During a birthday celebration for Jim's
son Dylan, my wife Maria, Jim's wife Ket and Carl's wife Kathy discussed the possibility
of a camping/wheeling trip that would entail the "men" going wheeling while the
"woman" hung out. Maria liked the idea and soon suggested we send it up
the flagpole to see what would happen. The weekend was already pretty solidly booked
but we did get Jim and Joel to sign on for a trip out to GWNF on Saturday. Since my
family enjoys the camping so much, I decided we'd camp anyway, and have another
mini-vacation over the weekend.
So I retrieved our
camping stuff and stowed it on
the rack just like last time. We did leave the adult bikes behind since we found
that there was not time enough to go riding. The kids bikes were required equipment
though! We had spent the afternoon checking out some arrangements for the upcoming
school year so once again we got off to a late start.
Road Trip In
We made better time going to
Harrisonburg. With only one stop along the way to eat, we arrived at the Wal*Mart
Super Center around 9:00pm. We shopped for our food and a few odd items that we'd
need and set a course for
Brandywine Campground in West
Virginia. About the time we could see the mountain range we would soon cross, a
storm front moved in, lit up the summit with wicked lightning, and soon the rain started
to fall. I had checked the weather forecast for the vicinity just before we hit the
road and the rain was expected further north, but not here! It's nice to know we
still cannot predict the future but I was disappointed by this turn of events.
But we were committed. If it was
really bad we could of course head back to Harrisonburg and stay at the Econo-Lodge or
something but it would make for a long night, and I was pretty much used up already.
We pulled in to Brandywine at a few minutes before 10:00pm. This is getting
to be a habit... I filled out the guest card and paid the fee, then we headed up the
road to site 22, "Mr. Wayne's" camp site from
one of our previous trips.
Brandywine Recreation Area
We pulled into the campground and found a
tidy space with decent tree cover, but the rain was coming down hard and setting up camp
looked to be unpleasant. I managed to convince the kids to stay in the Jeep, and set
about pulling down the gear from the roof rack. I had managed to provide for the
possibility of rain by bringing all the tarps and packing everything inside plastic bags
so to avoid wet clothing etc. At the time we packed Maria was rolling her eyes since
the forecast did not include rain, but now, she was very gracious.
As luck would have it, the rain stopped
coming down about the time I was ready to set up the
tent. I got the ground cloth down and the tent up, then moved
everything inside. We decided, with the kids' agreement, to have the kids sleep in
our tent and leave the kid tent packed to save time. I put up the room divider for
the first time and laid out a nice little space for Ted and Tom to bed down, complete
with crash pads, sleeping rolls and blankets, and of course the pillows.
I got the kids into bed after a brief
period of stretching and exploration on their part. They went down pretty easy and
Maria and I had a chance to sit and listen to the dripping of the trees and watch the
moths as they made their suicide runs at the lantern.
Soon a large moth arrived and due to its
large size, provided entertainment for some time. It was almost large enough to be
mistaken for a small bird. Eventually, our visitor disappeared without burning up,
and we went to bed expecting an early rising.
The next morning I got up and prepared
breakfast for Maria and I, then got the kids up, fed and ready for the trail. While
they rode their bikes, I optimistically lowered the top and removed the doors.
Finally, with everything set to, I loaded the kids into the Jeep and we set off to meet
Jim and Joel at McDorman's. The sky was still gray and the air had that morning
chill that is so common in the mountains in summer. I was hoping against hope for us
and Maria, who stayed behind, that the sun would make an appearance and the rain would
We arrived at McDorman's at the appointed
hour, having raised Jim on his cell phone a few minutes before. He was there waiting
for us and Joel soon rolled in.
The kids helped me air down and
disconnect, then we bought some supplies for lunch and snacks. With just the three
of us, preparation time was short and after a brief greeting to some other folks there for
a trip to Kephart, we headed out for Dictum. Yes, I was going back for a little
"hair of the dog".
A few weeks earlier I had
run this trail from Clines Hacking down
to the rock obstacle, and nearly pitched the apple cart, so to speak. I wanted to
come back and make an attempt to go up the rock. With Jim and Joel there it seemed
reasonable to expect that I would have a shot at making it, or at worst, have some back-up
if things got ugly.
