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Old 09-27-2013, 10:01 PM   #61
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Originally Posted by can haz jeep View Post
I have a 3 day trip planned for October 18th to 20th. Probably be somewhat cold up in the mountains but oh well.

My questions is kind of the opposite of what I see being asked often. Our rigs are rather built and can handle the tough stuff. With that being said, where are the more difficult, technical trails in GWNF?

We are coming from the DC area if that will make a difference in your advise.

Thanks!
Flagpole is going to be your best bet. Its not super technical but it does have a couple areas that you need to be careful in. I went up last weekend in my mostly stock JKU Sahara and I made it just fine with only two spots where I needed a spotter. Just note that Flagpole is an old forest service road and is legal to any licensed vehicle, but there are tons of offshoots that look like a ton of wheeling fun, but they are all illegal. Leave the trail and get a ticket.

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Old 09-28-2013, 08:28 PM   #62
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How is the Skidmore Fork Rd to Dunkle Hollow Rd (FR 227) coming from 33? It looks like there is a "closed" gate just southwest of the Skidmore Fork reservoir (according to my Nat Geo map).

I seem to see a lot of people online tell about taking this route. Is there a gate there now?

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Old 10-20-2013, 10:50 AM   #63
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How is the Skidmore Fork Rd to Dunkle Hollow Rd (FR 227) coming from 33? It looks like there is a "closed" gate just southwest of the Skidmore Fork reservoir (according to my Nat Geo map).

I seem to see a lot of people online tell about taking this route. Is there a gate there now?
It was open when I ran it this past winter. The Nat Geo map isn't 100% accurate. You can check the MVUM if want to go to the trouble but it should be open.
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Old 12-30-2013, 05:47 PM   #64
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It took me almost a year but I've managed to wheel on every major year-round and seasonal forest road in the Long Run area of the GWNF. This is the section of forest that is bordered by Hwy 33 in the south, Sweedlin Valley Rd. in the west, Bergton in the north and Harrisonburg in the east. It's about 200 square miles. Best year round roads (not in any order):
- Long Run
- Dictum Ridge
- Second Mountain
- Feedstone Mtn.
- German River
- Camp Run (county road)
- Rough Run (county road)
- Peru Gap/Overly Run
- FR1511 (Rifle Range road)
- Cold Spring River Rd (Gobble Mtn)
- Kephart Run (do it before it closes permanently)
- Old Hwy 33 (next to Kephart Run, also reputedly scheduled for perm closure).

Best seasonal roads:
- Harris Springs
- Vepco
- Rader Mountain
- Gauley
- FR152

Notes:
- This section of the GWNF has probably the densest forest road network of any area within a day's drive from the D.C. Metro area.
- Even with a GPS and map you can get disoriented. Especially where Fort Seiber, German River and Fulk Mtn intersections are.
- A lot of wheelable forest road have been lost over the years through abandonment & closure.
- There is a lot of private property within this area.
- The MVUM is not 100% accurate. For example, Blue Hole (FR302) is shown as open in the Fall but is actually closed most of the year.
- The snow can get deep and the roads icy. Carry chains.
- A stock Wrangler will be fine. If you travel solo make sure you have M/T tires and a winch.
- You can go hours and possibly days without seeing anyone. Be prepared.
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Old 12-30-2013, 09:24 PM   #65
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All,

By request, I've posted a gpx track log for an all day tour of the main GWNF forest roads in the mountains west of Harrisonburg, VA and north of Hwy 33. This covers the Long Run, Second Mountain, Dictum Ridge, Feedstone Mtn, Peru Hollow/Gap and German Valley roads. I purposely left off the numerous side roads so that you can explore on your own. I've included several camping sites as well. You can easily make this a weekend outing. When the seasonal forest roads open, like 85-2, there will be even more road to explore.

You can pull the gpx file down from wikiloc at Wikiloc - GWNF Forest Road Jeep Tour trail - Preston Heights, Virginia (United States)- GPS track or gpsies at Motorradtour Harrisonburg | All-day wheeling tour of George ... | GPSies. Note: these websites tend to garble the waypoint symbols so if you want the native Garmin gdb file let me know. The tracks & waypoint locations are still accurate though.

