Second Mountain and Old Long Run

Keith Holman’s Trip Report:

Saturday, Feb. 24, CORE went to visit the wilds outside of Rawley Springs. The trip included Second Mountain Road, Old Long Run and a crossing of the Dry River. Before the day was done, the rescue of four canines was checked off as complete as well. Details follow.

“Determining that the bottom was relatively solid and not far enough below the surface to be of major concern, we motored on…but not without a splash or two.”

Participants included:

  • Keith Holman, 91 S-10 Blazer, Trail Leader (Member)
  • Aaron Hall and Mike Tapp in Aaron’s 00 Xterra (Guests)
  • Bill Haegele, having sneaked out of the house, was traveling solo in his 97 Expedition and headed the Rescue/Roundup Mission (member)
  • Bob Jaeger in his 00 Ford Ranger
  • Mike Peterson in his 9? XJ (Member)
  • Mike Keane (member) and Angel Washington (guest) in Mike’s 92 S-10 Blazer
  • Jim and Brandee Loar in their 96 GMC Jimmy (Guests)
  • Jamey Lawrence in the gray Swamp Rat, 99 TJ? (Member)

After deciding on Friday that the U-joint in the Blazer was not going to make this trip, I had proceeded to change that at about 7:00 p.m. By 9:15, I was wondering how late I could call and ask someone else to lead this trip since the old one was now destroyed beyond all hope, yet was insistent on remaining firmly attached to the driveshaft. About the time I decided to start looking up phone numbers, the last of years of accumulated corrosion released its hold on the old caps and it slid right on out. The installation of the new one took virtually no time, with everything sliding together just as it should. As it turns out, years of Quickee Lube and dealer service had neglected to ever find the Zerk fitting on the old (original?) joint. Drove a couple of miles to make sure everything worked as it should, loaded the truck, cleaned up the garage and hit the shower to fall into bed around 1:00. This does not look good for a 6:00 wakeup.

Alas, the alarm clocks did their job and I was on the road for the designated meeting spot just a few minutes late. Bought gas at the Texaco across the street and met up, as prearranged at the Park Centre in Manassas right at 8:00. We shook a few paws, handled all the waiver stuff and pulled out on time at 8:30. Jamey joined us as we reached I-81 and Jim and Brandee were waiting when we arrived at McDorman’s in Rawley Springs.

Before pulling out, we talked about the road into Second Mountain Estates and it’s public/private status. It’s been the subject of much discussion and I won’t go into it all here again. We’ll conclude with giving the drivers instructions to be respectful of homeowners who adjoin the road by minimizing speed and noise as we passed through. We were off at 10:40. I’d like to say my next move was due to being absorbed in important and weighty matters of our time but suspect it was more of the “oh, look, a bird flew by” variety as I proceeded to lead our group right past the turnoff! The error was caught quickly as the last two in line actually made the turn. Great way to start the day, Holman!

Just before reaching the gate that marks the Forest Service boundary, we met a driver who pulled over to tell Jamey that he had better be prepared to tow some of “those stock trucks” out, since they would not be up to the trail. (We trust Jamey was prepared, although he was never called on to prove it.) Reminiscent of my childhood days when the local fisherman, when advised to stay in port due to the small craft advisories, were reported to have promised they would pass the word along if they saw any. Making the first little whoop-de-doo through the gate had my tires a-spinning until I realized that moving the lever out of the 2wd position does wonders for traction. (This makes two bone-head blunders, so far, today. Should I turn around now?!) Life is not for quitters, press on McDuff!

We made the turn that marks the ATV/non-ATV boundary and continued on up the hill, ever vigilant in our search for “those stock trucks” that were said to be in so much danger. First bit of snow-covered rock saw Aaron and Mike in the Xterra spinning a tire or two, as well. Aaron, announcing that “momentum is my friend!” backed up and came on over.

Our trusty crew continued along the trail. There had been others there before us, making track marks in the snow to lead us along. The first mudhole called for a stop as we prodded the depths with a stick to see if it had swallowed vehicles before us. Determining that the bottom was relatively solid and not far enough below the surface to be of major concern, we motored on…but not without a splash or two.

