Dry River / Kephart

Mark Campbell strikes a pose

September 2, 2001

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I don't know how I missed plans to spend the weekend in the Rawley Springs vicinity and go 'wheeling every day with camping mixed in.  But I was reading the list-serve messages and noticed that Hugh Long had popped up there saying he was going to be going out on Sunday to meet a small group and go for a ride.  I didn't plan to camp, even though I would have liked to, but I signed on to go for the Sunday ride, not even knowing which trail we'd be taking.

So in the wee hours, I stocked my provisions, outfitted the Jeep (shovel, top down, etc.) and stowed it in the garage.  I got the idea to remove my doors, so I took the two nuts off and tried lifting the doors away.  They are not that heavy but they met resistance.  It turns out that my roof rack front mounting stays protrude too far from where they bolt to the windshield and prevent the doors from being lifted away...  They don't tell you that on the catalog pages.  So basically the Garvin Wilderness Rack makes taking the top down a 20-minute effort, prevents the doors from being removed and the windshield from being folded down.  Oh, and you must drill holes to install it.  I still love it, but was somewhat disappointed about the doors.

I dragged myself out of bed at 6:17 am and managed to get on the road by 7:00.  That meant calling Hugh to tell him I was running "late" but that we'd still make it to McDorman's by 10:00am, and to look for me around 8:00am.  I got to his place and we hit the road.   Shea came along too.  Hugh had his doors off.  We chatted along Route 66 and by the time we got to Route 81, he asked if Shea could come in with me - it was a bit nippy without the doors...  So maybe I don't feel so bad about having the doors.   I had forgotten about that part of taking them off - the wind chill factor.  We stopped at the truck stop, we gassed up, and Shea jumped in with me for the rest of the ride to McDorman's.

About 5-10 minutes above the exit for Route 33, with Hugh and me pretty much hogging CB channel 4 (not that anyone was trying to break in), but who should we hear but Mark Long!  It's funny how this CB thing opens up new dimensions to our travels.  We would never have known that he was out there, in the same vicinity, had it not been for the radio.  Hugh could not hear him because of the limited range of his handheld, but Mark told me that he would meet us at the exit.  And sure enough, there he was.  We debated whether or not McDorman's would be open for business and agreed to chance it based on our recollection that it had been open on previous Sunday trips.  We were rewarded upon arrival by finding they were indeed open.


Hugh Long's TJKen Secord's YJMark Long and his TJMcDorman'sMcDorman'sMcDorman'sMcDorman's

Ken Secord, Mark Campbell, and several others arrived on a regular basis and by 11:00am we had assembled a good crowd of Jeeps.   One person was still on the road and was checking in so we went ahead and hit the trail.  Mark suggested we go run Dry River and Kephart.  This wasn't my first choice - I wasn't really that fond of a deep ford through a river and having done Kephart twice, the mystery was gone.  But the weather was really nice, and it didn't really matter much where we went, so I was happy to go along.  As it turned out, the trails were both different than on previous occasions so it was a nice outing.

Dry River Entrance

We hit the road down Route 33 to the Entrance to Dry River.  We were to find that it really was dry this time.   There was to be no deep water crossings.  I was surprised to find myself feeling disappointed by this, a real surprise that maybe I did like that after all...  This time, we went down the little hill and along the river-bed that we had played on the last time out with Keith and gang, then turned right where the trail entrance dead-ends, skipping the left turn that goes downstream a bit then doubles back through the water (well, the dry river bed on this trip).  This trail follows the base of the ridge that is just west, and passes by a mud hole.

The fellow who was traveling toward us when we left McDorman's arrived.  Again, the CB is a great tool for making connections.  Combined with a cell phone, you can pretty much get together.  Add a GPS and you have it all...

Dry River

Mark on the trailEntrance to Dam
Ford near Dam

Anyway, with plenty of mud decorating us, we continued along the trail past the dam and up the (dry) ford to the place where the trail gets more passable. 


Lunch BunchLunch BunchMark Long JeepHugh and SheaLunch Bunch

We stopped here for group pictures and lunch.  It was a great sunny spot and the line-up of Jeeps was impressive.  It took my 28mm lens and a short walk to get far enough back to fit everyone in the shot.   I also made a shot with the fish-eye lens just for the kooky effect.  While we ate and shot the breeze, cars came and went, including the Game Warden.  Shortly after he came in, a group of trucks hustled out, followed by a two-wheel drive pick-up, testimony that some parts of the trail were passable without 4WD.  And we think we are so special! :-)

After lunch, we needed to decide what to do next.  Kephart was nominated, seconded, and without delay, the column was moving in that direction.  It seemed like minutes and indeed within two, we were at the entrance to Kephart.


