New Year’s Run, GWNF

If you saw the invite for CORE’s January 1 Ride, then you know that traditionally “Whatever you do on the first, you’ll be doing all year.” This qualifies as great news for those on this ride. We’ll be doing these things all year:

Meeting new 4×4-driving friends.
Spending time with people we like.
Enjoying the outdoors with no carnage, no breakage and no one getting hurt.
Rediscovering former favorites that are getting better with age.

Our condolences to those of you who had to spend the day ferrying kids, working or cleaning up the holiday decorations.

“…I attempted to go through only to be stymied as the largest and most solid sheet of ice was just as the roadway made a sharp turn and headed uphill again.”

Coming along for the ride this time were:

  • Keith Holman 01 ZR2 Blazer
  • Bob Weaver 03 Rubicon TJ
  • Paul Woscek and Mandibles the Mohawk Dog 01 S10 Crew Cab (with new rock rails!)
  • Guests:

  • Ian Kluge 01 4Runner
  • Chad LeFevre 99 ZR2 Pickup
  • Jeff Byrd and daughter, Alex (who also works a camera pretty well!) 80 CJ-7

We met up at Wendy’s (on time, thank you very much) where we shook paws and eyed each other’s rigs in preparation for departure. We did leave a few minutes late as we allowed for the Peters Mill vehicle recovery club that was meeting there to get down the road a bit before hitting I-66 for the day’s adventures. They were headed down to Rawley Springs today.

The trip into the German River District of the GWNF was uneventful with everyone following in a line pretty well although anyone watching the lane changing event as we prepared to make the right by the Ford dealership in Broadway may have questioned whether we were four wheelers or a precision driving practice team that needed a bit more practice!

We stopped at the now-Exxon station for tank refills and drains as well as a last chance to pickup lunch for some.

Six more miles down 211 to the turn onto 818. We passed the landmark (and way too rare) pavement ends sign and were off. Hunting season ends Saturday in Virginia and the forest had plenty of hunters and dogs taking advantage of a great weather day to finish up the season. We met up with one group of hunters who advised of potential problems crossing over the mountain top if we were not equipped with chains. We stopped at the 555 cutoff to regroup and allow some who were following us to go ahead. One was a Sahara model Jeep with tires that made my new BFG Long Trails look aggressive. A driver and one map-reading passenger who were out exploring by themselves. They decided to go onto 555 to give us room since we were going to go check out the portion of the road the hunters had warned us about.

Along the way, we passed through a beautiful mountaintop meadow (manmade clearing) that had been the site of many a campfire and offered a gorgeous view of the valleys and other peaks around. The passage that the hunters had warned us about was indeed treacherous. In the lead vehicle, I attempted to go through only to be stymied as the largest and most solid sheet of ice was just as the roadway made a sharp turn and headed uphill again. After forward progress ceased, backward progress began at its own pace. The hunters had reported some 4×4 vehicles with them having problems earlier in the morning with tire chains mounted. Shortly after getting back down to a place of some (limited) traction, an older 4Runner came around the curve and down the hill. Luckily we didn’t meet in the middle. We all turned around and went back to the meadow where we shared a few tales and ate lunch.

All of us, at one time or another, have received information from hunters or locals that later showed they either didn’t know what we were capable of or that they were trying to get us to leave an area that they wanted for themselves. As it turned out, the hunters’ warning was a legitimate one. A little later in the day, another hunter stopped us and warned of conditions ahead. His warning was more of the day “Know what you’re getting into” variety and applied to the roadway beside the stream on the way to the glade where we often stop for a midday stretch.

We passed the two in the Sahara again coming the other way. Shady spots were sometimes icy as were several of the intersections but none were especially challenging if you took them slow.

As we neared the end of the unpaved road around 2:00, it was suggested that we gather up for a group shot and some discussion of possible additional riding. The wide spot where we stopped turned out to be a rather ripe area near some deer carcasses that were apparently being used for bear baiting. Our short stop allowed us to come to the conclusion that we would head in the direction of home with a detour through Edinburg and the Peters Mill trail. We hoped to be able to sample that and still make it off the trail before dark.

Depending on one’s perspective, the extremely wet weather in 2003 has been very good to Peters Mill. A couple of years ago, the trail was closed for an extended period for maintenance that included the addition of berms, tank traps and signs for those that just don’t get the message to STAY ON THE TRAIL! In that process, the trail was rerouted to eliminate the obstacle known as the Step or the Ledge as well as a couple of others and install the Cayenne bridge culvert.

At the southern end, near the ATV parking area, there is some reminder of the very slippery clay area prior to what used to be a sharp switchback up to the right.

We encountered four or five other 4x4s during our ride and perhaps 8-10 ATVs at different times. Our passings were uneventful and courteous.

Once again the large rock defeated me. Whether totally the difference in vehicle wheelbase or a significant helping of over-cockiness is the cause of the failure isn’t clear but I decided after 2 attempts to back off and save it for another day.

Jeff and Alex made it look way too easy in the CJ. In fact, they were over it so quickly that the pictures may be lacking as the cameras weren’t all ready for it. Alex was overheard asking Dad if they had done it, apparently because it had seemed so easy form inside.

Next up was Bob in the Rubi who took pretty much the same line, paralleling the short rock wall on the drivers side. Chad took the up the side approach. He backed part way down for a course correction and then conquered it. Both front and rear diffs touched as they passed over but there was nothing resembling banging or smacking.

Paul also took the parallel approach and touched nothing but tire tread as he passed, favorably impressing all present, even Mandy woke up for this! The pictures show Jeff, Bob, Chad and Paul in various stages of their triumphs. Ian decided to go for the muddy bypass this round.

There were muddy puddles to be found at several spots in the trail although some of the older truck-swallowing holes are still gone. We opted to stop in the clearing after the pond to get our group shot as darkness was fast approaching and the light would be insufficient to show much more than reflectors by the time we reached the parking lot at the end of the trail.

The Forest Service has added additional signage at the trail head to reinforce the notion of staying on the trail and restating the priority that nature will be given preference in determining their course of action on any decisions. It is great to see that this appears to be having some effect as generally, the blocked areas off the trails are receiving very little traffic. Unfortunately, those specific areas that do not have an individual sign or post blocking passage still show tracks over the berms and through the tank traps, particularly across from the pond and further north on the same side as the pond.

Our final stop as a group was the 7-11 in Front Royal to top off the gas tanks and then head for various points along I-66.

In any event, CORE had a great day with great folks having an enjoyable day riding the trails in a responsible manner.

Happy Trails and don’t forget to TreadLightly!

Trail report written by Keith Holman. Pictures courtesy of Keith Holman, Paul Woscek, Chad LeFevre, and Jeff Byrd.

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