Poplar Lick and Dan's Mountain

Salamander - Click to Enlarge


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Joe Stankos wrote to me a few times over the late winter to get something put together for a run to the Keyser area.  One thing and another, we were not able to get a date set until after the snow was all gone and spring was in full swing.

Joe suggested we go over to Pinnacle and run the trails there.  I could not be happier because I have never been able to get through everything that is down there.  We always get there late, or in the case of the last time I went, in weather too extreme to go down the last few hills which are very steep.

So I agreed to join him and some of his friends.  I gave Charlie a call and got him signed up to come along as well.   Since Joe and his friends were coming from Suburban Maryland and would not hit Keyser until almost Noon, Charlie and I decided to get an early start and run something else on the way to Keyser.

Since I had never run Poplar Lick OHV road, I figured it would be a good place to go with Charlie.  We could both see something new.  Then we could run Backbone Mountain on the way over to Keyser.   I love that trail and figured Charlie would enjoy it as well.


I met Charlie at 7:00 AM and we hit the road for Poplar Lick after a quick stop for gas and a little breakfast for me.   Again the one of the nice things about my recent relocation is the proximity to many of my favorite trails.  I used to have to drive for hours to get to the trails we were planning to run.  This time, we were at the trail head for Poplar Lick in a little more than an hour!

Charlie commented that we need to go someplace that puts the sun on our back going and coming.  He's right - I used to have it that way...  I still like that it only took an hour to get to the trail though!

It was cold until the heater caught.  I tried to raise Charlie on the CB and found that my sticky "Press-To-Talk" button seemed to finally be broken.  I broke out my handheld and fired it up.  I was able to communicate with Charlie but it reminded me why I bought the Cobra to begin with.  The handheld was better than nothing - just...

After a few minutes, I tried the Cobra again and this time it worked.  I shut down the handheld and it was fine the rest of the day.  As for the rest of the Jeep...

Soon we reached the Poplar Lick trail head.

Poplar Lick Sign - Click to Enlarge

It's just a turn off of pavement with a wide spot at the beginning.  It was pretty so early in the morning.   We stopped to air down and disconnect.  Charlie spent some time on his disconnects - the ones that came with his lift.  Thank God for the pry bar I carry!

Paul and Charlie - Click to Enlarge

View from Poplar Lick TrailheadPoplar Lick Trailhead


Right off, I knew that the drive along Poplar Lick was going to be little more than a scenic experience.  But that was fine - I really just wanted to see what it was like.  For scenery, it is very good.  There are no expansive overlooks visible from the vehicle, but the various groves that we drove through and the water that we saw was well worth the visit.

We met someone coming out and a little while later passed a campsite that was active, perhaps the site of the person we saw coming out.  There are several shallow stream crossings, none of any consequence.  There are also some nice side trails but they are all closed, so aside from a pretty drive in the woods, this area is probably safe from the extreme wheeling crowd!

Closed Trail - Click to Enlarge


Charlie - Click to Enlarge


Paul - Click to Enlarge

Pretty soon we got to Savage River Road and spent some time driving along the bank of the Savage River.  The morning was shaping up real nice and the weather was great.  It was one of those crisp, clear days that the sun shone bright and the air was clean and fresh.  The views on the river were incredible.  There were several score people out fishing, sharing the beauty of the day.

TrailView from TrailSavage River above the damSavage River above the damParked near Savage RiverParked near Savage River


Savage River

Savage River

Eventually we reached the entrance to the Backbone Mountain trail.  We dropped it into 4-LO and headed up the ridge.  As always, the trail was spectacular.  The drop off the shelf road precipitous and the woods a delight.

Pretty soon we came to the spot where the trail forks down to the railroad right of way and up into the woods.   Here we found a brand new, sparking gate.  And it was locked.  We took the lower branch of the trail a few hundred yards and encountered some fallen wood.   Past that was more fallen timber.  There was no point in continuing.  We would be there all day just trying to get another 100 yards in.

Paul and CharliePaul and Charlie

Paul and Charlie - Click to Enlarge


We turned tail and headed back out, with a route set for Keyser.

Charlie - Click to Enlarge


This was disappointing but at the same time not surprising.  Lately there have been too many uneducated, irresponsible and downright destructive people out running around causing all kinds of problems.  I am starting to doubt there will be trails on public land much longer if this keeps up.

I called Joe Stankos and got him on the cell.  He was on schedule and we confirmed our plans to meet at the BP station in Keyser.  Surprise of surprises - when we got there, the gas station was closed.  The door was unlocked and the inside looked abandoned.  Across the street, a private residence was being serviced by the Frostburg Fire Department.  There was smoke coming from the house and firefighters all over it.

