Dictum Ridge/Old Long Run/Kephart



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Jandy Liebl had posted a request on one of the message boards looking for a guide to take her and some friends from Pennsylvania to the GWNF.  I figured there wasn't anything out in the forest that I had not done so I offered to lead their group.  I made plans to do some camping, bringing the kids along for the first time.  By the time the weekend came for the trip, a few people had signed on from my usual group, and Jandy had two other confirmed drivers.  This shaped up to be a nice small group of capable people who could have a good time in the forest.

The weather did not turn out to be very good.  On Friday when I called Jim, he told me he was not going to camp as planned but would meet us on Saturday.  That made me rethink my decision.  But I decided that I might as well go ahead and camp anyway - the kids had camped out in the back yard and it had always been nice.  Even though it would rain, the weather is very warm and I had bought tarps to help reduce the "wet" factor.  I didn't count on the humidity but I was the only one who was really bothered by that.

In my haste, I didn't finalize a meeting time with Wayne.  At the time he was expecting me to arrive around 5-6pm, and my travel plans coincided so I wasn't too worried when I left to drive out there around 2pm on Friday afternoon.  The Jeep sat well, even loaded to the gills with camping gear and everything.  I left the final provisioning for when we got to Harrisonburg - why drive 120 miles with a cooler full of melting ice and food?  

Nothing ever quite goes as planned.  I had received some fruit and brought along a sampling of apples, oranges, pears, and bananas to eat along the way.  I peeled an orange for Teddy and let him eat several slices.  Unfortunately he did not chew it well and the stringy pulp tickled his throat - enough that he ended up barfing the orange (and everything else) all over himself and the back seat.  Unscheduled stop number one.  Ironically, I had debated whether or not I really needed a 5 gallon jug of full water for the road trip.  I decided to bring it full instead of filling it later, in case there was no water at the campground.  I turned out to be very useful for the clean up following the orange incident.  One hour lost to washing up and changing clothes. (Photos below show a cab in disarray prior to this little moment...)


Next, we made a stop in Leesburg to visit Tractor Supply.  I was happy to find that they had very large tarps but was disappointed by the price.  I wanted to buy a thimble for the loop on my winch cable where it attaches to the hook, but found that I needed to do some more research before I buy one.  I ended up buying some heavy plastic tarp and nylon chord as a back-up to the tarps that I brought.  If things got really bad I could use it as a dining fly.  Another hour lost on this stop.

When we got to Harrisonburg, I did some grocery shopping and packed the cooler for the weekend.  That used up another 45 minutes...   Now we're going camping!


Brandywine Campground

So it is now about 7 O'clock on Friday night and we are just passing the entrance to Dry River when I see Wayne's bright yellow Jeep traveling the other direction.  It has been a little rainy but nothing too hateful yet.  He had his top down and was running a Bikini, Windjammer and tonneau cover.  When I passed him, it looked like he was full top down!  I fumbled CB channels but caught him before we got out of range (just) and he turned around and followed us back over the mountain to the campground.  Due to my many stops along the way, we got into Harrisonburg much later than expected and Wayne was actually on the road to go back home, thinking we had canceled!

Jeep at Campsite
CampsiteWayne's Campsite

Campsite #23
Campsite #23Campsite #23Campsite #23Kids and their tentWaynes Sitemain Building
Shower and Lavatory

We drove back to camp and set up.  I learned that it was worth it for me to get back to Wal*Mart and buy a camp lantern (done!) since setting up in the dark kinda sucks with a flashlight...  Wayne helped me get the tent up and with herding the kids while I finished up.  Then we stowed all the gear and loaded up the kids.  We decided to see if we could find any of the people that were supposed to be out there camping and wheeling from another group.  Since they mentioned Skidmore and Dunkle Hollow, we poked in there and looked around.  It was foggy, I flew by instruments and when we had driven past several empty campsites, we turned back and went to the campground without finding anyone.

The kids got a second wind when we got back and challenged my patience getting them in bed. 

Water BoysWater BoysWater Boys

The next morning we got up early so that I could make lunch and get the Jeep loaded, while Wayne struck his camp and packed to drive home after wheeling.  We were ready to go by 8:30 and drove over the mountain.   When I reached the top of the mountain, I figured I might as well play with my CB and see if I could raise anyone.  To my amazement, I got a reply from Jim who was waiting at McDorman's!  That is probably 5 or 8 miles away!  Of course being that high, it was a pretty good shot that I could reach him.  So our group was taking shape.  Along the way, we passed Jandy and Steve, headed the other way, having overshot McDorman's by a couple miles.  We got them turned around and met at McDorman's.




