Trail Report:
Second Mountain Trail,
George Washington National Forest,
Harrisonburg, Virginia

---Second Mountain, Gauley Ridge, Old Long Run Road---


Author: Joe Micciche, April, 2001. A special thank you to Jake Pillow and Malinda Brickley, Josh Dempsey, and Kevin Wolford for contributing photographs.

Second Mountain, Gauley Ridge, Old Long Run Road

Some thoughts on the ride from other participants:

From Josh Dempsey, '98 Honda Passport
I have to admit when I pulled up to the Waffle House I was a little hesitant. My stock '98 Passport looked piss-ant compared to the vehicles that showed up. As we departed the Waffle House, I fell in line behind Jake and his Amigo and knew that's exactly where I wanted to stay. His Amigo being the closest in model to mine, except for his lift and tires of course! I asked him if he would mind me sticking close and he and Malinda were both gracious to have me follow. Jake was a big help getting me through a number of spots. A couple of times I got tired of seeing rocks and creek crossings but Jake's guidance was a huge confidence booster. No one made my stock height ride feel inferior. I went through the same creek crossings and mud bogs as everyone else and fared well. More impressive than how well my vehicle did was the group of people that were on the trip: Jake for his great guidance, John Smith for his mechanical help and just generally everyone for making me feel welcome. I definitely look forward to doing it again!

Jake and Malinda's '90 Amigo, ready for the trails.

From Jake Pillow and Malinda Brickley, '90 Isuzu Amigo
Malinda and I began our trip from Wendell, NC and headed to Harrisonburg, VA to rendezvous with Joe and Monk. Monk had wheeled some of the trails prior to this event, so he had an idea of where we were going to set up camp for the night so we headed off to Second Mountain. By then, darkness was closing in, as was the cold. After checking out a couple of sites we decided on one that was at the top of the Mountain overlooking the City of Harrisonburg. We had just completed our first night run in GWNF. We then searched for firewood and began setting camp. Once we settled in, it became clear that good conversation, great friends and incredible wheeling would be the theme for the weekend.

We broke camp at 6AM the following morning and headed back to Harrisonburg to meet the rest of the 'tribe'. Several Toyotas including two FJ40 LandCruisers, numerous Isuzu Troopers (1 stock), my Amigo, a Mitsubishi Montero, a stock Passport and one Hummer made up the group. Now - it was off to take care of some well-deserved wheeling!

Our first ride was the same trail we had taken the night before, Second Mountain. The trail consisted of some minor crawling (breaking-in the beast type) and two nice mud pits which led to the top of the Mountain at the power lines. The two Cruisers and a Toyota truck decided to take a side trail and hook up with the rest of the group at the top... They apparently forgot to take a left in Albuquerque and ended up dead-ending twice. Four of the group from the top decided to go down the Mountain and intercept, which they did successfully. Onward we went, headed for the ATV offload area for some lunch and a little flexing on a quasi-ramp (you'll see what I mean).

After lunch it was off to Gauley Ridge and Old Long Run. Minor cut backs, tight-squeeze trails, eye-popping dropoffs and several creek crossings is what this trail had in store. All you could ever wish for! Tremendous wheeling!!! Thanks to AllenD for his leadership, and thanks to all the rest for their patience while I spotted the stock Passport.
Let's do it again SOON!
Jake & Malinda

So it was the weekend of March 2nd and 3rd, 2001, when several people from the 4x4Wire TrailTalk Forums gathered for a trailride in the George Washington National Forest (GWNF) west of Harrisonburg, Virginia. In all, we had 16 vehicles participate, with people from New York, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. The vehicles ranged from a stock Honda Passport and a Hummer to well-built Isuzu Troopers and various Toyotas. The trails we ran were suitable for all levels of experience and vehicle, and they provided superb scenery and some good, technical wheeling.

Our Friday evening campsite on Second Mountain.

