A couple weeks earlier, I got a note from Alan
Staiman telling me about some efforts to establish and maintain a
relationship with the National Forest Service, and to do some trail
maintenance and upgrading.
Paul, Roy, Ken,
I'll keep you all in the loop (and all of the GWNF list) as we
get the work planned.
The basics are that Gregg (the VA4WDA
land use rep) works up & down the valley so he has a lot of
contact with the GWNF rangers. He has had several meetings
and 2 trail cleanups (the last was 2 weeks ago). The basic plan
as of now is to do trail repair on the bad spots (such as the
deer gardens and the big mud hole). This is this summer.
For 2009 we plan on making a 100k grant request from the
Recreational Trails fund (of Va) and we have access to some
heavy equipment from the USFS and private sources. The
goal is to build (and the Rangers approve of it pending funding)
a connector trail between the USFS section of Second Mountain
and Dictum Ridge so as to make a loop and also create an harder
level crossover trail. We will then create obstacles and
bypasses on Second Mountain to add challenge to the trail Then
Dictum trail will be realigned to exit on USFS property (as
opposed to private property as it is now) onto Rt 33.
Thats the basic plan
"Jeep: Just Empty Every Pocket"
This is the kick off to the planned heavy trail
modification & maintenance in the GWNF. This is to plan
routes, and needs. There will be trail driving of Second
Mt and of Dictum ridge (the rocks are optional) I will
not be able to attend this but we should have some OCC
representation here. This is the big break we have been
waiting for with the GWNF Rangers. They want us to work
on the trails and design new obstacles and bypasses.
Please let me and Gregg know who from OCC can attend.
From: Gregg Jackson
Sorry this has taken so long, to many things going
on. I would like to get a meeting together to get
everyone's ideas on Rocky Run. Setting a date has always
been the tough part. May 25th 10am at the Rocky
Run Unloading area. Map is attached. Please let me
know if you can make it.
Land use coordinator
Volunteer Trail Patrol Captain
Alan Jay Staiman
Off Camber Crawlers 4Wheel Drive Club
Aside from family commitments, the only thing that
would prevent me from going was the Jeep. I had to get the
fixed and at the last minute there were
Fortunately, these things got fixed in time enough to go on the
trip. The day before the trip, I
removed the hard top and installed the gas cans. In the
evening, I hit the road for the forest.
May 24, 2004
I left the house quite late on Saturday. I
made good time, with a couple fuel stops, just to make sure I don't
run out before the stations close for the night. I reached
Brandywine well after the 10:30pm curfew and found the gate not only
closed, as is the custom, but locked as well. I don't know if
the campground was closed completely, filled to capacity, or if they
have taken to locking it completely after 10:30pm. It didn't
matter what the reason, I was not getting in. I turned around
and activated plan B - I was going to drive up Dunkle Hollow to
With the GPS, my
experience with driving up and down
Dunkle Hollow in day and night, winter, summer, fall, and
spring, I was not concerned about getting lost. The road is
reasonably easy to drive with even a 2-wheel drive. Just the
same, there is always risk of trouble developing, so I do not
recommend doing this without considerable experience, navigation
tools, and of course, the things you need if something goes wrong.
If I had problems with the Jeep, I would have just set up camp
wherever I was and deal with it in the morning.
I was fortunate to get up the mountain in good
time without any problems. I was struck by how many people
were camped in Dunkle Hollow and wondered what I would find when I
reached the top of Flagpole Knob. Past a certain point, there
were no more campers, owing to the rough going on the road, and the
relatively few camp sites. I hoped this would be true on the
When I got to the the top of the road I turned
toward the summit. I was met with campsite after campsite
occupied with large groups. All along the way, every last spot
was occupied. I reached the summit area along the road.
It was midnight. Most of the sites were dark. But I had
to check just to make sure that the summit too was full. I
drove up onto the summit and sure enough, there was a huge
constellation of tents and dining flies, and countless vehicles.
The summit had been taken.
Believe it or not, I expected this, and in truth,
it didn't disappoint me very much. It would have been nice to
have it all to myself but that is an unrealistic hope - it's the
kick-off weekend for summer. There certainly are enough
like-minted people who would come here to camp. I didn't want
to set my tent up in such a crowd, and certainly not in total
darkness with my vehicle and air mattress pump running and ruining
whatever peace these people were enjoying.