This 130 mile drive starts at the Harrisonburg Sheetz and finishes in New Market on I81. This is suitable for a stock Wrangler. If you would like specific planning information or have questions please PM me.

I forgot to reflect it but you can get gas and food at the general store in Bergton. It's a cool, old time store so give the locals your business.



I've done all the tedious trip planning for you so go out and enjoy the tour. Tread lightly and consult the MVUM as the final authority on road access. :-)
Is there anyway to get this in a CSV file? New to the adding Maps to my GPS and using the desktop software it comes with and it needs a CSV file I guess. Mio M301 is what I use. Looking at doing the 3 day trip you did on the first day. Need to get out of the city for a few days
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Old 12-30-2013, 10:29 PM   #66
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Old 12-30-2013, 11:51 PM   #67
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Yeah I guess I am going to have to buy a new GPS, don't want to spend a gazillion dollars, but I need something to put this file on I guess
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Old 12-31-2013, 03:24 PM   #68
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I've received some questions as to how to best navigate in the GWNF. While there is something to be said for just going out and driving around I'm a big believer in the saying, "Good fortune comes to those who plan for it." The GWNF is not in my backyard so I try to maximize my time exploring efficiently. Because I'm out by myself half the time, I don't want to mess around with map reading while driving. A week or so before I go out I'll spend several hours reading my maps and doing research using the MVUM and Google Earth. I use the Garmin Basecamp software (free) and the Garmin Topo 24k map software (not free) to enter waypoints into my Garmin eTrex 30 hand held GPS. I then build a paper tick list showing the order in which to hit each of the waypoints (see screen shot). Most the GWNF forest roads are dead ends so you will find yourself travelling up and down the same main roads often to get from point A to point B. I've tried to build complete routes into my GPS but the routing logic is not up to the task so I use a combination of the GPS and old school manual planning.

Do you need a dedicated GPS to get around? Not really but it sure makes it nice. I spent 20 years as a grunt navigating with map and compass before GPS became commonplace. You can get by nicely with the National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps, a device capable of telling you your location in UTM format and a decent Silva compass as a backup. You can also use your vehicle's odometer to help you navigate by keeping track of how far you've traveled on a given road. That technique becomes useful if you have to walk out.

Good planning and map reconnaissance is especially important when wheeling solo at night or in cold/inclement weather. Let's say you break down, slide your jeep off the road or become injured. You need to know where you are, where the closest house is, the closest gas station is, as well as the fastest way to exit the mountain. Last winter the snow got up to my JK's rock guards and we were on the verge of really getting stuck in blowing snow 10 o'clock at night. It got a little dicey as we planned our bail out on the fly.

Misc notes:
- Handheld dedicated GPS will probably become just an enthusiast's specialty item before too long what with every Smartphone and tablet having a built in GPS. FYI- your Smartphone's GPS doesn't need a wi-fi connection or cell connection to work. Both the Apple and Android OS' have mapping apps available. I have a Google Nexus 7 that I use in addition to my Garmin. I still prefer a dedicated handheld GPS though.
- In addition to the Garmin software, there's also Delorme Topo, Google Earth (free) and TopoFusion.
- Recommended National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps for the northern portion of the GWNF: #792, 791, 788, and 789.
- Other maps I've tried: the Delorme Gazetteer, printed Garmin topo maps, and even downloaded satellite imagery. With the exception of the PATC trail maps if you plan to hike, none of them are really necessary.
- Know how to read UTM coordinates before you leave home.
- I've considered using the Delorme inReach SE 2-Way satellite communicator but I'm still on the fence. I do use 'GPS Tracker' app for my iPhone so that my wife can track me when I'm out and about. It only works when there's a cell signal though.
- Plot key waypoints and exit points on your Nat Geo map in addition to plugging them into your GPS. This will save you time.
- Number the UTM grid lines on your Nat Geo map. This will save you time so that you don't have to constantly unfold your map.
- Be sure your GPS is using the NAD 27 datum since that is what the Nat Geo maps use.
- Know how to orient your map to magnetic north using a compass.
- Know how to convert magnetic to grid declination and vice versa.
- A clip board makes keeping your map folded and your tick list organized nicer. You can jam it between your glove box grab handle.
- At night wheel with a portable headlamp on your noggin. Those dim cabin compartment lights make map reading fine print hard. That, or upgrade to LED cabin lights.

