View Full Version : Northern Virginia Rambles

05-05-2005, 09:11 PM
Do any of you know where a man could go on rambles in the northern Virginia area similiar to what Patrick talks about in his essays? You know, the type where a guy can carry a carry with him while camping or backpacking. I grew up on a farm in Missouri and was used to carrying a firearm but haven't found a place to do it here. Do you guys have any ideas?


05-06-2005, 09:01 AM

Don't think there are many places in VA (especially northern) where you could go. I suggest hopping over the border to my home state of WV where we're a bit less civilized and people actually consider guns normal (except them thar upscale city areas). Actually, though the Monongahela National Forest is a huge place and spring turkey season is still in for another week I believe. There are regs about when and where you can carry guns that I'll look up later if you want.

05-06-2005, 09:33 AM
Thinking a bit more about this question I must say that I don't really see rambles like Patrick takes being all that feasible in many places east of the Mississippi. There are just too many people and too few places of large enough size to accomodate said rambles. You might get away with it in northern New England (like Maine), WV and a few other places. The wide open spaces out West and up North (Canada & Alaska) are just much more conducive to this type of outing.

05-06-2005, 01:36 PM
You could do a ramble in the George Washington National Forest. From what I understand, you could carry a handgun provided that you obtain a concealed carry permit. I want to say I remember reading something about firearms outside the hunting seasons are prohibited, except for concealed carry holders.

As Vernon stated, you would probably be better of in Northern New England. You could get a small game license in New Hampshire and roam much of the open land in the northern half of the state. You could do more roaming in Maine, but keep in mind that the possession of a firearm on Sunday is primae facae evidant that you are hunting on Sunday which is a big no no. But if you get a Maine concealed permit, you can carry a handgun in the wilds on Sunday.

Just my two cents.

05-07-2005, 11:04 AM
Alright, thanks guys.

05-07-2005, 06:30 PM

I used to live in that neck of the woods. There are some good wilderness areas in the GW National Forest within a 2 1/2 hour drive of Alexandria. More if you drive further. Check out the Ramsey's Draft wilderness area, out Hwy. 250 west of Staunton in Augusta County. Good brook trout fishing, deer, bear, turkey, grouse, and squirrels. The largest stand of virgin timber (about 4,000 acres) east of the Mississippi. Huge hemlocks and oaks if you know where to look. It's close to 30,000 acres with no roads. You could walk across it in a couple days if you're in a hurry, but if you take your time there are plenty of different places to explore. If you get off the trails it's rugged but worth it. We used to carry pistols without much thought about it, I guess we were breaking the law. I believe bigbore is correct, to carry a long gun some type of game has to be in season and you have to have a license. That being said, squirrel season starts early, and lasts a while.

05-09-2005, 05:12 AM
Smokepole, Tony, all,

Ramsey's Draft Wilderness is only 6518 acres. The Ramseys Draft Addition Wilderness Proposal is 13,000 acres. Still less than 20,000 acres. While you could roam for a while you're basically confined in a relatively small area, albeit one with outstanding opportunities for solitary off-trail enjoyment. Ramsey's Draft is popular with people in mid-Virginia and DC. Cranberry Wilderness in WV is around 35,000 acres and the Backcountry adds another 30,000 acres making it one of the largest areas of it's kind east of the Miss River (along with Cohutta in Georgia and Pemigwassett in New Hampshire). Still, these areas while great aren't the same as the vast areas out West. Its just a whole different level of experience. I've been to Colorado and while I didn't hunt or hike (we were skiing) I drove long distances and saw the lay of the land and if you've never been there you have little way of knowing the difference. This isn't to say that a ramble can't take place in the East. It can, but the circumstances are very different and your experience will probably not mesh that well with what Patrick does out West. Just my .02 cents /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

05-09-2005, 02:02 PM
We don't have vast unbroken wilderness areas but we do have some room to roam in New England. I believe the White Mountain National Forest has around 700,000 acres in it. In addition, the area is sparsely populated. There are some trails that you can take up to the Canadian border. I honestlt believe that you could do a good ramble if you look at the maps and plan it out.

05-09-2005, 02:30 PM
Vern: You are correct, the actual federally-designated wilderness is 6K acres, but the total roadless area is much more, I think it's closer to 30K than 20k. 26K if memory serves. I've hiked all of it, every access trail, and it's at least a few miles to get to the designated wilderness area from any direction, which is in the core. I've also hunted it a good bit, both the general firearms season and the early ML season, and you can go for days without seeing another hunter, except for passing one on the trail. And if you get off the trail, it won't seem like you're confined to a relatively small area, trust me.

