After a short drive we reached the Frederick Municipal Forest - a small
sliver of land nestled between Gambrill State Forest (no motorized vehicles
off designated roads), the Frederick Watershed (no motorized vehicles, all
roads gated or bermed), the Catoctin Trail (mountain bikes and hikers only)
and private property. We are talking about a small piece of land and pretty
limited wheeling opportunities.
Be that as it may, it was hard to resist the promise of such a beautiful
day, the hope of maybe finding just a little bit of running water, left-over
snow, newly mixed mud, rocks, trees, and sunshine. I held no hope for and did
not promise any extreme wheeling. And true to my promise, none was to be had.
But, that is not to say that at least some of us had some fun just the same.
I knew going in that there was at least one tree that had been slowly
inching its way to the ground. I had barely been able to go under it the last
time I traveled this way, and I expected it to be unpassable. Sure enough, it
had come down a few more inches over the trail and would need to be
As it was uprooted, rotten, and devoid of any signs of life, we decided to
cut it out of the way.
But as large as this tree was, it would not be a casual job for a little
camp saw and a few zzzz zzzzz zzzzz's. As a group, great care in planning and
due caution were exercised in selecting the cuts, working the buck saws. Wayne
Lau showed preparedness that on this day exceeded my own. He produced a
16" chain saw in a case with a brand new chain! Way to go Wayne!
A few pulls on the cord and some advice from the gallery, and Wayne made
what would be the critical cut on the tree that lead to the successful
removal. But much work would need to be done before Wayne's cut paid off.
During the process of starting the saw, Wayne checked the fuel level and
indicated it would be enough.
Let's just say that Wayne was a great sport and taking the teasing the
continued for the rest of the day when the saw ran out of gas. What a tough
bunch! We got the tree down without anyone getting injured. We stayed on the
trail, and continued on our way.
The trail makes a short but interesting loop along a stream, crossing at
one point and continuing in sight of the trail to a point where the municipal
forest boundary abuts with Gambrill. There, it turns 180-degrees and returns
back along the opposite side of the stream to the beginning, doubling back on
itself about 1300 yards from the road.
We reached the turn-around point at about 11:30. Up until that time we had
enjoyed the clear running stream to our left, the fresh woods all around us,
with the dry leaves from last fall covering the trail. When we got to the
turn-around, we had moved to the other side of the stream where it appears the
snow had not yet melted. It reminded me of those pictures you see in travel
brochures of snow fields where people are skiing in shorts and tank tops, and
sun everywhere. You wonder if those people are crazy to be out in the snow
like they are on a beach. But that's the way it was. It must have been in the
We found a few fallen logs large enough to sit on and eat lunch. It was
beautiful, sitting there in the warm sun (the black OCC T-shirt definitely had
Carl and me thinking it was hot out) eating lunch with our drinks staying cool
in 4 inches of spotless white granular snow. It was then I noticed Jim C
standing there in shorts. Those who know Jim know that he does have a habit of
breaking out the shorts pretty early in the year!
The kids really had fun too. During the times we were working the fallen
trees, and other things that I have not yet related, they pursued fantasies
that we adults can only guess about. There were a few moments when my youngest
fell in the snow and was confused about whether or not to cry, and not sure if
he would survive putting his bare hands in the snow to get up, but mostly they
stayed close-by and had fun in their way while we had fun in ours.
With lunch played out, we started up the trail, now in a thin coat of snow.
I found the great wonder of keeping a Jeep straight on a slightly off-camber
trail when you are running Detroit lockers front and rear. I did pretty well
and got through to where the trail was more level, without too much drama. I
believe I heard reports of others who had fun with the same challenge,
crossing a fallen tree and getting a little sideways. But again, no carnage.
Eventually we came to a fallen tree that was too large to drive over. A
go-around was developing here and we made the decision to remove the fallen
log to keep the go-around from becoming the trail. We took turns sawing on it.