And so Plan C. Yes, I had a plan C.
Truth be told I even had a Plan D. But it didn't come to that.
Plan C consisted of driving down to Meadow Knob, another few miles,
where I hoped I would find enough room in the meadow to set up my
tent and park my Jeep. Again, I have to say that this story is
a little like one of those car commercials that show a car being
driven very fast on some twisty road, with the microscopic
admonition "PROFESSIONAL DRIVER ON CLOSED COURSE - DO NOT ATTEMPT".
I always find those warnings ridiculous, but let's face it - there's
a TV Show that proves there are people out there that need the
So if you have never driven down to Meadow Knob,
don't have a GPS, plan on going at night, and are traveling
alone...Don't do what I did...
I would rate the trail for stock high clearance
vehicles with 4-Wheel Drive. The driver should have some
off-road experience, and it would be easier to drive in the daytime.
The drive down to Meadow Knob was uneventful though I did find a
couple abandoned vehicles - perhaps the drivers thought better of it
and quit while they were ahead, or perhaps had mechanical failure?
As I drove I thought that it was likely that none of the Subaru and
Honda SUV drivers who made up the majority of campers I had seen
would venture down this trail. My hopes rose as I reached the
meadow and my headlights grazed the field. It was completely
I could not have been happier. I would have
my pick of the field, would not be bothering any sleeping campers,
and a wonderful place to camp. Not the least of it was the
weather. It had been picture-perfect all day and when I
arrived the temperature was about 45 degrees. For me, this is
perfect sleeping weather. In short, this was just about as
good as it gets!
I parked the Jeep in a slight depression and found
a flat spot near the edge of the field for the tent. I dug out
my gear and set up the tent. Then I took out the air mattress
and air pump. That's when things started to sour. I
placed the air pump into the port on the air mattress and turned it
on. For background, I had charged the air pump after our
campout with the Boy Scouts last month. Before leaving for
this trip, I had done a quick flick on and off of the pump and it
ran. So I put it in the trunk and blasted out the door of the
house fat and happy. When I turned it on to fill up the
mattress, it started running and immediately, and with no kindness,
rapidly decreased in speed. Within about 10 seconds the speed
was zero and it was nothing more than a fancy brick. I had two
power cords that fit it, but neither produced any results. I
was left with a queen-sized air mattress that was completely empty.
I didn't bring my closed cell mat - probably one of the few times I
left home without it. At this hour, there was no Wal*Mart
My first idea was to use the exhaust pipe to
inflate the mattress. Perhaps with a proper adapter, it might
have worked. But I didn't have an adapter, the end of the pipe
was too warm, and I didn't cherish the though of dying of Carbon
Monoxide poisoning, neither while filling nor later, while sleeping
on the mattress. So I did what any desperate person would do.
I started blowing. And blowing, blowing, blowing. I just
exhaled every breath into the mattress until after about 15 minutes,
it was full. Again, I didn't huff and puff, just patiently
exhaled into the mattress with each breath. (I went to the
store the next day and bought a new pump...)
With that little detail out of the way, I
shoe-horned the mattress into the tent, brought my sleeping bag and
other stuff into the tent and finally, got settled in. It was
1:00 AM. I didn't have to be at Clines Hacking until 10:00AM
so I looked forward to sleeping in a little in the morning.
May 25, 2008
My bladder woke up at 5:30 in the morning.
There was first light coming through the tent walls so I got up and
got the camera fired up. I had planned to take some pictures
early in the morning so I was happy to be up in the chill.
I took a few pictures and went back to bed.
When I got up later, it was still very pretty out
so I took some more pictures.
I can't emphasize enough how absolutely beautiful
it was up there when I got up. The whole day was gorgeous.
I had some Mueseli with milk, and got my stuff
organized and packed. By eight, I was back in the Jeep.
I pulled up a little and then aired down and disconnected.
Then I drove back up the trail to Flagpole Knob, and then down the
mountain on pavement.
At one corner in the road, I was a little
distracted, had forgotten I was disconnected and aired down.
The corner was more or less a ninety-degree turn, and I went in a
little hot. I steered into the corner and, realizing I was
going a little too fast, let up. That was a bad move.
