Flagpole Knob - Off Camber Crawlers New Years Ride

Little Fork and Socrates Mt.Summit View - Click to Enlarge


4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD! - Click here for details!

4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD!



Every year the clubs go out on the trail on New Years Day.  I received a notice from CORE that they were going to Peter's Mill.  I haven't run that trail for a long time but didn't feel much like driving all the way out there to run it, even though I would very much like to see Keith and those guys again.  I got in touch with Carl and learned that he was leading a group from OCC to George Washington National Forest for a run.

We spent some time talking GPSrs as Carl just got one.  He said he wanted to run Flagpole so I got him set up with some data and planned to meet him and the group on the road to the trail.

Then I sat and did my planning for the road trip.  Gee!  Only four hours drive (one way) to the starting location.  The last time we went, we stayed overnight at Brandywine.  That made the trip a lot easier, with one day on the road in, some sack time then another day on the trail and on the ride home.  Still a long second day, but reasonably easy.

This was going to be something else - four hours on the road, the trail, then another four hours on the road back.  I figured most of the road time would be in the dark coming and going.  That made me happy to have the driving lights.  I set them up to project a long way down the road instead of near the front of the Jeep the way I run them for commuting.

I spent the night before loading the Jeep.  Cameras.  GPSr loaded with maps and tracks and waypoints.  Snacks and lunches.  Drinks.  First Aid Kit checks.  Tools.  Winch Kit.  And so on.  The usual drill.  Ran down the fluids in the Jeep and made sure everything was up to the mark.

For the eight hours on the pavement, I copped out and put the DVD player in the back of the Jeep along with five movies and the Leapster (LeapPad in Gameboy sized palm unit).  I have heard parents proudly (and rightly so) tell of multiple-day road trips without DVD players and other electronic diversions, and how well their kids did without them.  I acknowledge the risks and shortcomings of using a video to babysit my kids.  But we have made a decision to use the DVD player only for long road trips where the road was not part of the experience, just the "getting there".

Let's face it - we have stereos to keep us entertained as we drive, a case full of CD's to keep it interesting; Satellite Radio, Cassette Tapes, AM/FM radio.  My kids have acquired a taste for the music I like and listen for a good while.

But eventually they get bored stiff with it and start horsing around like little boys do.  Then it turns into bickering, shoving, and arguing.  It gets ugly somewhere around hour 2.5.  So I use the DVD player to give them an outlet.  This was the first time it's been in the TJ.  The boys watched a couple movies on the way to the trail head, but they were still engaged in the road trip, and the whole thing spared me a lot of scuffles.

I had prearranged that when we reached the trail the DVD player was to be put away.  And they were great about it.

So we made our four hour drive with a stop at Sheetz for gas and free coffee.  We arrived at the location I told Carl we'd be, within 2 minutes of what the GPS predicted.  Soon enough Carl and the group came into radio range and we all headed for the trail.


We stopped to air down and disconnect near the hill that used to get so much abuse.  There were a total of 13 vehicles and maybe twice as many people.  Everyone got busy disconnecting and airing down.  Then we had a brief drivers meeting to tell people about what happened a couple years ago on the same trail at the same time of year.  We made it clear that nobody had to do anything they didn't want to do, and everyone would stay together no matter what.

Airing Down and DisconnectingAiring Down and DisconnectingAiring Down and DisconnectingAiring Down and DisconnectingAiring Down and DisconnectingAiring Down and DisconnectingAiring Down and Disconnecting


With that out of the way we headed up the trail.  I took the rear with Wayne just in front of me, and with Carl leading the group.  The trail didn't look any different than it had a couple years ago on that fateful trip but there was less snow in the woods and it was a lot warmer outdoors (mid-40's).  But on my way over the mountain earlier I had noticed the trails going into the woods.  Every last one of them was nothing but ice.  I didn't expect anything different once we got up the mountain a ways.

Wayne going up the trailGroup going up Union Springs RdGroup going up Union Springs RdGroup going up Union Springs Rd

We went along doing well for some time until we reached the long hill that was tricky in the past.  Carl came over the radio with the ominous report that he had tried to go up and had ended up sliding back down backwards.  That was the last thing I wanted to hear because not making this hill meant turning back and either going up a different way (mostly pavement) or doing something else that involved mud... We all stopped and walked up to see what he had.

When I got there, he had his Jeep parked on the right.  As before, the trail was a sheet of ice all the way across the trail. 

A little ice!