Wayne made sawing with a gas-less chainsaw look easy. When it was sawed almost
through, I put a strap on the thing and we dragged it out of the way.
Next we made a project out of crossing another fallen log. I pretty much
went around it to the right. I looked back to see Eric had chosen to take the
more difficult line and ended up with a large portion of the log threatening
to spear the side of his Discovery.
Each time he attempted to get over the log, the spear got closer until it
was touching. He was ready to shrug it off but we persisted in cutting it out
of the way so he could get over without damage. The rest of the group managed
to cross it in various ways.
From there the going got easier for quite a ways, with several references
to Peters Mill and comparisons to this trail. I think this trail is
interesting but no more challenging.
Once back to the beginning of the trail, we took a spur that climbs the
ridge then cuts north to follow the side of it for a ways, then goes up a very
steep hill. On three attempts of this hill in the past, I only made it once by
storming it. The failed attempts involved a misguided hope to crawl up. Once,
in the rain, and once after a spell of wet weather. The second failed attempt
involved winching myself to a place where I could back down the hill and avoid
creasing my rear end on a tree that lie in the path dictated by gravity and
lack of traction.
Today looked much more promising. Although the stream was fat with runoff,
the ground was pretty dry, and the hill looked very do-able. I pondered
walking up but Jim C (who also made one successful run in the past) decided he
would just go for it.
So up he went, with just enough speed to maintain traction, but not so fast
as to be thought a fool. He went up the hill and suddenly found a tree
blocking the trail, and a go-around that petered out and disappeared into
woods. This on a very steep hill that could not be safely aborted. He found
his way to the main trail and made the top, out of sight of the rest of our
Mark went next and had very much the same experience, but made the top in
fine form. Next, I went. I chose 3rd gear (4-LO with 4.56's, still pretty low)
for the hope that it would get me going just fast enough to make the hill, but
leave me a little bit of room to punch it if need be. I think that was good
choice. I made it past the spot I had gotten stuck last time, and soon found
myself scanning desperately to find where the trail went.
The walk up the long steep hill before driving would have been a good
idea... I chose what looked like an established path but soon found myself
dealing with some loose, fallen, rotten, and wet logs. When my front wheels
went over them, the nose of the Jeep immediately sought the bottom of the
hill. I was expecting this and terminated my attempt to get over the logs.
Instead I backed up until my nose was straight up the hill again, then
threaded through some trees and got myself to the top. Not too much drama but
definitely some important choices were made there.
I found my youngest sleeping in the back, oblivious to all of this, so
Teddy (the older one) and I walked back down a ways to watch the rest of the
folks come up.
Wayne made it up without any drama.
I was to discover that Eric had found the spot that I had gotten stuck in
and had also found the path that gravity dictated would end with a large tree
reshaping his roof.
Needless to say he had only one option: Go up the hill. So out came his
winch bag, 50 feet of cable, a couple D-rings, and various other odd bits. We
soon had him rigged to a tree straight ahead, and after Wayne pulled about 70
feet of cable up to the other section we had anchored, Eric slowly winched
himself over the tricky spot and was able to continue up the hill under Rover
power. Near the top, we found that his larger size precluded the routes we had
taken to get around the log and so he got to do some multi-point turns on the
After that, Steve opted to take the bypass that works a less steep portion
of the hill and joins up at the top. A couple guys that I had seen before
showed up around that time. They showed Steve the go-around and we all met at
the top of the hill. Carl came up and acquitted himself well. I'm not sure but
I think I heard the "SSSSHTT!" of a compressor just before his
started up. :)
At the top, There was steep spot that I could not resist climbing. My
attempt to crawl up it failed so I gave it a little more umph and went up.
Jim did basically the same thing, then Mark.
Carl climbed it too.
Next Eric gave it the college try, but by that time, it was a little bit
polished up and fairly slick. We cheered him on but it just wasn't in the
Wayne, Steve, and the fellow who had come along later met with
Carl went around, down, and did it again, just to help them feel better...