Lockers go from heavy understeer (the Jeep goes more straight than
you want in corners) to heavy oversteer (turns too much causing the
rear of the vehicle to swing out) when you let up abruptly.
When I let up the locker, low tires, and my disconnected sway bar,
all contributed to a very bad sideways skid and heavy leaning.
It was all I could do to correct and keep it on the road. I
went around the corner half in the wrong lane, and with the horrible
moaning of sticky offroad tires making that characteristic low
screeching noise. The closest building was a church in
session. OPEN COURSE IDIOT DRIVER DO NOT ATTEMPT...
I got through that and continued on to McDorman's
to pick up some snacks and a cup of coffee. When I arrive, I
found a Rubicon parked outside. I figured it was probably Tom
who Gregg had said was staying overnight. Sure enough, Tom was
inside chatting to the people inside. I got my coffee and
snacks and greeted Tom. We headed out for the road up to
Clines Hacking. It was at that point that I found my turn
signals were not working. Oh well...
When we got to Forest Road 72 (Old Long Run Road),
Cline and Roy were there airing down. Tom greeted them and
headed up the mountain. I paused to let Tom get ahead so I
could avoid the dust, and to say good morning to Cline and Roy.
Then I headed up the mountain.
When I reached the top, some of the other folks were there.
We discussed the plans for the day that involved a
visit to the two spots where power lines intersect the trail, and
the famous mud hole that greeted me on my
four-wheeling trip to this forest... Tom filled us in and
we had a conference call with Gregg, who had a break-down on his way
to the meeting.
Then we hit the trail.
We stopped at the first power line crossing and
drove up the short trail to look at the area up at the top.
Next we stopped and some of the folks did some
work to prevent drivers from going to a natural pond.
At the third stop we took a look at the power line
crossing and discussed some of the problems it presents, and
While we were there, several groups passed through and
illustrated some of the challenges. Most are not aware of the
legal and illegal portions of the trails. Most have come in from
the lower end of trail that is currently closed. Tom made a point
to talk to them in the hope of educating them.
Pretty soon we moved on to the mud hole. Of all the
places in the forest that conjure up memories, this is one that came
first for me. I still recall, the first trip I took. I was
hearing all this talk about the mud hole. When we arrived, we had
already driven up a very muddy trail with lots of deep puddles.
When we got here, it looked absolutely horrible. Somehow we made
it through, but that just reinforced my already well established dislike
On this trip, the mud hole actually looked better than
it had that first time back in 2001. Perhaps it was because the
trees were all in bloom. Perhaps it was because the forest service
appears to have done some work already. Perhaps it's perspective
gained from all the other places I have seen in the last seven years.
Notwithstanding, this place still needs to be locked down, stabilized,
and in some way changed so that it either provides a sustainable
attraction, or just blends into the trail without the erosion and
perpetual mud hole.
Tom, Steve and Donna, Roy and a number of other folks
spent a lot of time and energy to obstruct all but the main path through
the mud hole, as a temporary measure to put some limits on the place.
We discussed a number of ideas for how to "fix this
place". It's hard to say what would work. In the end, it is
a discussion that we will take up another day. I said my good-byes
and followed Roy out to pavement.
We had discussed taking a ride on Dry Run but the Jeep
was running a little rough - maybe from the old gas. I decided I
wanted to head for home rather than be in the woods. At least on
pavement my AAA card would get me a little bit further in the direction
Finally, after seven years, I have a GPS track of
Second Mountain - the only major trail in the forest for which I had not
My drive home was punctuated by a stop in
Brandywine to air up, reconnect my sway bar, and drain the two gas
cans into my tank. And another stop in Franklin to wash the
Jeep, and top up the tank just to make sure. As luck would
have it, the ten gallons I had put in when I stopped in Brandywine
had filled the tank, so I only got a third of a gallon!
The GPS route took me up Route 220 all the way to
Mt. Storm, and then I cut over to Route 50 and a nice little
short-cut around Oakland taking me to Deep Creek Lake. There I
stopped for more fuel, and on home. It had been a very busy
couple days, getting the Jeep ready for the summer, driving out to
the forest, with the terrific night on Meadow Knob, and of course, a
great day on the mountain with a terrific bunch of people!