Camp Jeep Pre-Run 5/17/03

Obstacle on Trail 2 - Click to Enlarge

Waypoints | GPS Track Log Legend

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Prologue

Last year I got in late for the Jeep Jamboree trail guide sign-up, and didn't fall high enough in the draw to make the cut for guiding at the main event. But I enjoyed the pre-runs and later, the annual trail ride, all held at Oak Ridge. So this year when the sign-ups came around, I put my name on them both Jeep Jamboree and Camp Jeep, and managed to get drawn to guide for both events.

The Jeep Jamboree was great, as were the two pre-runs we made before the main event that ran two days. I managed to get through it all with no carnage, and looked forward to the Camp Jeep pre-runs.

Meanwhile, Carl had been picked as an alternate for Camp Jeep. So when the weekend came, we discussed arrangements and decided to camp. I realized how laborious setting up and taking down was and suggested that we share a tent. Carl reminded me that his camping trailer was sleeping in my back yard, so he pulled that together smartly and we had ourselves a sweet place to crash.

We drove down on Friday afternoon. It was painful. We left Tyson's Corner at 3:28 pm and hit bumper-to-bumper traffic just getting on the beltway on-ramp. That was our lot for the next two hours, until we cleared Warrenton. That consumed all the time we had hoped to have for a ride out to Shoe Creek after we set up camp. It never happened.

We arrived at the camping field at dusk and quickly got the camper put up, and then wandered around meeting folks and unwinding from our "commute". I ran into on of the guys from PA that I had sent a GPS waypoint to showing the camping field. Several trailered vehicles were parked, ready for the run on Saturday.

CampersCampersCampers

As we had set up near the main fire pit, we spent a few minutes shooting the bull with some of the folks that were hanging around starting the fire, and others near the general area.

I count myself well prepared for most of these trips. I carry a sick inventory of stuff that I think I need, most of it does get used on one trip or another but it is likely that some things are overkill. Be that as it may, I was blown away when the guy next to us cranked up a weed-whacker and started cutting down the knee-high grass that was growing in the field. Then he set up his tent. Made sense. I never would have thought of it. Before long I could hear the weed-whacker making the rounds of the field and soon there were several "greens" where tent and camp sites would soon be. I took advantage of his generosity and cut a little grass down near the entrance of the camper. I will never again feel as though I have brought anything dumb!

Somewhere along the way I decided to save myself some grief in the morning and aired down and disconnected. It went surprisingly fast, thanks to the Oasis deflators and nice greasy connectors.

After some talk, we made for the camper and cashed out for the night. But not before I had cleared my GPS of all waypoints and loaded a collection of about 90 waypoints that I had plotted for the trail system at Oak Ridge.

Loading Track and Waypoints into GPS

I got bit by the limited character set of the GPS and had to replace (one by one) all underscore characters with hyphens. The battery on the laptop was fading and feared I would have to break out the power inverter and use my Jeep as a generator. Fortunately I was able to get it done with time to spare, and uploaded the plots to the GPS. I felt I was ready to flawlessly make the circuit on Trail 2 without getting lost.  Carl meanwhile was catching up on some important reading.

Carl Reading

Even without the GPS I had made the loop and had no doubts I would be able to do it by memory. But there is something about having a little screen sitting there saying "Yup, you're right - that's the way to go...".

I put my earplugs in and put a Breath-Right strip on so my snoring would be minimized and Carl would be able to sleep... Lights out at about Midnight.

We woke at 6, Carl reported my snoring had been infrequent and short, so he got some sleep. He didn't snore too bad either so the shared arrangement worked out pretty well.

The weather graced us with rain. It had rained the day before but had been intermittent. We thought the weather might be overcast but that was a bit optimistic. It was to start drizzling during the muster, and rain all day. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Gasing up at LibertyGasing up at LibertyGasing up at LibertyGasing up at LibertyGasing up at LibertyGasing up at Liberty

We got up, got dressed, and headed for the McDonald's for breakfast. I had my usual and was soon ready to go. Carl decided to air down there. One tire overshot the mark and he took a minute to air up. I headed over to the muster area and found my line for Trail 2.

Muster

People poured in. There were as many different kinds of Jeeps as there were people. While I didn't actually walk around and look at every last one, I can say that I don't think there were two even close to being the same.

Trail PrepTrail PrepTrail PrepTrail PrepTrail PrepRear Steer'46 CJ-2A'46 CJ-2A

Talk about infinite options. There was a 1946 Willys (well some of the parts were vintage or reproduction Willys). There were some scratch-built rock crawlers with 2 1/2 ton axles and rear steer. There were CJ's of every imaginable type. Pretty much everything in the Cherokee family line, and of course the late model Wranglers. Trailer queens and daily drivers.

