Kephart, Old Route 33, Dry River, Dictum, Lower FR 72, Brandywine, Flagpole Knob, Dunkle Hollow

Jandy and Izzy II on Kephart - Click to Enlarge

5/14/04 - 5/16/04

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Way Points


Some time back in September or October of 2003, Jandy Liebl wrote to me asking if I would consider leading a group in George Washington National Forest.  She had first found me on the internet in 2002 and we had made one trip out there with some of her friends.  It was a great trip and I was very happy to take them out again.  We picked May 15th and put it on the calendar.  With the possible exception of the Maine trip that I scheduled nearly a year in advance, this was probably the most advanced planned trip I have made.

A few weeks before the date I got a mild scare - one of the Camp Jeep pre-runs was scheduled for May 15!  I read the whole notice and soon learned that of the three Camp Jeep pre-runs, only two were required.  So I was able to keep both plans without any conflict.  Most of the OCC trail guides made the Camp Jeep pre-run on May 15th, but I had been looking forward to this trip for so long that I didn't mind missing the pre-run.

I took Friday off so that I could organize and pack the gear for camping.  The kids were all excited because they had new sleeping bags and a new tent.  They had outgrown the old gear.  Their aunts had been so kind as to give them the sleeping bags for Christmas, and had even gone so far as to get bags that would be warm in three seasons.  One of my less than fond recollections of camping as a kid was the problem of a sleeping bag that was not warm enough and also retained moisture.  I did not want to see the kids suffer the same problems so made sure the bags were up to snuff.  The aunts could not have done a better job choosing them!

Traditional Pre-Trip Load PhotoTraditional Pre-Trip Load Photo
Traditional Pre-Trip Load Photo (No Minivans!) - Click to Enlarge

One dilemma that I haven't yet solved is the shear volume of gear we carry.  It's overwhelming, and I think it's time to go through the list and see what can be eliminated.  It's just too much work for one person to load, set-up, manage, take down and re-load.  The benefit to all the gear is, of course, most of the conveniences of home.  But the price comes in the four hour loading time, the two hour set-up time, and the four hour camp-striking time.  That's ten hours spent on handling gear!  It is looking like our camping gear is going to be reduced to backpacking-style outfitting:  One tent, sleeping bags, ground cover and overhead tarp, small cook stove, small lantern, and very light and tight food and cooking provisions.  And Mom is going to be stepping away from the chest of drawers when it comes to packing clothes!  This trip, I brought along the 34-quart cooler but didn't use it for anything but storage of dry foods that did not require ice.  Anyway, let's just say that the Conestoga wagon seen above is going to be put on a diet!

I finally finished packing and loading, then picked up Teddy at school.  That must have been a sight!  Then we took Whites Ferry into Virginia and hopped onto Route 7 West, headed for Route 81.  I thought it would save us time sitting in traffic on Route 66.  It did.  Instead we sat in traffic on Route 7.  We had left Ted's school at 3pm.  We were to reach Route 81 at about 6pm...

Peake Mountain RoadCurve Before McDorman'sMcDorman'sRawley Springs Highlands

Once we got on Route 81, it was a clear shot down to the Harrisonburg exit, and out to Brandywine.  Along the way we passed McDorman's.  We got to Brandywine at about 7:30 PM and  setting up the tent and other gear.  I was able to finish just before dark.  Then I cooked up some MRE's and we ate.  The kids were pretty happy with the food, and the preparation was simply (boil-in-a-bag) so dinner was fairly uncomplicated.

After dinner we got our sleeping gear laid out.  The kids played in their tent for a while and then asked if they could sleep in my tent.  Maria had expressed a preference that they sleep with me, and I had agreed, but was happy to have let the kids come to their own conclusion on this point.  While moving their sleeping bags and pillows into my tent, Teddy skinned his knee on the pavement and was in some pain.  I was able to comfort him and get him quieted down.  Then I put some Neosporin on his good-sized scrape, clean it out, then dress it with a nice big Band-Aid that would stay on until Monday morning.  He was soon content and we were able to read the bedtime books (Dictionary, Bible, and a daily Bible book). 