Survival Stuff:
- Pack like you are going to end up stranded in freezing rain for 3 days.
- Get yourself a nice pair of rubber muck boots. Keeping your feet dry is half the battle. I don't understand how people can go snow wheeling in running shoes. I also carry Sorels.
- I am a big proponent of carrying chains when wheeling in snow and ice.
- Carry a backup pair of gloves. Stuff gets wet.
- Carry a collapsible snow shovel. Better yet, two.
- I carry a bailout pack with portable survival essentials in case I have to hike out.
- Know how to build a deadman's snow anchor.
- When wheeling in deep snow always drive back and forth to pack the snow before parking. Otherwise, your Jeep will settle in to the frame and you will get major stuck.
- Know how unjam your winch rope if it ever gets stuck on the drum. It's happened to me 3 times this year.
- Never separate yourself from your gear. If you decide to go hiking in the woods bring a small day pack with food, water, comms, and navigation tools.
- Cotton kills. Wear synthetic in the woods.

Sample Cheat Sheet

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Old 01-01-2014, 11:26 AM   #69
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great post! thanks.
I'm curious, How can i find out when seasonal roads are open?
I've been wanting to run 85-2 but is it closed in January?
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Old 01-01-2014, 11:47 AM   #70
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That's great information Kawa, thanks much. I am hoping to plan a second trip down there soon. Another friend just bought a JK and is itching to get it dirty. The one thing I will likely need based on your recommendations are tire chains.
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Old 01-01-2014, 04:37 PM   #71
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That's great information Kawa, thanks much. I am hoping to plan a second trip down there soon. Another friend just bought a JK and is itching to get it dirty. The one thing I will likely need based on your recommendations are tire chains.
I'm sure you guys will have fun. The nice thing about the GWNF is that you can run stock and do nicely. I do recommend M/T tires though. A/T do fine up to the point when there's mud or snow/ice.

As for chains, if you are using the stock JK 32" wheels go with the Type S chains unless you use spacers. I use the HDDS07 Diamond Type "S" from tirechain.com. Last year I ran them on the back. This year I'm using them on the front but with spacers. Here's a vid from a few weeks ago.


When I was up there last weekend there was no snow to speak of.
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Old 01-01-2014, 04:56 PM   #72
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great post! thanks.
I'm curious, How can i find out when seasonal roads are open?
I've been wanting to run 85-2 but is it closed in January?
You can reference the GWNF MVUM at www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5392127.pdf‎

Harris Spring (85-2) closes on 1/10 as do most the seasonals in that area. I recommend driving up on 85-2 off of Hwy 33, hitting Rader Mtn (FR597) in and out and then going down FR 152. Rader Mtn and FR152 are both seasonals and worth doing. Rader Mtn. is very muddy. Once you come down the mountain you'll be on CR31 (Camp Run Rd). If you turn right (east) you can refuel in Bergton and head back up the mountain on German River road (nice) or you can turn left (west) and hit CR3 (Sweedlin Valley) and either hit FR 87 up the mountain or continue on to FR 151 (State Forest Rd) and come out back on Hwy 33.
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Old 01-01-2014, 04:57 PM   #73
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Looks like a nice trip. Were you running chains then?
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Old 01-01-2014, 06:47 PM   #74
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Looks like a nice trip. Were you running chains then?
For the mid-Dec trip in the snow that I videoed. Yes, chains on front. For last weekend, no.
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Old 01-07-2014, 09:14 PM   #75
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Wheeled for 4 days in the northern GWNF after Christmas. Here's the video. Be sure to watch in HD.
The opening autopilot scene was taken on Rader Mountain seasonal forest road.
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Old 01-08-2014, 01:11 PM   #76
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Wheeled for 4 days in the northern GWNF after Christmas. Here's the video. Be sure to watch in HD.
The opening autopilot scene was taken on Rader Mountain seasonal forest road.
Simply awesome Kawa001! I thought the point where your wife was standing on the rocks looked familiar - and then the hemlock grove made me realize where you were

I will shoot you an email - would love to catch up!

