Dan's Mountain, Pinnacle & Allegany Wildlife Management Area

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1/12/03

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Way Points

Prologue

GWNF is a great place to go trail riding.  But after a couple years of going there, I was interested in going elsewhere.  I thought about what's open this time of year and realized there were not many choices.  I didn't want to chance State Line;  Peter's Mill is a waste, except maybe in a blizzard; and Green Ridge, for all practical purposes was just as pretty but unchallenging.

Then I remembered Nightingale Pond, back behind Dan's Mountain, near Barton.  And Pinnacle near the Allegany Wildlife Management Area in Keyser.  When I started looking back, I found that Hugh and I last went out there on December 16, 2001!  I was surprised to see that it had been a little over a year since our last visit.  That would need to be corrected.

Carl and Jim had gone out there on a snow run without me and had a good time.  It's the kind of trail system that is very pretty but not hard.  Fortunately I expected snow in that area and was hoping it would be interesting...

The first time Hugh and I went out to Keyser, we managed to go around to the northwestern section of the wildlife management area and explore a couple trails near the Pinnacle lookout tower.  But we ran low on time, our travel companions were losing interest, and we decided to bag it.  I was still interested in seeing what those trails had to offer.  I spent considerable time studying the maps and found that the trails below Pinnacle theoretically connect to the trails near the gas wells through a tenuous connection to the trail that runs down the steep hill that Hugh and I could see from the bottom of the hill we descended last time out.   I suspected that the hill was very steep and probably a challenging, dangerous thing to attempt.  I resolved that this trip would investigate these theories and also explore the connection if everything fell together.

On a side note, my Indoor/Outdoor thermometer had been acting up so I decided it was time for a new one.   After some experimentation with the probe placement, I was able to get the readings to be reliable and accurate.  The difficulty comes from locating a spot outside the Jeep that is away from engine heat and also out of harms way.  I finally located the outdoor probe behind the front bumper.  The main reason for mentioning the thermometer is because of the nature of the weather we had on our trip...

Muster

I wrote to our little band and attempted to entice Jim, Carl and Hugh into the trip.  Carl was quick to sign up, Jim had to pass, and Hugh did not check back in until Saturday night.  I finally sent out a picture in hopes of teasing Hugh into coming along.

Hugh

He took the bait and soon we had made arrangements to meet at the trail head.  I love the GPS.  I simply gave Hugh the waypoint for the trail entrance, told him we'd be there at 10:00am and let nature take its course.

Carl and I met a couple minutes after 7:00am, rolling on route 270 North.  We conversed all the way up to Frederick where we stopped at Sheetz to top up our tanks, and indulge Teddy and Tomi in the purchase of "caandy" and drinks for the trail.  With these items suitably stowed, we jumped onto Route 70 and headed West.

Carl on 70

The drive out included a stop at Sideling hill where we visited the facilities and took in the view. 

Carl at Sideling Hill

At this point I should probably mention the temperature.  It started out at 6:00am at 16 degrees (F) and by the time we got to Sideling Hill at about 8:00am, it had climbed to 17 degrees (F).   Yes, it was darn cold out there.  I managed to get the kids to wear their thermal underwear and am eternally grateful that they did.  Combined with the other layers and good footwear and overcoats, we managed to keep everything nice and warm all day, with the possible exception of faces and lower ear-lobes.

Carl on the RoadCarl on the Road

Carl and I drove directly to the trail entrance for Nightingale Pond, arrived at the stroke of 10:00 as planned and found Hugh and Shea, who had just arrived, waiting for us at the appointed mark.  This is cool!  A few minutes before we came into sight, Hugh raised me on the cell phone.   This is nothing like the old days of no cell phones and no GPS!  I can only imagine the hit-or-miss experience we might have had.

Trail

Nightingale's Pond / Dan's Mountain

We drove up the road to the trail proper.   The road winds up the side of the mountain and passes several rural farm houses and a strip mine.  It's quite pretty and, with the sun shining and the air so crisp, we catch several good views on the way up.

When we get to the trail, I pulled in a few yards to get out of the way of the road.  I figured I would go up a ways but soon drove into a deep mud puddle and decided it would be better to air down and disconnect before getting into any serious wheeling...

Trail HeadTrail Head

I popped on my Trailhead Automatic Tire Deflators and disconnected my swaybar.  The time spend the day before cleaning up my sway bar disconnect and gloves was rewarded with a relatively easy time.  But Tomi decided that things were going too well.

The boys like to squabble.  From time to time it gets a little out of hand, but most of the time they settle it between themselves and I don't need to get involved.  I have started to turn a deaf ear to these episodes and don't hardly notice the noise that goes with it.  So I was sort of tuning out the noise along these lines when something sounded a little more urgent.   I turned around to find that Tomi had found his way into the frozen mud puddle and now had one water-logged boot and wet pants on one leg all the way to his knee.