We stopped at the bottom to greet the
land owner. She was out in her yard enjoying what was shaping up to be a beautiful
day. I greeted her in Spanish and when mine ran out, asked permission to use her
access to the trail. She was happy to have us but admonished me with "It get's
pretty rough up there, you know..." . I voiced my agreement and thanked her.
We made our way up the short trail to the main attraction, and the scene of my
I think I have stood at this point three
or four times. The first time,
Keith Holman took me up and I decided that I wasn't ready for it,
thinking that it was all about equipment.
I would go with Jim, and
again with some folks from Pennsylvania. It was on that trip
that I watched Frank drive his Toyota up the face of the rock and back down while the rest
of us flailed away in various states of abandon. Only Frank made it, and the rest of
us followed him out to the road. And of course I fell off it a couple weeks prior to
this visit. Needless to say, I was becoming familiar with this rock.
This time the stacked rocks were all
removed and scattered, though still available for anyone who might be so moved. Jim
was in the lead and decided that he liked the "bypass" on the extreme right, up
against the edge of the drop-off, and in intimate contact with a tree that wears ample
evidence of other visits. Jim lined up and started his attack.
It was rough going and took a few tries
to get lined up. At one point, his passenger-side rear wheel was in a hole that was
actually off the edge. I kept him informed and provided some spotting, until
finally, he could not get any further up the rock without abusing his Jeep.
Jim knew it too, so I pulled some cable and got him rigged to winch up.
The winching went pretty quickly and soon
Jim was up onto more stable ground. I was surprised to look on the area that I had
driven down to the rock. I did not remember it being as difficult as it now seemed.
I guess after driving out of the
slide and brutally down the rock face, I had forgotten about what came before it...
Seeing what Jim went through, I decided
to leave the tree saver strap and D-Ring in place on the tree, and to get my own winch
remote plugged in.
I tried to line up about like Jim had
done but must have gotten a little bit closer to the tree.
Update 4/30/04: Somebody had bad luck
here. Click the picture for more shots...
I was surprised to find that the Jeep
drove right up on the protruding rock very easily and decided to just keep moving, with a
little blip on the throttle to hop the back wheel up too. Well, it worked but it
didn't stick - I hesitated just enough to lose my hold and dropped back off.
Jim pointed out that I had tweaked my
rack pretty hard, and that it had been when my rear wheel went up the rock. That
meant that if I were to do it again, I was going to continue my trail mods to the
rack. I knew going in that the rack was the most likely damage point on this
line of approach, so I decided to cut my losses and winch the rest of the way.
The cable was pulled and I ran the line in.
All it took was a foot to get me to where
I could have driven, but I opted to run the cable in a ways so I could manage the Jeep
None of this was lost on Joel. He
recalled the damage to Bill's top on State Line a
weeks before, and my newly reshaped rack. "Do you think...", he asked,
..."the top should come down?" Hell Yes! So he disappeared back
down the trail and after a few minutes of personal time with his top, he appeared and got
lined up to make a stab at the rock.
Jim got him spotted up onto it, then I
worked with him to get his rear wheels situated. At one point he risked hitting his
windshield frame, and then his sport bar coverings.
After a few attempts to ease it up, he
took my offer to winch. I walked back and repositioned the Jeep so I could run the
cable through a snatch block mounted to the tree strap, giving a better angle to his Jeep.
All the while, Teddy and Tomi were
exploring the capabilities of the digital camera, and I ended up with some decent stills
and movies of all our antics at the obstacle. Somewhere along the line, most likely
when my winch hook was removed from the storage point on my front bumper, one of our new
"Bug Repellers" must have gotten
With everyone back in action, and with
minimal carnage, we continued up the trail. It was generally easy with just a couple
spots where it approached anything even mildly technical.
Dictum truly is a one trick pony.