Here are our shots from the same spot back in October.

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Old 01-08-2014, 01:45 PM   #77
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Indeed it is the place that must not be named. The last open trail on what must have been amazing jeep trail network thirty years ago. :-(

See if you know where this view is. My buddy and I hiked in last Saturday. Hint, it's an east view further north. You have to hike or bike in.
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Old 01-08-2014, 06:42 PM   #78
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WOW! a good review. I tried to download the maps via the wililoc site, my computer doesn't recognize the .gxp(?) extension. Now the site is telling me I don't know who I am, lol. will hand record this for future reference but does make one want to go exploring now.
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Old 01-08-2014, 09:17 PM   #79
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You need a gpx reading program to make it useable. BTW, you are downloading waypoints and tracks. Not maps. Here are some options:
Garmin BaseCamp free but you have to buy the maps if you want mapping. Not necessary if you just want to import gpx files.
Delorme Topo North America ($$). You get a topo map with this
TopoFusion (inexpensive). Uses publically available maps.
Google Earth (free).
Those are for PCs. I use other programs for my tablet and smart phone.

Keep in mind that while you can transfer routes, waypoints and tracks to your GPS with these program you can't transfer maps unless you buy the maps. A maps are proprietary to the GPS maker. You can't put a Delorme map on a Garmin for example. Hope this helps.
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Old 01-10-2014, 02:37 PM   #80
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See if you know where this view is. My buddy and I hiked in last Saturday. Hint, it's an east view further north. You have to hike or bike in.
Is that from White Rocks?

V - Did you get my email? Would love to know how things went...
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Old 01-15-2014, 11:40 PM   #81
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hey V, didn't know if you go my last message. Bestjeeperalive@gmail.com is my email.
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Old 01-16-2014, 09:16 PM   #82
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Kawa ...

Thanks a LOT for your long and accurate trip report in the GWNF. Seems we have run a lot of the same dirt. I was a Coast Guard navigator at sea for 32 years and now I'm landlocked but can't seem to quit my map addiction.

Spending money local: Check. The gas station cafe at Rawley Springs makes the best $2 handmade sandwiches ... also 100% gasoline no ethanol. Don't let them scare you city slickers with all their bear talk!

In my experience, the MVUM is *useless* for navigating ... the Nat'l Geo maps are best and DeLorme Gazetteer next best, drive to where you want to be on them, then pull out your MVUM to determine where and what kind of property surrounds you. My 0.02$
I have been to Flagpole a handful of times, and always led people out the back way down Union Springs Road back to Harrisonburg. I always wanted to continue the trail (FR 227) *past* Flagpole and on up to the WV/VA state line. Perhaps you could help me out:

Question 1: How much further is it, and what kind of shape is the road in?
Question 2: Turning left at the top, I take it that trail leads back down to Red Knob?

I have heard some rumblings that private property owners are agitated and about to close down Shoe Creek. I agree with you that Big Levels is a nicer trail and thinking about shifting my Club's "Newbie Run" from Shoe.

At the risk of giving away my biggest secret: try staying at the USFS Campground at Sherando Lake. It is central to a whole lot of the trails you detail, costs $20 ($25 with electrical outlets) with hot showers and flush toilets. Ahhhh, bliss!

I will share with you any intel I gather up there myself, although it seems you have done an exhaustive study already. Thanks again!