I broke out a couple of Cyalume sticks, the kind to crack in half and light up for several hours.  After the kids fooled around a bit we decided to hang them up as night lights.  When I tried to hang Tomi's up, the flashlight fell out of my hands and conked him right in the face!  It gave him a small egg on his eyebrow and a massive fat lip.  This from a small flashlight with two C-cells!  He was in abject pain, complicated by the misunderstanding that it had been on purpose.  It took quite a while to calm him, and the ice pack in the empty lunch cooler was put to good use.  Finally I got him comfortable, but we had a very busy evening.  I was eternally grateful to have the ice pack and the first aid kit with me.  It was not until after 11:00 PM that the kids finally dozed off.


I got up early and set some water and coffee on to boil.  When it was ready, I woke up the kids, got them to dress, then fed them instant oatmeal, Tang and instant milk for breakfast.  Again, the mix-with-hot-water then eat approach to food prep saved a great deal of time.  The kids liked breakfast so much they insisted we have it again tomorrow.  That bodes well for my mission to get our gear down to the basics.

Soon we were headed up the mountain and down the road to McDorman's.  We arrived at 9:30 AM as planned and found Steve Van Bronkhorst, and Steve and Jandy Liebl ready and waiting.  Ryan Wagoner and his friend James called to say they were running late, but soon arrived as well.  In the mean time, we aired down and disconnected.  We got some sandwiches for lunch.  And the kids went and got in trouble... 

The Dog Incident

While we were visiting, the kids went to look at the McDorman's hunting dogs.  They were in cage kennels across the parking lot.  Hearing some barking, I turned around and looked to see one of the McDorman's scolding the kids.  It turned out that the kids were throwing stones at the dogs!  Needless to say they were marched back to the Jeep and some punishments were issued.  I must say that it's tough enough to get permission to park here without my own kids complicating things.  I swallowed my embarrassment and got the group pointed down the road for Kephart!  Jandy brought her father Dave along.  Steve was good enough to give Dave a seat with him and Alec.

Izzy IISteve's RubiconPaul's TJDave, Jandy and Steve, SteveTeddy, Steve, Steve and Jandy, Dave




One of the most popular destinations in the forest is Kephart.  The trail leading to the rock at the end is interesting, though not difficult for any high-clearance vehicle.

Paul on Kephart
Steve on Kephart

The rock at the end is entertaining, though lately has been so strewn with stacked rocks that it is very easy to climb.  Still, I enjoy this trail and was happy to bring the group down for another run at the rock.  I stopped when we got through the last rough section before the rock.

Paul on Kephart
Steve on Kephart
Izzy II on Kephart

When everyone was ready to watch, I went up the rock.  Dead easy, with only a little bump on my gas tank skid plate as I put my front wheels on the rock.  Everybody went up and showed how easy this is when the way is paved!

Teddy and Paul at Kephart

Paul on Kephart
Paul on Kephart

Movie: mov04988.mpg Paul on Kephart


Steve on KephartSteve on Kephart
Steve on Kephart

Movie: mov04989.mpg Steve on Kephart


Steve on KephartSteve on KephartSteve on KephartSteve on Kephart
Steve on Kephart

Movie: mov04990.mpg Steve on Kephart


Ryan on KephartRyan on KephartRyan on KephartRyan on Kephart
Ryan on Kephart

Movie: mov04991.mpg Ryan on Kephart

Though it was a little early, I suggested we lunch here before retreating.  Steve and Jandy broke out sandwiches they were warming on the engine, while the rest of us ate what we brought.  I had captured three Geo-cache coordinates to investigate this weekend and one was somewhere further up the trail, within walking distance.  So I took the kids and we started walking in the direction of the cache.  After a minute I was able to determine we'd spend 1/2 and hour walking and an unknown amount of time finding the cache.  So I decided not to use the group time on this, though I plan to come back later.  We walked back to the group and soon started going back down the rock, with Teddy doing a nice job spotting everybody!.

Chit-ChatIzzy IIThe Gang


Ryan on Kephart with Ted spottingRyan on Kephart with Ted spotting
Ryan on Kephart with Ted spotting
Ryan on Kephart with Ted spottingRyan on KephartRyan on Kephart


Ted SpottingTed Spotting SteveTed Spotting SteveTed Spotting SteveSteve on KephartSteve on Kephart
Steve on Kephart
Steve on Kephart
Steve on KephartSteve on KephartSteve on KephartSteve on Kephart


Jandy and Izzy II
Jandy and Izzy IIJandy and Izzy IIJandy and Izzy IIJandy and Izzy II
Izzy II on Kephart
Jandy and Izzy IIJandy and Izzy IIJandy and Izzy IIJandy and Izzy IIJandy and Izzy II
Jandy on KephartJandy on KephartJandy on Kephart


Paul on KephartPaul on Kephart
Paul on Kephart
Paul on KephartPaul on KephartPaul on KephartPaul on Kephart

Movie: mov05016.mpg Paul Descending Kephart

With everyone down off the rock, we headed back down the trail towards Route 33.

