Tillman Trail November 2013

November 25, 2013

Last Sunday my lovely non-horse-husband agreed to go on a trail ride with me. Rich and Simon get along great, and it made it possible for me to get Poe out on the trails with a rock solid trail pony to guide him. And of course the dogs love any opportunity to run through the woods.

So we loaded up and headed out to National Forest and up Tillman Rd to the Pet Cemetery parking loop. When we got there we noticed a new sign post naming it “Dog Grave”. Interesting.

We headed up the closed fire road behind the cemetery and made a right onto Tillman Trail. Shortly later it split and we turned right toward the Tower.

Up to this point it was a pretty simple ride. Rich and Simon led some, setting a hearty pace bobbing from walk to trot to canter and back. Rich had to stop once to stretch, which Simon found intriguing and Poe found annoying.

We passed some extremely polite cyclists who had a firm grasp of trail protocol. They pulled to the side of the trail and announced a friendly hello well in advance so the horses would be aware of them and pleasantly chatted for a moment as we passed. I have always found cyclists to have impeccable trail etiquette and these fellas were no exception.

As we continued along I kept saying to Rich that the trail had been worked on and was much more pleasant to ride. There were piles of rocks pulled to the side and areas where the larger rocks had been worked down into almost a cobble stone like path. There were still some places the ponies had to climb over or negotiate rocks but nothing treacherous.

Poe was a little uncomfortable at the rougher areas in the beginning, but quickly, like with everything else I have asked I him, he figured it out.

Eventually we came to a tree that had very recently fallen, effectively blocking the trail. It was also very steep above and below the trail so navigating around it was mostly out of the question. We dismounted and rich climbed over it, and was quickly followed by the tank named Simon.

Simon, who is excellent at trail blazing, managed to dislodged a large rock, inevitably opening a large, ankle twisting hole, just on the other side of the tree, making it worse for Poe. Rich and I leveled the area back out before we asked Poe to negotiate the obstacle. And I climbed over first. Poe was rather unsure what he needed to do initially but given a good minute, and a little direction and encouragement, he managed to clear the trail obstruction as well.

At this point the trail was very narrow, not leaving room to get next to your pony for a remount. Rich tried but was unsuccessful and somehow found himself behind Simon. Knowing he is lacking some common horse knowledge I asked, “you still have ahold of your reins, right?” And he said “no, but I have ahold of this strap”, meaning the crupper.

At just about that time Simon broke into a trot, and Rich, holding the crupper, began jogging behind him. But after a few yard Simon began to outpace and left Rich jogging after him.

So picture, riderless Simon trotting along the trail, both dogs happily following at his heels, and Rich jogging after them. I was laughing so hard I was unable speak.

Before too long, Rich stopped and yelled “Simon!” With authority, and Simon immediately stopped, and looked back at Rich with a “what are you doing back there” look. Simon stood with dogs around him, and watched as Rich walked the trail up to collect him. I was still cracking up.

As we neared the tower, there was a split in the trail with a fresh sign, neither of which I recognized. But there were quite a few reroutes in the trail and it had been a while since I had been on this trail.

We came to a particular reroute in the trail that thrilled me. It had originally been pretty dangerous, with some pointy rock ledges, a very narrow path over them, and a tree leaning at an impossible knee killing angle. The new route went through some large boulders with a semi cobblestone path that is an amazing work of nature. It made my imagination tick.

We popped out at the cell phone tower, which has a picnic table placed next to it, and took a short break.

There is a rather long fire road that ends at this tower, that starts out at my favorite trail head off Bear Trap Rd. But for our current loop we just needed to head a short ways down the road and make a right onto Tillman trail west, and back down to Tillman Rd. This is the part of the loop I am less than fond of. It is rather steep down and just not very friendly.

When we got to the trail, we found it was closed and clearly unkept. Where the trail sign had been was a notice announcing the trail had been moved. It was the fork we came to shortly before the tower. So we turned and worked our way back.

This is when Poe decided he was done. Pony with an attitude. He tried a few duck and spins, he spun and he kicked, he bucked and he bulked. But hey, we had a good four plus miles to go, and go we did. He continued to throw little fits every so often, including kicking at the dogs and once he directed a vicious double barrel round at Simon, the whole way back, although he put less and less effort into his attitude.

