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
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
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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...
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
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
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
See the original photos from Darryl
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.
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.
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.... :)
Road Index | Shop for Jeep Toys and Books | See the Toy Jeeps