My Girl: Gettin' After It!!

My Girl: Gettin' After It!!
My truck on her maiden voyage in Moab 2012

Monday, January 20, 2014

GWNF- Kennedy Ridge and a Return to 2nd Mountain Trail 1-18-14

I went back with reinforcements. And I confirmed that I most assuredly would have gotten my truck stuck had I attempted alone that night. Fortunately, my recovery game has evolved such that I have figured out my most common 'stuck' circumstances and the means for overcoming. So this is how the whole trip played out:

Outside Starr Hill
 The plan was to leave out from the DC area by 12noon. It turned into more like 130ish almost 2pm, but I won't point any elbows. In any event, traffic owing to other like-minded towns-skippers held us up a bit more, but we otherwise made the trip down 29 without incident and arrived at Starr Hill as our first stop for the evening. I am still  working through configuration issues with the truck. I didn't want to run the tire on the top, but with Jenn and the dog along on this trip for the first time as a full family, my usual spots for cramming gear and such were occupied by bodies...and the stuff that these bodies also need for a long weekend. I'll be back to the drawing board again.

 Once inside though, things were cool. We got some merch. Steve was able to procure some 'research material' and I got a new decal to go on the visor. Jenn took this photo for us. She was not interested in being photo ready at this point.

I'm actually remiss that I didn't take a photo at Blue Mountain Brewery this time with a good portion of the group assembled. Steve's invitees met us there and it was a nice evening with dinner and some good brews. Part of the hustle towards the end of the evening was  report from one of the camping arrivals that they believed the gate to the trail was closed. While Steve and his group continued on to Queen City Brewing, I elected to try to find where this group had set up as I knew there was not previously a gate at the entrance that I had planned to access.

It was about 15 miles or so in the dark to get to the intersection of Coal Rd and Mt. Torrey Rd. As soon as we entered the woods, the snow started. We never actually 'met' the group as they had already set up camp somewhere off of the path, but I did confirm that night that the entrance I had proposed was indeed open. Unfortunately, I also lost about an hour and some change driving up and down Coal Rd trying to find these folks in the snow. Then on the interstate when we called off the search, it got to near white-out conditions which prolonged the trip back to the hotel. Duty calls.

 The group met up outside of B&R market. It was initially set up as a scouting trip to check out the trail with maybe 2-3 more trucks. At one point, as many as 20 drivers had expressed interest in coming out which would have quickly overwhelmed the throughput capacity of a single trail. That morning, though, the group had whittled down to a more manageable 11 or so trucks. Still, that was more vehicles than the tiny lot at B&R could support. We ended up taking up the shoulder across the street before making our way down Coal Rd.

 Walked the first 300 yards of the trail to show folks this spot. I was the first to try it...and fail. A couple of the shorter wheel base vehicles had an easier time of it. I also ended up sloughing off a good 6-8 inches from the top of the first mound as I dragged myself off of it.
 I actually didn't get many pictures on the way up to the top of the trail. For that I had to borrow some from Josh. Although the trail shows up on my GPS as continuing through to Blue Ridge Parkway consistent with what the Forestry Map shows, we clearly reached an impasse at the top of the ridge where the trail goes decidedly off-camber while also narrowing to little more than a foot path. That is no exaggeration (although I am often prone to hyperbole). I walked a good portion of it, and although the holidays were apparently extra good to me, I have not grown quite so wide as to approximate the front end of a pickup truck. There was not much more width than my shoulders as I continued forward. The trail had become pretty tight for the last mile or so as it was. Many first timers earned their initial pinstriping on this trip for sure.

 A couple of shots from the top.
 The fresh blanket of snowfall posed a bit of a challenge for our 2WD friend who nonetheless found the fortitude and judicious use of the skinny pedal and was able to make his way up the trail largely unassisted. Perhaps two tugs from a friendly FJ was about all that was needed.
 The problem with an unexpected about face with 10 other vehicles in tow. It took some creative maneuvering. I think some of these guys have moonlighted as valets at one point or another. Actually worked out pretty well considering.

 There was a third Steve and I thought maybe he had just decided to off himself and his family by driving off the ridge to avoid the about-face cluster. Alright...maybe he was just making way for other trucks to enter the makeshift round-about.

Getting back down the trail was a lot faster then the ride up. It was probably between two and 2-1/2 hours up and only about 30-45 minutes winding back down the ridge.

Then there was a bit of crossroads between the group. Although the drive north to Harrisonsburg and 2nd Mountain trail was about 35 miles north (with a bit of a tedious stretch of switchbacks up a mountain once you leave the blacktop), the Richmond folks and guys from points further south indicated they had no desire to go any further north. My understanding when we left was that they were going to try out a couple trails off of Coal Rd. I was concerned about encountering the same uncertainty we had experienced on Kenned with that many trucks to try to turn around at the end of the run, wherever that might be. We split amicably and the 6 trucks shown below all went up to Harrisonburg.

2nd Mountain Trail- first high tension line clearing headed SE
I've written about the switchbacks on Long Run road previously. Just know that they are decidedly more treacherous with about 3-4 inches of snow cover. The Duratracs performed admirably in the snow. However, some of the convoy rocking pure M/Ts had trouble their rears breaking loose all the way up the mountain. 

 Ryan's FJ. I actually think this is from Kennedy Ridge, but the blogger uploader makes it VERY difficult to reorganize photos chronologically if they get uploaded out of order.

 Setting up a few shots from the power line area. This will be a new profile picture. This was also the first time Jenn came with me for some true offroading. The time down in OBX was a lot of fun, but it was not anticipated to get quite as wet and wild as it did. This time, she knew what she might be signing up for and actually still came out. So that was cool.

Maybe I can pretend like I'm some avant-garde director and just tell portions of the story out of chronological order, but really, the seeming disarray is intentional to result in a juxtaposing of emotions.
 Actually, I'm just too lazy to shift the huge ice aftermath photos from when we got back off the trail an down by Staunton, VA again.

 If we are looking at chunks of frozen mud and metal, that can only mean there were ice pool crossings. YES...and also a bit of a 'no'.

 As in, "I no longer have a radiator skid." And with a little more foreshadowing, that 'wet' area at the bottom of the radiator where that skinny hose comes out...yeah that isn't water. That is transmission coolant that has leaked and partially frozen. Don't worry though. It will wait until we finish the drive down to Tennessee to thaw and begin manifesting itself as partial spray/partial leak.

 Some shots of the convoy headed down the mountain on Kennedy Ridge.
 Because we want to travel to the future to find big blocks of ice.
 So that when Maddy and I are outside of the Pep Boys waiting for them to find where the leak is coming from in Tennessee, she can have some ice to play with. Because she likes ice.

I give up on the literary devices.

Here are some of the trucks that rolled with us.
Bruce entering from Coal Rd. First minor obstacle.

Steve B following me up the trail.

And also getting a little off-camber action

More convoy.

Veronica always has her tail in the air. 

In a moment, triumph and failure.

Probably the most Frontiers I've seen on a trail.

EDIT: 1/21/14

Once we got off the trail in the vicinity of Harrisonburg, we made our way back to town and stopped in Court Square to go to Capital Ale house. Food and fellowship were had and I passed out decals to the remaining members of the convoy.

Capital Ale House- full line request.
I'm really glad that folks came out to check out these trails. With the confidence level up, you can really enjoy the challenges that the trail might throw your way without nearly as much anxiety. Stuff can still go wrong but you're not by yourself trying to struggle with what to do. So a hearty thanks to all who came out to do some exploring and wheeling.