Flagpole Knob/Dunkle Hollow/Kephart

Paul on Flagpole Knob

12/27/01

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Way Points

Prologue

I was looking for a place to take my nephew while he visited us for the holiday.  At first I thought perhaps Peter's Mill would be a good ride since it is pretty close.  But after I thought about it for a while, it occured to me that I'd probably be going there on New Year's Day with the club so I thought better of it.  Instead I settled on the possibility of making a run on Flagpole Knob.  Steve Van Bronkhorst answered my call for someone to come along so we made plans to meet on Thursday morning and head out there.  Steve was OK with the change of plans so the trip was set.

The waypoints from the last two trips were still loaded on my GPS and I remember the route there from my first trip via FR 225 and later from Dunkle Hollow.  If time permitted, I wanted to make a full circuit up to Meadow Knob, then Flagpole Knob, returning to pavement down to Dunkle Hollow and Skidmore Dam.  I did not have any plans to run Kephart but we ended up with just enough time so we did that too...

Muster

My nephew Dave and I got up and met Steve and his son Alec as planned, at the Shady Grove Burger King.  We grabbed a quick bite and hit the road for Harrisonburg.  The traffic was almost typical rush hour, if not a little light perhaps owing to the holiday week.

Trail

9:30 a.m.

We drove down to the Junction of Rt. 33 & Rt. 613 from Harrisonburg. After a wayward turn that doubled back to Route 33, we got back to where I went wrong and turned right at the Junction of Rt. 613 & Rt. 742 and after a couple of zigs and zags, the Junction of Rts. 742 & 933.  Route 933 turns into Forest Road 225 once we reach the end of pavement.

We drove in past the rocky hill that some folks like to play on, and stopped to disconnect (me) and adjust shocks (Steve).  While we were out, Alec cranked up his "Grave Digger" and "Crocodile Hunter" R/C trucks.  We were all going to do some 'wheelin' today!

Paul on FR 225

The hunters with dogs were out in great numbers, probably for bear season or something like that.  I recognized a couple of them from the time I was out here with Hugh.  We followed FR 225 along until it reaches its end near Chestnut Ridge.  From there the Slate Mountain Trail veers off sharply to the left and follows the plateau for a short distance before turning south-west towards Meadow Knob.  We stopped to take a quick break.  Shortly we came to a place where the trail turned downhill, and had been modified with a bypass around a slope with a rock obstacle (Waypoint 230).  Not a great challenge but in the wet or with some snow it might actually merit the bypass.

Steve's NavahoDave with the TJPaul, Dave and AlecSteve's Navaho

A little further along the trail climbs back up the ridge.  It's a fun little hill that requires no great skill with just a little care at the top to negotiate the holes there.  I went right up and Steve took it in 2-Wheel Drive.  Like I said, not a difficult hill.

Steve coming up in 2WDSteve coming up in 2WDSteve coming up in 2WD
Near Meadow KnobNear Meadow KnobNear Meadow Knob

There was a another nice outlook before Meadow Knob (Waypoint 232) that we checked out too.   From there were could see Harrisonburg in the distance, and Meadow Knob up the ridge.

Meadow Knob from belowMeadow Knob from belowView from Stone Camp RdParked on outlook near Meadow KnobOutlook near Meadow Knob
Near Meadow KnobNear Meadow KnobCroc Hunter and Grave Digger

Next we came to a little bypass with another optional rock obstacle (Waypoint 233), but we left it for another day and stayed on the main trail.

Small Stone Camp

Just past that we went by the ruins of a Stone Camp (Waypoint 234), probably the namesake of this trail (it is also known as Stone Camp Road).  Finally we reached Meadow Knob (Waypoint 184).  There was a rocky climb leading to it that was pretty easy to manage.  We took a quick peek around and moved on to the top of  Flagpole Knob (Waypoint  FLAGPL).

12:30 p.m.

Flagpole Knob

Near Flagpole KnobNear Flagpole Knob

Just before we reached the top, the road leading down to Dunkle Hollow shoots off to the right (to the left of Steve's Navaho in the photo above).  We went up to the top of Flagpole and had lunch.   It was so chilly we didn't stay outside too long.  Just enough for a quick couple of pictures, some more R/C wheeling, and then off we went, headed for Dunkle Hollow and Skidmore Dam.