Leaving Kephart
Leaving Kephart

Old Route 33

The beauty of Old Route 33 is that there are no obstacles on it to attract traffic.  OCC has adopted this trail and does clean-ups a couple times each year to make sure it stays scenic.  I decided to take this instead of Route 33, on our way to Dry River.  It's a nice little shelf road that runs parallel to Route 33, though quite a bit higher on the side of the mountain.  And of course, it's in the woods so it's a pretty ride.  We stopped to take pictures of the "Adopt-A-Road" sign that is still in place.

OCC Adopt-A-Road on Old Route 33OCC Adopt-A-Road on Old Route 33Adopt-A-Road OCC sign on Old Route 33


Dry River

We entered the Dry River maze of trails at the reservoir end.  We encountered a group of people at the place where the river flows down the trail.  We waved hello and drove across the flooded trail to the ramp that goes up to the reservoir.

On the trail in Dry River

We got separated for a moment as part of the group missed the turn.  But the radios kept us from losing anyone and soon we had regrouped by the reservoir. 

Dry RiverDry River

We took a break to talk and let the kids run around.  Alec found his way into a mud hole and my boys were occupied with chasing butterflies.  The rest of us talked Jeeps...

Playing by the water
LakePlaying by the waterPaul and Ryan's JeepsDry River areaSteve Rubicon, Steve and Jandy's YJTed and ButterflyMore ChatJeeps

LakeTeam TJThe Gang


Dry River Entrance

Once the kids had burned off some energy, we mounted up and went back down to the trail.  We followed the main path down to another crossing.  Along the way we passed the second of three Geo-cache coordinates that I had loaded into the GPS.  Again, I chose not to stop the group.  The cache is up a hill and would have taken some time to locate.  It was not a scheduled activity for the group so I saved it for another trip.


Dry RiverDry RiverDry RiverDry River
Dry River
Dry RiverSteve busting a move on Dry RiverSteve busting a move on Dry RiverSteve busts a move
Steve busting a move on Dry River
Steve on Dry RiverDry River

The water was quite low and the crossing did not present any particular challenge or risk.  Fallen trees at the other end of the crossing diverted us from the normal path but did not keep us from getting to the other side.

Steve and Jandy crossing Dry RiverSteve crossing Dry RiverSteve and Jandy crossing not-so-Dry RiverCrossing Dry RiverCrossing Dry River
Crossing Dry River
Crossing Dry RiverCrossing Dry RiverCrossing Dry River

We drove back out to Route 33, with the last crossing being tame by any description.


I figured that this was pretty much it for the day.  We'd run two good trails.  It was about 3:00 in the afternoon.  Flagpole would take too long to be a good choice at this time of the day, if we were to get back to McDorman's before dark.  Then Steve suggested we check out Dictum...  Hmmm...  OK, that sounds like something we can do pretty easily and without taking much time.  It was right on the way, would only take a couple minutes to go up and see that we could not make it, then turn around and come back down to Route 33, to McDorman's.

I stopped at the landowner's house, found Senor in the yard, and asked permission to go up the trail.  Jokingly telling me that he now charged, he gave us permission and we headed up the trail.  Along the way we encountered a Rubicon with five men coming down the trail.  They graciously made room for us to pass and warned us about the "big rock" we would soon meet.  I invited them to come watch us and we went up the trail.  They continued on their way.

I pulled into one of the turnouts before making the bend at the rock.  Everybody else came and parked, then we checked out the rock.  I don't think "rock-stacked" even comes close to describing what we found.  This thing was so paved that my father's Buick could have gone up.  Well maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but the obstacle was nothing more than a blip in a sea of small rocks. 

Dictum (Paved)

Still, my last two experiences here left me a little uncomfortable.  I decided to let anyone that wanted to climb this pile of loose rubble go ahead, and I would decide whether or not to go, based on their experience.  Steve expressed his disappointment that the rock was not the challenge he had experienced on his last visit.  He had hoped to climb it this time, but certainly without the aid of several hundred pavers.  Notwithstanding, Steve went first and climbed the rock.

