Old Long Run



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4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD!



Hugh had mentioned wanting to go this weekend so I got things squared away then put a last minute message up inviting people to come. As it turned out, Hugh, Carl, and Jim all had other things to do (harumph!) and for a change I was free to go. The message on GWNF group turned up a few guys, and the same message on the OCC board turned up Ron and Dana, with Steve tagging along (something about street tires and no front tow hooks...)

At the beginning, I was only expecting to see Ron, as when I last checked the sign-up sheet, he was the only one logged (besides me). Had I checked later in the evening, I would have seen Dana signed on.

I got up at 5 am and scraped together food and extra clothes for everyone, loaded the Jeep with cameras, food, clothes, extra shoes, and a snow shovel. With two feet on the ground out there, I didn't want to be standing there having to winch because I forget a shovel...




The usual plan was put in place (Wendy's, 7:30am) and I headed out with the kids. We made a McD's breakfast meal go three ways - I got the coffee, Ted had the McMuffin, and Tom had the hash brown. When we got to Wendy's, I saw Dana and Steve waiting in Dana's Discovery. The thing towers over the Jeep. I didn't know he was signed on, but I was pretty sure he wasn't there for the breakfast food...

Paul and Dana at Wendy's

So I drove over and we made our introductions. Soon enough the Wendy's opened (they are never open on time...what's that all about?) The kids made for the Men's room, then we got pancakes for Tom, juice for Ted, and a sandwich and more coffee for me. Just as soon as we got out of the Jeep for the first time since leaving the house, Tom dove into a puddle and his first set of clothes were soaked. We got him changed and I set his wet clothes to dry. There was no doubt in my mind that we would need them sooner or later...

No sign of Ron by 8:00am so I gave a call. A gravelly-voiced Ron answered and told me that he would not be coming - he'd caught something. Ah, just like me, the price of having kids... I wished him well and we loaded up and hit the road.

All the while it is drizzling out, and the forecast is for rain and temperatures in the 50's. We made a stop at Sheetz to get gas and food for lunch. Actually the kids reminded me about the food and we returned to Sheetz. Dana and Steve were good-natured about the stops and soon we were rolling for Rawley Springs.

On the Road

We made one more stop along the way for a pit stop for the kids (that juice just runs right through them!). Then we drove non-stop to the Sheetz in Harrisonburg. Wow! A brand new one - I predict the demise and fall of the other gas station a block or two up that used to have gas and a small selection of "stuff". Too bad for them, but this Sheetz was nice... One more bathroom visit and another sandwich for the kids' lunch, and we were on the road for McDorman's.

Paul and Dana at McDorman's

I had said we'd make McDorman's by 10:00 but with the 10-minute late start from Wendy's, the ring-around-the-rosy at the first Sheetz, then the "P" break, we didn't get to McDorman's until almost 10:40. Predictably, the rest of the guys, not having met us before, must have figured we were a no-show and had left. I thought they'd be there at Noon so I wasn't really expecting to see them, but I checked anyway. We found out later that they had adjusted their time-table to hook up with us at 10.

Tom at McDorman'sTed at McDorman's

So we aired down and disconnected sway bars at McDorman's. The kids went looking for the pig that used to live there, and instead got the dogs barking. Then they spent some time climbing the snow banks. Dana tried out the Oasis Tire Deflators and actually had better luck with them than I did. I had to air up a little on one tire because it over shot the mark. Dana's all came out within a pound of each other.

So off we went, over to the lower entrance for Old Long Run. Along the way, I could see flooding of the fields on the sides of the road. The stream (never noticed before) was running very fast and full. This bode for a very wet day on Old Long Run. I even started to think that it might be more than we could handle. But I wanted to see what it was like so I just shelved my thoughts.


Just as we pulled up to the entrance near the church, I could hear on the CB a group coaxing someone over an obstacle. It turned out to be the rest of the group that I was expecting to see. They had indeed started out without us after we did not appear as promised. But they had not gotten very far. In fact they had abandoned going up Old Long Run and had backtracked out and started up the Forest Road instead. Upon hearing us make our way up Old Long Run, and our comments of how well we were doing, even after we got past their turn-around point, they came back down and got in behind us on the trail.