Paul's TJJim's TJWayne's TJSteve and Jandy's YJChris' TJFrank's Toyota


When we got to the parking lot, Steve and Jandy, and Frank were still catching up.  Chris came on the CB looking for McDorman's and I got him landed.  I didn't know he was with our group at the time, but any 4-Wheeler looking for McDorman's is a friend of mine!

The kids walked off looking for their friend the pig.  They discovered that his pen was gone and so was he.  I didn't have the heart to tell them that they might be able to see the pig again if they ordered a ham & cheese sandwich inside the store...  Soon everyone had introduced themselves, aired down and disconnected, and decided on a plan of attack.  I suggested that we make a quick trip to the entrance to Dictum Ridge.  We would attempt the obstacle and go from there.  As a contingency, we decided that we would do Kephart and Old Long Run, with the direction of travel and order of approach being decided by which end of Dictum we finished up on!



I have been to the obstacle on this trail several times.  The first time I saw it, I wanted no part of it.  The second time I looked, I started thinking about the bypass but decided against it because of the tree that would both help and hinder.  This time, with slightly larger tires and some steel cable to use if I really wanted to go up, I gave it a try.  Jim had tried it last time but was unsuccessful.  I figured the only way I was going to make it up was winching, but either way, it would not work well to have only one or two people get up because we did not want to separate the group.  I think the only way we would have continued past the obstacle would have been if we only had to winch one or maybe two vehicles.



Frank Does DictumFrank Does DictumFrank Does DictumFrank Does Dictum
Frank Does Dictum

Frank on DictumFrank on DictumFrank on Dictum

Frank on DictumFrank on Dictum


When we got to the entrance I waved Frank in the built Toyota past.  Riding on a long wheel-base, locked, and loaded with 35-inch tires, he had a pretty good chance of making the climb.  We drove the short trail to the obstacle, entertaining by itself.  When we got there, everyone got out, grabbed their cameras and watched as Frank walked his Toyota pick-up over the lightly stacked face of the obstacle and up out of the way.  He did it in one or two attempts, with brief pauses for drama and to spot his next move.  I started having hope that I too might get up. 

Paul at DictumPaul at DictumPaul at DictumPaul at DictumPaul at Dictum

Steve spots Paul on DictumPaul on Dictum

Paul on DictumPaul on DictumPaul on Dictum

Paul and DictumPaul at DictumPaul at DictumPaul at Dictum

Paul on Dictum

Ha!  Right!  I drove up, got part way up the stack of large rocks, then just sat and stirred them around.  I had lodged a good-sized rock between the main rock and my lower control arm skid plate.  This is the first time I have actually seen this plate get action!  It prevented me from getting a wheel up on the rock.  And without lockers up front, there wasn't much chance I was going to drag myself up and over.  I decided against winching because I didn't want to have to come back down if it turned out to be just me and Frank that made it.  So I backed off and let Steve have a go.

Steve, Jandy and Izzy at DictumSteve, Jandy and Izzy at DictumSteve at DictumSteve at Dictum

Steve on Dictum

Steve approaching rockSteve on Dictum

Steve on Dictum

Steve really worked it.  He ran into problems first to get his front shackles over (YJ) and then the rear mounts.  He opted to back off rather than rework his suspension.  

Chris on DictumChris on DictumChris on DictumChris on DictumChris on DictumImagePhotographerName:
Paul M. Provencher
Chris on Dictum
Chris on DictumChris on DictumChris on DictumChris on DictumChris on DictumChris on Dictum
Chris on Dictum

Chris on DictumChris on Dictum

Chris on Dictum

Chris came up and really stirred the pot.  I think he tried four or five different lines but was denied each time.  There were a couple moments when he was setting up to get some serious tipping going on but he didn't ever get it off-balance.  Jim let it go because he had already tried and been unable to get up.  Wayne's TJ is still running stock wheels and suspension so he wisely opted out.

Frank comes back downFrank comes back down

Frank coming down DictumFrank coming down Dictum

Frank coming downFrank coming downFrank coming downFrank coming down

Frank coming down

That left Frank the lone conqueror (Never have so many Jeepers taken so much abuse from one Toyota owner... <smiling> )  It also meant that Frank was going to be coming back down the way he went up.  And he did a great job entertaining us as he did.  Once down, he led the way and we all headed back down to Route 33.  I shall return!

