Bald Mountain Tread Lightly! Cleanup

Not going to lie. 2023 got off to a rough start. For those that don’t know I was the victim of a hit-and-run accident as a pedestrian in early January and have spent the better part of four months recovering from surgery. I was super bummed to miss out on a bunch of events earlier this year but there was one event I didn’t want to miss out on. A joint cleanup project with Tread Lightly! Quadratec 50-for-50 and Virginia Four-Wheel-Drive on the Bald Mountain Jeep Trail. There was only one catch: I can’t drive long distances and with limited mobility I wasn’t sure how useful I’d be. Thankful friends of mine threatened to kidnap me if I backed out and one friend in particular drove out of his way to pick me up — Thanks Walt!

We left my place in south-central PA early Thursday morning and took backroads south out of town after a healthy breakfast at a local greasy spoon. Our first stop on the way was the C&O Canal Visitors Center in Williamsport, Maryland. Sadly it was closed. Just my luck. We were however able to check out some of the building and infrastructure there at the site before resuming our trek south.

This lift bridge over the canal was really cool to look at. Love seeing old pieces of history like this preserved. For more information on the C&O Canal visit this link.

Our next top was Front Royal, Virginia to rendezvous with another friend of mine that would be helping out this weekend. It was also a good stopping point for lunch. We hit up a perennial favorite of mine The Main Street Mill. I had first stopped at the old mill building with my friend John of New Horizons Overland after the 2017 Bald Mountain trail cleanup. Fitting.

Trip Report: Shadow of Skyline + VA4wdA Earth Day Trail Maintenance Day

After some good food, good beer, and plenty of laughs our group of two rigs continued south through the Shenandoah Valley snaking backroads and byways because, as we know, highways suck. Once we hit Waynesboro, Virginia it was time to stock up at the grocery store before heading up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and down to the trailhead for the Bald Mountain Jeep Trail.

Walt’s Gladiator with trailer in tow (aka the “Servants Quarters” for me) and Jonathan’s JKU hitting the northern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Afton, VA.

Our plan was to camp out along the trail Thursday night with a small group of people before heading down off the mountain to the Sheranado Lake Campground to join the rest of the group from the Virginia Four-Wheel-Drive Association as well as a few more friends — like the before mentioned John from New Horizons Overland.

Is there anything better than late-night trail-side sharp cootie tree as a snack?

Friday was spent running errands in town after breakfast at local greasy spoon. Once at Sherando Lake Campground we made camp and chilled making new friends and getting reacquainted with old friends. Having done this same cleanup in 2017 it was nice to see some familiar faces showing up again this year. After a roaring fire under the pavilion, more than a few nips of scotch, and plenty more laughs it was off to bed.

More shark coochy tea in camp after running errands and setting up camp in the rain.

The initial forecast for the weekend was shit. Not going to lie, when I saw the weather report I almost bailed. However, I stuck it out knowing full well that if you don’t like the weather in the Blue Ridge Mountains just wait, it will change. After torrents of rain Thursday night on top of the mountain, and some more rain Friday night at the campground we were all soaked like frogs in a pond. Lucky for us the weather for Saturday turned out to be perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Volunteers with VA4WDA, Tread Lightly!, and Quadratec’s 50-for-50 ready to hit the trail.
First campsite of the day.

Our large group of about 50 people broke down into three teams. One team would handle the main gravel forest service road that accessed the lower trailhead. One team would start at that lower trailhead and work uphill. The last team would start at the upper trailhead off the parkway and work their way downhill. Along with picking up trash our groups were tasked with repairing some vandalized signs. Seriously? How pathetic do you have to be to vandalize forest service signs? Lame.

Seriously. Even if you’re not a “Jeep person” there is no need to deface a sign like this. Not least of which that “Jeep” in this context historically meant “four-wheel-drive” not Jeep branded vehicles.
These stickers are a temporary fix while the USFS works on new signs for the trail.
That will probably be next year’s project
Anyone need a TJ rear seat?
Don’t ask; Don’t tell. I’m not sure I want to know.
Drainage was another issue our crew dealt with where we could.
Many of these mudholes had drainage ditches that were clogged with leaves and whatnot.
Nothing a little time with a shovel or two can’t fix.
Another mud hole getting drained by John of New Horizons Overland.
Filling the dumpster with the day’s spoils.
Everyone was excited to see the trailers empty and the dumpster fill up.
Not bad for three teams worth of work over a solid day on the trail.
Team #3 is the best team!

With a dumpster full of trash we headed back to the Sherando Lake Campground to fill our empty bellies. Thanks to a number of sponsors and supporters of the VA4WDA a number of people walked away with some pretty cool prizes. After that it was back to fires, drinks, and laughs. So many laughs that by midnight I was pretty sure I had pulled an ab muscle. Just ask volunteer Jonathan about “Talking to Trees.”

Gratuitous trail show showing how narrow the trail gets in some spots.
Work Hard; Play Hard. Walt decided to tackle the rock obstacle along the BMJT.
I won’t say he got stuck. Nor will I say that yours truly had to stack some rocks for you.

All in all it was a great weekend. Even though the weather was less than ideal before and after the event, we lucked out for great weather the day of the cleanup. It’s always a pleasure to be a part of projects like this which bring together some of the best people in the four-wheel-drive community. It’s also great to support organizations like Tread Lightly!, and Quadratec with their 50 for 50 campaign, with their efforts to give back and help cleanup the trails in our backyard.

I strongly implore you join Tread Lightly! to see when there will be a cleanup near you — or in an area you’d like to travel to. Also make sure to check out Quadratec’s 50-for-50 cleanup schedule to see when there will be a cleanup in your state. Also, if you know of an area that needs attention, don’t hesitate to mention it to either Tread Lightly! or Quadratec because they are always looking for new projects.

For more information please visit these links and considering supporting these great organizations and programs.

Tread Lightly! <~ Best way to find out about future cleanups

Quadratec 50-for-50

Virginia Four-Wheel-Drive Association