Izzy II on Dictum IIIzzy II on Dictum II
Izzy II on Dictum II
Steve on DictumDictum

Steve Van B came next.  I asked him if he was going to climb it and he said "Yes, why not!" and went up.

Steve on Dictum
Steve on Dictum
Steve on DictumSteve on DictumRyan on DictumRyan on DictumSteve on Dictum (stacked)Steve on Dictum (stacked)Steve on Dictum

Paul making images on Dictum

Ryan went up as well.

Ryan on Dictum (stacked)Ryan on Dictum
Ryan on Dictum (stacked)

I guess that settled it for me.  I was the only person left!  What to do, what to do....?!

Paul on Dictum
Paul on Dictum (stacked)
Paul on DictumPaul on Dictum (stacked)

The first section of stacked rocks was easy enough to get over.  At the next bunch I had some concern that my right side would slide off like it had a time before.  This led to a little hesitation on my part and my front end slid a little to the right on the loose rocks.  I stalled it.  I asked and was told I had plenty of room to the right so I cranked it up and cut a little more to the left, then climbed out.  Phew!

With that out of the way, we decided to run the rest of the trail up to Clines Hacking and then down FR 72 to pavement.

Izzy II on Dictum RidgeColumn on Dictum Ridge

We stopped for a short break on the trail but soon reached Clines Hacking.  There, we made our way over to FR 72 and descended the mountain, meeting some incoming Land Rover Discovery's, all decked out for a trip down Dictum.  I wish I could have seen the looks on their faces when they got there!

I suggested we try the little hill climb at the bottom of FR 72.  It is not part of the Old Long Run closure, and is always good for a few minutes of fun.  On this trip, we found the trail was more rocky and rutted than ever, and everybody except Steve in the YJ had some clearance problems in one spot.  But everyone was able to go up the hill under their own power.

Ryan on hill climb off FR 72Steve or and Dave on hill climb off FR 72
Paul on hill climb off FR 72Paul on Lower FR 72

Lower FR 72Steve on Lower FR 72Steve on Lower FR 72Steve on Lower FR 72Ryan on Lower FR 72Steve and Jandy on Lower FR 72

Ryan Lower FR 72
Steve on hill climb off FR 72
Steve on hill climb off FR 72Steve on Lower FR 72

Ryan on Lower FR 72Ryan on Lower FR 72
Ryan on Lower FR 72
Ryan on Lower FR 72Steve on hill climb off FR 72Ryan on hill climb off FR 72

Steve and Dave on hill climb off FR 72Steve on Lower FR 72
Steve and Dave on hill climb off FR 72

Paul on hill climb off FR 72Paul on Lower FR 72
Paul on hill climb off FR 72

After this, we drove the short distance to the road and made our way back to McDorman's.  Not content with the outcome of the rock-throwing incident, I had discussed it again with the kids.  They agreed to go into the store and tell say they were sorry for throwing the rocks, thank them for letting us use their parking lot, and promising it would not happen again.

Jandy surrounded at McDorman'sAlec

With that taken care of, we aired up and reconnected.  Everybody except Ryan and James were leaving for home.  Ryan and James were planning to stay over with us at Brandywine overnight and then go back on the trail in the morning.


We got to the campground with plenty of time for Ryan and James to set up before dark.  But a storm was brewing and I suggested Ryan and James save filling out the registration card for the campground until after then set up their tent.  That proved to be good advice as they no sooner had their tent set up then it started to pour down rain.  I decided I didn't feel like standing under the dining tarp over the picnic table cooking supper and suggested we go into Brandywine and eat at one of the little restaurants.  First, I stopped at the store and got a few things for later at camp, and asked for a suggestion about which place was most popular.  I was told the Pork Palace was the cheapest, the "log cabin" was more expensive but well liked, and reminded of Fox Pizza Den around the corner.  That sounded good so I asked Ryan and James if that was OK.  It was and the boys liked the idea so we went and had pizza and subs for dinner.

By the time we finished eating the rain had subsided some.  But when we got back to camp we found the kids tent was water-logged.  This was due to my bad choice of location when setting up.  It was right in the drain path of water coming off the pavement.  There was no way it would have stayed dry there.  So the kids happily decided to bunk with me again.  This time we managed to avoid all the drama and injuries of the night before and soon the kids were asleep.  I spent the time sorting dirty laundry, packing everything that we would not need in the morning, setting out clothes for everyone, and finally, with order somewhat restored, swept out the tent so we could move about comfortably in the morning.

