Shoe Creek Trail

Hello everybody; well the return trip to the Shoe Creek Trail in Va., got off to an uneventful start. Part of the group met at the Wendy’s I66 and 234, and traveled down to Charlottesville, Va. Where I met them at Aunt Sara’s Pancake House at routes 29 and Bypass 250.

“The rain conditions made me feel like we were in the middle of the rain sequence in the first Jurassic Park movie.”

Altogether, we had in attendance:

  • Me (Gil Campos) in my 1999 TJ
  • Keith Holman in his Jeep.. A ha hum. I mean Chevy S10
  • Mike Vincenty in his Jeep
  • Mike Keane (another one of those Chevy S10’s)

From Aunt Sara’s. we proceeded south on the 250 bypass and route 29, about 35 miles to the intersection of US 29 and state road 56. West on 56, there is a McDorman’s type store. No one needed anything so we continued on local 666 and 827 to the trail head with only one minor glitch where, for a few anxious moments we pulled to the side of the road and I consulted with the trail identification gods (GPS) and realized I had just missed an important right turn.

The Shoe creek Trail actually starts out as a right turn off of 827 across a narrow bridge onto local gravel road 826, where it proceeds for about half a mile or so. Here, state maintenance ends and the road becomes a trail, disappearing abruptly into the forest.

Up to this point the skies had been mostly sunny. As we entered the forest, however, large drops of rain started to come down, and by the time we had stopped a short time later and gotten our vehicles 4×4 ready, the skies had opened up on us.

The ride went on for several hours, and involved about 4 miles of mostly narrow, rock based, fairly steep trail surface with rock boulders to be gone over in a number of places and with four or so stream crossings to be done. The rain conditions made me feel like we were in the middle of the rain sequence in the first Jurassic Park movie. It was a bit dicey in several places as the heavy rain made the visibility bad and negotiating some of the very narrow trail passages where there were sharp drop-offs was an intimidating affair. It was nice to note that there are many good places to camp out along this trail, for those so inclined.

The trail passes through several segments of private property and also an area bordered on the right by the Priest Wilderness Area. As the purpose of the trip was to ascertain the trail’s worthiness for use by our club considering it does pass through private property, the four of us paid special attention to the various property and trail marking that were observed. Forest boundary marking were observed in several places, but no where were there observed any indicators that a Wilderness area was close by.

As for private property markers, we observed numerous no trespassing signs. Of all the signs seen, however, we felt that only two were questionable in meaning. All the rest of the signs were placed so as to appear to run parallel to the trail rather than at sharp right angles to the trail as a direct warning not to enter. The two signs in question were crooked, and looked to be about 45 degrees to the trail.

We tried to see the over all picture and considered many factors. We determined that the intent of the property owners was not to keep people completely out of their property, but to keep people on the trail and not wandering from it. The Shoe Creek Trail is, therefore, in our opinion, a viable trail to be used by CORE members and guests. We reached this conclusion based on several factors. The two signs that were questionable appeared to be placed by the same landowner who had placed other signs along his property clearly running parallel to the trail. This is an indicator that the landowner was not trying to block trail passage, but merely wanted people to stay on the trail itself and not trespass beyond trail boundaries. Additionally, the property owners could have blocked the trail had they chosen to do so, merely by erecting a fence or other obstruction. However, there were none. Also, in viewing the trail as it fell behind us, we did not observe any signs that would have indicated that the trail was not to be passed over going in the opposite direction. One final note that was factored into our decision: the trail is considered by at least some forest service personnel as a “prescriptive” right of way, although if you talk with one the heads of the local forest service office, her position is that there is no such thing. The trail was at one time a state maintained road, only a portion of which, at some time in the past, was abandoned. Over the period since, the road or trail as it has become, has never been closed by property owners, although it could be at any time. It’s continued use over the years has given it a right of way status by “use and custom”, which is what the word prescriptive refers to.

Well enough of the investigative portion of the trip. We finally reached the top of the mountain and headed down the other side back toward state route 56. After another half mile of travel we came to the upper parking lot for the CrabTree foot trail which leads down to CrabTree Falls. As it was still raining at the time, we piled into Keith’s S10 and ate lunch while we exchanged views on improving the club as well as stories of past off road trips. Much to our surprise it stopped raining long enough for us to venture down the CrabTree Falls trail to the falls. The view was spectacular! The trail itself is about 2.5 miles round trip and is not overly difficult although that became a matter of one’s point of view and physical conditioning. Once back to our rigs, Keith (I think) insisted on a group shot of the rigs(Why I’m not sure as it wasn’t the rigs who had to walk down and back to the falls). After that, we headed home, traversing the final 3n4 miles of roadway back to route 56. At this point, Mike Keane split off, heading for I81 and Martinsburg (???). something about a girlfriend, while therest of us headed back east along 56 to US 29 and home. Keith and Mike Vincenty had to make a short stop north of Charlottesville, while Keith helped out with minor repairs to Mike’s rig, but everyone made it home safely.

A good trip people and worth doing time and again in the future.

Trail report written by Gil Campos

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