Having still not seen any sign of “those stock trucks”, we made our way to the “transmission-eating, oil-pump-seizing mudhole”. Everyone stopped to get the lay of the land before challenging the beast. Stories were told of the day the transmissions were devoured as well as stories of how this used to be much more difficult as it was deeper before the bulldozer cut the drain. Of course, in those days, we had to walk uphill barefoot in the snow to get our 4x4s up there! Opinions were being formed and we started moving along our chosen paths with some going through the main mudhole and others choosing the less muddy, but more technically challenging bypass. Following my distraction of the earlier morning, I opted for the main portion where less attention to things like rocks and trees was required. Aaron was up next and set about seeing how much the mud could fly without actually coming in through the sunroof. (Note to self: Try to figure out how that Xterra stayed so clean. Is it coated in Teflon?)

Bill and his Expedition chose to not venture through where the last tranny had disappeared and chose the bypass. The aforementioned rocks and trees required the careful maneuvering of the huge vehicle through the road less traveled and its accompanying ice and snow. Bob decided to play follow the leader, maneuvering the Ranger through where the larger Ford had already gone.

Mike Peterson chose to brave the rigors of the main mud in his XJ, pushing a wall of mud ahead of those big custom bumpers. Next came Jim and Brandee in the high-riding Jimmy, clearing the mud that Mike had had to push ahead.

Mike and Angel were next. This was the last chance to ascertain the color of the Blazer as Mike had every intention of making sure that any further description would have to include the word “muddy”. He pretty succeeded, covering the front half of his truck up to the windshield. We reminded Angel to roll up the windows before he went for a second go. Someone marked an X in the headlights with their finger, so we could tell when the lights were on.

Jamey then came through the middle on the mudhole, crossed over the rocks separating it from the bypass route and climbed the rock after zipping through the deep side hole along the bypass route. Listening to that four bangers’ exhaust burbling though the water made it pretty clear where the “swamp Rat” handle originated. After discussing the inadequacies of the valet parking at this particular mudhole, we continued along our way.

The white snow blanketing the ground under the leafless trees provides a contrast that really enhances the scenic views, giving a very different appearance to the mountainsides in winter and making for some gorgeous scenery. We enjoyed the view and eventually made our way off the Second Mountain Trail and onto Gauley Ridge Road. Gauley Ridge is on the “back side” of the mountain and had not been receiving the warmth of the sun in a number of places, resulting in a pretty solid covering of snow. Additionally, there had been very little traffic. You could see tire tracks, but they were still white.

I opted to head down the hill by going to first gear and four low which moved me a little bit faster than desired but not enough to create concern. This seemed to work for Aaron also but the combination of additional weight, less margin for error, change in visibility perspective and prior experience made this not a grand option for the Expedition. A little brake was necessary which began the process of the rear end attempting to come around and see what the front was up to. A little coaxing of both truck and driver was required to ease on down the road.

We made the turn onto Old Long Run (please note that I found this one on my own, the first time!) Again, snow indicated exactly where the “sun don’t shine”. The difference here being that the ruts were a little deeper and a little easier to stay in. We paused and posed for pictures at the ford where the bridge used to be. Surprising to me is that the timbers torn down are still stacked to the side there. Lunch was at the next clearing.

There is a large tree that has fallen across the roadway there. Luckily, the clearing makes for a good bypass, although the creaking noises from some unattached branches that have not yet fallen to the ground kept several of us looking skyward and it seemed that every time we stopped after that, we had a similar issue.

After lunch, we moved on down the trail relatively uneventfully until reaching the crossing with the rocky approach. Aaron learned the value of having one, and only one, person providing spotting as we tried different methods for dealing with the large boulder in the way. No harm, no foul. Bill managed to lift a tire as the left front dropped into the depression at the edge of the stream. Two and a half tons on teetering Ford did their part to make that driver’s seat “form fitting” as it had never been before. Jim showed us, again, the differences in a lifted vehicle and one of stock height as he negotiated the crossings.

The side hill gave us all a chance to make a run down and back up. Jamey and Jim proceeded to demonstrate the benefits of a locker when in two wheel drive mode. (In case its not obvious, Jameys locked Jeep came up in 2wd, Jim’s open Jimmy had to go to 4wd to climb back up although he made a respectable attempt.)

