Saturday November 11 - written by Chip Woods
It’s been a while since I’ve done a trip report so I figured I’m overdue.
I was only doing a day trip and when I pulled up to the campground Chris Stewart was right behind me, and Mike Ball and his son Liam were already there unloading Mike’s rig from the trailer, and Mark Tuckish was in his rig keeping warm. Saturday morning started out pretty cold, low 30’s maybe, so the members that camped were a bit slow getting out of their warm tents. As the day trippers were airing down, unloading, removing doors, etc. the campers stumbled out of their tents to make coffee and breakfast, probably all the while grumbling under their breath about how the combination of cold, Fireball, and the wee hours of the morning drastically increases the effects of gravity upon the human body.
When all who were present were ready to hit the trails, we split into two groups. A reds and harder group of Ryan Connor, Dan Elwing, and Jeff Eppolite, and a not reds or all blues but let’s run some blacks that may be a bit harder than we usually do group. Since my name’s not in the reds group I’ll report on the too many words blacks blah blah blah group.
The group I led consisted of the following, all driver’s being members:
Chip Woods – TJ on 35’s
Mike Ball and son Liam – YJ on brand spankin’ new still had the little rubber nubbie things 35’s
Chris Stewart – 4 door JK on 35’s and some new suspension upgrades
Wali Raffiq and two guests as passengers (names elude me, sorry) – 2 door JK on 37’s I think
Mark Tuckish – 4 door JK on 37’s also I think
Ed Salas – TJ on 37’s
After getting lined up and confirming some directions with Dan E. we hit the trails right about 10:00 am and headed over to ET, a trail I’ve been wanting to try after riding it as a passenger a couple of times. We headed up the lower portion of ET without too much trouble. I turned us left at the point where I recalled from running it as a passenger that the trail starts to significantly increase in difficulty. The point where I turned left off ET passes through a nice little loop of rock garden and puts you out onto U-Turn Easy.
We headed right, uphill, up U-Turn Easy, and not too much farther came upon a nice obstacle of undercut rocks wedged between trees that Mike and I bypassed, but the rest of the group played around on for bit. The remainder of U-Turn Easy was uneventful, and when we hit Upper Road we turned left and headed down U-Turn Hard.
Again, going down U-Turn Hard was uneventful, so when we hit Middle Road we turned right to head towards Cobra. On the way there we came across an area being clear cut that we saw going down U-Turn Easy where The Cove is building what I understand is going to be a 600-yard rifle range. Due to the timbering, logs, and machinery Middle Road was a bit hard to follow so we unintentionally ended up on Wahoo. We all navigated Wahoo without issue and at the exit onto Middle Road, again, we turned left and continued towards Cobra. After pulling into Cobra to get out of the way we stopped for lunch to do the usual chit-chatting. At this point I also heard from Dan Peck, who was at the Winchester Wal-Mart and interested in getting some wheeling in before dark. We planned on meeting up at camp after we ran another couple trails and he unpacked and got tents set up for the night.
After eating we headed up Cobra, with all of us favoring the far-right side of the trail where the rocks are bigger and the lines are harder. It was here that we got our first “stuck”, Chris getting high centered on a pointy rock, which was easily remedied with a strap and a little tug from Wali. Continuing up Cobra we all played around with climbing over that one big rock between two trees, with Mike’s leaf sprung YJ being the only one that wouldn’t cooperate. Sometimes the rocks just say no…. We finished Cobra and ended up again on Upper Road, with the plan to get back to camp by the quickest way possible to pick up Dan, JD, and Josie Peck.
We turned right onto Upper Road and beelined to what I’ve always called Secret Trail, a pretty quick and simple downhill trail that intersects Middle Road right at the big clearing near the existing rifle range. Quick and simple was a bit of wishful thinking due to the above mentioned clear cutting, but we muddled through and followed Middle Road back past the office, because I missed a turn, and back to camp.
At camp we hooked up with Dan Peck and his kids - 4 door JK on 35’s, as well as Mike Anderson - TJ on 37’s, who were going to join us for the afternoon. The reds and up group were there also, helping Dan Elwing out with his rig, which decided to run rough and not want to be fixed. We all lingered around for a bit and did what we could to get Dan E running without success, then loaded up again and headed for V-trail.