In the summer, I would say "So what?".   But unfortunately, in 20-degree weather, with a good wind, things like this lead to problems really fast.  So Tomi got strapped into the Jeep (running with the heat on, nice and warm) and his sock and boot got placed strategically near the foot heat outlet up front.  He was to stay in the Jeep with one bare foot until his shoe and sock dried (about 2 hours).  I felt bad for him, but as I had specifically asked him to stay OUT of the mud puddle, this served both as punishment and precaution.  I do not relish the prospect of frostbite in a child of 3.

With everyone aired down and me, a bit miffed that we had to start this way, we headed up the trail.  Right from the beginning it was clear that someone had spent some time on the trail.  There were tracks, covered by new-fallen snow, and evidence of much trail maintenance work in the form of cleaned-up branches and so on.

We came to the little hill climb that we had enjoyed on previous trips.  We were disappointed to find that several large trees had been knocked down in the same storm that had necessitated the clean-up, and they had been left in a down position, blocking the hill.

Next we turned left at the "T" and went up the hill, past the famous Mud Hole of Hugh, while listening to the man himself tell his tale of humiliation and woe.  All this while flexing wildly over an erosion cut.

Carl straddling erosionHugh straddling erosion

Then we came to the section that was completely impassable the first time we checked it out.  It was deep and muddy...   On this ride, it was barely visible and we were all able to drive on the side and get through without any problems.  This soon led us to some fallen trees that needed clearing.

We cut up some fallen trees, I using the new saw, courtesy of my Father at Christmas.  I finally gave up using my little saw that worked well but was just too small for as often as it gets used.  Past these trees, we came to a small hill and a snow drift. 

I drove up onto the hill and down onto the snow drift.  I punched through but was able to get back up on the snow and out into a nice meadow.  The rest of the group followed but Carl found that the snow drift had been crunched through by me and Hugh and was now difficult to get past.  A couple of runs and he was over it, and joined us in the field to play in the snow.

Carl in the snowCarl in the snow
Carl in the snow
Hugh in the snow
Hugh in the snowHugh in the snowHugh in the snow

We spent some time driving into drifts, up hills (Carl and I flaunted our lockers and Hugh bemoaned the lack of same). 

The Line-up

The Line-up

Hugh  Paul  Carl

The we took a break to check out the view, and more or less headed back the way we came.   This is where the pace slowed somewhat.

HughCarlPaul

First Hugh decided that perhaps he could go around the snow drift and through the woods back to the trail.  He ended up punching through the snow and got up against a tree.  Thinking I could get back through the snow drift and up over the hill, I went right to it.  I ended up high centered on the remaining frozen portion of the snow drift. 

Carl tried to give me the strap and found that he did not have traction.  When he hit his switch for the ARB's, he got nothing.  He was "open" front and rear.  Man, I am so glad my Detroits don't do that...  But he did manage to get me out of the drift.

I tried again to get over the hill by going around the side of the drift and attacking the hill from the side.  It didn't work and I found myself stuck once again.

So Carl got into trying to figure out what was the problem with his ARB's.  I got to trying to help Hugh, and did so by flexing his soft-top bows away from the tree as he humped past,  then got deeper stuck and admitted defeat.  I figured I was now to winch myself up over the hill and through the drift.

About this time, Hugh got tough and broke free of whatever was holding him.  A tree removed his fender extension on his passenger side, and later he discovered that he'd dented his fender!  Meanwhile, I tried a different line on the hill and drift and almost made it.  Almost.  By now I was too deep for help and switched the strap to the uphill side and Hugh.

By now we are feeling pretty dysfunctional.  It just gets better.  The top of the hill where Hugh would be trying to pull me is sheer ice.  It didn't look very promising but he offered to try anyway.  Teddy had gotten restless so I let him out of the Jeep.  We didn't appear to be going anywhere very quickly and I saw no harm in it.

We put the strap on my Jeep and Hugh gave me a couple of good solid pulls.  Between him and me, I clambered over the hill and around the drift.  I stopped on the top of the hill to take the strap off.  Hugh noticed that his left-rear tire was nearly flat as a result of this air-down device breaking off the valve stem.  So I cranked up the compressor (Carl had just diagnosed his is down due to a blown fuse) and air Hugh's tire back up.

It's at this point that I remark to Hugh how remarkably calm and unflustered we remain.  Consider this:  It is in the low 20's out, we are out in the middle of nowhere;  we have been stuck, had equipment failure, and just fixed a flat tire.  And it was all nothing to us.  The reason of course is that we are prepared.  We have straps.  We have on-board air.  We have winches if it comes to that.  Well, Carl finds he does not have the required 30-amp fuse, but lockers are optional, right Carl?  We even have pretty much everything we'd need to set up camp and spend a pretty survivable night.  Would it be fun?  No.   But we would not be popsicles in the morning.  Of course, it does not come to that.

So Carl gives the hill a shot, straight over the snow drift.  He ends up pretty much the same way as me.  Only now there is no-one down there to pull him back.  And his lockers are out for want of a 30-amp fuse.  So I moved out of the way and Hugh gave Carl "the strap".  After a couple of good yanks, Carl claws up the hill and out of the drift.

From here, we back track the way we came.   I punched through the ice and opened up the mud hole going back, but everyone else picks a slightly different path and we all got back out without getting stuck again.   We stopped to take pictures crossing the erosion on the way down to the "T".