But boy let me tell you, that one trick is all bucking bronco! We reached the upper
meadow popular with many for camping. This spot suited us for lunch so we took a
After lunch, we got back on the trail and
soon reached Clines Hacking. As we emerged from the trail we met a family driving
in. We stopped and chatted. The driver was interested in running the whole
trail so I suggested he be careful at the obstacle. I was concerned that he was
alone. Jim or Joel observed that he was running temporary tags typical of a newly
purchased vehicle. We all hoped this was not his first Jeep. I gave him an OCC
card and wrote my cell number on it in the off chance that he would need help. I
made a personal decision that we might go up there after we finished our day to make sure
he was not stuck there or worse...
Clines Hacking offers a chance to
"ramp" the Jeep to see how the articulation stacks up. I have never done
this here, so succumbed to curiosity. I didn't quite line up right but decided to
call it good enough.
Joel drove the Rubicon up and got similar
results, interesting how high one can put a tire without flopping! Next, Jim put his
Jeep up and logged a pretty impressive showing. Not content with making fools of
Joel and me, he decided he'd drive off the ramp as a final test of superiority.
He did a great job of easing it up to the
edge and dropping the front wheels down without any major clunks. Then he peeled the
dust cover off of his front driveshaft as he pushed forward to get the front wheels to
touch the ground.
Jim - 0, ATV Unloading
Ramp - 1.
Thank goodness we all carry the most
important tool in the box: Duct Tape! I could not resist a couple pictures of
Jim doing the repair, then we set off to run Old Long Run. When we got to Gauley
Ridge Road, we found a group with two trailered Broncos with large Swampers. They
had just finished running around on Second Mountain and wanted to know if we needed any
help. I told them we'd been up here a few
times and suggested that they go try Dictum... Their eyes lit up and I bet they
took off soon after we parted.
Old Long Run
We drove down to Old Long Run. By
now the day had shaped up nicely. The sun was shining, there were scattered clouds,
and the temperatures were mild and slightly breezy. You almost couldn't ask for a
nicer day. The trail was very pretty and provided a nice chance to relax while
moving toward the turn around at the bottom of the trail.
We were overtaken by a mountain biker who
stopped on the trail ahead and hiked down to the stream. We stuck to business and
soon reached the gate at the bottom. We stacked up and turned around, trading
positions in the line, then heading back up the trail.
At one point, Joel got crossed up with a
log and whacked the front bumper end pretty hard. A little bit later on, we met up
with the same group we had seen at McDorman's, so pulled off to let them pass. I
ended up ahead of Joel and soon observed him about to impale his radiator on a stick that
somehow had fallen in front of him after I passed. I managed to get his attention in
time to prevent it from penetrating completely, but he did get superficial damage just the
Once back to the top of Old Long Run, Jim
ran the trail through the black raspberry bushes to the meadow. Great fun when you
have your full doors on. I picked my way up working to prevent the thorn bushes from
tearing me or my sleeping kids to shreds. I made it without hurting the kids, but
did take a couple hits on my hands. Ah, the price of being a Dad... The meadow
was as pretty as ever, and we exited back onto Gauley Ridge Road and headed back up to the
trail junctions. We found one of the Bronco's on the trailer, and everybody MIA.
No doubt they had headed out for some other trail.
We pointed down FR 72 and after meeting
up with several vehicles coming up the hill, reached the bottom where we took the side
spur down to the rocky hill climb.
We drove down and then came back up one
at a time. It has become more and more challenging with each visit. Everyone
makes it up with little trouble, and everyone is immortalized on film for their
I really enjoyed Teddy's enthusiasm for
picture making. I wish I could afford to turn him loose with the camera without fear
that it be destroyed due to accident. The tough thing is that good equipment
encourages youngsters to develop an interest, but it is also expensive and delicate.
One false move and you have a door stop. And the other side is that if you give them
lousy gear, it can discourage them and spoil the experience. So I'm trying to strike
the balance by closely supervising him and letting him loose where the footing is less
likely to create a problem. So far so good!
With the hill climb completed, we hit
pavement and weaved our way back towards Route 33. I had asked Jim and Joel to join
me in a return to Dictum to check out the solo Jeepers and they both had agreed. I
also had deduced that the missing Insect Repeller had gone missing on Dictum and since it
was the one that belonged to Tom, we'd go back and try to find it.
