Green Ridge State Park

Chris and Peggy

2/15 & 2/16/04

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 Way Points

Prologue

Carl, Jim and I stay in touch with each other during the week via e-mail.  Eventually we get around to saying we haven't been wheeling in a while and before we know it, we're kicking around places to go.  I don't know who came up with it first, but I think it was Carl who suggested we go out to Green ridge and catch some remaining snow.

I had been monitoring a leaking axle tube and thought I might pass, but it abated somewhat.  Also, I had noticed my radiator was leaking intermittently, the way TJ radiators do.  I wasn't sure I wanted to be stuck out in the woods with a leaking radiator.  But by the time Friday rolled around, the leaks were nowhere to be seen (not from any repair work I did...) and I really needed to get on the trail.

Sunday came and we had rounded up five or six likely candidates for our trip:

  • Carl Smith

  • Chris & Peggy Bay

  • Jim Culfogienis

  • Joe Stankos

  • Jerime Dudding

  • Eric Brandwine riding with Patrick  Denton

  • your correspondent

With the exception of Patrick's Tacoma, it was a MoPAR group, with two big Dodge Rams.  I just love the sound of a Hemi in the morning!

Muster

Sunday (What?  There are two days?  Read on...)

Sideling Hill
Sideling HillSideling HillSideling HillSideling Hill (Stray Jeep)Sideling Hill (Stray Jeep)

Sideling HillSideling HillSideling HillSideling HillSideling Hill

We met everybody except Jerime at the Sideling Hill Exhibit Center.  I was the first to arrive.  We hit the spotlessly clean rest rooms and then took a walk on the pedestrian overpass.  Teddy wanted to go all the way to the building on the other side of the highway but I convinced him it was too far.  It was about 30 degrees but the wind whistling through the pass made it feel much much cooler.

Tom and Ted at Sideling HillTom and Ted at Sideling HillTom and Ted at Sideling HillSideling Hill

Soon everybody trickled in. 

Tom at Sideling HillTed and TomSideling HillChris and Peggy Bay
Carl arrivesCarl arrivesGroup forming
Jim arrivesJim ArrivesAlexisJoe's Dodge
Bigger Group

While we waited for Joe to arrive, Patrick and Eric doubled back to Hancock to get fuel and eats.  Pretty soon they came back and Joe arrived.  I took the lead, Carl took the tail and everybody was on the road to the trail.

Group on the road
Group on the road

When we got to the road that goes into the park, there was a barricade labeled "ROAD CLOSED".  Oh man...  I spoke with the driver of a slammed pickup truck with some ATV's on a trailer.  He told me that the barricade was there to keep people from driving 2WD vehicles in and getting stuck.  Well that sounded like good rationalization and I wanted to go on that, but in the interest of covering our collective butts, I drove back one exit on Route 68 to the headquarters building to confirm this story.  Unfortunately, the headquarters was not manned so I could not get anyone to tell me what the deal was.  I drove back to the group and told them my findings.  I opined that the pickup truck driver's story sounded plausible but was not an official word.  I left it to the group - and we decided to go in.  Later on we would find out that the story was correct and we were indeed welcome to go in.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Trail

We drove up the semi-improved road until we got to the first trail branch.  The trail head was marked with some tracks under some old snow, but the trail itself was untraveled.  I turned into it but after thinking for a second, suggested we travel further down to where we could stop and air down and disconnect.  Soon enough we stopped to do that in a camping site that had shallow snow.

Airing downAiring downPit stopPit stop

Back on the main road we eventually caught up to the ATV group we had spoken to at the barricade.  They had hooked up with their buddies and reached the trail head.  They were walking down a few yards to determine whether or not they wanted to go in.  They did.  And so did we.  I went over the small bank of snow and descended the trail into the woods.

The snow was white and crystal clean.  The powder had received a coating of ice on top.  So driving through it was noisy, as the top coating sliced open as the tires ran over it.  Those that followed were pretty much stuck with whatever path I took.

Pretty soon we got to one of the trail junctions with a porta-john.  I had one request to use it, so I suggested we stop for a moment.  That's when Jerime caught up with us. 

Group at the trail

He had gotten a late start and missed us at Sideling Hill.  Somehow, he managed to find the correct exit off the highway and had literally tracked us down.  He said that he knew I had TrXuS tires so he was looking for that tread pattern in the snow!  Luckily for him and us, Carl was riding tail and has the same tire, as does Joe Stankos.

Once we got done with the rest area, we hit the trail again.  For the most part it was pretty easy going. 