Come morning, we had another "instant" breakfast and then got cleaned up.  Packing was drudgery and further reinforced my resolve to pare down the outfitting to the bare essentials.  I decided to get all the trunks loaded, leaving the tents and tarps for our return in the afternoon.  It was my hope that the rain would hold off and the gear would have a chance to dry.  Also, I didn't really want to wheel with the full load, and couldn't leave our gear all packed at the camp site.


Flagpole Knob and Dunkle Hollow

We drove back to McDorman's.  The same lady who correctly scolded the kids the day before was working again.  Naturally she recognized us.  And when I asked to order some sandwiches from lunch, she rattled off our order from yesterday and asked if that's what we wanted today.   I guess the kids' little stone-throwing incident served to make it likely that she will not forget us...  We got the sandwiches, some drinks, chips and chocolate and went back outside.  I aired down and disconnected.  Ryan borrowed my deflators and aired down too.  Then we drove on out to the trail.

I like the drive to Flagpole Knob.  It is not challenging at all, and most of the way it is just dirt road and flood berms.  On a day like this one, we were spared the dust because the rain had made the road wet.

At the first spot that might be considered an obstacle, we discovered an abandoned and heavily vandalized mini-van.  It appears to have been driven here, ripped up, and left for dead.  I find this stuff disturbing and very disappointing.  It does us no good with regard to keeping trails open, and shows the worst in people.  I later passed on the location (GPS coordinate) and VIN number to the forest law enforcement officer.

Found Minivan on Stone Camp Road VINFound Minivan on Stone Camp RoadFound Minivan on Stone Camp Road

 We continued along the trail to the little hill climb with the rough spot, and on up to Flagpole Knob.

Movie: mov05060.mpg Ryan on Stone Camp Road to Flagpole Knob

We ate lunch on top and watched a storm front move in and engulf us.

Paul and Ryan on Flagpole KnobView from Flagpole KnobView from Flagpole KnobFlagpole KnobHone Quarry

Movie: mov05061.mpg Flagpole Knob

We headed down toward Dunkle Hollow.  I stopped at the marked location of the third Geo-cache that I had noted before we came.  This time the combination of the weather, the steep slope, the picker-bushes, and the complaints of my kids terminated the search.  I suspect we walked right past the cache but again I didn't want to be selfish about the time, with Ryan and James waiting patiently in their Jeep, and the kids really not having fun.  I will try this again next time we're out here.


From here, we descended the mountain without event.  The drive back over Shenandoah Mountain was a little slippery but we got to the campground with only minutes to spare before the storm reached us.  I was able to get the tents and tarps down before they got any more wet.  Ryan and James got packed and headed out as I knew it would be a while before we were ready.  The kids played while I got things squared away and strapped on the "mule".  I discovered that my compressor was not filling my tank so I would have to go to Brandywine to air up.  This onboard air solution worked well with the last compressor, but this time it didn't last more than a few trips.  I will get another one but I am probably going to have to finish this sub-system off once and for all with some sort of compressor that is faster, stronger, and more reliable.  I don't have room for an A/C compressor, but I need to do something...

Brandywine Campsite 23 before take-down

Friday and Saturday nights, I had heard a noise in the insect netting of the tent.  It took me a while to figure out that it was just moths trying to get into the tent for the light.  When I was taking down the tent, I discovered the moth that had probably been so industrious...

Moth at Brandywine

Finally everything was packed, though not as well as when we came due to the swelling that wet gear suffers.  I had to get air so the Jeep rode like a soggy pillow all the way to Brandywine.  I aired up and we set a course for home.  We stopped on the way to wash the Jeep at a new car wash on Route 33 near the Shell station.  It worked very well.  Next, we drove through McDonald's and got a quick bite to eat while we drove home.  After what seemed like an endless drive, we reached home.  The traffic had been at times heavy, and the road was wet, so it was a tiring drive.  But we made it home in one piece and learned a few lessons along the way!  Did I mention how long it took to unpack...?

More Photos: Ryan Photos Photos | Steve and Jandy Liebl Photos | Steve's Photos

Other Trips: May 27, 2001 | July 17, 2002 | May 26, 2003

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Old Route 33

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