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
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
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
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
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.
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...