Trail

Most of the time I was straddling an ATV track.  That meant putting one wheel on an ATV rut and running the other wheel in fresh snow.  It was a little funky but we managed along pretty well.

JimHillChris and PeggyPatrick and EricPatrick and EricChris and PeggyPatrick and EricJoe and SonJerimeChris and PeggyPatrick and EricJoeJerimeCarlCarlJimPatricks Tacoma

JerimeCarlCarlCarlCarlAnother HillAnother HillAnother Hill

Video - JoeJerime - Video
Carl - Video

Videos from Jim Culfogienis

I lead the group down to the southern end of the trail system, to the base of the rocky climb back up the ridge to the top.  I was very interested to learn if we could make the climb all the way to the top.  The last time we'd gone out here, the hill climb was interesting but without snow, it was not all that difficult.  I knew the snow would change that, but I didn't yet know by how much.  We would soon find out!

I started up the hill and went a fair distance before the snow got deeper and drifts ran across the trail.  I found myself backing up and going forward in equal measure for quite some distance. 

Break trail up hillBreak trail up hillBreak trail up hill
Break trail up hill - Click to Enlarge
Break trail up hillBreak trail up hillBreak trail up hill

But I was able to make reasonably good progress up the hill.  Behind me I could hear people on the CB dealing with varying levels of difficulty.

JimJim

Jim strapped me back off a couple or three drifts and I took some serious smack-talk from Carl's 12-year-old daughter.  His new 33's have gone to her head!  Riding in tail gunner position over the tracks of five other vehicles, she was having trouble understanding why the lead vehicle was having so much trouble...

Pretty soon we reached the steepest portion of the climb, just before cresting the summit of the ridge.  I continued sawing away at the trail and made painfully slow progress until I was within 50-100 feet of the top. 

Break trail up hillBreak trail up hillBreak trail up hillBreak trail up hillBreak trail up hill

Paul - VideoPaul - Video

Just past the steepest section, there was a deep drift that was like a wall.  There was just enough steepness and not enough traction under the snow that it seemed pretty pointless to keep thrashing.

Patrick and Eric

I could smell my tires, and the group at the bottom of the hill was getting bored.  I didn't know that everyone would be able to, or want to try to get up the hill.  I was also feeling selfish for taking so long.  I figured I would make one last run at it.

There was a run-out that had been plowed to divert water from the trail.  Since it was more level than the approach up to this point, I decided to back up onto it and use it as a launching point for my assault on the hill.  Gravity had other plans for me.  As I started to back up onto it, my rear end slid off and I found myself at a 90-degree angle to the slope of the hill and tipped at a solid 30-degree angle.

Now a couple years ago, I would have peed myself right here.  But I have since learned that my Jeep will not tip over at 30 degrees, except perhaps if it got a little nudge... So rather than tempt fate I shouted down the hill to get some help.  People were so bored that nobody even saw the pinch I was in.  But when I called, they came up and soon we had a strap lashed to my rack and secured by a small army. 

Paul gets the strap
Paul gets the strapPaul gets the strap

Once I had that, I backed up onto the flat spot and turned down the hill to let someone else have a run at it.  I had at least broken the first couple hundred feet of it.

Main HillPatrick and Chris/Peggy vehicles

Carl worked his way up from the back and made a swipe at it. 

Carl Goes UpCarl ClimbingMovie: mov03806.mpg Carl ClimbingMovie: mov03807.mpg Carl Climbing

Carl - VideoCarl - Video

Videos from Jim Culfogienis

Once he reached the point where I had stopped, he too had to work it forward and back to inch his way to the top.  He slowly worked his way out of sight and took on the task of breaking trail for a while.

TomTom and TedTed
Ted, Paul and Tom

One by one, the rest of the group took their turn.  First Chris and Peggy went, storming the hill and being very successful in making it all the way up.  He is running GS/A's on stock suspension, with chains added to aid in traction.  Patrick and Eric went right up as well. 

Patrick and EricPatrick and EricPatrick and EricPatrick and EricPatrick and EricPatrick and Eric

Joe worked it for a while and then took break. 

JoeJoeJoeJoeJoeJoe

Joe - VideoJoe - Video

Videos from Jim Culfogienis

Jerime came up and told us his plan was to run it in 4-HI since his auto-tranny likes to stay in 1st, too slow to get ground speed for a climb like this.  And up he went in one swipe. 

Jerime

So I passed on what Jerime had said to Joe and then he too went up in one pass!  That left Jim. 

