A group of us got together last weekend down near Roanoke for some trail riding and general tomfoolery. Sunday came all too soon and it was bittersweet. Everyone was gathering their belongings and getting ready to head back home, but MS and I had other plans. We were driving up to Braley Pond to set up camp and explore the GWNF a little bit.
Some info on the Braley Pond Day Use and Dispersed Camping Area:
Braley is a 4.5-acre impoundment constructed in 1965 by the U.S. Forest Service as a recreation pond. It was drained in 1989 to dredge the upper end. The fill was used to build a “fishing point.” Keeper-sized rainbow trout are stocked and largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish are thriving
Braley Pond Day Use Area is a very popular access to multiple trailheads including Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy this universally accessible area perfect for family picnics, or plan to stay overnight in the adjacent dispersed camping site.
We got to Staunton around lunch and stopped at Sheetz. Now y’all who’re without sin can cast the first stone…, but a Sheetz quesadilla hits the spot. We filled up the gas tank, took advantage of available cell service, chowed down, and listened to some entertaining voice mails that had accumulated on my phone.
Eventually, we shoved off toward Braley Pond, which was about another 20-30 minutes west on 250. We found it easy enough and upon a cursory inspection found only one camping spot occupied of maybe 6 total sites available. And by “occupied” I mean a band of gypsies had clearly set up a permanent residence there along with their kids and dogs. We found a nearly perfect spot on the opposite side of the camping area.
After settling in, setting up tents, etc., we geared up to take a ride. We had been planning to try this loop (clockwise), but with the late hour of the day upon us and not knowing what we would be getting into, we decided to head out what would have been the end of the loop. That way, we would know what was behind us in order to get back to camp.
We followed the pond-side trail around to the back side where there is a small bridge and a sign nearby for Johnson’s Draft. This fire road and after a short distance, there are signs for Johnson’s Draft which veers off to the right and circles back around to the campsite (at least according to the map). Continuing to follow the fire road will eventually lead you to singletrack that ascends off of the right side of the trail. The day we were there, the trail head sign was on the ground. If you make it to the gate, you’ve gone too far. However, if your plan is to get to Georgia Camp, you could continue on this fire road until it reaches 250, which would cut out some of the time you’d have to spend on 250.
Upon nearing “the top” we encountered a very cool area that we stopped to explore a bit. Finally starting up again, we rode only a couple hundred feet before encountering a sign that told us Bald Knob was a ¼ mile to the right and Bridge Hollow was a couple of miles to the left.
The dilemma was that the trail descended toward Bridge Hollow and we didn’t want to lose all of our elevation gain just to have to climb back up to return to camp. From where we stood, it was all down hill to get to camp, so we decided to continue up toward Bald Knob. We passed a small trail going to the right that was marked with a few rocks. I thought it must have cut back over where we had been. As we passed, MS looked over his shoulder and something caught his eye.
We circled back to investigate and found an awesome camp site complete with fire pit and “benches” made from cut logs. Oh, and a short walk to the edge of the Earth also disclosed one of the most amazing views. This, we decided, was Bald Knob, and as far as we were concerned was the end of the trail before heading back.
Taking a break, we soaked in the view, sat around the camp, and ate some food to refuel. Eventually we shoved off to enjoy the 2nd reward of our long climb: the descent. After taking close to two hours from when we left the campsite to reach the Knob, it took us only 22 minutes to descend to the fire road where we first jumped on the trail.
Back at camp, we refueled with beers and Mountain House, enjoyed the fire, and tried not to be carried off by the mosquitos. After a night cap, it was time for me to hit the sack. Snuggled in my tent, I fell asleep quickly with visions of wonderful mountains, excellent trails, fantastic views, and darn good company.
If you haven’t seen it already, check out the video here. There should be more to come (no promises)…