Night Run Up Union Springs… In a Thunderstorm!

Jendra got the fun idea to do an evening run up Union Springs, the hardest of the three legs around Flagpole Knob, and just do it as a “day trip” of sorts rather than a weekend. The idea was to take off work a little early, hit the trail, and be home late.

Unfortunately for Jendra he got sick just before the trip and had to bail. But Alex offered to lead it in his place and once I confirmed I was going I offered to co-lead. As we got closer to the trip though the forecast looked ominous. A large thunderstorm would be sweeping through the area that evening, forecast to potentially dump an inch of rain while we were on the mountain. Sounded like a potentially very memorable trip!

Along for the ride this time were:

  • Alex Hinson and Kevin – Jeep JKU Rubicon
  • Andrew Taylor – Nissan Xterra Pro-4X
  • Brian Middleton – Jeep JKU Rubicon Recon
  • Dicky Li – Nissan Xterra
  • Ben and Josiah Dunkerton – Toyota 4Runner Trail Premium
  • Hank and Kayla – Ford F-350
  • Roland and Liz Brooks – GMC Jimmy

We hit the trail a little more than an hour later than planned after some folks got stuck in Friday afternoon traffic. We aired down in the area known as the Quarry, and then continued on our way. The route up to the mountain along US Forest Road 225 was uneventful. We noticed the stream crossings actually had a few inches of water in them which was actually noteworthy because a) there is almost never water in them and b) the rain had not yet started.

We all turned into the real trail though, onto US Forest Road 225B, and relatively quickly came to the big mud puddles. We took a variety of lines through this area but kept moving. Our first noteworthy obstacle would be the rock steps shortly after the puddles. We paused to assess the situation as the rain started to fall. Everyone noted how different this obstacle looked in the dark with our headlights casting harsh shadows on them from the one side. With 3 options, each of varying difficulty, each driver got to pick their poison if you will. Ultimately we all chose the hardest side, although some were spotted through easier lines while others took more difficult ones. By the time we were all through the rain had really started to come down. I hopped back in the Xterra only to immediately be alerted we were now under a Flash Flood Warning! That’s when the first lightning flashed overhead and we heard our first thunder… Awesome!

We stopped and spotted folks through a few more obstacles, especially the Jimmy because it was a little lower than the rest of the vehicles, but overall moved quickly. We did pause at the spot with the short rock climb right next to the tree. We weren’t sure if this would bring any excitement. The Jimmy didn’t have the articulation and traction to make it through here on its own so we attached it to Dicky’s Xterra and pulled the Jimmy just a few feet until it was back onto all fours.

We didn’t stop at Meadow Knob because a) it was raining and b) we were a little behind schedule and c) there really was nothing to see. Everyone made it up the rocky steps and ultimately through the obstacle at the top of 225B where it meets Dunkle Hollow basically without assistance! It was here, going up the stair steps, that we saw small waterfalls of water pouring down the rocks as we tried to climb them. It really was awesome, and exactly the weather that I had hoped would help to make this trip memorable.

When we got to Flagpole we were treated to a rainy knob, all to ourselves, encased in fog/cloud. Dicky pulled a laser out and we were able to determine the fog/cloud really only was blowing over the top of the mountain and seemed to end about 20 ft above us, but we still really couldn’t see anything such as Harrisonburg below. After taking a few group shots we got on our way.

We all made quick work of the last bit of the drive out to pavement near Reddish Knob. We all paused to air up and re-assess our situation. We headed onto pavement at 1am!

A few folks made it home but many of us decided to call it a night either in a parking lot or a hotel/motel in Harrisonburg. After an epic night wheeling up the mountain in a flood warning and thunderstorm it was nice to end the night in a warm bed and reflect on our most recent adventure.

Photo Album: 05/06/22 Union Springs Night Run

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Trail Report written by Andrew Taylor. Pictures and video clips contributed by Brian Middleton, Andrew Taylor, Ben Dunkerton, Liz Brooks, and Alex Hinson. GPS track provided by Andrew Taylor.

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