Kephart, Dry River

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Way Points



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 signed on.

Kids at ComputerTed at ComputerKids at Computer

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.

Keith on the road

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 once!


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 we went.


Kephart is 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.

Wayne on the way to KephartTo KephartWayne on the way to Kephart

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...

Lunch BreakLunch BreakLunch BreakLunch BreakLunch BreakLunch BreakLunch Break

While folks ate, I walked around and took pictures of all the vehicles and some of the people.

Lunch BreakAnthony'sKeith'sFran'sLunch BreakLunch BreakLunch BreakLunch BreakLunch BreakLunch BreakLunch BreakLunch BreakLunch BreakCarl'sLunch BreakLunch BreakPaul'sWayne's

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.


Waterfall Rock

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 found.

Wayne on KephartWayne on Kephart

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.

Paul On KephartPaul On Kephart
Paul On Kephart
Paul On Kephart

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.


Ted, Chainsaw, on KephartTed on KephartKephart Gallery


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Gallery at KephartKephart


Fran on KephartKephartFran on KephartKephart

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.

Keith at KephartKeith at KephartKephartKeith at KephartKephart

KephartKephartAnthony on KephartKephart


We paused for chit-chat and a group photo.


OCC at Kephart

Well, almost everybody...

Tomi out cold on Kephart


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.

Big Wayne on KephartKephartKephartBig Wayne on KephartBig Wayne on Kephart


KephartAnthony on KephartKephart

Keith's D-90

Poseur on Kephart



Poseur on Kephart


Leaving Kephart

Fran on the rocks

Leaving Kephart

Leaving Kephart

Leaving KephartLeaving Kephart

Leaving KephartLeaving Kephart
Leaving Kephart

Leaving Kephart

Leaving KephartLeaving Kephart

Leaving Kephart

Leaving KephartLeaving KephartLeaving KephartLeaving Kephart

Leaving KephartLeaving KephartLeaving KephartLeaving KephartCanine companion

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.

Beni checks the leak

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 area.

Back to pavement
Back to pavement

Dry River Entrance

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...

Sprung a leak?

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 in.

Dry RiverDry River

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 filled up.

Jeeps in the woodJeeps in the woodPromontory BreakPromontory BreakDry RiverDry RiverDry RiverDry RiverDry RiverDry River

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 too.


Meanwhile, Anthony had gotten to work taking out the radiator and crimping the cut passages.

Crimping radiator tubes

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.  

Pit Crew/Water Brigade

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 nearby but...

Future Mud Boggers

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.

Some mud
Small climb

Dry RiverDry River

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...

Ford over Dry RiverFord over Dry River

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 way.



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.

Back at SheetzBack at SheetzBack at Sheetz

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.

Post-Jeep WashKids in backKids in back

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 (Member)
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 trail ride.

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.

More Photos: Wayne Lau Photos | Joel Negron Photos

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

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