Into the Woods – Wintergreen Resort 2017

Let me admit up front that I enjoyed being dry in Virginia. By “dry,” I’m referring to the weather, not to latter-day Prohibition. Bob Steele, the president of the Rover Owners of Virginia {ROAV], had insisted that not every ROAV event, such as their annual Mid-Atlantic Rally, takes place during Hu rricane Sandy conditions, and that I should attend this Spring event. Last April, I gave in and enjoyed the superb weather, comfortable accommodations, and grand off-roading.I

I convoyed to the event behind David Short, Sterling, VA, in his Stage One 109”, the brakes of which we bled for a final time at his house just prior to departure. Given the hilly and winding back roads we traveled for 140 miles, this proved to be a good move. David’s Stage One had just been returned to him after a frame swap performed by Sarek Autowerke, Glen Allen, VA, and he still faced a lot of buttoning-up and breaking-in. I drove in my newly-purchased ’97 Discovery I. ROAV Wintergreen would provide the perfect off-road test for both of us.

David’s preferred route took us into the Blue Ridge Mountains, whose fabled beauty has not been overstated. As the route numbers became longer, the roads became narrower and curvier. Like a vision from heaven, Route 664 took us to the Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company’s outdoor restaurant and bar. The bevy of Land Rovers in the parking lot promised good times ahead.

It clashes with my northern biases, but the Wintergreen Resort in Nellysford, VA, sits 3,500 ft. above sea level and offers the same amenities as ski resorts in New England: skiing, mountain biking, hiking, dining, lodging from hotels to condos to cabins. The last time I attended a Land Rover off-road event at a ski area was back in 2000, when Connecticut and Vermont enthusiasts organized a weekend at the Killington Ski Resort in Killington, VT. How on earth did ROAV get permission to run the ski slopes and trails at Wintergreen?

It should come as no surprise that long-time Land Rover enthusiast and ROAV leader Mike Boggs helped make this happen. Back in the 1970s, when laying out Wintergreen, Mike and his crew did a lot of the hard work in creating the trails and carving out the location for their buildings. He trekked through the forests, helped plot out the eventual trail network, and brought his equipment to help clear the land. Mike’s skilled work paid off and five years ago, the current owners of the resort allowed ROAV to open old logging roads, clear and clean up trails, with permission to run the trails over the event weekend.

ROAV Wintergreen appealed to many enthusiasts who live in Washington, DC, Maryland and northern Virginia, or to those who enjoy the occasional luxury of a resort. Checking into my room, I agreed they would not be disappointed. The staff could not have been friendlier or more helpful and the meeting room arrangements suited the club’s needs nicely. And, if you wanted to go one-on-one against a kid, Sunday promised an Easter Egg Hunt.

David Short had corralled a talented trail leader team of himself [basic trails], Michael T. Boggs [moderate trails] and Ralf Sarek [extreme trails]. At a driver’s meeting on Saturday morning, David reminded us that, no matter what level of trails we chose, “Tread Lightly” remained the byword; “We want to be able to return in the future.” He urged drivers, “Stay on the trails so we can keep them in good shape. Keep an eye on the truck behind you. We’re not Top Gear; we will all get out at the end of the day.”

From all reports, the moderate and extreme trails met everyone’s expectations. With a 900-mile drive home in a 20-year old, new-to-me Discovery I, I followed Shakespeare’s advice that “discretion is the better part of valor” and followed David Short and his large convoy over the river and through the woods. I found myself in a line with a full range of Land Rovers. Jason Grinnell and his father, Bruce Grinnell, of Montpelier, VA, looked very happy in their NAS AA Yellow Defender 90. Stuart and Leslie Robertson, Richmond, VA, and their kids, Scarlett and Brooks, said of off-roading in their ’11 LR4, “It’s our first off-road event. We love it and our kids are loving it!”

How wonderful to see so many Range Rovers on the trails, too. Nancy McCaig, Arvonia, VA, rode in comfort in her ’95 Range Rover Classic LWB, affectionally named “Hot Flash Hannah.” Courtney Leachman, with Zoe Elizabeth, brought another handsome ’95 Range Rover. Miles Ross and Elizabeth Dolan, Blacksburg, VA, drove the trails in their ’06 Range Rover LT322, made the 140-mile drive and arrived late the previous night. “We love the Range Rover, and even with 132,000 miles on it, we’ve had no problems.”

Land Rover Richmond has been a long-time supporter of ROAV. Brandon Greer, Chesterfield, VA, works as a Service Tech there and brought a ’17 Discovery Sport, filled with his fiancée, Erica Dendler, and kids enjoying the day. Chris Talley works with Brandon at the dealership and he brought a Discovery Sport so his wife, Katia, and kids Haley and Aiden, could spend a wonderful day in the forests. We all pitched in when a flat tire on Herb Bailey’s Discovery Sport halted progress for a short while, and we completed a Le Mans-style pit repair in no time.

Hillary and Chris Connolly split their time between Richmond, VA, and Colchester, VT. They packed their ’86 Defender 90 with two dogs, and shared their recently-purchased cans of coveted Heady Topper beer from Vermont. It was a joy to watch their RHD Defender and hear their diesel clatter on the trails. Marlon Bevans, Norfolk, VA, now serves as a Petty Officer in the Navy. He bought his ’94 Defender 90 because, “Growing up in Belize, a former British colony, the Land Rover became ‘my Jeep.’ I saw the Camel Trophy Land Rovers pass through my country during La Ruta Maya. My Defender has 184,000 miles on it, and after I’ve installed a few upgrades, I plan on taking it into every state in the USA and then shipping it over to Europe to drive through every country. Being in the Navy, I’ve visited many different countries, but it would be much better to see them in a Defender. People who live in the US don’t see enough Defenders, and I want to change that!”

The off-roading took us down steep, rocky trails, along trails on the sides of mountains, across stream beds and over rocks that required spotting to assure minimal damage. We enjoyed watching Series Land Rovers clamber over obstacles, their 2.25 engines ticking gently, and a bevy of Discoverys sway gently as their V-8 rumbles mixed with the chirping of birds in the woods. While our group left the woods at the end of the day with minimal repair needs (flat tire and overheating), the moderate and extreme trails tested the additional kit added by enthusiasts and in some cases, won out. Fortunately, those vehicles were recovered and had been trailered to the event, so when field repairs could not be completed, a trip home did not require a tow truck.

The closing Saturday night dinner included another entertaining ROAV auction and raffle, with David Short winning Entertainer of the Year for his turn at the microphone. Raj and Jessica Malhotra, Richmond, VA, left their NAS Defender 90 at home so they could bring their toddler, Priya, to enjoy the event. Clearly she’s a prodigy as she enjoyed slapping and chewing on a copy of Rovers Magazine. She’ll be driving the family Defender in no time.

ROAV Wintergreen provided nearly 100 enthusiasts the chance to off-road at any level in verdant hills with spectacular scenery, and to meet new friends in the Land Rover world. If you were newer to your Land Rover, as I was with my Discovery I, you could learn a lot about your vehicle with confidence. Wintergreen clearly made a big impression David Bateman (“Skater Dave”), Baltimore, MD and Winchester, VA. He left the event in his ’04 Discovery II so fired up that he vowed to create another regional off-road event. Sure enough, he has since announced “Rovers on The Blue Ridge”, July 14-16, at the Chaos Off Road Park in Capon Ridge, WV.

Congratulations, ROAV, on sending more Land Rovers into the woods!

By Jeffrey Aronson
Photos: David Short, Jeffrey Aronson

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