Frank stops for a quick checkRoute 33Frank, Paul and Wayne



Next up was Kephart.  We drove in and rode up to the first clearing.  We stopped to eat lunch and talk shop.  

Paul and kids during Lunch BreakLunchLunch

Soon a column of mostly Jeeps came passing through on the trail.  There were 20 or 30 rigs!  They just kept coming.  It was the group meet and greet that was organized on the Quadratec bulletin board.  We knew that they would be out here and expected to encounter them at some point.  I did some rough trail math and estimated that 30 Jeeps taking as little as 5 minutes each to negotiate the obstacle a the end of the trail would require 150 minutes.  That's almost 3 hours!  We fortunately were in a position that we could leave without being stuck in front of them.  The trail is a dead end so if we had been on the obstacle, we would have been stuck there until they got through.  We decided to go run another trail and then come back to Kephart if there was enough time.  On the way to the next trail we stopped at McDorman's to talk to Habo, Islander, and another guy who were working on broken vehicles.  They were part of the group going up Kephart (but who had not yet hit the trail).  After a quick "Hello" we got back on the road.

Rain, Rain, go away...Still waters run deep...

Old Long Run

What better place to use up 3 hours than Old Long Run?  On the way out of Kephart, it started pouring.  Chris, Wayne and Jandy and Steve got a chance to make their Jeeps more water resistant.  I was happy to have paid the price of getting caught in the rain on the trail a couple weeks ago and so had decided to leave top up for this trip.  It is turning out that between the threat of rain, and the sometimes oppressive heat, it is not worth having the top down, especially with the rack complicating things.

We made the drive over to Old Long Run.  When we reached the optional hill at the bottom, it was running a river through both ruts. 


We drove down to the bottom and then right back up.  I grabbed a couple photos.  It was a good warm-up for the rest of the trail.

Trail Crew

Trail Maintenance - Frank and PaulTrail Maintenance - Frank and Paul

Along the way we ran into a few spots where trees had fallen.  We moved them out of the way.  

Trail clean-up on Old Long RunOld Long Run

The stream had water in it and was running at a good rate.  This trail is nice to travel when raining and I enjoyed it very much. 

Chris, Steve & Jandy, WayneSteve and JandyWayne

Jim on Old Long RunWayne, Chris, Jim on Old Long Run

The trip up was uneventful but there is one spot where I was caught off guard - one of the upper stream crossing is very steep and I went right down without being ready. 

Paul on Old Long Run

I was fine but should have been paying more attention.  Further up near the end, the ruts get really off camber - as much as 30 degrees.  It was a little uncomfortable but we all made it through just fine.

Above the point where the trail exits to Gauley Ridge Road, we drove up to the meadow that overlooks the area.  I stopped part way up to pick some blackberries.  The bushes were nearly blocking the road.  Steve and Jandy (doorless) did not enjoy the berries as much as me and the kids <smiling>.

Break at the end of Old Long RunBreak at the end of Old Long RunBreak at the end of Old Long RunBreak at the end of Old Long RunBreak at the end of Old Long Run


FrankJimBreakBreakChris is thinkingHey!



After  a quick break in the field, we drove up to Long Run Road and beyond to Clines Hacking and the ATV parking lot.  There were some ATV drivers and their support vehicles there.  We talked with them for a while.  Frank, Chris and Jim "ramped" their Jeeps.

Jim at Clines Hacking ATV RampJim at Clines HackingFrank, Paul, at Clines HackingFrank, Paul, and Chris' Jeeps at Clines HackingJim, Jan and Wayne at Clines Hacking

Frank at Clines HackingChris at Clines HackingChris strikes a pose at Clines HackingChris and Paul's Jeeps at Clines HackingChris and Paul's Jeeps at Clines Hacking

I watched Teddy discover the joy of playing in mud puddles.  That took care of his second change of clothing for the trip.  He was now down to one change of clothes not counting pajamas.  By this time tomorrow he would be wearing P.J.'s if he kept it up!

Ted the Mud Bogger - Click to Enlarge

Teddy and the mud...Ted the Mud BoggerTed the Mud BoggerTed the Mud BoggerTed the Mud BoggerTed the Mud Bogger

Frank wanted to check out an overlook near the power lines and set off to investigate.  It was further away than he remembered so we started down to pavement on FR 72 while he caught up with us.  From the trail entrance we backtracked to Kephart.


