Geocaching, Big Levels, Shoe Creek, Oak Ridge

Robert in the sink hole

5/5/06 - 5/6/06

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

4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD!

Waypoints (Big Levels and Shoe Creek Only)


I signed up to get on the Trail Guide list for Jeep Jamboree 2006; something I had not done for a while.  I wasn't sure if I would make the cut-off for guides but it seemed worth a try.  And as always, a bad day wheeling at Oak Ridge is better than just about anything else.  So even if I don't work the event, I was looking forward to the pre-run.  As fate would have it, I could not make the first pre-run in April, but the second one looked good.

I invited my friend Mike along.  He and I share quite a few interests, including Scouting, Geocaching and Photography.  Mike was happy to sign on and we made plans for the May pre-run.

Ready to GoReady to Go

Ready to Go

I wanted to keep the gear to a minimum because we would be traveling a great distance (six hours each direction).  Additionally, I had to be back  home on Sunday to go on business travel.  That meant missing the Sunday morning run, and striking camp Saturday evening and driving home late.  It made sense to just keep it down to tent, sleeping bag, change of clothes, and the usual outdoors electronics and mechanized transport...

I removed the back seat, loaded the gear in one of the large trunks, and retrieved and loaded GPSr tracks for Big Levels, the connecting route between Big Levels and Shoe Creek, Shoe Creek, and of course, a comprehensive set for Oak Ridge.  Whenever anyone asks me why I have three GPS units, this sort of trip comes to mind.  Consider there are so many trails at Oak Ridge that they don't fit onto one GPS 12.  I had previously split them into two sets so they would fit on two GPS 12's.  Then add in Big Levels, and the road from there to Shoe Creek and you've got more data.  Add several hundred detailed waypoints and you quickly get a full memory.  The GPS units were set up for this trip as follows:


  • Map Set for Entire Travel and Trail Routes

  • Entire Track Data for Big Levels, Shoe Creek, Oak Ridge

  • Recording Track data for road trip and Geocaches along the way

  • Auto-routing for road trip

GPS 12 (1)

  • four Oak Ridge Trail Systems Tracks

  • track recording turned off

  • track display magnified to 1000 feet for easy viewing on trail

GPS 12 (2)

  • four more Oak Ridge Trail Systems Tracks

  • track display magnified to 1000 feet for easy viewing on trail

  • track recording turned off




I made arrangements to pick up Mike at his house at 7:00AM but didn't get there until 7:45AM.  He was there in the driveway to wave me in since I missed it and had to turn back.

We loaded his gear and soon we were back on the highway headed for Virginia.  I missed the routing that put me on 250 so we went down to Route 50 and ran East until we connected.

The weather promised rain but the exact time was imprecise.  I had taken the time earlier in the week to replace my wiper motor so when the rain finally did come, we were prepared.

Road Trip

Along the way, Mike revealed that he had done some preparation too.  He had loaded a number of Geocache locations into his GPSr so that we could stop along the way and hit a few.

Profile for ppro

The first one, Confederate Breastworks Cache, came up at a good time for a break - in fact I stopped to get a stretch and Mike pointed out that the cache was a few hundred feet away. 

View from Confederate Breastworks Cache

Plaque at Confederate Breastworks Cache

So we hiked up the short trail at the Confederate Breastworks and soon found the cache there.  I left two travel bugs, picked one up and signed the log. 

TB on the Road

Puppy TB

Signed the LogTrail near Confederate Breastworks Cache


I also logged through the ppro Jeep Club Travel Bugs.

ppro Jeep Club
ppro Jeep Club

The site is interesting.  We looked around at the various plaques and made some photographs of the views.

PlaquePlaquePlaque with view

Confederate Breastworks Cache
Artist concept of Confederate Breastworks

The next cache, Caged,  left us with a "Did Not Find".  It was located in a nice community park near what looks like an antique animal cage.  It was a micro cache and so small and so well hidden we didn't find it.  But the park was worth the visit.


Caged Nano-Cache

After the park, we made a fuel stop and then headed for Big Levels.  It had been a few years since I went here.  It was always a long drive for me so it was a rare treat.  This time was no exception and the four hour drive from Maryland was short compared to the five and change hours it took us to get here from West Virginia!  Before we hit the trail for the first time, we visited a cache, Big Levels Micro, that was within a few feet of the entrance to the trail! 

Talk about small world!  And to add icing on the cake, someone had visited the cache earlier in the day!

Big Levels Micro

Big Levels MicroBig Levels MicroBig Levels Micro

Big Levels Micro Cache


After logging the Big Levels Micro cache, we drove down the road a little bit and got onto the trail.  We found a note left on the gate from April 15 from some people who had gone into the trail and were asking that the gate not be closed.  Considering that the gate would be open for several months, it made me chuckle a little bit, but it was a sign that there was still interest in this area.

