Thread: COOPER DISCOVERER GEORGE WASHINGTON NATIONAL FOREST ADVENTURE

  1. #1
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    Mar 2012
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    Default COOPER DISCOVERER GEORGE WASHINGTON NATIONAL FOREST ADVENTURE

    With weather being in the 90s already in North Carolina we started making plans to head for higher elevation about a week before the 4th of July weekend. Since we were just in Pisgah National Forest a couple weeks ago camping, I wanted something different. We decided to do George Washington National Forest. I have only ever camped up there in the winter and wasn't sure it would be any cooler but it had to be better than a weekend at the beach.

    We left the house in Greensboro, North Carolina about 1pm on Friday with a 4 hour drive ahead of us just to get to the first trail. Mostly highway but some scenery so it wasn't too bad and it sure beat the hell out of working a full day.


    Once we hit Harrisonburg, VA we took highway 33 west to Skidmore Fork Rd where the pavement ends and gravel begins. The plan was to check out Switzer/Skidmore Lake to see if there was any camping around it. As we were coming down out of the switchbacks towards the lake we could catch small glimpses and it was beautiful. I cant wait to head back in the winter when the leaves have fallen for a better view.

    When we got to the lake, there were no campsites and you're not allowed to swim. We stopped and took in the view before heading on. It is not often that you get to see a beautiful lake like this without having a bunch of mansions dotting the along the waters edge.



    We left the lake about 5:30 and decided to head towards Flagpole Knob to catch the sunset and find a campsite. (I can tell you that AT&T stops working as soon as you hit the north end of Skidmore Fork RD) We started using GAIA GPS with maps that I had downloaded ahead of time once we left the lake. We followed Skidmore Fork south until it turns into Dunkle Hollow Rd. It gets a little confusing as there are some small reroutes where there is some logging going on but nothing that isn't noticed within a couple hundred yards. We turned down a couple small roads to explore them a ways before returning to Dunkle Hollow. We even checked out this dry river bed for a ways but it didn't run into anything exciting.


    Dunkle Hollow continues to run south weaving back and forth between a small creek. I don't think the water was any deeper than 24 inches in any of the crossings.


    Before Dunkle Hollow runs into US Forest Service Road 85 it gets a bit tight and overgrown. The switchbacks get a bit steeper and rougher and the temperature begins to plummet. We went from 90 degrees in Harrisonburg to 75 degrees at over 3000 feet. Seeing the temperature drop like this was like winning the lottery for me. I hate camping when the temps are above 75 while you are sleeping.

    Just when I was feeling happiest I look at a small campsite to my left that had a large fire burning and no vehicle. First thought was hikers, then I took in the 25 person tent and 2 large coolers... Not hikers... We had just passed some guys going the opposite direction in a Jeep not too far back and maybe there was someone in the tent tending to the fire. While I'm taking this in and debating going into the campsite to make sure the fire was being cared for and if not put it out, Kratai says "BEAR" My first reaction was, "are you sure it wasn't a deer?" Her reply with rolled eyes "are there black deer?"
    So we drive on for a while in silence. Me wondering if this means she is not going to be willing to camp and how to make her comfortable. Before this trip and while camping in Pisgah I had already talked to her about bears and how they will not bother us but that we do not want to be cooking bacon on the tailgate and leaving food out around our campsite.
    I finally broke the silence and asked her if she was worried or if we needed to get a hotel instead of camp. She said no but didn't sound as exciting about camping as she did before. I told her we would have a big fire and an open campsite and that the bears are not going to bother us. They are more scared of us than we are of them. We would be safe and smart. We were also packing some protection that we would keep close at hand. It wasn't long before the great views of the natural springs in the mountains and sun cresting over the peaks made us both forget the bear. We kept driving and occasionally stopping for pictures.

    Once Dunkle Hollow ends on FSR85 you head west maybe a 1/4 mile and you will run into the side road taking you to Flagpole Knob. I think we got to Flagpole Knob at about 7pm. I was expecting to see a half dozen tents and vehicles but it turned out that we had the place entirely to ourselves. We stopped at the large fire pit at the center of the knob and the view was spectacular. I had been 2 winters ago but the view in the winter is not the same. The elevation hear is 4350 feet and the temperature was already 70. We decided to set up camp rather than just watching the sunset and moving on since we had everything to ourselves.

    We worked a bit to find the best spot to park the Lexus so we had a good view of the sunrise in the morning. I set up the tent and Kratai started cleaning up the trash around the fire pit left by others. We were able to burn most of it but what we couldn't we packed out with us.
    Just when I finished setting up the tent I heard an engine and began to wonder if we decided to stay too early. "We should have enjoyed the view and given it a while. Here come a dozen hellions to drive us away from this spot"
    It turned out to be a local couple in a Chevy pickup. We offered them a beer but they were already covered and offered us some moonshine in return. I kindly declined the moonshine only because I didn't know them but it was a tempting offer. They hung out for about 15 minutes then headed on.

    We got settled in and enjoyed the view around a nice fire.



    We even had a small buck that hung around our campsite for about two hours. He had no fear at all of us. We had a bluetooth speaker playing music the whole time and the more I drink the louder I get. None of it phased him. At one point he was across our fire, not more than 10 feet away from us.

    The wind picked up here on the Knob and the temperature dropped below 60. We had a pair of jeans each but other than that all we had packed were t-shirts and shorts. We got that fire roaring but the wind wasn't allowing us to enjoy any of it's warmth. We turned in a bit early and slept like babies.
    We slept so well that we missed the sunrise and unzipped the door of the tent around 7am. It still made for a great first site!


    I got the fire going while Kratia made some breakfast. I'd like to have a view like this from our kitchen everyday.


