Potomac State Forest



4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD! - Click here for details!

4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD!




The first time we came out here, it was just Hugh and me.  I had done some research and documented the trails in the Garret, Savage River, and Potomac parks.  We had quickly discovered that the Garrett State Park "trail" was basically a developed gray stone road servicing campsites.  The Backbone Mountain trail was a nice trail.  But we never had time to investigate the Potomac State Park Trail.

So when Hugh called on Friday to go out, I suggested we complete the recon and check out Potomac State Park.   Later that night I dug out my research, GPS tracks from prior trips, and did a quick refresher.  I have not written extensively about this part of my trips.   The planning can take several hours, perhaps spread over several separate sessions.   But I always do careful research to gather detailed information about the places I travel.  I generally study the topographic maps, create and load waypoints into the GPS, create a GPS "Route" that will act as our map on the trip, and print copies of both the route and topo maps that I have created and studied.


By the time I hit the road for the trail, I have a pretty good mental picture of the map, have the GPS loaded with everything needed to navigate, and have pretty much everything I need for a successful outing.  I can't imagine jumping in the Jeep and going out to a previously unexplored region without this level of preparation.  I am sure that unplanned trips that fail have often failed due to lack of planning.  That could always happen to me too, but I think it is less likely.  I can honestly say that I have never gone on any trip without this planning, even if I am not leading the group.  I trust people, but I also want to be prepared...

Anyway, I dragged Tomi out of bed at 6:00 am with my usual whispered "Do you want to go 4-Wheeling?"   Too bad he doesn't get up that fast on school days!  Everything else was ready by that time so I got him dressed, shuffled him out to the Jeep and we hit the road.   We made our usual stop at Sheetz for gas and provisions.  We also stopped at Sideling Hill Exhibition Area for a "pit stop".

Gas Up


There would be no formal muster for this trip.  Hugh lives so far south that it makes no sense for us to meet for the drive.  I have to go north and west, he does too, but from a totally different starting point.  So we planned to meet at at the Wal*Mart parking lot in Keyser, WV at 9:30.  I arrived a couple minutes early and used the time to go into Wal*Mart and pick up a baby grease gun to keep on the Jeep for the disconnects (I forgot to grease them...).  Meanwhile Hugh and Shea were stuck behind a trailer truck in the mountains so they would arrive an hour later. 

Jeeps in Keyser

Once they showed up, we made a quick plan and headed for the trail.


I laid out a route to the trail entrance the night before and loaded it onto the GPS.  This put us on the road traveling directly to the trail with no false steps.  Ah planning. 

Trail Signs
Trail Signs

We drove off the road, assessed the trail and decided not to air down or disconnect.  The trail just didn't warrant it.


It was a rainy day and we spent it driving around all the little trails and spurs that formed a rich network of mostly mild terrain.  At the very southern tip of the trail, which is at the bottom of a steep series of switch-backs, we found our egress to the river gated.  We turned around and headed back up the trail, with just enough traction to get up without winching.


We took a side trail and soon encountered a fallen tree that got me hung up.  A gentle tug on the strap and I was back off it and ready to go.  A little further up another side trail and once again I got hung up on a fallen tree.  This time I just jockeyed back and forth until I was able to clear it.  At the same time, the mess that I had been struggling with had been neatly stacked by my thrashing and Hugh simply drove over it like it was no big deal.


Another spur took us to a large meadow that was bordered by split rails.  It was very picturesque.  If it was not for the downpour, I would have taken more pictures.  We backtracked to the main trail and made out way out to the access road.  Once there, Hugh headed for home.

Tomi and I went back via the road that passes Backbone Mountain.  I found a trail that drops into the woods so we followed it until we came to a gate.  Dead end.  We went back to the road.  So we drove up the road and made a quick stop at the Backbone Mountain Scenic Outlook.

Backbone Mountain Scenic Overlook
Wooly at the Backbone Mountain Scenic Overlook

Further up, I found the other Backbone Mountain trail, complete with a sign at the entrance. 

Updated info 6/29/04:  Near the spot where we went down to the railroad grade is Hitchcock Tunnel and near that, Strecker, a switch location.  I found this article on the web and archived it against loss:

Mountain Subdivision - 17 Mile Grade


Trail Entrance to Backbone Mountain

The whole area was devastated by the ice storm we had last winter.  All the trees were broken and knocked down.  It was clear that a lot of work had been done to clear the trail.  Did I say "trail"?  It is a dirt road, made all the more ironic by the sign at the entrance.

Soon the road hit a "T" junction so we went first right to the dead end at a gate to private property.   Doubling back we passed the road we came in, and continued to where the road crosses into a meadow where some large construction equipment appeared to be in use building a road.  It was all parked and idle so I drove on the rough sand track heading for pavement.  Then I noticed that the ground felt soft.  I could tell that we were driving in some wet ground that we could sink into.  So I kept moving so that I could get as close as possible to the heavy equipment should I need to anchor a winch cable...


We made it all the way to the bulldozer and then had to thread our way around it and other equipment to get to pavement.  I think we were lucky to get out without getting stuck.

End of TrailTerra Firma?



After that, we drove home, stopping for gas, Mother's Day gifts and home.  What a day!

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Potomac State Forest / Backbone Mountain GPS Data

Update 1/5/2008:  GPS Data now provided in GPX format for easy transfer to your GPS!

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Last Updated 02/09/2008 08:28:19 AM -0500