-Phil
Middle Penninsula Jeep Assn. Trail Committee Chairman
VA4WDA Land Use Coordinator
Yorktown, VA
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Old 01-16-2014, 09:47 PM   #83
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Kawa ... Thanks a LOT for your long and accurate trip report in the GWNF. Seems we have run a lot of the same dirt. I was a Coast Guard navigator at sea for 32 years and now I'm landlocked but can't seem to quit my map addiction. Spending money local: Check. The gas station cafe at Rawley Springs makes the best $2 handmade sandwiches ... also 100% gasoline no ethanol. Don't let them scare you city slickers with all their bear talk! In my experience, the MVUM is *useless* for navigating ... the Nat'l Geo maps are best and DeLorme Gazetteer next best, drive to where you want to be on them, then pull out your MVUM to determine where and what kind of property surrounds you. My 0.02$ I have been to Flagpole a handful of times, and always led people out the back way down Union Springs Road back to Harrisonburg. I always wanted to continue the trail (FR 227) *past* Flagpole and on up to the WV/VA state line. Perhaps you could help me out: Question 1: How much further is it, and what kind of shape is the road in? Question 2: Turning left at the top, I take it that trail leads back down to Red Knob? I have heard some rumblings that private property owners are agitated and about to close down Shoe Creek. I agree with you that Big Levels is a nicer trail and thinking about shifting my Club's "Newbie Run" from Shoe. At the risk of giving away my biggest secret: try staying at the USFS Campground at Sherando Lake. It is central to a whole lot of the trails you detail, costs $20 ($25 with electrical outlets) with hot showers and flush toilets. Ahhhh, bliss! I will share with you any intel I gather up there myself, although it seems you have done an exhaustive study already. Thanks again! -Phil Middle Penninsula Jeep Assn. Trail Committee Chairman VA4WDA Land Use Coordinator Yorktown, VA
phil are you talking about taking a left between flagpole and the meadow when coming up the briery branch side and going TOWARDS union springs? If so shoot me message, I just spent the weekend down that road, and a Friend of Brad B. Who is a bit part of VA4WDA
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Old 01-16-2014, 09:55 PM   #84
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Alright, FR227 is also known as Skidmore Fork Road. I just spent the weekend on there this past weekend.

There are 2 camping spots about 5 miles down that Trail. It is basically flagpole type trail, I was cruising at about 7mph down it. You can actually turn off of 33 on to FR227. You would turn onto Switzer Lake Road, which turns into Skidmore Fork Road then FR 227 and takes you right in between The Meadow (To the Left) and Flagpole (To the Right). It is about 6-7 miles long I can give Coordinates of Camping spots with fire rings.
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Old 01-17-2014, 04:38 AM   #85
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[QUOTE=error cooled;7337657]Is that from White Rocks? QUOTE]


How did you know?
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Old 01-17-2014, 05:22 AM   #86
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Thanks for reaching out and the kind words.
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Kawa ...

Thanks a LOT for your long and accurate trip report in the GWNF. Seems we have run a lot of the same dirt. I was a Coast Guard navigator at sea for 32 years and now I'm landlocked but can't seem to quit my map addiction.
Kawa: It's addicting. I have so many places I want to check out in the GWNF. I also hike and mountain bike in the GWNF. We're taking our bikes out this weekend to check out some of the gated forest roads near Wolf Gap.

Spending money local: Check. The gas station cafe at Rawley Springs makes the best $2 handmade sandwiches ... also 100% gasoline no ethanol. Don't let them scare you city slickers with all their bear talk!
Kawa: Are you talking about McDorman's Grocery on Hwy 33?

In my experience, the MVUM is *useless* for navigating ... the Nat'l Geo maps are best and DeLorme Gazetteer next best, drive to where you want to be on them, then pull out your MVUM to determine where and what kind of property surrounds you. My 0.02$
Kawa: I like your technique. Figuring out what is private property can be a challenge.

I have been to Flagpole a handful of times, and always led people out the back way down Union Springs Road back to Harrisonburg. I always wanted to continue the trail (FR 227) *past* Flagpole and on up to the WV/VA state line. Perhaps you could help me out:
Kawa: Are you saying that you run FP in a downhill manner starting at Briery Branch Road? I've run it both ways but prefer the uphill trek starting at Union Springs. One advantage of the downhill route is that you can run through Harrisonburg and wash your vehicle at Miracle Wash on Hwy 33. Best darn coin operated wash I've ever used.

FR 227 is the Switzer Lake road. I've only done it once about a year ago. It was in good condition. FR 1197 (Skidmore Fork Rd) is off of FR 227 and is on my to do list. FR 227 would be a good alternate for the traditional FP ride.

Question 1: How much further is it, and what kind of shape is the road in?
KAWA: I think I answered this above. If not let me know.

Question 2: Turning left at the top, I take it that trail leads back down to Red Knob? KAWA: Are you talking about Reddish Knob Road (FR 85B). If so, I love Reddish Knob. Ideally, all uphill FP trips should finish up on Reddish Knob overlook with a BBQ and air up. The roads back in there are worth exploring. There's a whole 'nother trail system back in there. Years ago, I raced the Shenandoah 100 back in there.

