Potomac State Forest Camping and Trailride

CORE members also enjoy membership in our regional club Mid Atlantic Four Wheel Drive Association (MAFWDA). One of the many benefits we enjoy each year from this membership is involvement in MAFWDA sponsored events. One event that we have all come to look forward to is a camping trip to Potomac State Forest generally in August hosted by Preston Stevens. Due to some last minute complications only Cherie and I were able to represent CORE on this year’s trip!

The un-common trail problem was easily solved with an un-common solution, using the chainsaw to cut it out in pieces until we could remove it!


  • Andrew and Cherie Taylor (CORE/MAFWDA Members) – Silver Xterra
  • Preston and Pam Stevens (MAFWDA Members) – Green XJ
  • Tom, Deb and Stephanie Taylor (MAFWDA Members) and Adam Doolan (Guest) – White Bronco

As is usually the case on these camping trips to the northwestern corner of Maryland, Cherie and I found ourselves arriving around 10pm due to work schedule conflicts that always seem to coincide with weekends we’re trying to get out of town. Preston and Pam had already settled in several days before our arrival, they make a week vacation of this trip each year so they can more fully enjoy all the State Forest has to offer. Tom and Deb’s family had also already settled in before we arrived but were excited to see more familiar faces, ready for the weekend ahead.

This trip is a special opportunity that we enjoy each year. Preston Stevens, MAFWDA Director of Conservation and Land Use, has fostered a relationship with the Forest Manager to allow this mutually beneficial trip to happen. In addition to the many opportunities available in the state park we come this weekend specifically to clean trails that are either closed to recreational off-road enthusiasts or are open only in season to snowmobiles. Each year in addition to enjoying portions of the forest that are normally off-limits we give back by clearing the downed trees and other natural obstacles that would stop the forest managers from maintaining this resource for us all.

Saturday morning we all awoke to a cool and almost foggy mountain morning. Everyone rolled out of their tents and RV’s on their schedule and enjoyed breakfast. At about 9am we were all ready to head out, and so loaded up in the vehicles and headed toward our first trail. See, this forest took a lot of damage in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy dumped roughly 12in of snow on this forest when it came through that fall. The amount of tree damage was immense. Last year we spent 5 hours just trying to clear Rattlesnake Ridge, only to finally give up when the rain finally got too intense and we decided to break for food. This year we decided to start back on Rattlesnake Ridge.

Again we spent about 5 hours on the trail. We had two chainsaws going and everyone out moving everything from logs to branches to vines off the trail. Preston started the day with some excitement when a several inch thick branch managed to wedge itself between his leaf spring and axle. The un-common trail problem was easily solved with an un-common solution, using the chainsaw to cut it out in pieces until we could remove it! At one point two state forest employees joined us with their families (they followed on their ATV’s) and helped clear the trail with us. Again we did not punch through to the other side. However, this year we cleared about two times as much of the trail as we did last year, eventually finding ourselves in a clearing that no one remembered being there before, that ended in thick brush on all sides. We’re not sure if the trail is permanently gone (slid down the mountain?) but next year we may approach from the other trail entrance.

We turned around and enjoyed the trail we had just cleared. Deb had moved over to the driver’s seat of the Bronco at this point and was having fun. Within sight of the gate at the end of the trail, while squeezing the Bronco through a tight spot, off camber on a slippery trunk, the Bronco slide sideways and got a palm sized hole punched out of the rear drivers side fender. Oops, it happens, but no one was hurt! Tom removed the remains of the fiberglass piece that was broken off, maybe to repair it once they got home.

Around 2pm, after a long morning, we headed back to camp to enjoy lunch. Everyone was tired, but the conversation centered on how much we had cleared and whether we should continue on the same trail next year. After lunch we decided to go out for a more recreational run. We began by exploring the other end of Rattlesnake Ridge, but could only go about one half mile before the trail was more blocked than we were ready to tackle that day. We turned around and went back to the main road.

We went down one trail overlooking the train tracks below, until we arrived at some new Posted signs telling us we needed to turn around. We turned around and started to head back, when all of the sudden a loud whoosh escaped from the Bronco Tom was driving. Upon closer inspection we discovered a 3in in diameter stick that was lodged in the sidewall of his tire. That’s when we found out that the Bronco had 33in tires, except the spare which was 32in. Out came the tools and in no time we’d moved the spare tire to the front, the front tire to the rear, and the rear (punctured) tire to the tailgate. Onward we went.

Our next trail was a snowmobile trail normally closed to full-sized vehicles that we enjoyed last year. This year this trail took us several hours. Not because of the terrain, which was mostly mild with a few more exciting spots. However, we found about a half dozen trees that required us to get out the chainsaws again and clear out a path. Again, this trail was clear last year, so it really shows what we’re up against in the maintenance department out there! Somewhere on this trail I too succumbed to some trail damage, getting a long but shallow dent just in front of my gas cap. I guess it was bound to happen eventually.

Near the end of the snowmobile trail we tried to take a back way into our campsite, only to find it too was impassable due to trees that had been knocked down. After that we headed back to camp by finishing the snowmobile trail. Another fun day in Potomac State forest. Saturday everyone went to bed a little earlier for some reason, and from what I heard, everyone slept well. Sunday morning was another cool one, a nice find for an August weekend. After breakfast (thanks again Tom for the skillet) we decided to go out one more time. We had enjoyed the snowmobile trail so much we decided to do it again. Following that Tom and Debs family as well and Cherie and I packed up to head out. We all discussed our plans for next year and said our goodbyes. Cherie and I enjoyed a nice casual ride back through the country. We are already looking forward to next year!

Photo Album: 08/08/14 Potomac State Forest

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Trail report written by Andrew Taylor. Pictures courtesy of Andrew Taylor.

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