Simon, of course, continued to be the perfect husband horse he is, and kept up a pretty good pace with Rich riding and taking a break to hike on foot. Simon is such a gem.

The new Tillman west trail is three miles back to the road and is an extremely pleasant switch back and forth ride, never severely steep, with expertly banked turns, drain trenches and rocks cleared. Outstanding improvement that ended with a smooth creek crossing back to the road where new signs announced the trail improvements. Another 1-2 miles up the road and we were ready to load up and head home.

The trail improvements are outstanding. And I thank the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition for their hard work.



















Trail Report: Pet Cemetery, Tower Loop

Pet Cemetery, Tower Loop

1-1:45 hour ride

Trail Report: December 11, 2011

Terrain: Fire Road, wooded trail, some up and down but no big climbs or descents.  Year round creek crossing.  Some rocky areas but nothing too rough for this area.  Picnic table break point about midway. 

Parking: curved pull over on Tillman Road/101 at Pet Cemetery.  Room for 3 modest rigs parked in line with several other pull over parking spots just up and down the road. 

Having done a loop in the other direction, around Drunken Ridge by taking Heartstone Ridge/431 Trail and then turning on 423 back to Tillman, knowing the parking at this location was pretty accessible, and enjoying some of the trail from accessing it from Bear Trap Road, I decided to try this loop. 

Simon fresh off the trailer and looking thrilled to hit the trail!

I thought it would be particularly good for a pony that is newer to trails or in poor condition, because it starts off with a minor incline along a closed fire road, and then hits some nicely wooded trails and ends with a hack along Tillman Road back to the trailer.  It’s not too strenuous and it’s not too long.  Ironically my friend Carol Ann was interested in going on a ride that Sunday and had a pony to take out on his first trail ride. 

Tillman Road can be reached from two different directions.  I found the Dayton direction to be a pain on Sundays because there are a lot of Mennonite buggies out on the roads visiting after church, and it is easy to get stuck behind a couple with the roads being so hard to pass on, particularly when towing a horse trailer.  So this weekend I went from the other direction by passing through Stokesville and past Bear Trap Road, to turn right onto Tillman/101.  A few miles up Tillman on the right is the pull over curve with a fire road behind it.  It’s a neat starting point because of the pet cemetery placed throughout the woods behind it.  Small gravestones, some professionally made and some homemade let you know that Fluffy, Boo and many other pets were laid to rest in this natural setting. 

Friend, Carol Ann, her pony Finn and her dog Maggie. And those are Simon's ears!

The loop starts out on the fire road behind the parking curve.  It is not that steep and even has a few areas that are close to being called level ground for a few short yards!  The fire road will eventually come to a dead end, according to the map, and I am looking forward to confirming this on a future ride, but for this loop, turn right onto trail 432, that runs fully across the fire road. Just before 432 is another trail that shoots up at an angle on the right, this is the same trail, just starting a few yards earlier.  432 heads up hill and shortly ends at a T and brown trail sign.  Turn right onto Cookie Trail/432Aand enjoy a ride through the woods, with some short up and down hills and some nice views.  There is one tree that leans pretty close into the trail around a rock, but Simon is a pony and fit just fine.  The trail comes out onto a FR at a cell phone tower on the right and a picnic table and rest area available on the left.  Continue straight ahead and onto the fire road for a short distance before taking the first trail on the right. 


There is a brown wooden sign and it is marked with the Tillman/101 direction you want.  This trail leads down and along a pleasant trail, although mostly with a downhill slope. 

Simon back at the trailer getting some treats

There is a newly cleared area on the right that has some trails wrapped through it that I am also looking forward to exploring.  Cross a few creek bed crossings, and then the trail follows along beside the creek.  It eventually ends at a larger creek which requires crossing and pops out at a pull over from Tillman that opens to a few private lanes.  Make a right onto Tillman and get in a nice hack back to the parking area. 

A rather quick ride, with petty friendly terrain.  Although Tillman is a road, it is gravel and about 1 ½ lanes wide, both of which help keep what little traffic does travel it from moving too fast.   
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