I have heard some rumblings that private property owners are agitated and about to close down Shoe Creek. I agree with you that Big Levels is a nicer trail and thinking about shifting my Club's "Newbie Run" from Shoe.
KAWA: Closing it down won't be easy because it's a state road- not Forest Service but I could see why locals would want it closed. Not that I think it should be.

At the risk of giving away my biggest secret: try staying at the USFS Campground at Sherando Lake. It is central to a whole lot of the trails you detail, costs $20 ($25 with electrical outlets) with hot showers and flush toilets. Ahhhh, bliss!
KAWA: Cool. Every time I've been in the area I was short on time and haven't been able to check it out. Thanks for sharing. Here's one for you. If you are wheeling in the FP area stay at the Sugar Grove Navy NIOC. They have cabins and trailers to rent and a decent club. Don't bring your guns though.

I will share with you any intel I gather up there myself, although it seems you have done an exhaustive study already. Thanks again!
KAWA: Please do share. Error Cooled is the real trail expert. An OCC guy and I are going to try and plan a mega 2 or 3 day wheeled orienteering event in May my work schedule permitting

-Phil
Middle Penninsula Jeep Assn. Trail Committee Chairman
VA4WDA Land Use Coordinator
Yorktown, VA
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Old 01-17-2014, 09:31 AM   #87
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Thanks for the great report and all the useful information. I live near the GWNF and spend alot of time in the western portions of the forest. PM me if you would like another jeep on your trip. My son and I love to explore Western Virginia.
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Old 01-17-2014, 05:32 PM   #88
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The Miracle Wash across from the 7-Eleven on 33? I used that car wash this past weekend. It does do some amazing wonders!!!

As far as FR227 and FR1197. I camped there this past weekend (Can get coordinates for 2 very nice but primitive camping locations there) We came in Switzler Lake Road off of 33, right before the WVa/VA Line and You are about 7 miles from the Top of Flag Pole. I know our camping location was 5.4 miles from the top of Flagpole down FR227.

Now the big thing about FR1197 and FR227. I think it splits about half way down, if so we played down it for a little while this weekend, but it Seemed to dead end, however it was dark and would maybe be a good place to explore a little more.

The Road for FR227 and FR1197 were both in good condition. A little better condition than Flagpole. Some downed trees this weekend, but I took care of the ones I ran into.

Good little trail, and fun. Excited to explore more.

Quote:
Kawa: Are you saying that you run FP in a downhill manner starting at Briery Branch Road? I've run it both ways but prefer the uphill trek starting at Union Springs. One advantage of the downhill route is that you can run through Harrisonburg and wash your vehicle at Miracle Wash on Hwy 33. Best darn coin operated wash I've ever used.

FR 227 is the Switzer Lake road. I've only done it once about a year ago. It was in good condition. FR 1197 (Skidmore Fork Rd) is off of FR 227 and is on my to do list. FR 227 would be a good alternate for the traditional FP ride.
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Old 01-17-2014, 08:53 PM   #89
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Kawa, I was asking regards running PAST Flagpole on the run up. FR227 (labelled Dunkle Hollow Road) runs up to a "T" - Map Quest shows Dunkle Hollow Tees with NF-85 ... right to FP left to Meadow and Union Springs. So if I turn right and continue past FP to WV/VA stateline - that is the section I have yet to run. But it sounds like none of this area is technical, I'll just have to get back soon.
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Old 01-17-2014, 10:42 PM   #90
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pcwolf View Post
Kawa, I was asking regards running PAST Flagpole on the run up. FR227 (labelled Dunkle Hollow Road) runs up to a "T" - Map Quest shows Dunkle Hollow Tees with NF-85 ... right to FP left to Meadow and Union Springs. So if I turn right and continue past FP to WV/VA stateline - that is the section I have yet to run. But it sounds like none of this area is technical, I'll just have to get back soon.
PC. I would be willing to run up to flagpole one weekend. Problem is I work until 9pm Saturday nights. We could run up then? And do a quick camp set up. Or we can run up one Sunday Morning. We could map out all of flagpole in a day and explore everything.

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