Well, it was a beautiful Saturday morning. I met Paul and Julia Woscek at the Sheetz gas station in Haymarket, VA, at the intersection of US 15 and VA. 55, right off of I66. Paul had his S10 P/U, and of course I was in my 1999 TJ.
“I yelled out “Paul! How’s it going?” I immediately got back a very loud “I think I M E S S E D U P!!!””
It didn’t take long to get to the trailhead, which is located west on VA. 55 from I81, about 14 miles, right on the Virginia West Virginia state line. Paul chose not to air down, but I reduced my ground pressure to 12 lbs for the trail. In addition, I removed my sway bar quick disconnects and Paul did some tweaking underneath his S10- all in the name of added trail performance. We had a short discussion on equipment, and Paul dutifully produced several pieces of recovery equipment including a good recovery strap a come-along, and a high lift jack. all of which he had purchased specifically for this trip.
By about 11:30 or so we were ready and headed south along the mountain ridge, which forms the two state boundary at that point. The Trail is officially known as the County Line Trail or Tuscarora Trail (I think I spelled that right lol). We call it the Walking Stick Trail because on our last club trip to the trail in the fall of 2001, we encountered walking stick bugs by the hundreds (well maybe it was by the dozens, but there sure were a lot of them!). Anyway, the trail winds its way south in a gradual ascent, with the actual trail itself being very narrow. In some places the forest moved away in gentle sloping terrain, but in others, the drop off was pretty steep. Not cliff like mind you, but steep enough to produce a roll over should you slide off the trail in the wrong attitude. The trail has plenty of rock protrusions with enough rock on the sides to satisfy even the most ardent of ramp enthusiasts (CHAD TAKE NOTE!! LOL).
In addition, there are a number of short hill climbs where the climb itself is off camber and the trail is narrow. Added to this, in many of the narrow sections of trail, the trail surface is wet, consisting of dirt and decaying leaves, underlain by loose small rocks. All of which makes these sections of trail VERY interesting. Because the trail is so narrow, with steep drop-offs or steep ascending terrain on either side, it becomes particularly difficult to maneuver another vehicle to assist in recovery.
We were doing fine however, and had managed to get about a half mile or so past the power lines (beautiful view of each state by the way!). I had negotiated a section of the trail like the one described in the previous paragraph, and had crossed over a narrow high point, moving down the other side by 15 or 20 yards. I listened intently for signs of movement coming from the other side of the hill. I could hear spinning tires and the sound of rock on rock. I yelled out “Paul! How’s it going?” I immediately got back a very loud “I think I M E S S E D U P!!!”
I headed back down (actually it was up) the trail to see what had happened, although I already knew that Paul and Julia had slid off the main trail and were stuck in the loose rock on the downhill, off-camber side of things. Sure enough, as I popped up over the hill, Paul and Julia were surveying the situation and Paul had this big COUNTRY grin on his face. (After all, he is from West Virginia!)
Well this point on the trail marked our location for the next 3 or so hours, and in fact was actually the farthest most point on the trail for Paul as we only managed to move him another 10 yards in the next several hours. We looked over the situation together and I made some suggestions that included using the winch on my TJ. Paul, however, wanted to try out the come-along and other equipment he had on hand. (Why not! He had just spent good money for it!! LOL) After several tries with the come-along we were able to at least get Paul’s S10 up off of the trail’s sloping lower edge, although not much farther than that.
Julia, seeing that Paul and I were bonding well in the performance of such manly things as getting dirty, grunting, sweating, and cursing the situation, decided to take a walk to observe nature (Julia is a biologist BTW.) Paul had gotten himself worked in next to a large outcrop of rock that formed the lower side of the crest of the hill. He could go no farther without slicing the right side of his S10 on the rock. (Besides he was stuck again anyway!) We decided that using the TJ’s winch was in order.
Another problem inherent in this trail is a lack of strong trees in many spots, close enough to be used to anchor a winch line. Paul ended up clawing his way through the brush and sticker bushes (OUCH) to find a good anchor point. With the use of the winch in front and Paul’s come-along in the back we were finally able to get Paul’s S10 to crest the hill. The S10 did suffer some minor paint scraping on the right side.
We had initially decided to push on from this point, but gave the idea up for the day. I quickly learned that what was hard to do going forward could be down right difficult while backing up. I couldn’t get the TJ turned around. I kept sliding off the downhill side of the trail. I could have eventually gotten myself turned although I might have needed to winch myself up and around. Paul and I decided, however, that there was a high likelihood that he could not make it up the back side of this hill he was on, on the return, so we gave it up for the day and proceeded to back Paul’s S10 down the hill we had just spent several hours getting him up. Needless to say, it was no easier getting him down than it was getting him up. We had to back him out about 100 yards before the trail provided sufficient space to turn around. Altogether, I think we spent another hour and a half alternately backing and winching the S10 before we reached the turn around point. From there, the return to trail’s beginning was uneventful.
Paul and Julia invited me out afterwards for a steak dinner at Logan’s Road House, in Manassas, VA. We talked of the trail’s lessons and decided that the main problems had been lack of clearance and lack of aggressive tires on the S10. Paul is already talking about either upgrading the S10 or forgetting the whole affair in favor of something else like a jeep. After dinner, thoughts of the trail soon faded as conversation turned to other things. I headed home that night with a full stomach and pleasant thoughts of internet conversation, new living room furniture and Julia’s Pecan pie; my thanks to Paul and Julia for a great time.
Trail report written by Gil Campos.