We made the return trip up to the rock in
short order and got out to look for the recently installed
Insect Repeller and any signs of carnage.
Tomi set off behind Joel up the trail in search of the giant bug. I was making a
grid search of my own and was distracted a little. I heard Tomi let out a cry and
looked up to see that he had tripped and fallen on the rocks. Fortunately he was not
falling off the edge, and his injuries turned out to be very minor. And Lo and
Behold! The missing giant insect lay in the dirt not three feet from where he fell!
He was reunited with
the Bug and we soon ceremoniously reinstalled it onto the front tow hook with a couple
extra clicks of the wire tie!
We turned back down the trail, happy not
to attempt Dictum again. We went back to McDorman's where we did our usual airing up
I have to get a "real"
compressor as the one I use, while adequate, is painfully slow. Jim and Joel
finished up and parted, leaving me and the kids to do some light shopping for dinner.
We found that there were hamburger rolls
but no hamburger; hot dogs but no hot dog rolls. So we opted to get the hot dogs
knowing we could use the bread back at camp. With some chips, drinks, chocolates,
and ice, we were ready to go.
Part way back up the mountain, I was
giving a lesson to the kids about heel-and-toe driving with a stick shift and the bag off
ice rolled right out of the Jeep and into the bushes on the side of the road. I
carefully backed up and retrieved it along with Teddy's Sprite. We concluded the
lessons about four-wheel slides on mountain roads and drove the rest of the way to camp
without losing any more food.
I decided to try the little store in
Brandywine to see if they had hot dog rolls so we drove past the camp ground
entrance. An oncoming driver had flashed his headlights as he passed so I was wary
about speed traps. My caution paid off as I rounded a corner (not sliding, thank
you) to find one of West Virginia's finest interviewing a stopped motorist.
A pedestrian was walking around the
stopped cars, and appeared to be waving. It turned out to be Maria, returning from a
long walk into town. She was carrying my large umbrella and a big smile, happy to
see us and have a ride back to the camp grounds. We went to the store, got the
rolls, a few more things, including fire wood for the evening and morning, then went back
to the campgrounds.
We got back from the store with plenty of
daylight to spare. So before dinner we made a trip down to the pond and spent a few
minutes soaking in the last rays of sun for the day.
I gave a couple swimming lessons to
Teddy, played sea horse ("horsey" rides where the horse (that would be me) carried the kids
around on his back, with face under water. The things we do for love...
We sat around the fire toasting hot dogs
on metal forks made for the purpose, with chips and so on. Then we pulled out the
marshmallows and learned about flaming confections. It was a great meal, and the
hair that was burned will grow back fast (not really, but I made you look!).
The kids rode bikes until finally their
own fatigue and the darkness led to a minor crash. We reeled them in and sat telling
"scary stories" until the kids decided to go to bed. I tucked them in then
went and sat for a while gazing at the fire and talking with Maria. We planned our
departure and soon went to bed.
In the morning, we slept later, then got
breakfast started. The kids slept until we were done, then one by one they got up
and ate. As we went, we began to consolidate the gear and soon everything was packed
in piles ready to be loaded on the Jeep, except the tent. We hung everything out to
dry as we went and soon we had everything packed. We held clean clothes in reserve
and dressed ourselves and the kids in bathing suits for a final hurrah at the pond.
Once we had our fill of sun and swimming,
we went to get changed in preparation for the trip home. While Maria and the kids
got dressed, I visited with Chris from Harrisonburg. He drives a nice red Cherokee.
He remembered me from one of our trips last year and we discussed trails in the
area and of course Jeeps. I gave him a card and hope that he contacts me about
joining us for a ride sometime.
We hit the road and stopped in
Harrisonburg to eat at Luigi's and to douse the Jeep at the Car Wash. The kids and
Maria played "Red Light" while I washed the Heep. Then we made the long
trip home, with a stop at the Dairy Corner Frozen Custard stand on Route 7, and gas at
Sheetz. I think we saw Mark Long towing his Jeep back from Rausch Creek. This
trip was another great family outing with some fairly decent wheeling with two great guys!