The trail was little changed from when I came here in the past.  A few sections were closed as before but it was still a wonderful place to drive through the woods and up to the view on Bald Mountain Outlook.  It was a terrific run at one of my favorite places.  Believe it or not, the rain made it even better!

Bald Mountain Outlook on Blue Ridge Parkway
Bald Mountain Outlook on Blue Ridge ParkwayBald Mountain Outlook on Blue Ridge ParkwayBald Mountain Outlook on Blue Ridge Parkway

Big Levels Track

Out from Big Levels, we headed down the Blue Ridge Parkway a little bit and took an overland, gravel route down to Crabtree Falls and Shoe Creek.  It was a nice ride, and one of the few times I have not seen any vehicles on the road the whole way.

When we came out the other side, Mike advised there was another cache, koz's krab kache.  So we homed in on it and logged it.  Since it was raining pretty hard, I didn't take out the camera for this one.

Koz's Krab Kache

From there we moved up to Crabtree Meadow, and onto the trail leading down to Shoe Creek.  This trail is in trouble.  Lots of bad behavior has created a problem with land owners and people who like to use the trail.  We had it all to ourselves and enjoyed our quiet drive down to Alhambra.

Shoe CreekShoe Creek
Hill on Shoe Creek (Stay off!)
Hill on Shoe Creek (Stay off!)

Shoe Creek
Shoe Creek

Shoe Creek rocks

Shoe Creek Track

Upon reaching the end of the Shoe Creek, we encountered one of the residents at the end of the access road.  I stopped and asked them about the impact of the Jeeps from his perspective.  He was very positive, saying it wasn't a problem for him.  That was good to hear.  At least the people living on the road to the trail don't seem to have anything negative to say.

I Auto-navigated with the GPS and we followed the course to Oak Ridge.  The route we traveled was the familiar paved route we've traveled many times in the past.  Soon we reached the plantation and the camping field.  A very few people were there.  We asked and were told that the activity was going on as scheduled so we drove down the field and set up the tent.

After we finished making camp, we went to Vito's for dinner.  We ran into Chris and Carla.  Their baby had just finished decorating some things with spit-up and wasn't feeling well.  As usual my timing is great.  I said Hi! to everyone and went inside to eat.  Kenny and Carol and the Smith gang were there finishing up dinner.  Mike and I ordered pizza and a few other things and had a nice meal.  We headed back to camp and went to bed just about right away.


I woke up a few times to answer the call.  The sky was incredible - black as black can be, with stars to infinity.  The train came through.  The birds kicked up a storm.  It was great.  Mike very nicely didn't say anything about my snoring, and if he snored, I never heard it.  We decided to leave the tent striking for after the trail and took off to get some breakfast, snacks and fuel for the Jeep.  As I ate breakfast, the Jeeps started coming through and before too long, we were all in our familiar places at the muster field, checking out Jeeps, making reacquaintances, and generally getting into that Oak Ridge pre-run mindset.

Lone Daisy at Oak Ridge Muster field

Mike and Jeep

Nice CJ
Nice CJ

Interesting Jeep
Interesting Jeep

Oak Ridge Racetrack from Muster Field
Oak Ridge Muster field

Nice CherokeeAllen and Scott working on ARB air compressorMuster



Chris took us through the various points, organized everyone into groups.  I lined up with Kenny Smith and after a bit we had a small group.

  • Ken & Carol - "Warrior" CJ

  • Robert CJ8 - Scrambler

  • Jonathan - TJ

  • Allen, Scott, Rachel - Grand Cherokee w/ microwave and stuff

  • Cory & Rani - TJ

  • Mark - Cherokee

  • Paul & Mike - TJ

The other two groups were much larger so this worked out well.  Another group headed out to cut a new section of trail.

We started on old Trail 9 and ran that side of the trail system all morning.  It was good to get out there again.

Creek Crossing

Mark and Allen prepare to cross

Cory and Rani

Jonathan followed by Cory and Rani

Coming up the long hill that is such a nightmare for people in the rain, we encountered some tree fall.  So I broke out my bow saw and Allen his chain saw.  Everyone else pitched in and the tree was a brush pile in about three minutes!

Some Trail Clearing

Some Trail ClearingSome Trail Clearing

Trail Cleared

I managed to pick up a few trail sections on my GPS track data set that I didn't have.  I am not sure if I will ever cover every last trail out here but I think I'm getting close.  This place is just incredible.

Cory and Rani

More stream crossings.  This one used to have a super-steep approach.  The bulldozer took care of that...

