The rain pre-empted my plans
for doing yard work over the weekend. With the promise of more rain on Monday, I decided
that a trip into GWNF would be time well spent. I bounced it off the kids and they quickly
So we made our preparations
(lunches, GPS track, sign-up on the OCC board) and hit the sack for the night.
On Monday morning we got up
and were on the road by 7:30, but would be late for the planned 8:30 departure from
Wendy's in Manassas.
We grabbed breakfast at
McDonald's, some cash from the machine, and hot-footed it down the road in the drizzling
rain for Route 270 to Route 66.
When we were about 5 miles
out from Wendy's, I got on Channel 4 and shouted out to see if anyone could hear me. Good
ol' Carl answered back and indicated that they were just now getting ready to leave. It
was about 8:35am. I told him I would be along but needed to make a stop for gas. As I got
off the exit, the group was getting on the road for the drive West. I make quick work of
getting gas and was back on the highway by 8:42am.
I caught up to the group in
about 1/2 hour, and we continued to Sheetz in Harrisonburg. It rained most of the way, and
the sun broke out five minutes before we stopped!
There was a very large group
- 18 or 19 vehicles in all and probably twice as many people. I swung up to the pumps and
started getting gas. I went in and ordered up sandwiches for me and the kids, then went
back out and finished getting gas. Then we went in, got drinks and goodies, collected our
sandwiches, and went out to check out the crowd. The locals must have wondered what was
going on because we arrived en masse and actually got the green light to turn in all at
Pretty soon everyone had
what they needed and we headed out again for McDorman's. The drive was pretty uneventful,
though we did get strung out because of the traffic lights in town. But we didn't lose
anyone and eventually we got to McDorman's.
Wayne swung up to the gas
pumps while I lined everyone up behind the store, along the fence. Then I went inside and
asked for permission to spend a few minutes getting ready for the trail. We were OK'd, so
I went back out and got myself ready.
I purchased a small grease
gun to keep on the Jeep when I went to Potomac State
Forest a few weeks ago. It has proven to be a very useful addition. I can grease my
sway bar connectors before removing them, which makes
the job very easy. The Oasis Trailhead Automatic Tire
Deflators are also a blessing. I walk around screwing them on, then when they stop
hissing, Teddy collected them and put my "trail" valve covers on. He was
thrilled to have a job related to our outing.
I must say that this group
wasted no time getting ready for the trail. Both the Sheetz and McDorman's stops were very
snappy, with no time wasted, but at the same time I don't think anyone felt rushed. Just
right. And the weather was shaping up really nicely. Wayne said it was time to go, so off
pretty easy to find. Just the same, I had loaded a GPS track from a prior trip that just
happened to exactly trace the planned route for this outing. We reached the trail entrance
in good time and pulled in to get everyone off the road and into 4-LO. A voice over the CB
asked for a moment to coax a reluctant lever, and soon we were wheeling.
The trail was about how I
expected it - muddy with lots of puddles. Not far from the road, we came upon the first
campsite on the left and noticed a good collection of "party" trash and an
abandoned tent ground into the mud. I mentioned that we might stop on the way out and
collect all this junk and take it out.
We drove for a few minutes
and reached the first clearing. The sun was shining and it was about lunch time, so we
stopped to eat.
The time could not have been
better. Even the insects were relatively scarce, so we enjoyed our lunches. I did forget
my seats, this pointed out to me by one of the kids. And he was right - it was a minor
pain not to have a place to sit down and eat. Next time...
While folks ate, I walked
around and took pictures of all the vehicles and some of the people.
It was a large group, but as
I said, everyone was light on their feet and it did not seem like we had many people with
us. Lunch went just as quickly as our other stops and soon we were on the trail headed for
the main objective: the rocks at the end of the trail.
We reached the mini-rock
field before the main attraction.
Wayne was leading and I was
behind him. We both knew that we'd have to be creative to get all the vehicles stacked
once we got past the obstacle.
We arrived to find that
Kephart had once again been "rock-stacked", though not as drastically as we have
found it in the past. Since we
had a few vehicles with stock height, and some people who were making their first outing,
we left the extra rocks where they were since there were still plenty of challenges to be
Wayne went right up,
benefiting from his new lift, tires and wheels. I followed and took the line that allowed
me to spare my transfer case skid plate and gas tank, still having fun.
After that we worked to get
everyone up, and out of the way for the next victim... It went well, everyone that wanted
to try it, did.
Observing the frequent and
noisy use of skid plates by those who made the climb, Keith wisely decided to hold off
until his D-90 is outfitted with some skids.
We paused for chit-chat and
a group photo.
Well, almost everybody...
Then we started making our
way back down off the rock. Everyone did just as well going down as they had coming up.
Several lines were explored and it seemed that everyone enjoyed themselves.
Along the way, a gas leak
was detected and we stopped to check into it. After moving the vehicle to more level
ground, the leak abated and it was decided that it probably would wait until a more
permanent fix could be made.