Dave on Flagpole KnobPaul on Flagpole KnobView South-East from FlagpoleSteve and Alec on Flagpole
AlecOn Flagpole KnobOn Flagpole Knob
Sky on FlagpoleSky on FlagpoleNear Flagpole Knob

1:15

Dunkle Hollow

The trail is a recently graded forest road that runs down from Route 33 and along the side of Skidmore Dam, then after series of switchbacks, connects up to other trails near Flagpole Knob.  We went down from the top (I went up the first time I traveled this trail).  It is on the shaded side of the ridge so we found several ice patches that commanded some respect.  Only one or two completed covered the trail with any size that prevented at least one tire from having a firm grip on dirt.  For these I just stuffed one side of the Jeep into the weeds on the mountain-side of the trail and kept those tires on the dirt.  It was no big deal but with the slight off-camber grade, I can see this being a bigger challenge if the entire road became iced over.

We drove down, wondering about several side trails that branch off in various directions, some that are shown on the map and some that are not.  We took the one that leads down to the edge of the water, where we got out for a quick break, some stone-skipping, R/C wheeling, and photos.   It turned out that there was still enough time for a little more full-sized 4-wheeling so I suggested Kephart.

Skidmore Dam

Skidmore DamSkidmore DamSkidmore DamNear Skidmore Dam
Near Skidmore DamNear Skidmore DamNear Skidmore DamNear Skidmore Dam
Near Skidmore DamNear Skidmore DamNear Skidmore Dam
Skidmore DamSkidmore DamSkidmore DamSkidmore Dam

Dave ADave A
Dave A

So that took us out to Route 33 and down the road a bit to the entrance to Kephart.

2:15

Kephart

Not done yet you say?   I have been out here a few times (see first time, second trip or third one).  I skipped climbing the rock the first time.  I climbed it the second and third time.  This was my first trip with disconnects so I was looking forward to seeing what, if any difference it would make.  Steve had been out here before, and indeed, customized his rocker panels here about as well as I did mine on State Line.

All the trails were quite dry this time out and the trail leading to Kephart was no exception.  There are a couple spots that are more fun with water but it was just an uneventful ride out to the obstacle that we all love to climb.

Paul approaching Kephart RockPaul on Kephart Rock
Approaching rock on Kephart

Once there we found there was some water in the stream that runs next to the rock.  It was just enough to wet your tires just before you climbed up.  Steve went first and did a nice job of going both ways without any drama.

KephartSteve on Kephart rockSteve on Kephart rockSteve on Kephart rock

I went up and showed how well a TJ flexes when disconnected and was so pleased with myself that I did a slow-speed butt into the rock at the top that gates the trail on the right.  BOOM!   Butt-head.  It's the biggest rock for miles around and I hit it anyway...  

Paul Approaching Kephart RockKephart Rock areaAlec and Grave Digger

Luckily I was moving really slow and managed to center it on one of the rubber pads on my front bumper right where it bolts to the frame.  It just stopped me dead and reset the line of my back wheels.  I backed off, corrected and continued up the rest of the way without so much as a scrape, only to exit at the top and crown my front diff cover on the only other large boulder for miles around.  CRAAACK?  DOH!   Again I backed off, corrected, and got the rest of the way through.  A quick check of the diff showed that all I did was gaff up the bottom left edge of the cover - no dents, no cracks, no broken bolts.  And best of all, no bent linkage.

Worst of all, it was all caught on video - thanks, Dave.  (I have VHS tape but no way to get it on the computer or I would share my "navigation by touch" technique with you...).    Watching the video later, my father, who sternly objects to this 4x4 activity ("If I want to go into the forest, I'm going to walk in with a pack on my back, even if it kills me"), revelled in my clumsy driving and was quick to advise me of the abuse I was subjecting my Jeep to.  He noticed the flex but was more interested in pointing out how someday my axle housing was going to fall off from all the stress...   We'll see...  I'll grant him the need for some new bushings someday but doubt I will have a simultaneous, total failure of all four control arms, drive shaft or u-joints, AND track bar...

Going down the rock was quite uneventful, and thanks to Steve's spotting, I got off the rock without any metal touching any rocks.  Dave was loving life.  We drove back out to pavement, reset our suspensions to road-mode.  My disconnects worked better well greased even if I did need Steve to push down on the bumper a bit so I could line up one side.  Once we were done with that we set a course for Metro DC...

Epilogue

3:30 p.m.

The drive home the same was the same as usual, with a stop for some fast food and gas.  Not very much traffic, good weather and a relatively easy ride on the beltway during rush hour.  It was a great day.  I was very pleased to cover so much ground, with such great company (Thanks Steve, Alec, and Dave) and still get home in time for supper!

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