I met up with Jake and Malinda in their '90 Amigo and James West in his Trooper Friday evening, and we went off in search of camping. We traveled Route 33 West out of Harrisonburg to the turn-off for the Second Mountain Trail in the GWNF. After driving a few miles up the trail, James found a campsite high on the mountain under the cover of trees which provided a stunning view of Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley below. While it was quite cold that evening, in the morning we were treated to a spectacular sunrise over the mountains on the eastern side of the Valley.

Our trail boss for the day, Allen Dickenson and "Fort Knox". And yes, despite the optical illusion, Allen does indeed have feet.

Early Saturday, we came down off the mountain and met up with the group in Harrisonburg. After breakfast and topping off the tanks, and a stop to air down and lock hubs, Allen Dickenson led the group further out Rt. 33 to the Second Mountain trail.

Second Mountain offers some lengthy climbs up the mountain. Fortunately for our group it was dry, so traction was excellent and the group kept up a good pace. The trail wasn't terribly challenging, but it did require negotiation of ruts and small rocks, along with a few mudholes. This entire trail is suitable for a stock vehicle, and offers scenery typical of the eastern forests.

On Second Mountain, we stopped to run the Powerlines. Actually, the main group went to the top of the Powerlines while another group turned off the main trail to come up the Powerline trail. The smaller group immediately got lost on several dead-end trails, so the main group waited up top and finally people started heading down the Powerlines.

j_kevin.jpg fj40.jpg jd_convoy.jpg
Playing on the Powerline trail.

The Powerlines offered good climbs and descents, with a number of berms to traverse. Those of us in the LWB vehicles shaved off the top of the dirt berms with crossmembers and skidplates, and we had our only stuck of the day here (which also turned into a very quick retrieval). Once the small group of Toyotas caught back up, we regrouped and headed on to a group picture site and the Gauley Ridge trail. Gauley Ridge is marked at the intersection with Second Mountain Trail and Long Run Road, so route-finding is obvious.

Gauley Ridge was very short as we peeled off to the real treat of the day: a sharp right put us on an unmarked trail called Old Long Run Road. After the descent down the mountain, this trail offered up a non-stop barrage of stream crossings, negotiating streambanks, tree roots, and modest rocks.

John Smith prepares for another stream crossing.

The sound of scraping undercarriages was prominent on Old Long Run, especially for the non-lifted vehicles. Dropping down into the streams were often blind drops, with rooted, rocky, and wet banks to ascend - for those without lockers or very aggressive tires, some throttle was required. We kept a slow pace under the canopy of the forest in order to allow adequate decision-making time for which lines to take, and to allow for some spotting. Aside from the clanging of metal on rock, everyone made it through unscathed and with no stuck vehicles to recover. Old Long Run Road finally ended at Long Run Road, which then led out to Route 612 and civilization (or more trails - your preference).

The "Loop Trail" and Kephardt Run

All weekend we had been hearing about an approaching storm, so once the group was on Long Run Road some riders elected to head home or to lodging, while others sought out more wheeling. After working our way back to Route 33, we headed west past the Second Mountain Trail to a "loop" trail on the south side of Rt. 33, with the entrance marked by a shack sitting off the road about 50 feet. Allen called this the "Loop Trail" because it simply loops back around to Rt. 33 if it's followed.

Two Isuzu Troopers cross a river to Kephardt Run.

This trail was very flat and required slow and careful vehicle placement between trees, and some multi-point turns for my LWB truck. Thankfully it too was dry, otherwise throttle-induced slipping could have resulted in some (more) body damage. This loop eventually led to an interesting and picturesque river crossing over to Kephardt Run, which runs along a mountain, then we crossed back over the river to get to Rt. 33: all told, this trail required under an hour to cover. At this point, a handful of the remaining 'wheelers decided to run the trail back the way we came, while others headed home.

With the weather forecast calling for anything from heavy rains to a foot of snow, everybody decided against camping Saturday night, so I began the long journey home. I had 6 hours to reflect on the excellent wheeling we did all day, the superb scenery of the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding mountains, and the new friends made.

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