable to get a significant enough grip to pull him out of where he was. About this time, a pair from the Shenandoah 4-Wheel Drive Association showed up and gave us a helping hand and a snatch block. With this we were able to pull Josh back on to the trail, at which time he was able to get moving again.
After a long climb up the mountain on a series of switch backs and a few more long hill climbs, we finally reached the top, and were joined shortly after by the members of the Shenandoah 4-Wheel club. After talking with them a bit, taking a few pictures, and enjoying the view, we retired to our trucks for lunch where it was nice and warm. Considering the temperature at the top was 26 degrees, not counting for the wind chill, we didn’t want to stay out side for very long.
After lunch we began to make our way back along the trail, but stopped to figure out if we wanted to go back the same way we came, or continue onward. After a brief talk, it was decided that we’d continue onward. This part of the trail was much more exposed to cross winds which made the snow on the trail deeper than before, making it a little more interesting to go through.
At one point in this trail, there is a long hill climb, and in that hill climb there is a nice rock obstacle after making a 90 degree left turn. I didn’t make it over in the first attempt, but nothing front and rear lockers couldn’t make look easy. Josh was 2nd to tackle this, and also made it over with little effort. However, the trail past the rocks is very steep and was covered in snow and ice, which made it very difficult for him to find any grip. Slowly working his way up the hill with guidance from Keith, he finally got to a spot slick enough to prevent any further advancements. At this point it was decided that we would use the tow straps to once again hook my Jeep to his Chevy and I would pull him up. We also decided that because the hill gets worse and stays at a very steep angle for a good distance, that we’d stay linked till we hit the top, or a good flat spot.
During all of this, Keith had some troubles getting over the rock obstacle as well. But after a little spotting and getting some “momentum” he was able to crawl right over it. He also had no trouble getting up the hill once Josh and I were out of the way.
So once we were hooked up, the go ahead for me and Josh to start moving. After a lot of wheel spinning, and snow slinging, my Jeep finally found the mud and rocks. After enough digging (and slinging mud 20 feet behind me), all four wheels found a bite and with a good tug on the straps, Josh was moving again. This was all it took to get us moving up the hill, with a few helping tugs along the way from me. After almost half a mile, we finally found the top, a nice long flat spot. We took this time to unhook and wrap the straps up, and wait for Keith to make his way up the hill.
Continuing on some more, we came to the 2nd clearing of the day, also another excellent photo op. It was also discovered here that there was a 2nd trail leading down the mountain, however it seems to have not been used for many years. It was noted and could be a potential for exploring on a not so weather resistant day.
We then began our decent down the mountains, after a few switch backs, long hills, a few more river crossings, and then we finally came out on a “paved” road. This led us back to 33 which we took back to town, where we stopped at the Sheetz once again. After topping off and saying our good byes, we each departed at our own speeds towards home. Another beautiful trail run with great friends, can’t wait till the next one.
Trail report written by Alex Hinson. Pictures courtesy of Alex Hinson and Keith Holman