    It was still in the high 60s by the time we finished breakfast. We stayed around the campfire enjoying our coffee, letting our food settle, and just enjoying the amazing view. With this weather, I cannot think of any time I have ever been this comfortable camping. I could have used a hoodie but it wasn't too bad. Much better than being too hot. I love camping but 9 times out of 10 I am too hot. Up here things were perfect.
    We had a lazy morning sitting around the fire and taking pictures. We did throw a frisbee for a while too.

    Around ten the first Jeep showed up. Two guys but they stuck to themselves taking photos and wouldn't so much as return a good morning.
    Shortly after another couple showed up in a Jeep. They stopped to comment on the tent and ask some questions about the trails. When they left I decided we should move on. We set up the annex so we had some privacy for bathing and I think this is only the second time I have ever used it.


    After cleaning up and packing we decided to head n to Reddish Knob.


    Shortly after leaving our campsite we came across two old foundations and steps. I wish I knew the history behind these things. If anyone knows please chime in.


    ** I will try to finish the report tonight.
    2001 LX470
    2001 Patriot Blue Limited WJ SOLD
    Family Adventure WJ Build

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    From Flagpole Knob we continued on FSR85 going southwest and ran into pavement after a while. I think Reddish Knob is right at 4500 feet. As soon as you hit the pavement there are signs for Reddish Knob Spur. It is paved all the way to the top. About halfway up the graffiti starts too. It's too bad there is this much vandalism up there but at the same time we tried to get some artsy shots with it.
    These first shots are at an overlook about halfway up Reddish Knob Spur. We have started using the sunroof and tent to get better views and it is making me want to build a new roofrack a lot sooner than my wallet will allow me to.



    From the top of Reddish Knob you have unobstructed 360 degree views for miles. It was a beautiful clear day and I don't think it could have been any better for this spot. I bet we got 200 pictures between the two of us up here but here are a couple we liked the most.



    The graffiti I spoke of earlier.


    After taking in all there was to see at Reddish Knob we headed further south looking for FSR95. It is a nice bit of gravel road that follows the Little River. I had camped with some friends out this way a couple years ago and was looking for a particular spot that had a nice creek bed behind it.

    We ran into a bit of gravel and some old 1 lane bridges with local kits swimming. It got me thinking a swim would be nice and my hopes of finding the perfect campsite and taking a dip skyrocketed.


    The first campsite we came to was packed with 4 vehicles and just as many tents. The next campsite we saw was also occupied and so were the next 10 campsites we came to. These are all primitive campsites but it seems the nicely groomed gravel roads and proximity to paved roads made these a lot more appealing to campers than the area we were in the night before.

    Around 2pm we started seeing some empty sites but they were trashed, small, or not near water. I began to give up on my hopes of having a cool creek to take a dip in. The elevation in this area is much lower and the temperatures were bordering 80 degrees. We either needed water or needed to head higher. We finally decided that we would stop for lunch at the next empty site we saw regardless of how crappy it was. We were both hungry and just needed to stretch our legs.

    We found an empty spot and pulled in. We didn't even take time to look around. I didn't see any signs of water and it was a bit warm. We just pulled out the table and stove and started boiling some water for some noodles.


    We enjoyed ate and after looking around a bit decided this site wasn't too bad, it was actually quite nice. We even found there was a small creek running behind it.
    We quickly set up camp and got the fire burning so we could relax the rest of the day.


    We brought a speaker and couple beers down to the creek with our chairs. We set the chairs up right in the water. It was cold but wonderful. I think we sat in the creek drinking, talking, and listening to music for about 2 hours. It was great. My wife had seen a picture of some people sitting in chairs in a shallow stream and had the idea. I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't done it before. It's pretty relaxing.


    After cooling off in the creek we started in on dinner. We had already decided that this was going to be our last night so we had two nights food to finish off. We grilled some bone in chicken thighs, that Kratai had filleted and seasoned at home, steak kabobs, and some corn. Before starting our fire we had modified it into a "keyhole" shape so we could have the big fire on one end and harvest the good coals for cooking down at the other end.


    I bought this grill contraption at Bass Pro about 3 years ago after seeing a buddy use one but this was the first time I had used ours. It worked great!

    Dinner was awesome that night and we didn't pack up nearly as many leftovers as we probably should have.

    We slept in again the next morning while it rained a bit. Once the rain stopped we had another great breakfast and set up the hammock to lounge around for a bit before finally packing up to make the long trip home.


    This was an awesome weekend and we will be back to the area several more times this year.


    Our faithful Lexus also turned 200,000 miles as we pulled in the driveway... After one extra lap around the block.


    Hope you enjoyed reading. I saved the coordinates for the last campsite fore anyone interested.

    -Brett
    2001 LX470
    2001 Patriot Blue Limited WJ SOLD
    Family Adventure WJ Build

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    Hog Waller, GA
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    Very cool, Brett. We'll be up that way in October again. It's a beautiful area.
    Safety fast,
    Bill

    "Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king
    And a king ain't satisfied till he rules everything"
    Bruce Springstein


    HAM General licensee

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilldweller View Post
    Very cool, Brett. We'll be up that way in October again. It's a beautiful area.
    It is beautiful. We are thinking of heading back again in a couple weeks. We will also be back when the leaves change and again later for some snow.
    2001 LX470
    2001 Patriot Blue Limited WJ SOLD
    Family Adventure WJ Build

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
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    Greensboro, North Carolina
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    Does voting begin today? I could really use a new set of tires :P
    2001 LX470
    2001 Patriot Blue Limited WJ SOLD
    Family Adventure WJ Build

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    SANDY HOOK VA
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    26
    Im up there allllll the time spent many nights up on Flagpole with the wind howling , great pictures

  7. #7
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    Oct 2010
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    Vienna, VA
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    34
    Hey Brett I'm sending you a PM for some info on your trip!

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