I called Joe again and left a message that we would not be at the BP.  Instead, we would go into town and meet at the Sheetz.  Charlie and I drove through town and headed up to the Allegany Wildlife Management Area to see how the Gas Wells were.  We found them gated and closed.   There was a lot of development in the area and the sign was gone.  I'm not sure what it all means except that two out of three trails that we attempted to visit were closed.  Not good statistics.  And it was only 11:30 AM.

On the way out we stopped at Wal*Mart and I picked up a nice 1:18-scale Jeep Wrangler TJ painted in a camouflage pattern, lifted, with beadlocks, BFG's and the whole business, right down to the winch, Hi-Lift, and cooler.  I had to have it, even though it was my lunch money!

Then we headed over to the Sheetz.  I called on the CB and raised Joe.  Pretty soon we were all in the parking lot, all gassed up and ready to go.  Joe and his friend made five, for a total of seven:

  • Chris (F250)

  • Joe 3165 (Dodge Ram)

  • oldskool Todd (Toyota)

  • 4x4 wannabe Mike (Rubicon)

  • squints (Ram?)

  • Paul (TJ)

  • Charlie (Rubicon)

Joe at SheetzMeeting at Sheetz in Keyser

Meeting at Sheetz in Keyser - Click to Enlarge

We got on the road, drove over the bridge at the other end of Keyser, then followed Route 135 through Westernport and up to the Pinnacle Entrance.  As usual, the view from the Lookout was great.

Pinnacle Lookout TowerView from PinnacleView from PinnacleView from Pinnacle

Pinnacle parkingView from Pinnacle Lookout Tower

View from Pinnacle - Click to Enlarge


Rock formation at PinnacleRock formation at Pinnacle

I had a feeling we were not going to be running Pinnacle.  So after I had my look at the view, I ran down to the trail entrance to see what I would find.  It was a new, locked gate.  Only ATV's were getting by - the very thing the Ranger had told us they wanted to keep out!   Three out of four trails closed...  A few of the people in the group were pretty disappointed.  I was one.  Some said more out loud than others.

Another closed gate - Click to Enlarge

I had one last trick up my sleeve and then we'd be done.  I set the GPS for Barton and off we went.  Pretty soon we were on the trail head and found no gate.  That made a few people very happy.   Not the most difficult trail in the world, but better than pavement and better than nothing by a long shot.

I came upon a lone Moto-Cross rider and he told me to watch for ten of his friends.  Pretty soon I met them and they were looking for the first one!


Some of the guys wanted mud.   I am not a big fan of mud but I knew there was mud on this trail, so I knew that some of the guys would have fun.  I got a small bit of pleasure driving over a deep erosion ditch without falling in.  The rest of the gang came past, most going around.   These guys just want mud...!

Joe - Click to Enlarge



And there it was.  MUD!   I had been here before.  The first time, Hugh and I turned around and went back without going through.  The next time, it was frozen and we drove over it like solid rock.  Today, it was like hot fudge.  The guys behind me were in pig heaven.  I picked a line and went through to the right were I knew I could get some bottom and keep from going too deep.  Still, it was pretty soupy.  I got through just fine and got out to watch the fun behind me.

Chris - Click to Enlarge


Charlie - Click to Enlarge


Todd - Click to Get the Strap

Todd decided he liked the hard line and showed us how to do it right.  Mike was handy when it came time to strap him out.



Mike - Click to Enlarge the mud hole


This time Todd took the right line and came through.

Todd - Click to Enlarge





We drove in and soon came to an open area.  We drove up a large hill and discovered it was a strip mining operation.  We decided we probably didn't belong there so we turned around to head out.  But someone from the mining operation came up and confirmed out suspicion.   Fortunately they just let us continue on our way out.


Rear ViewRear View

We went back the way we came and this time Joe decided that he would show Todd how it was done.  Again I went over on the edge and got through just fine.  Then Joe applied some go-pedal and hit the mud.  And stuck it.


Joe - Click to Enlarge

JoePaul watches JoeJoeToddToddJoeJoeJoe


This time it was Todd's turn to fix it, and he gave Joe the strap. 


Pretty soon Joe was back on dry ground.  After that, the deep side of the puddle was given the respect it deserved.  But the antics of people coming through the shallow side still provided some entertainment and good pictures!






That put us heading back to the "T" where we came in.  I continued straight and navigated the rocky section by Nightingale Pond.  Then up the hill to another pair of mud holes.  I didn't want to go into them so I went around the side and pulled up to watch the fun.   I should have quit while I was ahead...

Todd splashed through.  


Todd - Click to Enlarge

Chris blasted in and out.


Chris - Click to Enlarge

Charlie made it like an old pro.


Charlie - Click to Enlarge


Mike tip-toed in and out like it was nothing. 



Squints plowed through.


Squints - Click to Enlarge

Joe went through though it was hard to tell who it was because his bow wave looked like a tsunami!

