Off-Road Camping in GW National Forest, VA

Discussion in 'Taking Your Camper Off Road' started by striker, Aug 2, 2009.

  1. striker

    striker New Member

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    Purchased my Fleetwood, now Coleman, E-2 two years ago and have only done off-road camping. Generally speaking, it's worked out ok. As others have pointed out, the big issue is the hitch/receiver as far as ground clearance is concerned. I carry another hitch that I can use without the weight distribution system if I have a serious clearance issue.

    TV is a 2005, Nissan Frontier 4x4, auto, with towing capacity of 6100 lbs. No special tow package offered. I don't have any serious issues except going up a steep hill to my cabin. Have to go around a sharp curve which drops my speed to 5 mph or less. Then, I'm in low gear for 1/4 to 1/2 mile to reach my cabin. By then, the transmission is hot and I can smell it. However, once I unhook the E-2 and drive without it, the transmission seem to shift fine. My mechanic checks it whenever the oil is changed.
    I realize I probably should get an auxiliary cooler, but that's not in the retirement budget. (Of course, neither is a transmission repair.) I'm considering selling the E-2 in the spring for this reason.

    I recently had an off-road experience that I would rather have avoided. Was near Clifton Forge VA in the GWNF looking for a camping site. I had seen a few, but wanted to check out more options. I didn't look at the map closely and ended up on private property with a road that never saw maintenance. Also, there were no places to turn around. It was next to Pads Creek and water was in the road as well. I went through several water holes without incident and then through one that caused water to splash on the deck of the E-2. It was the deepest water I've been in with my truck. The electrical system shorted out and the emergency brake engaged. I was dragging about 3500-4000 lbs. out of the water hole. (E-2 has gross weight around 4500 lbs.) Luckily, I had cell service and reached my dealer who told me how to disconnect the power cord from the battery to the brake system. Did so and made it out of there. Found an ok camping site on another forest service road which was well maintained.
    Lesson learned: call the Forest Service office in the area you plan to visit and ask what areas they recommend vs. those they discourage for off-road or dispersed camping.

    One other incident took place two years ago near Stuarts Draft, VA also in the GWNF. Was camped about 75 feet off of a FS road (Coal Road) in a small wildlife clearing. About 1:00 am, I heard a pickup truck with loud mufflers coming down the road. It stopped at the entrance to my location. My GSD went on full alert and I readed for my Glock. Then it roared toward us, circling the E-2, driving through a mud hole, and then back to the FS road. I called the FS LEO on Monday am and mentioned the incident. He told me that campers were unfortunately harassed along this road. He blamed this on parents who buy 4x4s for their kids to get them out of their hair and don't care what the kids do. He advised avoiding all of eastern Augusta Co. (near Waynesboro/Staunton.) Lesson learned: try to find a site where you can't be seen from the nearest road.
     
  2. mjbrox

    mjbrox New Member

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    Ahhh GWNF.

    It is actually one of the reasons I want a pup

    I figure, I can go set up camp with my wife and son (he is due on Sun:) )

    Then go for a 2-3 hour bike ride on the epic GWNF trails.

    How bad of an idea would most of the Forest roads be with and Acura MDX? I plan on getting a light pup
     
  3. Kevin 11-RT

    Kevin 11-RT New Member

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    Hello Striker,

    Have you priced transmission coolers? I think you will find they are pretty cheap. I purchased one for my Tacoma for like $50.00 or so and I think the install was another $65.00 or so.

    I love my Starcraft 11RT (off-road camper) as it makes my camper more versatile, and allows me to do more stuff in more comfort.

    Kevin
     
  4. 2002Trooper4me

    2002Trooper4me New Member

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    Well, I am sorry to hear of your bad experiences in GWNF. We have had a blast camping there. We are camping in the northern district west of Harrisonburg and have had no bad encounters such as that.

    As for the other poster regarding bringing an Acura SUV in there, as long as you stick to the fireroads you should be fine.
     

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