Lower end of Old Long Run

It was right about that time that I descended into a low area and got a little hung up on the snow I had been plowing. Truth be told, I had been stopping, backing, going, etc., to keep the snow in front of me from getting too deep. This one spot was just a little too deep for me and Dana gave me a little strapping. I first thought we'd just bag it and go somewhere else but then I realized that Dana could probably get by better leading than I, and then I should be able to ride in his tracks and probably not have as much trouble.

So I turned around again, let Dana go past, then fell in behind him. The rest of the gang followed suit. Very soon we reached the first crossing. It goes down into the stream, and then climbs the opposite bank. It's not normally a challenge at all, but with the snow, probably about 15 inches deep, and the fast-running water, it looked pretty spooky. I benefited from knowing what the ground looks like under the snow and assured Dana that he could get up it, and that the water was not too deep to cross. Sure enough, he got into the stream and found it not too deep. The other side took him two or three hits, but he got up and continued. I think I made one or two runs at it and went right up.

On the TrailTricky Hill and erosionCherokee

The rest of the group did as well and we stayed together. I was waiting to encounter the spot where the overflow comes across the trail and has eroded the edge to the point where the trail touches the edge of a good drop. I knew that this spot was going to be a real challenge, and might even be a tad dangerous. Woo-Hoo! Well not really, I didn't need the grief.


We went through some deep standing water. Dana occasionally had to back up and go again, but eventually we came to the spot that I had been dreading. And it was every bit as ominous as I remembered, and more. I had forgotten about the little climb past the washout and tight trail. What stood before us was ample running water, a washout with the edge of the trail touching the erosion and a steep drop off to the left. If one was careless or just plain unlucky, a front or back wheel could drop off the trail, with potentially serious consequences.

Tricky Business

We looked at it and determined that the water crossing and washout were probably doable with care, but the climb beyond with the drift of snow in our path the real bear. And so it was. Dana made numerous attempts to get up. Eventually, he pretty much polished his ruts into sheer ice so slippery I couldn't even walk up them. We found that some of the snow had gotten packed in such a way that he was getting robbed of forward momentum as he hit it. Out came the snow shovel and a military folding shovel. The rough spots were soon removed and Dana clawed his way up.

More Fun

Oh joy, my turn... It was fine and dandy while Dana was thrashing away at making it through and I was spotting him as he backed/slid down the hill into the water, scary near the drop. Now it was my turn to do this thing. The approach put you off camber, leaning to the left, directly where you don't want to slip and put a wheel wrong, off the edge... And coming off the downhill approach with the rear wanting to go the wrong way too. Beautiful.

I was composed and decided that I needed to move briskly but carefully through, and to hit the bottom then give it some gusto. That's just what I did, and I made the climb in one try. But just as I made the transition from the bottom of the stream to go up, I heard this sick metallic kind of grrrr-snap! Great... I wasn't quite up the hill so I just gave it some gas and it kept climbing with both front and rear doing work. That was a good sign but I didn't count my chickens. The noise was too loud and clear to be ignored.

I got out and one of the guys pointed out that I had popped the top retainer of my left-front shock! Weird. I had used a jamb nut on it, so it should not have come loose, but there it was, the top of the shock free of its mount. The guys found all the pieces (remarkable really) except the nut, which was replaced from Josh's bag of tricks (thanks VERY much!). We barely missed a beat, but it was a scary moment thinking I had snapped a half-shaft or worse...

Tricky Hill and erosion

I think everyone else made it up just as cleanly. I strapped the shovel back on the roof (glad I brought it) and we continued on. Dana was a real trooper and cut the trail. Soon we came to the second crossing. We stopped and evaluated it.

From where we stood, it looked like there was a large deposit of thick ice on the trail where it exits the water at a 30-degree angle. To the right of that, were some rocks hidden by snow. I figured it would be pretty ugly to get tangled up in the ice so I suggested to Dana that he try to work it to the right as much as possible - to go into the fast and potentially deep running water at a good angle working upstream, and to avoid the "ice". He pondered the situation, showed great trust in my knowledge of the crossing, and went ahead as I suggested.

The water turned out to be about hub deep (he was running 33's I think) and he got to the snow covered rocks. After he got a little hung up on them, he corrected a little to the right and scrambled over them and got to the opposite bank.

