Rawley Springs

Preparing to cross stream - Click to Zoom In
Photo Courtesy of Keith Holman


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

4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD!



Keith Holman put a message out that he was trying to assemble a group to go out to Second Mountain, Old Long Run, and Dry River on Saturday.  As luck would have it, I was able to join in and go revisit some trails that I had already been riding with him and others.

We met as usual at the Wendy's in Manassas, at about 8:15 a.m.  We were joined by Keith's Mom and Sister, and Todd Buffington and his friend.  We hit the road for Harrisonburg.

On the road, I asked Keith what he thought about trying Dictum Ridge.  The trail is supposed to be rocky and rough but except for one spot near the lower end, passable with stock-height vehicles.  I had seen pictures of "the obstacle" on other people's web sites and couldn't really judge whether or not it would be too hard for my Jeep.  In the pictures, the ledge does not look high.  But in one photo, it does look like perhaps the going is tough.  A Jeep like mine is near the edge of the road, just brushing a tree, and doing some hard work.  But it seems worth checking out since the obstacle is only a couple hundred yards in from the road.  Keith says he'll think about it and we continue to McDorman's.

A quick break at McDorman's and Keith tells me that since the Dictum obstacle is close, we can go have a look, try it if we want, and turn back if it looks too hard.  Fair enough, so off we go.  The trail up to the obstacle from Route 33 is reward enough on it's own.  It's steep, rocky and makes you appreciate having 4-Low.  It's very passable but still fun.  Soon enough, we reached the ledge.

The problems standing in the way of conquering this obstacle were many.  It was wet, so traction was going to be limited.  A Huge pile of soccer-ball sized rocks have been piled up against the ledge, probably making descent DOWN from the top of the trail very easy.  But these same rocks do little or nothing for tractive efforts going UP.  The one possibility for me was a line all the way to the right, where I would have to put my left-front tire up on a good sized rock.  This would lead to tipping the Jeep to the right, where I then would encounter clearance problems up against the tree on the edge of the trail.  Just past the edge of the trail was a good drop into the woods.  This will all sound like lame excuses to people who have lifted vehicles with lockers, but it's really just a case of knowing your vehicle's limitations.  

I think the only way that I would take this line would be with dry ground, and with the top down so I could see better, and maybe even no roof-rack and the windshield flipped down for better clearance.  All this is more than I can manage on this outing so I decided to let it go.  

Other's had similar concerns.   Todd would not be able to take the line to the right because his Dodge Ram 1500 was too wide.  The line up the stacked rocks would cause him to get high centered.  Keith was facing the same challenges no matter which line he took.  There was also some feedback from the passengers that led us all to conclude that this was not the day to climb Dictum.

We turned around by backing down into some turnouts, and enjoyed the steep descent back to Route 33.  From there we went over to Second Mountain.

Once we started heading up Second Mountain we ran into Adam Bell (ZR-2) and Steve Washko (ZR-2) who were coming DOWN Second Mountain.  They flagged down Keith and told him that the gate was closed.  Without going into the ongoing debate about the gate, suffice to say that we would not be going UP Second Mountain.  Steve and Adam threw in with us and we drove around to Old Long Run.

Once we got off FR 72 and onto the trail, we stopped to try the hill climb at the beginning of the trail.  (see Keith's pictures of some of the folks here) I had passed up the opportunity to try this obstacle the last time it presented itself.  This was mostly due to my wife and kids being tired, and due to the amount of traffic on the trail that day.  It looked challenging then, and even more so this time since the hill had washed out some more.  The five of us went down and then, each in turn, climbed back up.

I found the hill to be a fun climb.  I just left it in first gear, 4-Low, and crawled up.  The wheels slipped little bits here and there but we just went right up without a hitch.  I have no idea how much, if at all, the limited-slip rear helped me.  This was the first time I had tried a moderately challenging hill in this vehicle.  I was crawling to see how slow I could go and still have power enough to make the hill.  It seems like the TJ is well suited to this type of approach.  My old CJ-2A (R.I.P.), with it's carburetor, open diff and low-horsepower engine would have required a more brute-force approach...

After that, we went up Old Long Run, with the stream crossings, stops for photo-ops, and lunch.  It's a beautiful trail that is just challenging enough to make it an easy ride with some interest along the way.  We came upon two mountain-bike riders coming down the trail.  Just evidence that people do visit the forest for various reasons.  It made me feel like a couch potato though!

Above Photos Courtesy of Keith Holman

CrossingCrossingBefore the Crossing

I learned that a 4-foot whip antenna mounted on top of my rack is not a formula for success in the woods.  It might give great range on the road, but for trail riding, I probably don't need to send and receive more than a few hundred yards.  The problem is that it spends a lot of time whacking things.  This makes it come loose, requiring periodic checks to tighten it so it won't fall off and get lost.  In process of this ride I did lose the rubber tip protector and the plastic casing got cracked from stress.  Back to the drawing board...

Once we got to the top of Old Long Run and up Gauley Ridge, we stopped at FR 72, worked out what to do next.  Then we headed down to McDorman's for a quick break and out to Dry River for a short loop.  Then we all went our separate ways.

I stopped at McDorman's so the kids could watch the pig while I put the windows back on and organized our stuff.  Then we went back to Harrisonburg.  I heard Todd and Keith on the CB saying their good-byes, with Keith making plans to fuel up.  I chimed in but I don't think they heard me.  Todd later told me he heard someone but didn't know it was me.  We went to the "Jeep" wash and got the Jeep back into street guise.  Sometimes I wonder if people look at it and think "that guy never puts it in 4WD")  We found a buffet cafeteria that feeds kids under 3 for free (two free meals for us) and ate dinner before making a stop and Toys 'R Us - as much for me as the kids.

Then the long ride home to Maryland.  It was, as usual, worth it...

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Last Updated 02/09/2008 11:47:58 AM -0500

Updated 02/09/08 11:47:58 -0500