On the way past McDorman's the last couple vehicles from the large group we saw on Kephart were just parking so we timed our trip up Old Long Run just right.  The trip up to the obstacle on Kephart was pretty straightforward.  At one point it had been quiet on the CB for a while so I mumbled some nonsense into it.  Someone replied "You took me out of my trance-like state" or words to that effect.  And that was pretty on the mark.  It was a nice drive, it was quiet and pretty in the woods, and I too felt very contemplative.

Near Kephart rock

Soon we got to the rock.  Next to Dictum, this is what we had all come for.  Thankfully, the large group had left it stack-free and we got to drive it as nature intended.  I was leading the group so I just drove right up out of the way and turned around.  I was far enough ahead of Chris that I was able to get some pictures when he went up. 

Chris at KephartChris at KephartChris on KephartChris on KephartChris on KephartChris on Kephart

Everyone climbed it with no problems.  Jandy drove right up and right over the rock that most people steer around.  Steven said she didn't see it but I think she knew it was there...  

Jandy on KephartJandy on Kephart
Jan at KephartJan at Kephart

Frank on Kephart

Jim on KephartJim at KephartJim at KephartJim at Kephart

Frank and Jim made it look easy (well it is really...) and Wayne got to try it without the stacked rocks and took it like a champ.

Wayne on KephartWayne on KephartWayne on KephartWayne on KephartWayne on Kephart

Wayne on Kephart

Wayne going down KephartWayne on Kephart

  The group then took a walk up to the end of the trail to see where it leads. 

Scenery at Kephart

Basically it leads into the stream...  So we got the group turned around and drove back off the rock and out to pavement.  

Past the rock

KephartMore Kephart

Click to view brief animation...
Paul on Kephart
Paul on KephartPaul on KephartPaul on KephartPaul on Kephart

Paul going down KephartPaul going down Kephart

Wayne on KephartChris comes downJandy and SteveFrank

Wayne on KephartWayne on KephartWayne on KephartKephartKephart

After a short hop down to Dry River, we went back to McDorman's to put everything back into shape for driving on pavement.

Back at McDorman's

Trails End

It was really hot so at one point Tomi asked to get back in the Jeep.  I had it running with the A/C on so it was much more comfortable.  The parking brake was set and Tomi was in the back sitting in the seat.  I didn't insist he put his harness on since we were not moving.  Once strapped in, he cannot get out without my help.  I was running the compressor to air up, and while the tires were filling I was reconnecting.  Tomi decided that he wanted to try his hand at driving so he climbed into the front and started steering the wheel.  Let's just say I got my hands out from the steering linkage where I was reconnecting and around to that driver's seat pretty fast.  And Tom got to enjoy the rest of that stop in the heat and humidity like the rest of us.  He will not be sitting in the Jeep again unless he is strapped in.  Bad Dad!

Everyone pretty much decided to pass up Steve and Jandy's offer to stop by their parents house in Harrisonburg, except for Frank, me and the kids.  So I followed them to their parents.  We appeared at their door covered in sweat, rain and mud but they were very nice and took us in.  The kids love new places and soon discovered the pool and the "Soaker" water gun.  They kept me running.  Soon I realized it was going to be dark by the time we got back to the campsite if I did not make tracks.  So after some soda and chips, and a great deal of hovering on my part (the pool is deeper than the kids are tall) we thanked everyone and made tracks for the tent.


Route 33 West of the Mountain - Click to Enlarge

We got back to the campground with about 20 minutes daylight left.  It was just enough time to get into swimming suits and down to the water near the entrance. 

Swimming Hole

Teddy was in the water the second we got out of the Jeep.  Tomi was happy to play around the shore and explore an abandoned sandcastle.  We watched a very pretty sunset, the first sun we had seen that weekend.  Then we went back to the tent, ate some Hot Dogs, cooked on the stove,  in the light of a mini-Mag Lite shining into a bottle of Apple Juice.  The kids went to bed without any protest and were asleep in minutes.  I was right behind them.

The next morning it took me four hours working alone to clean off the tents and gear, and get everything packed.  We took a shower after the Jeep was loaded and then went to Fox Pizza Den for lunch and then drove out of town.  The kids did a good job with the camping, even if they were a little high-maintenance at times.  I enjoyed this trip a great deal.  We'll be back!


Jim's Pictures | Chris' Pictures | Jandy and Steve's Pictures | Wayne's Pictures | Frank's Pictures

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Last Updated 02/09/2008 10:10:34 AM -0500

Updated 02/09/08 10:10:34 -0500