It wasn't until I was committed that I realized that his slightly longer wheel base and much higher lift had kept him from getting high centered on the rocks I told him to climb over. I was not so lucky. I ended up doing pirouettes, pivoting on my transfer case skid plate, but not making any more forward motion. The moment of truth had arrived. The one I had been dreading for almost two years: I was going to have to get out of my Jeep, in freezing cold, deep, fast-running water and get myself out of this... Popsicle anyone?

At first I tried to dodge the bullet by climbing onto my cowl and front fender to take a strap from Dana on the other side. That was nice but the problem was that I couldn't get the strap. So Steve bit the bullet and just marched right into the water. Brrrrrrrrr! Here I was like some candy-assed city slicker perched on my hood while this guy got himself wet to the knee to help me. OK, time to get real.

We tried the strap but I was too well planted. The guys behind me started rigging to winch me out, but were busy trying to deal with something on their winch, so I looked ahead, saw a tree within reach, got down off my lily pad and walked downstream to my tailgate and fished out my rigging gear. Tossed a tree-saver strap and D-ring to Dana, showed him how to set it up, pulled cable to the tree, plugged in my remote and threaded it into the cab.


By the time I finally got into the drivers seat, my legs were numb. Glad I brought a change of clothes AND extra shoes. The beginning of the pull was at a pretty sharp angle but the Jeep obligingly swung around and soon I was off the rocks and out of my predicament. I spent some more time in the water and then got turned around. Steve had walked ahead and said the snow was drifted pretty deep. He also recalled the condition of the upper trail from last week and made a good case for calling it done.


Dana wanted to get back to the DC-Metro area by 6 pm, and it was already almost two. The Forest Road had not been traveled, meaning that if we even did make it to the top of Old Long Run, we were going to be breaking trail all the way back down. And assuming we'd get to the top was a real stretch considering what we'd gone through to get where we were, and not even yet to the more steep sections. And I was not relishing the really off camber section at the top...

The Trail

So we decided to turn the column around and head back down. That wasn't too bad - everyone got turned around without too much trouble, and we had a much easier time going back. We got back to the tricky erosion spot and everyone got past without any drama. Dana got a little tug as he didn't quite clear the top, and understandably didn't want to back down into the risky section for another go.


Once out, we parked at the church for pictures and autographs (I have them out in the Jeep - will give the roster with the rest of the names tomorrow), then hit the road for home.

Park Job
Parking Skills...

Parking Skills...The GangParking Skills...

Josh, Darryl, and the rest of the group continued on to the Reservoir, another trip up Old Long Run until they found a fallen tree, and a pass at Kephart

Trail (Kephart)Trail (Kephart)RubiTrail

See the original photos from Darryl here

We stopped at the bicycle shop and aired up. I took a minute to say hello to the man inside and get permission. I didn't think we very much looked like bike riders and didn't want to take advantage of his good nature without the courtesy of a hello. He didn't mind, so we aired up and connected.

Another stop at Sheetz got us squared away with gas and rest-room stuff, then Dana hit the road, and we headed for the Car Wash. While I knocked off all the snow, mud, and ice, the kids played in the snow bank. I discovered that my transfer case skid plate was seriously dented, probably from the rock I tried to hatch. My muffler was also pretty whacked as well.

Candy Rat's Mess...Transfer Case Skid Plate Depression
Ted on snowbank at Jeep Wash
Tom at the Jeep Wash

When I got done with my cleaning and inspecting, I pulled outside and cleaned out the mess inside the Jeep, which consisted primarily of rubbish and lots of cookie crumbs... Once organized, I turned a more detailed eye to my kids and found them both wet and cold from playing in the snow. So I cranked the heater to 11 (I love this heater!) put their dry clothes, socks and shoes on, and packed their now wet outfits away for the hamper at home.

Stainless Steel Shovel

They polished up real nice and we drove the long ride home from Harrisonburg feeling nicely tired and satisfied. This was one of the best visits to Old Long Run I have ever made, even though we did not complete the trip to the top. I think we quit before it went from being fun to being nasty, or worse.... :)

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Last Updated 02/09/2008 09:39:43 AM -0500