Once everyone was off the
rocks, we made our way out to pavement. Along the way, we did stop and clean up the
campsite. I think we filled several trash bags. A few people hit the road for
home, and the rest of the group lined up for a trip into the Dry River
Wayne asked me to lead since
I knew the trails. Ha! I knew them well enough to know basically where I was, but was
depending also on the GPS track. It proved accurate and navigation was not a problem. But
the funny thing about Dry River is that there is a little loop on one end that comes back
around to where you went in. Then if you continue straight, you go past the point where
you came in and on to the rest of the trail north near the reservoir and stream crossing,
before hitting Route 33 again. It seems like one trail with no back tracking but in fact
you do double back a little.
Anyway, we made the first
crossing and a couple of wet spots, then met a group at the trail junction. We turned left
and headed for the loop and another crossing. It was about that time that Anthony noticed
he was overheating, or that steam was coming from under the hood...
We stopped and Anthony
investigated. He put some more water in the radiator and discovered that it was pouring
out where his fan blades had cut into the fins. Several were cut and the leak didn't stop
even after I put two packages of stop-leak
I suggested that the rest of
the group run the loop and collect as much water as we could while we were at the stream.
Everyone fished out their empty drink bottles and when we got to the stream, they were all
When we reached the stream
crossing, we found the water flowing, but lower than I have seen it in the past. It
was easy enough to see the best section to cross so I went ahead. At one spot it got
quite a bit deeper a few feet to the left of my position, but I was fortunate to stay on
line and get across without any problems. As far as I know, everyone else did well
Meanwhile, Anthony had
gotten to work taking out the radiator and crimping the cut passages.
By the time we got back to
him, he was just about done. He put the radiator back into the Jeep and filled it with
water. It still leaked a little but nowhere near as much as it had before the repair.
My kids decided this was a
perfect time to get sticks and start poking the mud puddles. Ted was already on his
second change of clothes, and Tom was doing a good job staying clean and dry.
Nowhere near as clean and dry as the charming little girl who was behaving like an angel
Anthony decided to make the
most direct route for pavement and home, and Wayne took him and a group that wanted to get
off the trail back out the way we came in. A few folks joined me and continued the rest of
the way down the trail to the reservoir end and the ford across the stream.
Along the way we observed
that the mud hole closure seemed to be holding up and there were no signs of anyone
playing in it. The steel cables that were put up seem to be doing their job...
The trail was flooded, but
no worse than usual. We all managed to get to the other side without any problems. Again
we paused to let some folks wrestle with the 4-LO to 2-HI transition and we were on our
We passed McDorman's and saw
no one there. A couple minutes later I was able to raise Carl and Wayne on the CB. Carl
had stayed behind at McDorman's to air up and was about 5 minutes ahead of us. Soon we all
landed at Sheetz again. It was almost a re-run of the morning muster.
This time there was a line
at the air hose. I had pressurized my air tank on the way out from the trail and parked
off to the side and started airing up. While everyone was doing that, we talked about the
trail and the vehicles. People left in ones and twos.
The boys and I decided to go
eat and get the Jeep washed. We went up to Golden Corral and just beat a bus load of
people into line. Some of the other folks went to Shoney's (I saw your muddy Jeeps!).
Dinner was great - the kids had fun getting their own food from the buffet. After that we
stopped at the car wash and got all the mud off.
We hit the rest room and
then drove straight home. I took Route 81 to Route 70 and then the back way to the house
to avoid holiday traffic.
The trip was well worth it,
and I was very happy with how well the large group moved. Maybe 19 vehicles on the trail
isn't so bad?
Wayne Lau's Report:
The origins of the trip
started out as a simple question about going wheeling over the Memorial Day weekend to
George Washington National Forest. Was hoping someone would lead a trip there. Instead, a
few people signed up saying they would follow me. Doh! Hmm. Me the leader? Scary!!! The
trip started with a few people going and we ended up having 16 Jeeps, 1 D-90 and 1 FJ40
with a total of 33 People and 1 Dog.
Alex Melnichak - 97 TJ
Anthony Ramos - 81 CJ7 (Member)
Beni D'Agostino - 00 TJ (Guest)
Bret Ingram - 99TJ (Member)
Carl Smith - 00 TJ (Member)
Chris & Peggy Bay - 02 TJ (Guest)
Chuck Sommers - 02 TJ (Guest)
Dan Hurd - 97 TJ (Guest)
David C. Geipe - 97 TJ (Guest)
Keith Dufresne - D-90 (Guest)
Fran Bitzan - 73 FJ40 (Member)
Gino Quodala - 00 TJ (Guest)
Jason Jernigan - 03 TJ (Guest)
Joel Negron - 03 Rubi (Guest)
Kerry Chapman - 02 TJ (Guest)
Paul Provencher - 99 TJ (Member)
Randall Kelly - 94 YJ (Guest)
Wayne Lau - 01 TJ (Member)
I got to the Wendy's at
Manassas at 7:50 am. About 5 minutes later several people showed up. We chatted there for
a while and admired the vehicles on hand; especially the very nice Yellow D-90. At 8:40
am, we had 13 vehicle leaving Wendy's heading down 66 with me in the lead and Carl as tail
gunner. Paul was running a little late and was going to catch up to us on the way down, so
we kept a slower pace until he caught up with us. He slipped in front of Carl, and we had
14 vehicles in our little caravan. The weather was not looking good. It rained most of the
time while we were on 66 and part of 81. Was thinking it was going to be a very wet day,
but it cleared up while on 81 around 10:00 am and held out for the rest of the day.
