Earth Day on Bald Mountain with VA4WDA and Tread Lightly!

I moved a lot growing up. However, despite living in more than five states (some of them more than once) there have only ever been three states that have felt like “home.” The first is obviously where I was born: Massachusetts. Second up is Pennsylvania which is where I spent most of my childhood and a lot of my adult years. The last state that felt like home was Virginia. In total I only lived in Virginia for three years, but to this day it still remains a place I care deeply about. That’s why when Earth Day rolls around I like to head down to Virginia and help out the Virginia Four-Wheel-Drive Association and Tread Lightly! with their annual cleanup and maintenance workday on the Bald Mountain Jeep Trail.

Previous cleanups with VA4WDA & TL: 2017 & 2023

I did not camp out for the AOAA/TL Cleanup given that AOAA is only an hour from the house. Given a slightly longer drive for this cleanup I opted to camp out the night before and the night off making for a solid weekend of camping in the mountains — a much needed, long overdue, weekend of camping. With the LS LJ down-and-out with a blown head gasket it was time to throw things back to the super basic and just sleep in the back of a stock Jeep. Once camp was set up it was time to socialize for a while. The VA4WDA crew is a solid group of people from all across the state. This cleanup brings out some of the best enthusiasts, clubs, and companies come out every year.

I’ve camped with Jonathan before and I like how easily his Gazelle tent goes up.
Might have to pick one up for trips like this when I don’t have the trailer.
However, in a pinch, I can just sleep in the back of the LJ.
Basic, but gets the job done.
Camp might be basic, but that doesn’t mean we have to et basic.
Jonathan provided the food, I provided the culinary skills.
Turkey brats, peppers & mushrooms, with some potatoes & spinach in a wrap = winning.

Saturday morning started off with a volunteer meeting which of course included more than a few liability waivers. After a brief talk from the USFS and VA4WDA it was my turn to set up and say a few words on behalf of Tread Lightly!. I was quick to thank everyone for showing up and doing their part, and even quicker to wrap it up so we could hit the forest.

Volunteer meeting. Was nice seeing old friends and making new ones.

We broke into three teams focused on high-impact areas. One team headed to a remote site to fish tires out of the woods. In total I heard they pulled more than 120 tires out and pretty much filled their dumpster. Another group headed off to an abandoned campsite that was overflowing with trash. The third and final group was hitting Coal Road. Not only is this a high traffic road prone to miscellaneous litter, but there are a number of trailhead parking lots and primitive campsites both equally prone to litter.

Glad to see that the Tread Lightly! posts that were put up last year and still standing.
Now we just have to get people to read them and follow the TREAD principles.

After a few hours we had Jonathan’s ex-military trailer filled to the brim. With all of Coal Road cleared we opted to end our day on the Bald Mountain Jeep Trail. Although not part of our cleanup tasks I still wanted to check the stuff we had done last year and make sure there wasn’t anything that needed immediate attention.

From the ground to the bag… from the trailer to the dumpster… then on to the trail.
The Bald Mountain Jeep Trail isn’t very difficult.
Pretty much any stock 4×4 can do the trail.
However, if you’re a wide-boi like the F150 in front of us… it gets tight.
Jonathan posing on the main obstacle of the BMJT.
I tried to get it to go over it, but he just backed down and took the bypass.
Maybe next time…

One of the reasons I wanted to run the BMJT was to check the signs we put up in 2017. Last year on the 2023 cleanup we had to replace the word “JEEP” on a bunch of signs because people were defacing the signs. Sadly it seems some things never change:

If you’re so insecure about what you drive that you feel the need to deface trail signs on public land:
GET A NEW HOBBY!!! This is grossly unacceptable.

We carefully removed the stickers and as soon as replacement signs are ready we will help put them up.

To say I was royally pissed when I found the sign pictured above with three club/organization stickers belonging to a non-Jeep brand is a bit of an understatement. I get it, it’s called a “Jeep Trail” and you don’t drive a “Jeep.” I am so sorry that your fragile ego is triggered by an innocuous four-letter-word and you need to a) scratch the word “Jeep” off the sign and/or b) feel the need to put your sticker over that word. Either way, this is a sign funded by tax payer money and installed by hard working volunteers. This is not: “Doing your part.”

Is it even “camping” if there isn’t a roaring campfire?
One of the things I love about this site is the old CCC pavilion with this amazing stone fire place.
Toss in a few logs and sit back, way back, because this thing gets warm.

For more information on helping with future TREAD Lightly! projects please consider becoming a member. Member fees are what support projects like this and those member fees go toward supplies, dumpers, permit fees, and other project necessities. No matter where you are there is a project in your area and if there’s not, let TREAD Lighly! know and they’ll come out to help!

Become a TREAD Lightly! member today!

Also, if you are an enthusiast, 4wd club, or 4wd company based in Virginia please considering joining the Virginia Four-Wheel-Drive-Association. The benefits are numerous and it’s a great way to give back to the community through supporting events like this.

Lastly, if you would like to support future cleanup efforts like this, and you want to support the ECOA mission to Educate, Encourage, and Inspire please consider dropping by our online store.
All proceeds from merch sales go back into our travel fund to get too and from events.