This made it difficult to get started going up the hill.  The line required driving on the right side of the road near the edge, and then hugging the right all the way up the hill.

Stopping for Ice Challenge

Carl tries the line

I walked all the way up the hill (.3 mile with 300 foot elevation increase) to see what it looked like all the way up.  I didn't want anyone to get part way up and have more ice all the way across the road.  This section of trail would allow no error if things went bad.

I was headed back down when Carl started driving up.  Fortunately the trail did have a continuous band of traction on the right side (away from the edge) and making the hill would be reasonably easy provided the driver didn't panic or get on the wrong side and lose traction.

Carl walked back down and one-by-one each member of the group took their turn.  Randy had some fun at the beginning with the pickup but ended up going right up.  By the time I got my turn, the trail was well churned and the going was dead easy.

Gino - Click to Enlarge


Dave - Click to Enlarge

Making the turn at the bottom

Next! - Click to Enlarge

Hugging the traction belt
Nearing the turn up the hill - Click to Enlarge

Heading for the Hill - Click to Enlarge
One side has traction

Headed up - Click to Enlarge
Up from Below

Wayne's TJ - Click to Enlarge

The boys and TJ - The look of "We didn't do nothing..."
TJ with Mud Graffitti

Climbing the icy hill

Just a little icyCarl

Everyone agreed this was a good place to stop for lunch, with everyone safely at the top of the hill. So we ate, chewed the fat, and enjoyed the weather.  Randy gave me a light that clips onto a hat visor.  Very cool stuff!  Thanks Randy!  When everyone was done eating we got back on the trail for the next leg of the climb to the ridge.

Column moves outUp the trail...

This section had proven difficult on the previous ice trip too.  Pretty soon we got to a slick spot and spent a couple minutes getting one vehicle through.

Icy section
Airing Down - Click to Enlarge
Waiting in anticipationOn her way

The woods can be beautiful this time of year.  This was in fact one of the main reasons I made the drive. 


I love this place and the winter is one of the best times to be out here.

Trees and Sky - Click to Enlarge

Once we got everyone to the top of the ridge we turned onto the road that runs from Chestnut Ridge to Flagpole Knob and beyond.  For the most part it's an easy drive with only two or three sections that are challenging in icy weather.

The first spot is a short downhill that has a bypass.  The main trail is rocky and rough so some folks cut another way through.  I was all the way in the back so I don't know for sure but by the time I got there it looked as though the bypass was unused; everyone had gone down the rough side on the original trail.  I made it unanimous.

Next came the uphill to the top of the ridge.  The hill was icy and we spaced out to take turns with Carl stationed at the top to keep people from going off the ridge to the left.  The problem is that you cannot see the trail as you break the top of the hill, and to add to that, the sun is in your eyes so you can't see anything, period.

So one by one we went up the hill.

Wayne near minor hill climb


Randy gave us a moment of excitement.  At the bottom of the hill I told each driver to stay to the right at the top so they would not get too close to the edge.  I hope I gave Randy the same instructions.  But when he got to the top he got a little too close to the edge and gave Carl quite a scare.  I heard at least four voices yelling WHOA WHOA WHOA!

Randy and MrsClimbing
Don't go to the LEFT!


Climbing - Click to Enlarge


Ready to Climb





Movie: mov09976.mpg Climbing the Hill - Click to ViewMovie: mov09984.mpg Climbing the Hill - Click to View

On the Ridge - Click to Enlarge

I had also made plans to locate and log a Geocache while on this trip.  So I watched for it to appear on my GPSr screen.  When it did, I found it was only a few feet off the trail.  So I pulled up parallel to it, let Wayne know that I was stopping to take care of some business, and went down to the location of the cache.

It was very easy to find thanks to the instructions on the listing.  I swapped the Go Fish card game and the Troll that the kids had gotten in another cache for a roll of film and a diecast Ferrari.  We also logged our travel bugs in and out of the cache to record the mileage.

Geocache! - Click to Enlarge
Signed the Log
View of the Jeep from the Cache
Ted with his Travel BugTom with his Travel Bug

From there I caught up to the group already on Meadow Knob posing for a photograph.  As we climbed off the ridge to the meadow this scene greeted us:

Trail view to Meadow Knob - Click to Enlarge

This was a good time for photos so I made a few of the Jeeps (and the pickup truck!)

Meadow KnobMeadow Knob

Panorama - Click for LARGE image!