Kenny and Jonathan

Cory climbing out
Cory preparing to crossCory Climbing out

Cory and Rani

We came along to a burial ground dating from the late 1800's belonging to the Sneed's.  The gate work and stones are very nice.  It looks like some restoration work is being done to make it look good again.

Sneed's Monument
Sneeds Burial PlotSneeds Burial PlotSneeds Burial Plot

Interesting Iron Work
Interesting Iron Work

Solid Iron corner posts

Maker Frank Petit 9.03 Master St. PhilaSneed Burial Plot

Robert cleared some vines so we could get through.

Clearing Vines

We drove the rest of the way out and stopped just before the road for lunch.  Then we drove down to Trail 3 and went in.  Pretty soon we got to the spot where one fellow spent a large amount of time in a mud hole, I ruined a back bumper and learned why Pirelli Scorpion A/T's don't cut it for places like this.  The play area was largely shut down, but the trail that ran up the side of the hill proved to be a bit more challenging that in past years.  Everyone made it up the hill without any trouble.

Climbing on Trail 3
Climbing on Trail 3Climbing on Trail 3

Mark Climbing on Trail 3
Mark Climbing on Trail 3

Allen Climbing on Trail 3
Allen Climbing on Trail 3

Trail 3 hill getting roughTrail 3 hill getting roughTrail 3 hill getting rough

After this we took a new section of trail and connected back over to a section I ran the last time I came here.  There is a swampy section where a creek passes through.  One spot on the road presents a visual challenge.  But this time, just past it, there was a huge sink hole.  It ate Roberts Scrambler.  We came upon him completely swallowed up!

Robert in the sink hole
Robert in the sink holeRobert in the sink hole
Robert in the sink holeRobert in the sink hole
Robert in the sink hole
Robert in the sink hole
Robert preparing to winchRobert winching outRobert winching outRobert winching outThe consequences...Extra time at the car wash...Marking the sink hole before building a bypass

Marking the sink hole before building a bypass

After Robert fell down and winched out, Kenny closed the trail and cut a bypass.  Then he broke it in. 

Kenny on the bypass
Kenny on the bypass

Next Came Jonathan.  He made short work of the new bypass too.

Jonathan at rough spot

Jonathan getting readyJonathan getting ready

Jonathan on the rough spot

Jonathan turning to the bypassJonathan turning to the bypassJonathan turning to the bypass

And Cory...

Cory and Rani

My turn...

Movie: MOV00992.MPG Paul at Rough Spot

Mark and Allen made short work of it too.  That left us popping up on the county road where we found the trail cutting crew taking a break.

On the road

On the road

Another one bites the dust


Nice CJChit-ChatNice SaharaMore nice CJsChit-Chat

Our Group

So of course we had to go run the new trail segment!

Kenny and then Jonathan give it a go.

Newly cut trailJonathan on the FinsJonathan on the Fins
Jonathan on the Fins

Cory pretty much just jumped off the edge.  Check out the movie.

Movie: MOV01009.MPG Cory on the Fins

I had lingering doubts but decided to try it anyway.  Another movie with clicks and bumps!

Movie: MOV01010.MPG Paul on the Fins

Then we went over to Trail 6.  Another one I didn't have GPS track for even though I ran this one a few years ago...

The 'V'
Climbing out of the 'V'


Then over to Trail 7.  It's a nice long climb up to the rocks and then back down to the playground.



There were some mud wasps busy building a large lodge.  We stayed away.  I went and ran the playground once and then came back out.  The little crack in the dirt was good for a flex shot.

Paul playing

I had been watching the time all day and had calculated that we had just enough time to run Findley Ridge.  Alas, we ran short and the rest of the group would run it on Sunday while I was packing for a business trip!  On the way out we swung through the car wash and surprise surprise, who did we find secretly primping and preening?  Robert of course!

Robert washing off the sink holeRobert washing off the sink hole
Robert washing off the sink hole

We took our turn in the bay and got most of Big Levels, Shoe Creek, and Oak Ridge off the Jeep but I don't think I could ever wash it out of me!

At the Entrance to Skyline Drive

At the Entrance to Skyline DriveAt the Entrance to Skyline Drive



I can't remember when I have crammed this much wheeling into two days.  Mike came along and really made this trip something special.  I can't imagine I would have enjoyed myself half as much without him along.  The road trip melted away and many of the wheeling activities and cammping set-up really went well thanks to his extra set of hands and great eye with a strange camera.

It was good to see the Oak Ridge pre-run gang again.  Next year I want to START on Findley Ridge!  CJ5 hill, here I come!


Big Levels / Shoe Creek GPS Data

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