As we approached the end of the trail, we decided to make a quick run over to Dry River just to see whether there was ice. Along the way, we all experienced deja vu as we traversed some of the same paved roads. The deja vu experience was enhanced as Keith once again drove past the turnoff while Bill was telling him on the CB what to look for to be sure he didn’t miss it.

The trail at Dry River was uneventful, really, except for the Great Dog Roundup which Bill has already told us about.

We managed to prove what we all suspected, i.e., that Paved Roads are the most prevalent example of wasted Government spending!

Great day! Great folks! Great food at Luigi’s afterwards!

Happy Trails!

Trail report written by Keith Holman


Bill Haegele’s Trip Report:

A hardy band of CORE members and guests finally had enough of the crappy winter weather and decided to go fourwheeling this past Saturday. In the end, they got a little more then they bargained for, but ended up feeling really good about themselves. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

“In the end, they got a little more then they bargained for, but ended up feeling really good about themselves.”

The group of intrepid explorers was led by:

  • Keith Holman, Chevy S-10, CORE member

Joining him were:

  • Mike Keane, Chevy S-10, CORE member and Angel Washington, guest
  • Mike Peterson, Jeep XJ, CORE member
  • Bill Haegele, Ford Expedition, CORE member
  • Jamey Lawrence, Jeep TJ, CORE member
  • Bob Jaeger, Ford Ranger, guest
  • Aaron Hall and Mike Tapp, Nissan Xterra, guests
  • Jim and Brandee Loar, Chevy S-10, guests

We gathered at McDorman’s store in Rawley Springs for a final briefing by Keith. We reviewed the county land deed showing the PUBLIC road that runs though Second Mountain Estates to the Forest Service gate. It was decided to go up Second Mountain trail as we had heard that as of two weeks ago the (illegal) landowner’s gate was still open at the top of the road. We would then go back down Old Long Run Road.

We headed down 33 toward Second Mountain where Keith blithely drove past the turn to Second Mountain, establishing a pattern that would repeat itself during the day and earn Keith quite a reputation. As we headed up Second Mountain trail we noted all of the “Private Property,” “No Trespassing,” and “Keep Out” signs posted at the bottom of the road. Granted, the property on either side of the road is private, and possibly even this section of road,
but I’m not sure how posting these signs can legally keep someone from driving up to the upper part of the road which as the county land deed shows, is clearly a public road. From what the Bouchers have said, the county sheriff will actually come out and cut the lock on the landowners gate at the top of the hill if it is closed and you call and complain.

Anyway, as we were driving up to the Forest Service gate, we passed one of the locals who stopped and talked with Jamey and told him about the stock truck that was “stuck in the big mud hole up on the trail.” Hmmm. Most of us were in stock trucks and Jamie was in one of the two lifted trucks. Maybe this is the landowners new tactic: if you can’t keep them out, try and scare them from going up the trail. Who knows.

Well, Second Mountain was no better or no worse than the last time I was on it. Keith had a little trouble on the humps right at the Forest Service gate (“Four lo, Keith!”) and Aaron slipped a little on an icy rock at the first uphill right turn (Note to newcomers: on slippery uphill slopes, it is best to be in 4lo, 2nd gear. You are less likely to spin your tires that way). There was a little bit of snow and ice on the trail and a LOT of mud. Gooey, crunchy, icy mud. The mudhole in the middle of the trail was quite popular with everyone (Except for me. That’s where I lost my tranny at the SAXE last year. I took the bypass. Yeah, I’m a wimp). Mike Keane made a couple of passes through the hole and got a grand coating of mud on his truck.

Nothing special on the rest of the trail so we headed on up to the top of the mountain and Gauley Ridge Road. Several sections of Gauley Ridge Road were covered with snow and I managed to scare myself silly. I couldn’t see to stay in the ruts from the truck in front of me, so I kept riding up to the fresh snow on the left which would cause my truck to slip sideways to the right by several inches. It was all to similar to the feeling I had when the truck slipped on the ice on New Year’s Day and was quite unnerving. I froze for a few minutes and took a while to regain my composure. After talking with Keith and realizing what was happening, I was able to continue on without any problem.