We got to the Sheetz gas
station in Harrisonburg at 10:45 am with Anthony Ramos already waiting for us there. Fran
Bitzan, Bret Ingram, Daniel Hurd, and Randall Kelly showed up a short time later. So, we
picked up 4 additional vehicles for a total of 18. Everyone gassed up except for me as I
decided to gas up at McDorman's. We got to McDorman's at 10:15 am to air down and
disconnect. We left from McDorman's at 11:35 am to hit the Kephart trail.
After driving a long the
trail for a little bit, Paul suggested we stop for lunch at the open field along the
trail. It was a Great Idea. I had no concept of time while driving. It was a good call by
him. We stopped for lunch at 12:00 pm. After lunch we continued down the trail to the
rocks at the end of the trail. Everyone went up the rocks without a problem except the
D-90. Keith Dufresne decided not to try it after bottoming out a short distance back. We
were able to get 17 vehicles parked beyond the rocks. That was Impressive! After the last
guy went up the rocks (Beni D'Agostino), everyone was standing and chatting in front of
the vehicles just beyond the rocks. I noticed this and thought it was a good picture
taking moment. Fran Bitzan had an even better idea as I was snapping a couple of pictures.
What about a Posed Picture. Fran <== GREAT IDEA! Paul gave me his camera and I snapped
a couple of pictures. It was a Great Site to seen!!!
We started to head back at
1:40 pm, but ran into a problem. Randall Kelly (I think) started leaking gas from his gas
tank. Not Good. We shifted vehicles around to get the Jeep in a better spot. Beni
D'Agostino got underneath to get an evaluation of the problem. He determined it was
leaking from the top of the tank. We decided it was OK and not a big problem, so we
started out again. On the way back, some Guy (Hehehe) in a TJ got high-centered on a log
he was playing on, but he got off it ok and continued on. Unfortunately, we didn't get
pictures of it for Proof. We got to the end of Kephart at 2:50 pm. Paul noticed some trash
on the side when we came in, so he rounded a few of the guys to pick it up with a trash
bag donation from Chuck Sommers. Bret Ingram, Daniel Hurd, Fran Bitzan, and Randall Kelly
decided to part at this time. Now we were down to 14 vehicles.
I didn't know the entrance
to Dry River, so I asked Paul to take the lead. We entered the Dry River trail at 3:10 pm.
Beni D'Agostino ran into some problems with his transfer case. It kept popping out of
4WD-Low. He decided to continue on in 4WD-High. Right after we crossed the first stream
crossing, Anthony Ramos indicated he was pulling off to check something. We all stopped as
well. There was a lot of steam coming from his engine. Radiator fluid had splashed all
over the engine compartment. Apparently, as he was crossing the stream, the water made
contact with the fan, bent the fan blade, and the fan blade cut into the radiator. Several
people worked on the radiator. We need some more water, so Anthony stayed behind with the
Jeep while the rest of us continued on the trail to the next stream crossing to get water.
We filled tons of soda bottles with water.
Got back to Anthony as he
was taking out the radiator. Once he had the Radiator out, he cut some of the fins and
then crimped them. He put it back in, we filled it with water, and it seems to hold find.
He decided to head back home and I decided to follow him to make sure he was ok. As we
came to the split, Beni D'Agostino, Carl Smith, Chuck Sommers, Gino Quodala, Joel Negron,
and Kerry Chapman decided to head home as well. The rest followed Paul on to finish the
We pulled into McDorman's to
re-connected. After re-connecting, Gino and Joel headed home. Carl was airing up and the
rest of us headed towards the Sheetz to air up. As we aired up, Paul and the rest of the
crew caught up with us. Anthony's radiator had lost more liquid as he was airing up. He
bought a couple of bottles of radiator stop leak stuff and put it in. Ran the engine for a
little bit and it seemed fine, so he and I left the Sheetz at 6:00 pm while the rest
continued to air up. He had no problems on the way back. The engine temperature held up
fine, so we split up on 495 with him headed towards Maryland and me heading towards
Annandale. The trip back was better than I thought. Traffic was heavy on 81, but moved
fine and 66 was smooth sailing.
A simple trip turned up to
be a Great Trip.. Saw several old faces and meet a lot of new faces. Special thanks to
Paul Provencher in helping guide these folks through the trails.
Wayne Lau Photos |
May 27, 2001 |
July 17, 2002
Off Road Index
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