Meadow KnobMeadow KnobMeadow KnobMeadow KnobMeadow Knob

TJ on Meadow KnobTJ on Meadow Knob
Kids with TJ on Meadow Knob - Click to Enlarge


Kelsey's Friends


This is one of the best times to be on top of these knobs because the air is clear, making visibility very good.

View from Flagpole KnobValley View from Flagpole KnobSummit ViewSummit View

Meadow Knob - Click to Enlarge

View from Meadow Knob

Ted on Meadow Knob - Click to Enlarge

Another Valley View from Flagpole Knob
Summit View - Click to Enlarge

The kids got obsolete film cameras and lenses for Christmas.  Now that everyone has gone to digital there are lots of perfectly good SLR's out there for sale for cheap.  The kids like taking pictures so I got them some good cameras to use but at a small fraction of the cost they once were.  Teddy told me he wanted to take a picture of everyone, so I called everyone over to get together for a picture.

Jeeps on Flagpole Knob

More Jeeps on Flagpole KnobMore Jeeps on Flagpole KnobMore Jeeps on Flagpole KnobMore Jeeps on Flagpole Knob

Mr. Carl - Click to Enlarge
Mr. Carl's Jeep

Fallen Timber - Click to Enlarge

Jeeps on Meadow KnobJeeps on Meadow KnobJeeps on Meadow KnobJeeps on Meadow Knob

Papi on Meadow Knob

OCC and Guests 1/1/2006 on Meadow Knob - Click to Enlarge
Group on Meadow Knob

The Photographers

After I took a picture, Ted went in front of the group with his brother and others.  Cameras fired and the group dispersed.  Ted came over all upset.  It turned out that he didn't have time to take his picture before everyone scattered.  Lesson one about group shots - once the camera goes off (any camera) the group disappears!  He got over it but now knows about moving quickly!

Meadow KnobLined up for PhotoLined up for PhotoLined up for PhotoMeadow Knob


I took a couple minutes to shoot a little.

Trees and Sky

Then we hit the trail for a quick stop on top of Flagpole Knob.  The road between the two clearings was tricky enough though everyone made it through just fine.

TrailTrees and SkyWayne and Co. on the trailWayneTrailTrail

Famous Hill from 12/27/03

Carl overshot Flagpole and was just getting back to the right spot when I caught up to the rest of the group.  He kept us honest by reminding people to stay on the trail.  The view from the knob was spectacular!

Reaching Flagpole Knob
Reaching Flagpole Knob - Click to Enlarge

Flagpole Knob Summit
Flagpole Knob Summit - Click to Enlarge

Flagpole Knob Summit
Flagpole Knob Summit - Click to Enlarge

Group on Flagpole Knob Summit

Tomi making pictures on Flagpole Knob

Group on Flagpole Knob SummitGroup on Flagpole Knob SummitLone XJ on Flagpole Knob
Ted on Flagpole Knob - Click to Enlarge
Lone XJ on Flagpole KnobGroup on Flagpole Knob Summit

Mr. Carl

TJ on Flagpole KnobTJ on Flagpole KnobTJ on Flagpole Knob

Trail Stories

TJ on Flagpole KnobTJs on Flagpole KnobDaveTJ on Flagpole KnobTJ on Flagpole Knob

View of Harrisonburg from Flagpole Knob
View of Harrisonburg from Flagpole Knob - Click to Enlarge
TJ on Flagpole

With the night coming, Carl got the group moving.  We chose to head for the pavement rather than risk the dark side of the mountain going down through Dunkle Hollow.  There is always more ice on that side, and this bunch had enough of it for one day.  We would have had a tough time if trouble arose.

The road to pavement was interesting enough.

Trail on Flagpole Knob - Click to Enlarge
Trail on Flagpole KnobView from the Trail on Flagpole Knob


When we reached Briery Branch Gap, the group took pavement down.  I later learned that Wayne developed problems with his front differential, and Randy had troubles with an alternator.  As for my merry band, we took the road less traveled.  The first several hundred yards had me thinking twice about going down to Brandywine via Moyer's Gap.  We had driven this road in good weather and found it to be smooth and wide with lots of scenic views.

Today, the road was sheer ice with well defined ruts.  On either side was snow that provided traction.  The problem was that on one side, there was a precipitous drop and the other a deep ditch for drainage, punctuated with culverts that would tear a suspension up badly.