 

Driver's MeetingDriver's MeetingDriver's MeetingDriver's MeetingDriver's MeetingDriver's Meeting

The driver's meeting was long and detailed. All the rules and regs were explained; questions and answers were exchanged. The battle plan for various circumstances were run down so that all assembled would know what to expect for the event. I was impressed by how thoroughly the project was laid out.

Carla and Chris and the babes

It's a tribute to Carla and Chris and the Jeep Jamboree organization, Camp Jeep corporate staff, and DCC when you consider how many different issues must be evaluated, addressed, planned and managed. This isn't a banquet for 50 people that runs a couple hours - it's a three day event with countless activities and an audience that runs in the thousands. Not a small thing.

Calm before the stormCalm before the storm

In keeping with recent tradition, the drizzle started during the drivers meeting and developed into a steady rain that lasted all day. I want to say that I was happy about it - the trails are considerably harder when wet, making most things challenging, and putting the stakes up just high enough to get and keep your attention. But at the same time it makes most movement outside the Jeep a miserable proposition. The camera is not supposed to get wet so that too becomes a real sticking point.

Trail

Mall Cruiser

Somehow, I ended up at the front of the line for our Trail. I don't know why it made me a little jittery - I'd run the trail at least three times. There wasn't anything about it that was extreme, provided you chose to stick to the basic trail and bypass the rocks that have become too difficult for most people to clear.

I settled down once we started moving, and soon were were at the stream crossing that opens up the trail.

Crossing onto Trail 2

The water was no deeper than Jeep Jamboree, although the climb out of the stream was a little bit slicker.

As those who have gone on trails with me leading will testify, I tend not to waste time, especially when there isn't anything challenging, and even more so when it's raining. So taking the advice that Chris gave me before we left, I skipped the rocks and found the bypass that had recently been cut to go around the rocks, up the same hill, connecting above the roughest section, then cutting back down the hill to the trail, before ascending up the old trail to the trail junction.

At first the bypass was a little hard to see. But I saw some tracks turning off the bottom trail and going straight up the hill. I got perpendicular to the bottom trail and punched it up over the steep part and onto the bypass. There was some dead brush covering part of it so I almost lost it. But I picked it up and got myself up the bypass and onto the section of trail above the rocks. Up the hill and soon I found the new section that goes back down the hill instead of connecting with the the trail nearby.

The descent was interesting, and even a little bit greasy, but idling in 1st, I got down without any problems. As I got back down to the trail at the bottom of the hill, I observed the last person in our group trying to get up the bypass, but not having a lot of luck. I kept the column moving and I think he fell in with us, merely skipping the bypass up the hill.

The climb up the hill was uneventful for me and while interesting, soon lead to the trail junction where I turned right and began the trip back down the other side of the hill. After a few yards, we stopped and took turns sawing up a fallen tree that was too high off the ground to drive over. That took but a minute or two and we were on our way again.

All tolled, I think it took us just a shade over an hour to make the loop, exiting at the road where we came in, after re-crossing the stream. In fact we made it through so cleanly that I didn't even have a chance to take any pictures! I did take pictures of people crossing the stream to get out, but it was pretty mundane, except for the large beasts who drove over the big rock in the middle of the stream like it was a soda can.

Coming out of Trail 2Coming out of Trail 2Coming out of Trail 2Coming out of Trail 2Coming out of Trail 2
Coming out of Trail 2Coming out of Trail 2Coming out of Trail 2
Coming out of Trail 2Coming out of Trail 2
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Coming out of Trail 2Coming out of Trail 2Coming out of Trail 2Coming out of Trail 2
First Pass Done

Then we stopped and I guess a good discussion got started. We hung around for a while and then I decided it was time to get back to the muster area, so we could do our second run and maybe end up with some left-over daylight for some wheeling on another trail. Some folks had other ideas and it took some time to get the group moving again. The big dogs overtook us after we stopped to wait while a problem with disengaging 4WD was taken care of. We made our way back to the muster area.

Once there, we loosely reformed our line, and I had a leisurely chat with Carla about the event, some land-use issues, and the price of tea in China. I don't know how she does it - with a little baby and all the stuff that has to be done to make these events happen. Anyone with kids knows how complicated life gets. Sleep? HaHaHa! Cheers, Carla!

Finally, we managed to get everyone in a mind to go back out on the trail. Most folks were busy eating. I had realized that Carl had the sandwich stuff and had gone off on another trail. So I was left to eat my red licorice and drink Diet Cokes. I had forgotten to get myself lunch so I had no-one to blame but myself. I quickly forgot that once we got on the road again. This time the big dogs took the lead.

Soon we got to the crossing and each in turn went across. I took the tail this time and brought up the rear. When the column stopped I figured that some folks wanted to try to run the obstacle. I was right. Some had already made it up and the rest were busy thrashing away trying to get over the boulders at the bottom of the hill, the optional obstacle.