Hugh
HughHughCarlCarl

Straddling an erosion cutStraddling an erosion cutStraddling an erosion cut
Straddling an erosion cut - Click to Zoom In!
Straddling an erosion cut

Continuing past the "T", we went by Nightingale's Pond and along the road to pavement.  We navigated some rough spots and Hugh tried to tease us into watching him disappear beneath a 5-foot deep mud hole.  There were not takers so we continued on to the spring then backtracked to the trail head.

Benefiting from following the GPS track I recorded from the last trip out here, we wasted no time getting back on pavement (still disconnected and aired down) and drove around to the entrance to Pinnacle Lookout Tower.

Westvaco

Along the way we talked about cheap land and retreat cabins and the like.  We passed Westvaco, steaming with strong backlighting from the sun.  it looked like a rocket taking off.

Pinnacle

The turn-off to the trail was much as I expected, although I do not recall as much illegal dumping as we observed on this trip.   The road was not recently traveled, but there were tracks from before the last snow.  We soon found ourselves parked at the top near the old lookout tower.

SheaPinnacle ParkingPinnaclePinnacle parkingPinnacle parkingCarl clowning

An abandoned and presumably stolen car was there to greet us.  In hindsight, I am surprised that none of us "ramped it".  There appear to be a few more radio towers here than before.   Being that it is winter, the smell of the dead dog is gone.  Over all, this place is much more pleasant that our last visit.  But it is cold.  Major Cold.   We dutifully climbed up the lookout tower, kids and all, looked around and then retreated to the warmth of the Jeeps.

Lookout Tower on PinnacleShea

Tomi and Papi (Paul)

View from PinnacleView from PinnacleView from PinnacleView from PinnacleView from PinnacleView from PinnacleView from PinnacleView from PinnacleView from PinnacleView from PinnacleView from PinnacleView from PinnacleView from PinnacleView from PinnacleView from PinnacleView from Pinnacle with Westvaco in distance

Check out the Panorama (280KB) that I quickly pieced together from Hugh's pictures (shown in pieces above)

I brought out my nicely printed topo map with my dozen or so waypoints, recalled our last ride down the trails, and stated my intention - to find the trail connection to the gas wells, probably involving the crazy steep hill.  Everyone was still interested, so off we went, back down the trail and into the area from the main access road.

Descent

DescentDescentCarlPaulDescentDescentDescentDescent
Descent

Paul rounding bend
Paul rounding bendCarlCarlPaul
Carl and PaulCarl and PaulPaul
Shea

It would be a little hit or miss.   Even though I had all possible trails documented and located with waypoints, some were to be found grown-in and unusable.  Others were hard to distinguish from the newer paths that had been cut.  We also entertained a slight concern that we might not get back up the hill, especially in a couple spots were it was deep and drifted.   All throughout the ride, we observed considerable damage to the tree tops from what we presume to be a combination of heavy ice and high winds.  The tops of the trees are broken and twisted off.  You can see it in some of the shots taken from the lookout tower.

CarlCarl

I led, and we eventually got to the bottom of one trail that dead-ended.  I later found that in fact that was no surprise - that was exactly what my map had shown...  I just didn't pay close enough attention at a critical moment and we turned too soon.  It wasn't probably the worst thing that could happen as it was getting late and we really did need to get back on the road to get home in time for the club meeting.

So we turned around and back tracked out to the road.

HughPaul

CarlCarlCarlCarlCarlCarlCarl

Tres AmigosCarlCarl
Hugh

Paul

Carl

From there we drove in to Keyser where we hit the car wash.

HughCarlPaul

I was fortunate to get in line at a bay that was running without the need to deposit coins.  I got my Jeep really clean!   Then we went across the street and got gas and aired up.  My disconnects are getting harder to connect - the rubber ball sockets are getting wider and obstruct the pin holes.  I think it's time to contact the manufacturer for a solution.

By the time we got all this done, we were looking at 4:30pm.  There was no way would we get back in time for the meeting.  So Hugh turned for Route 50.  Carl and I headed for Cumberland up 220 and 68.

 

Epilogue

Cumberland

We reached Cumberland just in time to come upon a large steam locomotive that had been taken out for some rail enthusiasts/photographers.  There was a large group taking themselves altogether too seriously while waiting to see the locomotive drive back and forth on the rails near a crossing.

CumberlandCumberlandCumberlandCumberlandCumberland

The town is once again/still sufficiently "small town" that we provided traffic control while the locomotive drove back and forth across the crossing for the "gallery".  The kids were at first stupefied, then scared about the whistle.  Then once the whistle had come and gone, Teddy lost interest due to the cold, and Tomi, ever vigilant, stayed with me until I got my photos.

From there we went to Roy Rogers and had chicken and all the fixings, talked to a guy who saw the Jeeps, then hit the road for the long ride home.  It was a beautiful day, memorable for the cold, calamity, and great companionship!

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Dan's Mountain/Nightingale Pond /Allegheny Wildlife Management Area / Pinnacle Waypoint List

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