Ted with Jim's JeepPaulPaul and Tom

He made short work of it, and I went up when he reached the top.  Everyone made it!

We ran along the top of the ridge for a little while and then followed the trail as it descended back down.  We stopped several times along the way to clear fallen trees and branches. 

JimJimCarlJoeJoe's SonBig Dodges

We carry small buck saws for such times and they have proven time and again how valuable an inexpensive accessory like this can be.  A couple times it took me so long to get to the front of the group that the sawing was done by the time I got there!

View
View

At the four-way trail junction with Merten's Avenue, we encountered a group of four ATV riders.  They were out enjoying the great weather just like us. 

The Trail

We passed the time of day and then headed north towards the other section of trail we had not yet explored.  Chris got off the trail a little and hung up in the ditch to one side.  So Carl Patrick and Eric gave him a strap and soon were were all rolling again.

JimJim

We drove down the trail to the bottom without much excitement. 

Movie: mov03822.mpg JimMovie: mov03842.mpg JimMovie: mov03843.mpg WheelingMovie: mov03857.mpg Jim

No Go Zone

When we reached the place where the power lines cross the trail, Jim stopped and asked me if I was the one "chirping" or was it him?  Chirping?  Hmmmm...  I got out and sure enough, there was a strange and troubling noise coming from under my hood.  Almost afraid to open it and see what it was, I heard what Jim thought might be my A/C compressor clutch going south.  I thought about it for a second.  The compressor does run, even in the winter, in the defrost mode.  But I wasn't too worried about losing that functionality and I figured that even if the clutch bought the farm, the pulley would keep working and I wouldn't have to worry about engine cooling, power steering, power brakes, water pump or fan.  So I closed the hood feeling a little disappointed that I was going to have that expense, but not immediately concerned about the rest of the trail ride.  So what if the A/C doesn't work?  It's 25 degrees out!

CarlJim and co.Patrick and EricPatrick and EricChris and PeggyDodge RamDodge RamDodge RamTrailTrailJimJimTrailDodge RamDodge RamJimDodge RamJimJim

We went maybe another 1/2 mile and then I started smelling the same smell I know when my lawnmower gets bogged down in deep grass and the belt starts slipping...  A sickening burning smell.  So I quickly shut off the engine and went up to take a look.  What I saw was very disappointing.  One of the idler pulleys had seized.  The pulley itself was cocked at an angle and about to come off the shaft.  The bearings had failed and the whole thing was junk!  This isn't good...

I knew that I could not let the belt keep smoking.  Experience with the lawn mower told me that it would last maybe another minute and a half before it broke.  The good news was I had a spare belt.  The bad news was, the pulley had to be present and working for the belt to work.

I did not have a spare pulley.  So we dragged out our tools and Jim introduced me to his hardware locker.  We managed to assemble a number of washers that fit in such a way as to make it theoretically possible for the pulley to work.  I put some grease on it and we assembled it.  Now keep in mind that this little exercise consumed the better part of an hour.  During which time my kids got very restless.  When met with the dawning awareness that "Papi's Jeep" was "broke" and might not make it out of the woods, the kids got a little concerned.

Their concern was much simpler than mine.  We still had a good stretch of trail ahead.  There were a half-dozen more rough hills to climb.  They'd be hard enough without a disabled Jeep strapped to the back bumper.  So we really needed to have this fix work, or it was going to be decision time...

Once I got it all put together, we had to get the belt back on the pulley.  Now this is normally not a difficult process.  You just loosen the tensioner pulley, thread the belt into place, then tighten the tensioner pulley.  Easy, right?  No.  Not tonight.  The bolt that holds it was seized.  In the tight working space, the small ratch handle just didn't give enough leverage to get it undone.  We started digging for anything to use for a breaker bar, or to extend the handle to give some more leverage.  We came up with the Hi-Lift Jack handle but it was held in place by a pin, and we didn't want to mess with it.

So after another hour of struggling to put the belt on without loosening the tensioner, I managed to get it installed using essentially the same principle involved with shifting 10-speed bikes - I started the belt then rotated the pulley as I applied a side pressure to coax the belt on.  And it worked.  Never mind the crow-bar that I used to get the necessary pressure or the spot on the radiator shroud that I used as a leverage point...

I started it up and the pulley was still seized.  Turned it off.  I decided to loosen the bolt a little and try again.  It worked!  It was noisy, and I would probably have to get towed from the trail head, but we could at least try to get out of the woods.  So we wasted no time getting underway.

Meanwhile, Carl and the rest of the group had waited for us for a little while, but were waved off when it became clear that it was going to be a while and there was nothing they could do. 

