Switzer Dam, Dunkle Hollow, Flagpole & Meadow Knobs,
Old Long Run and Second Mountain (Phew!)

Sunrise on Meadow Knob

May 24-25, 2008

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

4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD!

Prologue

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.

From: Alan Jay Staiman
Sent: Thursday, May 15, 2008 6:49 PM
To: ppro; Roy; lightman6
Subject: Rocky Run Meeting - GWNF - Second Mt. trail maintenance planning meeting
 
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

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.

Thanks,

Alan

From: Gregg Jackson

Hey folks,

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.

Thanks,

Gregg Jackson

Land use coordinator

Volunteer Trail Patrol Captain

Phone

website www.va4wd.org

"Jeep: Just Empty Every Pocket"

Alan Jay Staiman
www.psycocavr.com
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 charging system fixed and at the last minute there were tire problems.  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 Flagpole Knob.

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 mountain.

GWNF Track Log

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 warning (Jackass).

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 empty!

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 handy. 

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.

Sunrise on Meadow Knob

Sunrise on Meadow Knob

Sunrise on Meadow Knob

Sunrise on Meadow Knob

Sunrise on Meadow Knob
Sunrise on Meadow Knob

Sunrise on Meadow Knob

 

When I got up later, it was still very pretty out so I took some more pictures.

Morning on Meadow Knob

Morning on Meadow Knob

Morning on Meadow Knob

Morning on Meadow Knob

 

Morning on Meadow Knob

Morning on Meadow Knob

Morning on Meadow Knob

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...

Trail

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.

Clines Hacking, Trail Crew

Roys Jeep at Clines Hacking

Tom, Paul and Cline's Jeep at Cline's Hacking

Clines Hacking, Trail Crew

Clines Hacking, Trail Crew

Paul's Jeep

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 very first 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.

DeLorme's and GWNF Map Index

Then we hit the trail.

Headed Down Second Mountain

Headed Down Second Mountain

We stopped at the first power line crossing and drove up the short trail to look at the area up at the top.

Power Line Crossing

Trail Crew
Trail Crew

Tom Discussing Trail Maintenance

Power Line Crossing

Power Line Crossing

Trail Crew

View from Trail

Trail Crew Vehicles

Trail Crew Vehicles

Trail Crew

Headed Down the Trail (Cline)
Headed Down the Trail (Cline)

Next we stopped and some of the folks did some work to prevent drivers from going to a natural pond.

Range Rover
Range Rover

At the third stop we took a look at the power line crossing and discussed some of the problems it presents, and possible solutions.

View from the Trail

Power Line Maintenance Trail

Trail Crew Vehicles

Trail Crew Vehicles

Donna, Steve and Family

View from Trail

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.

Trail Talk

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 of mud.

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.

Second Mountain Mud Hole ProjectSecond Mountain Mud Hole Project

Cline

Steve and Donna's Rubicon
Steve and Donna's Rubicon

Second Mountain Mud Hole Project

Steve

Trail Crew

Small Trail Advisory Signs

Second Mountain Mud Hole Project

Second Mountain Mud Hole Project

Second Mountain Mud Hole Project

Second Mountain Mud Hole Project

Trail Crew Lunch Detail

Second Mountain Mud Hole Project

Tom Winches barricades into place

Trail Crew

Steve Riding the Wave

Moving barrier into place

Donna's Rubicon

Trail operations

Tom's Rubicon

Second Mountain Mud Hole Project

Roy and Tom

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. 

Roy Headed Out

Roy Headed Out

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 of home!

Finally, after seven years, I have a GPS track of Second Mountain - the only major trail in the forest for which I had not recorded data!

Old Long Run and Second Mountain Track Logs

 

Epilogue

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!


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