We turned on to Old Long Run Road and crossed the OCC ford, stopping for lunch at the first clearing. A rather large tree had fallen blocking the normal road path at the clearing causing the road to be rerouted through the clearing. After taking the usual harassment from Jamey for enjoying a leisurely lunch in the comfort of my Expedition folding chair, we packed up and headed on down the trail.

We got to the stream crossing where the left front tire drops into the stream bed and the right rear lifts off the ground. Keith and Aaron lifted their right rear tires a little and then it was my turn. My left front dropped in and the right rear came up. I sat in the drivers seat and rocked back and forth to try and get maximum air. The right rear came up about 10″. Its always an impressive site to see something the size of an Expedition with one wheel in the air!

The stream crossings on Old Long Run Road are quite fun. Depending on the direction you are coming from, they can be quite challenging on the entry or exit. To answer Jamey’s question fully, it is LEGAL to cross the streams where the road crosses them at the designated fords. The fords are normally at a 90 degree angle to the stream so that there is minimal impact to the stream bed. It is normally ILLEGAL to drive up and down the stream beds like where the stream made a loop between two fords. Sometimes the stream will change locations and actually flow down the road. Such was the case where we crossed over the Dry River and drove back to the reservoir. In that case it is OK to drive in the stream bed as it is usually only for a short distance.

When we got to the long downhill rock chute, it was suggested that we stop to spot Aaron and Mike Keane who had the lowest vehicles on the trail. I spotted Aaron over the tire eating rock whereupon he promptly lifted his left rear tire! Hmmm. Not much articulation on the Xterra. Everyone stopped to get some photos. Aaron was a little uncomfortable in that position, so I backed him up and brought him around on the inside of the rock. He was narrow enough to just clear it. My truck is so wide, I have to go over it, but the Expedition never lifted a tire. Everyone else went around or over it with varying degrees of tire lift. Lots of pictures there.

Finally, at the end of Old Long Run Road we reached the eroded side hill as our last challenge. It always looks so much worse than it really is. Even with the snow and mud on the rocks no one had any problems with it. Jamey even climbed it in 2wd. Of course, having a locker in the rear axle helps!

From there, we decided to go over to the Dry River crossing and wash some of the mud off of our trucks. As we were driving down 33, I was reminding Keith that the turnoff can be a little hard to find: “Just as the exit to Old Rt. 33 comes in on the right there is a turn out on the right and the entrance is directly across on the left ….. and you just drove past it!” Keith and Aaron sailed right on by. The rest of us made it in and headed on down to the river crossing.

The river was flowing freely and wasn’t too deep so I started across as Keith and Aaron caught up with us. I heard someone say something about a couple of dogs by the side of the trail. And there starts the second part of our adventure …..

After lounging (i.e., BSing) at the reservoir for a while, we started back across the Dry River. Again, someone (Mike Keane, I think) pointed out the two dogs by the side of the trail. I stopped and saw two adult dogs and two young puppies. Mike Keane said the male appeared to be a cream colored Chow and the female and puppies were black something’s. I noticed two fishermen nearby so I asked if the dogs belonged to them. The replied “no.” Somebody else pointed out that a bag of dog food had been dumped by the side of the trail. I suddenly realized that the two adult dogs and two puppies had been abandoned in the forest. The two puppies couldn’t have been more than 8 to 10 weeks old. This really angered me as Betsy had been abandoned by her owner (in the animal shelter, at least), but Oliver had been picked up as a stray. I decided that I could not leave the dogs out there and was going to rescue them if possible. I told everyone that was still with me (Keith, Mike Keane, Angel, Jim and Brandee, Bob Jaeger, Jamey) that I wanted to catch the dogs and take them to a shelter. I don’t know if they were quite sure about my sanity in all this, but they seemed willing to go along.

I carefully approached the adult dogs first to see how they reacted. They both came right up to me and were very friendly. Since they were friendly, we tried to catch the pups, but the pups would have none of that. Plus the mom kept trying to get to the pups. We then decided it might be best to put the adults in one of the trucks, but whose? Well, since this adventure was my idea, I volunteered to put them in mine. Mike offered a blanket to put in the back of my truck. I managed to get both dogs to follow me to the truck and then lifted them into the back. They were a little anxious, but seemed quite content to stay in the warm truck. We could now turn our attention to catching the puppies, something that proved to be our biggest challenge of the day.