Waiting for Jim and PaulWaiting for Jim and Paul

Carl took the group and continued on.  Small detail, he did not have a GPS, and took a wrong turn at one of the trail junctions.  This was bad for him and the group, but very good for the band of ATV riders who had gotten lost and were  struggling to get through deep snow.

The ATV riders had called the park ranger and asked for help getting out.  The ranger had come to aid them but soon decided the trail was too difficult to drive.  He had decided to set out on foot to find the ATV riders and do what he could to lead them back to the road.  Based on what we learned later, that plan would not have been a total solution - the ATV riders would most likely have had to leave their rides in the woods and walk out with the ranger.  They were about three miles in, and the walk was not easy.

But Jim, the kids and I were ignorant of these goings on.  No sooner had we gotten underway, then the pulley fix grenaded and all the pieces disappeared under the moving Jeep into the powdery snow.  I managed to find the pulley and a flange.  No bolt.  No washers.  After that, I got back in and drove it up one last hill.  When I got to the top, I watched the temperature gauge climb rapidly into the warning zone.  I shut the engine off.  It dieseled for about 20 seconds and the radiator started hissing a little bit, but other than that, it was pretty much over except the crying.  That was the end of that.  We were done trying to drive it out.

 Now it was time to see about towing.  We hooked up a strap and I soon discovered how much it sucked to pilot a vehicle with no power steering (in deep snow) and a hard brake pedal.  This was starting to remind me more and more of my old Willys...

We made it through one switchback and down one hill and then we were face to face with a rugged climb.  There was no way we were going to get it towed up this hill.  I felt like begging Jim to do whatever we could to tow it out, but he was able to bring me back to reason.  I unloaded all my gear, moved the kids into Jims Jeep, locked mine down, and we left it right there in the middle of the woods.  I took a GPS coordinate for getting back to it and silently prayed it would not be a smoldering, vandalized heap when I got back.

I'm not a very good passenger, but Jim took me in stride and pretty soon were were moving again.  We raised Carl on the CB and found out he had hooked up with the ranger, towed two ATV's out to the trail head, and was coming back in to get the other two.  We went around a corner and there in front of us were the other two ATV riders.

Jim stopped and we got them hooked up to tow out.  We got Carl on the radio and got moving.  Pretty soon we met Carl on the trail and continued out to the trail head.  We stopped and talked to the ranger.  He was very happy to have had some help.  When he reached a point on the trail where his truck would not continue, Carl picked him up and they took care of business.

I gave him my info so he'd know who the Jeep belonged to and would not start a manhunt for me.  I wanted someone to know it was there just in case I later had to make a vandalism report...

Rescued ATV drivers with Ranger and Their HeroRescued ATV drivers with Ranger and Their Hero

With all that out of the way, we hit the road, got aired up, then drove into Hancock to have something to eat at Pizza Hut.  Then Jim drove me and the boys home.  We got to the house at 12:30 AM.  It was a long ride and the thought that we'd be returning again tomorrow made it that much longer.  Jim still had another hour ahead when he dropped us off!

Monday

I had my work cut out for me.  I had to get a list of parts together, look up the part numbers, call a dealer, and go pick up the parts.  I was very fortunate to have acquired a PDF file parts list, complete with pictures and dealer part numbers.  I looked up the parts and soon had compiled the following list:

PULLEY, Idler 4792 112
BUSHING, Idler Pulley, Belt Tensioner Pulley 3300 2201
SCREW AND WASHER, M10x1.5x40 6504 239
SPACER, Belt Tensioner, Pulley 6503 230
BOLT, Hex Flange Head, M10x1.50x50 3420 2029
PULLEY, Idler, Tensioning 4792 112

BUSHING, Idler Pulley, Belt Tensioner Pulley

3300 2201
COLLAR, Tensioner Adjustment

5301 0149

BOLT, Adjusting Bracket 6503 198
BELT, Accessory Drive, With Air Conditioning 5301 0150

Pulley Parts - Click to Enlarge

I knew the belt was going to be a no-brainer but I had my doubts about the rest of it.  The first dealer I spoke to confirmed my worst fear:  Except for the pulley and the belt, they did not stock the other parts because "nobody ever needs them"...  He was very proud to tell me he could have them tomorrow.  And normally that would be pretty good except that I had business "tomorrow" and that was not going to work for me today.  I could have gotten paralyzed with fear pretty easily but instead I called another dealer and this time I got an 80% hit ratio.  Only the spacer and M10x1.5x40 bolt were unavailable.  I was ordering the spacer as a spare so that was no big deal.  The bolt in question was a shorter version of the other bolt which they had, so I got two of the longer bolts and a few washers to space it out to make it work.  This was great news.