Heading up V-Trail I got blinders on and just kept plugging towards the top, getting hung-up and denied in an area I that I struggled with for a bit and ended up bypassing. Upon reaching the top I parked and walked back down to where I got denied to watch everyone else make their way to the top. Everyone else took the line I bypassed, with the second stuck of the day happening when Dan Peck ended up winching over it. Part of me was wanting to turn around and give that area another go after watching everyone else take the correct line and make it look easy. It was at this point that I noticed the reds and up group were behind us making their way to a ridiculously hard rock garden playground on that side of the property.
I conferred a bit with Ryan about where to go from the top of V-Trail, and we all headed towards Hard Rock Crawlers. I’m not very familiar with this area of the property, and just kind of drove until I saw the trail sign and turned left down Hard Rock Crawlers. This again was pretty painless, with one neat little uphill sharp left turn around rock obstacle that was a lot of fun. While we were all making our way around the above-mentioned obstacle Ryan must have spotted the ridiculously hard rock garden playground so he and Jeff shot right over that way to get some red type wheeling in before it got dark. At this point it’s probably worth mentioning that Dan E did not get his rig running right, so the reds and up group were Ryan and Dan’s wife Becca in the buggy and Jeff Eppolite and Dan E in Jeff’s beta TJ.
It was around 4:00 at this point and we wanted to get back in time so Mike Ball could load his trailer while it was still light, and so Wali could pack up camp since he was leaving that evening also. On the way out of Hard Rock Crawlers but before Middle Road we had our third (I think it happened here because I remember Dan Peck taking a picture) “stuck” of the day. I somehow, don’t ask, managed to jam a rather large stick up into my undercarriage and got it wedged between my exhaust and transmission. The offending stick was not going anywhere by hand, so Chris wrapped a strap around it and Mike Ball wrapped the other side around as tree and we snatched it out, missing a vent tube and what was probably a pretty critical wire loom in the process.
Continuing off Hard Rock Crawlers, and not yet to Middle Road, I again managed to hold up the group by unseating a bead on my passenger front tire. One pretty loud pop, a spray of water because it had to happen in a wet spot, and few choice words from me, good times….I did drive on the rim for a bit too far because I didn’t want water getting in the tire or have to work in puddle to get it fixed. I initially was just going to change tire due to the time but ended up taking Chris’s suggestion to just re-seat it. So, with Mike Ball’s help on the Hi-Lift, Chris’s help with a ratchet strap around the axle and frame, and a Powertank with Wali and Chris pulling on tire we made short work of the repair.
After hitting Middle Road, we all decided on more quick trail (just one more trail they said…it’ll be easy they said…). We turned right onto Middle Road to run the loop around the top of Hell Hole. At one point it was just a nice little trail with some rocks, but it was pretty overgrown and the exit I had planned on taking was piled up with debris and logs and not passable. So, we pretty much just drove in a circle, with Mike and I being the only ones getting into any rocks, only to have to turn around after fifteen feet or so because the exit was blocked. Not the highlight of the day 😊
At this point we were about done, so a right turn onto Middle Road and back to camp we went, not missing a turn this time. At camp the airing up, post wheeling chatter and adult beverages commenced, with Mike and Liam, Chris, Mark, and Wali all heading home shortly thereafter. Ryan, Dan E and Becca headed into town for a hot dinner in a warm restaurant and to get parts for Dan’s YJ, while the rest of us feasted on steaks Ed grilled up for us, along with some homemade baked beans I brought, and tortellini whipped up by JD Peck. Mike Anderson got a roaring fire going and after dinner the campfire festivities began. I did stay for a short while but did need to be home that evening, so after a bit of campfire time and camaraderie I said my goodbyes and left.
Many many thanks to all who came out to make the event a success, especially Chris Stewart and Mike Ball for handling most if not all of the minimal spotting duties as well as the “repair” help, and to Ed Salas for bringing the grill and monster NY Strips that we feasted on for dinner.
Until next time!!