So for a while I had my work cut out for myself.  I kept the speed way down and hugged the hill side of the road using the snow for traction and making sure not to get distracted by the views.  Pretty soon we got down to Wolf Run and Little Fork where the road came off the side of the mountain and widened up.  The ice was replaced by a mixture of snow, mud and ice.  It was easy to make good time and I pulled the transfer case down to 4-HI for the rest of the drive to pavement at Calvary Church.  But not before crossing Little Fork a couple times.

Crossing Little ForkCrossing Little Fork
Crossing Little Fork - Click to Enlarge

Little Fork and Socrates Mt.Little Fork and Socrates Mt.Little Fork and Socrates Mt.
Little Fork and Socrates Mt. - Click to Enlarge
Little Fork and Socrates Mt.Little Fork and Socrates Mt.

Little Fork and Socrates Mt.
Little Fork and Socrates Mt.

The ride back to Brandywine was pretty too.  Plenty of things to record!

Socrates Mt.Socrates Mt.Socrates Mt.


The kids like Fox's Pizza Den in Brandywine so we stopped for dinner.  They had Mac and Cheeze bites and Cheese Fries; I had a Steak and Cheese. 

Ted and Tom at Fox Pizza Den

I noticed that the antique shop across the street still has my Willys pickup truck for sale.  I didn't think to go and see if the price had been dropped.  I scare myself thinking about buying it and putting a modern drive train under it and then taking it wheeling...

Antique Store in BrandywineWillys Pickup still for sale

By the time we finished eating it was dark out.  We went up the road in the direction of home and turned the corner on a crescent moon rising over a ridge.  Unreal.  The picture does not do it justice.

Moonrise in Sweedlin ValleyMoonrise in Sweedlin ValleyMoonrise in Sweedlin Valley
Moonrise in Sweedlin Valley - Click to Enlarge

It was all downhill from there.  Well more or less.  We drove back following the valleys and climbing in and out of them through the gaps.  We stopped for a snack which perked up the kids.

Paying attention on the way in paid off in a 1/2 hour time savings over the route the GPS "wanted" me to take, by going the same way I had come in the morning, and recalculating when I got closer to home, which revealed a cut-off near Deep Creek Lake that put us back on Route 68 a little faster than we might have via Route 219.

It was a very long day but it was worth it!

Flagpole Knob Track 1/1/06 - Click to Enlarge

Elevation in Profile - Click to Enlarge

(Elevation tracked from top of first icy hill on trail to Franklin, WV - Flagpole is highest point)


Here's Carl's write-up

From: "Carl E. Smith" <
Date: Mon Jan 2, 2006 10:02 pm
Subject: Official OCC New Years Day Run 2006 Writeup
OCC New Years Day Run 2006

Meet at Wendy's at 8:00, It was a surprise to see Randy and Carol Wood show up in Randy's large Ford F-350 ready to go wheeling! After getting the necessary paperwork filled out and collected we pulled onto the highway at 8:10 am. It was a great morning. Mostly clear with warm (for the season) temperatures. The drive to Harrisonburg was uneventful. We arrived at the Sheetz around 10:00. Right on time

We had collected a good size group of 11 Jeeps and one F-350: Carl Smith, Member (Trail Guide) Carroll Jenkins Lauren Levi (soon to be "ex-NOVA Jeeper" ;) ) David Pendergraph Gino Quodala, Member Julie and Burton Simonds, Members Don Winkelman, Member Mike Anderson, Member Adam Rutherford, Member Dave Bandel, Member Randy and Carol Wood, Member (F-350) Wayne Lau, Member (Tail Gunner)

We picked up Paul Provencher (PPRO) at the Rt-33 turn off for Flag Pole Knob at 10:30. We were now at 13 vehicles. Other than Camp Jeep this was the largest trail ride I've lead.

I found the trail head with my new GPS and we went a little ways up the trail before stopping to disconnect and air down. At Paul's suggestion I held a short drivers meeting to discuss the possible icy conditions ahead.

A little over an hour later, we came across those icy conditions. It was a long climb with a switchback that had iced over. After attempting to make the turn at the switchback, I found myself sliding back down the trail. I stopped on the trail edge and I called a second drivers meeting to decide weather to continue or not. It was decided to go on with the vehicles spread out and driving with the passenger side tires on the snowy edge. This worked well for everybody. Lauren Levi had a little trouble but after we aired down her tires she made it the rest of the way to the top with difficulty.

We had lunch at the top of that icy section. Yours truly stepped in the largest pile of hunting dog droppings that I have ever seen. It was like a five pound weight stuck to my shoe. I got most of it off but my party was able to smell it every now and then for the rest of the trip.