Carl came by, having stood up his wife to help me out.  Thanks Kathy, I appreciate it very very much!  We loaded all my gear into his Jeep next to the spare radiator he brought along (in case my leaky one was now dead from the overheating), 2 gallons of anti-freeze (I wonder what that's for?) and all his gear.  We ran the check list of things to do and hit the road.

We went to the dealer and got the parts.  They were all put up for me when I arrived, so that went fast.  The parts counter guy let me rummage their hardware bins for the washers, and we were out of there.  We had everything we needed.

The drive is about three hours one way so we got to it.  We stopped for gas in Hancock, and I got myself some food and drink, to cover lunch and any other needs that might arise if the repair work didn't go well...

Back on the road and finally we reached the trail head.  We aired down and got going.  I cranked up the GPS.  We went directly to the Jeep.  Fortunately it was untouched and clearly there had been no traffic since we left it the night before.  That was a huge relief and confirmed what the ranger had told me the night before:  "Nobody's gonna find it out here, and even if they do, they won't bother it."  Oh me of little faith...

After I collected myself and my repair parts, I took my breaker bar and removed the offending bolt on the tensioning pulley, then put both new pulleys and associated hardware together. 

Idler PulleyAccessory BeltIdler PulleyTensioning Bolt

Carl wondered out loud why I replaced the idler pulley that was still good.  I explained that it was just the same as the one that went bad and just as old.  It was living on borrowed time.  This was the best time to replace it.  I harvested the pulley for my spares box.  It might not last much longer, but it certainly would last longer than the trail fix we tried the previous night.

I threaded the serpentine belt and tightened and adjusted everything.  Carl had gone off in search of the bolt that I had lost in the vain hope he'd find it.  He returned to find that I had completed the repair.  We started it up and observed the operation for any oversights.  Carl noticed that the belt was not lined up on the alternator pulley exactly right, over one groove from where it should be.  So I shut it down and made it right.  Then we transferred my junk to my Jeep, and turned tail to get out.

When we reached the next trail junction, Carl looked right and noticed that only ATV tracks went off into the distance.  He said something to the effect of "while we're here, we might as well wheel.  What do you think?"

What I thought was, it's two hours to sundown (again), we had just finished a basic repair, but it was fine and so I said "Sure, let's go."  So up the trail we went.  As I cut new snow up the hill it seemed like my tires were not pointing the same direction as the steering wheel.  Great...  Had I somehow bent my drag link or something else without knowing it?  At the top of the hill I got out and inspected it, but everything was fine.  I guess my head was out of alignment or something.  Most likely the steering wheel was canted because one tire was on ATV track and the other in fresh snow, causing the need to compensate by steering lightly to one side.

At the top of the ridge, we took a look at the view.  It's incredibly peaceful out here, and the clarity of the air this time of year allows for a terrific view of distant terrain.

CarlViewViewPaul and Carl's JeepsCarlCarl
Carl
Movie: mov03858.mpg CarlCarlTrailTrailViewCarlCarlTrail

We wheeled for about two hours, stopping frequently to saw fallen trees out of the trail.  We almost reached the other end of the ridge but reached some heavy drifts that neither one of us could easily get through.  We decided that neither of us wanted to spend another hour or two playing the "five feet forward, ten feet back" game. 

Carl

And we didn't want to end up broke in the dark again...  So we turned around and backtracked to the trail head. 

Road Signs

But it was productive in that we did some trail maintenance.  And truth be told, it was another beautiful day and the views were spectacular.

Epilogue

At trail head, we aired up and hit the road.  My oil pressure gauge was reading low but I didn't have any blue smoke, overheating, knocking, or power loss, so I took the chance that the sending unit, gauge or connection was bad.  When we stopped for gas, it started working OK again for a while but went back to reading low.  When we stopped for dinner it started working correctly again and did so all the way home.  I will have to run some more checks and watch it carefully.

I have to admit that this equipment failure was my own fault.  I heard some squeaking recently but chose to ignore it.  In hindsight I now realize that the bearings were going bad in the pulley and I was getting an early warning.  I should have listened.  I put two new pulleys in because I figured that since one had died, the other was not far behind - no sense it doing this again soon.  I plan to keep my breaker bar and the spare parts I bought in the vehicle.  Lessons learned!

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