KephartKephart Run

Just as we are about to enter the trail for Kephart, this blur of a silver Cherokee pulls up short, obviously wanting to join us on our trail ride.  As it turns out, it was Chris, Pam and Dave Hoeltke, who had come along later and got lucky enough to find us on pavement.  After we said our howdy-do's, we crawled up the trail to Waterfall Rock, the main attraction on this trail.

Mark on the trail

Along the way it was clear that this trail was also a lot drier than it had been on previous trips.  But there were a couple spots that provided some challenge, especially if it was the first time encountered.  Eventually, after much banter on the CB, we reached "the obstacle".

Waterfall Rock

Waterfall Rock

This is one of those spots that is hard to describe.  There's a rock ledge that is probably sometimes submerged when there's water in the streambed.  It is craggy and uneven.  I found myself looking at it in terms of track width, break-over angles, and turning circles.  After some study, it starts to look passable, but it still isn't easy.  The first time I came here, I wanted no part of it, and indeed, the approach to it was not on my list of things to do either.  The second time I came here, I was ready to try it, and ended up getting high-centered on the way back out.

This time, the approach to the main obstacle, a sunken streambed strew with boulders of all sizes, was rearranged somewhat, but still recognizable.  The last time I went through this I took a line that was no longer viable - a large boulder was in the way.  I was able to finesse my way through the path that goes to the right of the tree.  Another line takes you off-camber on the left of the tree.  I left that to Hugh...

Mark CampbellMark CampbellMark Campbell strikes a poseMark Campbell strikes a pose

Mark LongMark Long

Hugh LongHugh LongHugh LongHugh LongHugh LongHugh LongHugh Long

Climbing Kephart Waterfall Rock

Climbing Kephart Waterfall RockClimbing Kephart Waterfall RockClimbing Kephart Waterfall RockClimbing Kephart Waterfall RockClimbing Kephart Waterfall Rock

Climbing Kephart Waterfall RockClimbing Kephart Waterfall RockKephart Obstacle

Once we reached the waterfall, everyone got out to fuss over it and then one by one, to climb it.  This time up, I took a different line since I had been fortunate last time not to get high centered going up, but really should not have gone the way I did. 

Chris HoeltkeChris HoeltkeChris HoeltkeChris HoeltkeChris HoeltkeChris Hoeltke

The last person to go up was Chris Hoeltke.  As soon as he made it up, he turned around, climbing every boulder he could find, then started right back down.  Not happy to just take it down easy, he put his left-front wheel up on the large boulder that marks the gateway at the top, and eased his rock slider and control arm down on it.  Then he made some play of sliding back and forth on the rock with his left-front wheel dangling in the breeze, finally stuffing it and backing up over the rock again, then repeating the performance with his rear wheel, coming in for a landing with the rear quarter a couple fractions of an inch from the rock.  I'm glad it was his Jeep and not mine!

Trail Story TimeTrail Story Time

A small group of people followed the trail past Waterfall rock and found that it ends in a few hundred yards or so.  There are several possible places to continue but they all lead to really steep climbs with no clear cut trail.  A map suggests that Dictum or one of the other trails is about a half mile from this spot, but in my mind that half mile would be difficult if not impossible.  I would like to hike it though to see what it looks like.

After that, we all climbed back down off the rock and made our way back to pavement.  I found a disconnect pin at one spot, testimony that someone was "auto-disconnected" there or maybe it just fell out of a pocket.  When we reached the road, the group made plans to hit another trail.  As I had to be back home by 7:30, I said my good-byes and headed out.


I hit the road and it felt like the smoothest pavement I had ever driven.  I drove about a mile then tried the CB to see if anyone from our group could still hear me.  I got a faint reply from Mark Long.  I wasn't too surprised because his CB is on even when he turns off his Jeep and also he seems to get pretty good range (using the Cobra 75 WX ST unit that I have).  So I continued on out and planned to get gas, food, and wash the Jeep at my favorite Jeep Wash.  I had just gotten to the Harrisonburg Town Square when Mark Long came on the radio with great clarity.  It followed that he must be in the same vicinity, and in fact he and Ken were headed out together.  So I stopped at the Exxon near Route 81, started putting my top up, and shortly they arrived.  I finished up my top and we hit the car wash.  I ran out of time to get food so got gas and hit the road.  I left Mark behind, probably catching a chill, and last saw Ken washing his Jeep.  The ride home was pretty good until I got back to civilization (around the 60-mile mark on Route 66) where a four-car pile-up rendered forward progress nearly impossible.

It was a great day.

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