We split up into two teams to catch the puppies. One puppy took off into the woods, the other puppy ran and hid in a hollowed out tree that they had been using for shelter. We were chasing the one puppy all over the forest. I almost caught him when he got tangled in some briar bushes but he nipped at me and wiggled away. Jamey almost caught him but he did the same. This puppy was fast! Up and down the hills, dry stream bed and rocks we chased him. Finally, he headed back to the hollowed out tree. We had to catch him before he went inside with the other one. As he ran around the back side of the tree, someone cut him off from the front and I cut him off from the back. He was stuck between us, the tree and the steep stream bank. I threw my coat over him and bundled him up and took him back to the truck with mom and dad. Everyone was very happy.

Now we could turn our attention to the remaining puppy in the tree. The inside of the tree was like a cavern and the puppy was all the way in the back. We could see him with a flashlight, but couldn’t reach him. We tried using a long branch with pine boughs on the end to poke him a little hoping he would move enough so we could grab him. He would move but to another corner in the tree out of our reach. The opening into the tree was just big enough to get out head and arm into, but no more. I tried enlarging the hole with a mattock, and did a little, but not enough. Jamey and Jim were trying to dig a hole through the roots from the outside, but that was fruitless. I even tried splashing the puppy with water to drive him out, but that didn’t work. It was getting dark and we were getting tired and desperate.

Finally someone suggested trying to get mom to lure him out. I was afraid that mom would get into the hole and we wouldn’t be able to get her out. Plus the puppies wouldn’t come to her earlier. Then I realized I had a leash in my truck that I could make a collar out of. I went back to my truck, got the leash and put it on mom. She did not want to leave the truck, however. I can understand why. I had to carry her back to the tree. I kept her on a short leash and let her go about halfway into the tree. After about a minute, we looked down to see the second puppy crawling out from the tree between her legs! I pulled her back from the tree and we snatched the puppy up and took him and mom back to the truck where everyone was reunited!

Now, what to do with them? We headed back to McDorman’s. I called animal control while Keith went in to talk to the people in McDorman’s. The animal control number kicked over to the sheriff dispatcher. I explained that we were a group of fourwheelers on our way home to northern Virginia and Maryland and that we had found the dogs abandoned in the GWNF. The dispatcher said that the animal warden only works M – F and was closed now and that the shelter was closed. There was nothing they could do. I told him again what was going on and said we couldn’t take them home and we needed to do something. He then put me on hold for the first of several times. When he came back he again told me there was nothing they could do. I again explained the situation and that something needed to be done to help the dogs, especially the puppies. Hold. Keith came out of McDorman’s and said the people inside suggested we take them back where we found them and leave them. Yeah, right. The dispatcher came back with the same story. I told him the same story. Finally, he put me on hold for a very long time. When he came back, he said that the sergeant had a key to the shelter and he was going to let me talk to him. I explained the situation to the sergeant. The sergeant said if I could bring the dogs to the station, he would open up the shelter (Finally!). Keith and I headed to the sheriff’s office in Harrisonburg where we met the sergeant. We followed him to the shelter. While we were there, guess who else was there? The animal warden! So much for working M – F only. Anyway, the sergeant looked at the dogs and thought they were beautiful. He said that he really wasn’t supposed to do this but he loves dogs too and he really doesn’t understand how someone could abandon a dog, especially young puppies like this.

So I put the leash on the male and led him to a cage (they were all outdoors, unfortunately, we couldn’t get inside the shelter). The female I had to carry to a separate cage as again, she did not want to leave the truck. The two puppies were put in the cage with her along with the blanket (thanks, Mike).

I’m going to contact the shelter tomorrow and see how the dogs are doing and will let everyone know. I am also looking for information on Chow rescue organizations. Anybody on the list interested in adopting a dog? Both the mom and pop were very friendly and affectionate. The puppies were absolutely adorable. If I didn’t already have two dogs and Debbie wasn’t going to be having surgery this week, I would have brought them home myself. Mike Keane really liked the pop.

After Keith and I got the dogs taken care of, we joined the rest of the group at Luigi’s for some well deserved pizza. Thanks for the help everyone. No one can ever say a CORE trail ride is dull!

Trail report written by Bill and Deb Haegele and Betsy and Oliver (The Fourwheeling Puppies)

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