At one of the hill climbs before Meadow Knob, The trail gets narrow, there was a little snow/ice in spots and the steep hill puts the low winter sun right in your face. This made for a harrowing climb for Randy in his big Ford F-350. At the top where I was stationed, Randy almost clipped the trees I was standing behind and not being able to see the trail with the sun in his eyes, he over-corrected and came way to close to the shear drop-off on the other side. Those of us at the top screamed "STOP" and Randy froze. We got Randy realigned with the trail and he was on his way. That truck is amazing, but Carol said she was going no need a Valium to go to sleep that night.

After a couple of more hill climbs we made it to Meadow Knob. The view was exceptional. After a few photographs, we continued to Flag Pole Knob. Again the view was as terrific as Meadow Knob.

It was starting getting late and talk was turning to the up coming Redskins game. Someone found the local Redskins Radio station (93.1 FM) and most of us were happy.
The drive down the mountain was uneventful. We all stopped at a closed mini-mart/gas station to reconnect and air back up. Wayne was having issues with his front differential making noise but he couldn't fix the problem there and started home.

Everyone split from the mini-mart when they were ready. I did see one red Jeep at the car wash and another Jeep at the Sheetz. I also heard Wayne on the CB and I thought he said he was on his way up 81. I didn't find out what happened to everyone until I read all the updates everyone had posted. Some late nights for a few folks.

We went directly home but a mile or two up 81 we came to a full stop. Accident!!!! Wayne and the others must have just missed it. We were stopped for just under an hour and got to know our neighbors a little. After the Medi-Vac left the seen, the right lane was opened up and we slowly rolled past the damaged vehicle. From the looks of the skid marks, it had skidded from the right lane, sideways into the medium and then rolled a couple of times and ended back up on the left lane of 81. Its just scary thinking about it.

Anyway, we drove nonstop to Manassas and had dinner at T.G.I. Fridays. Good meal, fast and cheep and then continued home. We pulled in at 9:00 pm.

Man what a day! I can't wait to do it again (without the ice). Snow, Mud, no problem. Ice, forgetaboutit!


Wayne's Update:
From: "Lau, Wayne"
Date: Mon Jan 2, 2006 11:11 pm

Thanks for the ride Carl.

I'll throw in a few more details.

I was on my way up 81 with Randy following me for a short distance. We turned around at the Rt 11 exit; the next exit up from Rt. 33. The jeep was not sounding and feeling good going 50 mph. I decided to head back to the Sheetz off Rt. 33 to leave the jeep there and to see if I could get a ride from someone who lived near me. Randy and Carol offered to drive me home, but the drive was way out of their way.

At Sheetz, there were still several folks there getting gas and food. I noticed Lauren was one of them and hit her up for a ride home as she lived closer to me than Randy. I moved some of my gear to her jeep as I didn't want to leave it there. We left Sheetz and headed up 81 and soon ran into traffic. The police had diverted all north bound traffic on 81 to exit off onto Rt. 11 north. We drove a couple and hopped back onto 81 north.

After getting home, I ate dinner, hooked up the trailer to the truck and headed back down to Harrisonburg to retrieve the jeep. The drive back home from Harrisonburg was pretty rough. I had only 1.5 hours of sleep the night before and was running on fumes at the end.

As for the jeep, it's something in the front diff. Probably the ring & pinion. I was running on borrowed time. I had the clicking noise for a while (not that noticeable), and even more so at the Colossal Canines run when in 4-lo. Had thought about hitching a ride with someone, but figured it was only GW. Ooops.

So, I gambled and lost. :-(

Thanks for all the offers of help from folks especially Randy and Lauren.

- Wayne
Sign-up Roster (more came)

Becker, Mike

2004 Rubicon

Mental note: Do not drink too much on NYE

Jenkins, Carroll

92 Cherokee XJ

will meet at sheetz in h-burg

Lau, Wayne

01 TJ


Levi, Lauren

2004 Wrangler

<sigh> alright, I'm in....hopefully not too hungover!

Pendergraph, David

04 Rubi

My first run with OCC! Cant Wait!

Quodala, Gino

00 TJ stock

hope i can make it,..first time with my son (3 yrs old) been a long time since I wheeled

Simonds, Burton and Julie

1998 Wrangler

Is there gonna be yucky white stuff on the ground??

Smith, Carl

2000 TJ

This is my FIRST New Years Day Run!

Winkelman, Don

'02 TJ


a mike

2000 wrangler

90% chance i'll be attending

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