And you are also correct in that Colorado, my home state for the last 6 years, has much larger wilderness areas. I've hunted and hiked several of those also. One big difference between CO and VA is the prevalence of horses out west. In my experience, you can walk a lot further out here, but run into people on horseback anywhere you go. Whereas back east it's mostly just foot travel.

There are no comparable areas near Northern VA to do a real ramble; I'm just trying to give Tony some info. on the next best thing that's close by.

05-09-2005, 06:55 PM

Good points all. Just one clarification. Ramsey's Draft's southern border is smack dab along US Rt. 250 so it's zero miles from civilization there.

05-09-2005, 09:15 PM
Vern: Good points on your post also. I visited the Cranberry, but only a few times. It takes up almost an entire 1:24,000 topo sheet, and I always wanted to spend more time there. Just never seemd to have the time, what a shame. As a matter of fact, I wanted to spend a lot more time in other parts of WVA also. Lot's of stuff there for you mountaineers to be proud of.

But I don't think the southern border of Ramsey's Draft sits on Route 250. That's the access point we used to hike in for hunting season. We used to go in on the Shenandoah Mtn. trail, which is right off of Route 250 at the top, near the Confederate breastworks. Right on the Augusta/Highland County line. It was about 2 1/2 miles to the wilderness boundary. And I think that if you access the wilderness along the trail in the stream bottom that parallels Ramsey's Draft, the wilderness doesn't begin until you hit Jerry's Run, about 2 miles in. But I could be wrong about that trail, it's been about 20 years since I hunted there.

The reason I know this? We used to use wheelbarrows to pack our stuff in for hunting season. Sounds funny, but you would be amazed at the amount of stuff (150+ pounds) you can hump in with a wheelbarrow on a good trail. We used to hump our gear in about 3 1/2 or 4 miles into the wilderness, dump it, and return the wheelbarrows to the wilderness boundary because wheelbarrows weren't allowed in the wilderness. Just like clockwork, the day before the general firearms season opened (season always opens on Monday) the district ranger would ride his horse in along the trail to check on hunters. Of course, there would only be 6 or 8 of us in there, and if he really wanted to check hunters he could have driven some of the roads in the area and checked dozens, if not hundreds. But, being the district ranger, he had his choice of where to go, and he chose Ramsey's Draft. Which says to me, he could appreciate beautiful country.

We used to leave our wheelbarrows with a group of guys who camped right at the wilderness boundary. So, one seaon, the ranger comes in on horseback, stops at their camp for coffee, and asks how many hunters they have in camp. They say "four" and the ranger sees six wheelbarrows parked in a row. So he asks the obvious question, thinking he's caught them in a lie. Things get tense for a minute, but they tell the ranger that the two extra wheelbarrows belong to us, and we left them at the boundary because we would never take wheelbarrows into the wilderness illegally!!

Which was a joke, because as soon as we dropped a deer, we'd wheel right in and pick him up with the wheelbarrow. That was the other good thing about wheelbarrows, packing out deer. Piece of cake.

Anyway, sorry for the long-windedness, the whole subject of Ramsey's Draft just brought back a flood of memories.

05-10-2005, 05:30 AM

I checked an online map (I'm at work and can't check my paper map right now) and the wilderness boundary does come down near to Rt 250 at Ramsey's Draft Trail. It's maybe a tenth of a mile from the road at most, just back the little gravel road to the parking area. It may have been different 20 yrs. ago but I doubt it because I was first there in either 1989 or 1990 and the wilderness sign was at the edge of said parking area. I have a picture of me and my backpacking partner by it. Ramsey's Draft was my second backpacking trip ever (after Cranberry of course /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif ) and I've been back once since about 3 or 4 years ago. Unfortunately the hemlock wolly adelgid is wreaking havoc on the virgin hemlock and they may be nearly all dead by now - I don't know. Glad that you had a good time hunting there and Shenandoah Co. VA is a pretty wild place for the East (highest overall county east of the Miss). If you ever get back this way give me a holler and I'll fill you in on Cranberry, Dolly Sods or anywhere in WV you want to go. I'm usually out at least once or twice a month somewhere hiking or fishing or both. Would go more but you know there are those darn jobs, homes and bills /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/frown.gif

Oh well, whatta ya gonna do?

05-10-2005, 08:50 PM
Vern: I may take you up on that generous offer. But tell me it ain't so, on the hemlocks!!!

Man, that is a real shame.

Did you ever fish Laurel Run in Highland CO?

And next time you go to Ramsey's Draft, hike in on the high trail (Shenandoah Mtn. Trail) and about 4-5 miles in, walk out on Freezeland Mtn. if you haven't done that. It's almost flat up there, easy walking and a lot of game, at least last time I was there. Worth the hike.

Happy trails.