Joe - Click to Enlarge


OK.  Maybe this isn't so bad.  Six out of six attempts were successful.  Two of the vehicles are more or less the same as mine.  What's the big deal?  I'll put a few extra quarters in the car wash and get the chunks off.  C'mon Paul, just do it...

I got through the first section OK - why not?  It was a small puddle and I just crept through.  As I exited the pool I felt I needed to get some ground speed so I could make the last part of the next hole without having to shift.  I gave it some gas and the darn thing launched.  I had so much traction that I shot into the hole way too fast.


Paul - Click to Enlarge

I couldn't see past the nose of the Jeep.  I felt the engine falter, then die.  Poof.  There I was, like sitting at the 50-yard line during half time with my shirt off...  No engine sounds.   No forward motion.  And goopy mud all the way up to the door line.  Crap.   Pig soup for me!


Paul - Click to Enlarge

So I turned the key.   Nothing!  No click.  No cranking.  No nothing.  Just pretty dash lights, stereo and CB power, but no combustion.  Someone suggested walking into the pool to put the strap on.  Very funny.  Instead, Joe backed up and I walked out on the nose and put the loop on the tow hook.  Testimony as to why I left the hooks on there even after I installed the new bumper with D-shackles.  Much easier to hook up in times like these...

Joe fished me out of the cow patty and we spent a couple minutes trying to figure out why I didn't have a starter.   One of the guys suggested tapping on the starter and that worked.  It started right up running a little rough but running.  Good.  I figured I was in for replacing the starter but at least I could get out of the woods and get home.  There was no mud IN the engine so that was good too.

Had I thought about the situation before I dove in head first, I would have realized I was lucky seven...

We stopped to regroup.   Todd had to get back so he could make it in time for work so we turned around and got ready to go. 


No one was coming so I got out and went back to see what was happening.  Someone had found a salamander and had put it on the hood of the Rubicon to look at it.  I knew exactly how the lizard felt...

Salamander - Click to Enlarge


We backtracked out to the road and drove up to Barton to get air, gas, and something to snack.  Along the way I noticed that my battery gauge was showing no charge to the battery.  The alternator was not working.  Super...  When we got to the store we rinsed it out but it still didn't show a charge. 

Store StopCharlieCharlie

Paul and Joe

I aired up and reconnected, and waited while Charlie did the same.  Then we hit the road for home.  I figured we'd have enough time to get there before my battery crapped out.  I was right.  We had enough time to make a swing through the car wash where I washed out most of Dan Mountain from my Jeep and engine compartment.

The alternator looked dead so I ordered a Mean Green 200 Amp unit and installed it a couple days later

Mean Green 200 Amp Alternator

The starter still doesn't always work first try but a few clicks on the key and it turns over.   That too will require attention.

Joe wrote a couple days later to say that his power steering pump gave up the ghost.  So I was not the only one that was eaten by Dan's Mountain...


Joe wrote:

Thanks for leading us on Saturday… everyone had a great time.

Sorry to hear about your alternator, but I guess you’ll be upgrading now.

Chris, David and I decided to hit Green Ridge on the way home for a bit. I have never seen it so dry up there. We ran about half of the trail and headed for home.

I got back home at about midnight, and headed to the car wash since I knew it would be packed today. I think I’ve had my fill of mud for a while…I spent about 2 hours today cleaning the mud out of the interior. I really gave the shop vac a workout.

Here’s a link to some of the pictures taken by Chris (F250) and I. http://www.pavementsucks.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=68443

I’ve also got a couple good shots of Charlie that you might want.  Yesterday was a big reminder that I need gears and a locker ASAP!  I look forward to wheeling with you again soon.

Thanks again,


Chris wrote:

Had a great time yesterday with Joe 3165, oldskool, 4x4 wannabe, squints, and Paul and Charlie from 4x4 icon.com.   Thanks to Paul for working so hard to find us trails to play on.

I have never seen so many shiny new gates....  We did find some Mud along the way to play in and since the trails were slim pickins we made the most of it.   Mike's Unlimited still remains unchallenged.   That thing just laughs at everything I have seen it go through.  Gotta love front and rear lockers and a 4-1 case!!!

Squints might have been the surprise of the day in the Cummins powered rig with tow tires on, he just overcame everything with torque and momentum.  A couple of guys tried a bit too hard...... he he two stucks and a repair not bad for one mud hole!

I had a great time up there and then on the way home Joe, squints and I stopped off at Green Ridge to get rinsed off, Yeah right. That place was so dry it was unbelievable. The stream in my avatar was barely big enough to wet the tires and the trails were so dusty it was crazy. The night wheelin up there in the dust was like moon wheeling!!!   I got some pics and I know the others do as well. I won't tell all the stories...... Besides a pic is worth a thousand words

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