For most, it was a futile effort, though some did make it. I had done this obstacle last October and suspect it is where I lunched my spider gears in my rear end. There is no shortage of evidence of carnage on this obstacle and I was sure that I would not run it today, preferring instead to take the bypass. The rocks had become more exposed. The trail was wet. And I was not in the mood for a trip home with major carnage.

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Obstacle on Trail 2

So I watched the people who wanted to try this optional challenge take their turns trying to get over. It was interesting to watch one of the rigs with the 2 1/2 ton axles with rear steer. I was surprised that he didn't just drive right up. Instead he spend a lot of time stirring the rocks and digging deep holes that would torment those who followed. Eventually, he chose another line and got up the hill.

Finally the last person before me, driving a CJ-5 got his turn. He got his front wheels up on the bottom rocks, and looked to be about 50-50 for making the obstacle. I took a picture of him in this position and then started to stuff the camera inside my coat so it would stay dry.

Obstacle on Trail 2

And that's when I saw the nose of his Jeep go up in the air, and one of the rear tires drop into a deep hole. And over he went! He creased his hood on the same tree that I raked with my roof rack last fall, and ended up flopped on his driver side, nose up the hill. This is not good....

Doh!Oh Man...RiggingOK

A lot of thoughts ran through my mind. He was running soft doors. Did he have his arms or head out? Had he tried to save himself when it started by putting out his hand in that reflexive way we do when we're falling (without a Jeep strapped to our butt)? Had the door stayed closed, keeping him from getting trapped under the Jeep?

I had to climb down the hill to get to where he was, and that was pretty tricky given the footing and the weather. That I wore hiking boots is probably the only reason I didn't end up capsized myself. I quickly found that the driver was still strapped in his seat and all his body parts were safely inside the Jeep, and nothing was trapped. The roll cage had stayed intact, and the driver was showing plenty of signs of life, and another spectator had made it to the bottom of the hill to help out.

Plenty of people came down and helped him get out of the Jeep. I took pictures since it was clear that aside from a big shot of adrenaline and a bruised up Jeep, the driver would be OK and soon we would have to confront recovering a flopped Jeep that was up against a tree on the side of a very steep hill. Everyone else was already perched on the hill, leaving me parked at the bottom of the hill in prime position to winch this Jeep upright.

There wasn't a lot of room to get positioned. I had to take into account that when the Jeep was put back on four wheels, it could roll back off the hill right into me. No thanks. I didn't know how much pull it was going to take to tip it back over. So I got myself as far away and as off to the side as possible from the flopped Jeep. I rigged the tail of my Jeep to a tree using a tree strap and my 20 foot, 9000-pound choker chain. Meanwhile, a couple of the other guys pulled the cable up the hill and got a snatch block rigged to a tree.

The cable was attached to a tow strap that had been tied to the roll bar. The first rigging was revised when it was found that the cable would only travel about six feet before the hook would reach the snatch block. We attached the winch cable of the flopped Jeep to another tree in the hope of preventing the Jeep from rolling back into me.

Back on 4Er, honey...Hit with a big stick

I ask to be forgiven by all the folks who winch by the seat of their pants. I have been brainwashed by watching a winching training video over 100 times with my kids. Good old Bill Burke has drilled safety into my head to the point where I abandon courtesy and friendliness when it comes to choosing it at the expense of being nice.

A couple helpful folks wanted to take over my winch (and thereby my vehicle) and run the recovery operation. Although I am sure they meant no harm, I reacted in a way that they clearly didn't expect. My take on the situation was that I was putting my vehicle on the line to get this other Jeep turned up. There were any number of things that could go wrong, and I wanted to have the ultimate responsibility for it. It would have done no good if something had gone wrong and I ended up with a messed up Jeep. So I politely but firmly refused to turn over control.   Sorry...

It must have seemed abrupt at the time, but I was doing what I was trained to do. And that meant inspecting every aspect of the rigging. At least five people had participated in putting the cable and straps together. I wanted to make sure that everything was in order before I plugged in the remote and started cranking. And so that's what I did. Thanks to the excellent job that everyone did rigging the cable and straps, the Jeep was upright with very little stress on the cable. The Jeep didn't roll back. The leaking fuel didn't catch on fire. The cable didn't break. No limbs were amputated.

And surprise of surprises, the Jeep that flopped had a damaged hood and some other incidental damage, but was largely intact and started right up. After I got my junk all stowed and out of the way, I saw how determined some people can be. He made two more attempts to clear the obstacle!

Anyway, that kept us busy, between everyone taking their turn at the optional obstacle, and then the recovery. I think we burned close to three hours on the first 200 yards of trail. And everyone who had gone up the hill had not gone all the way to the top so we had a column of vehicles strung down the hill. It was pretty steep and was more wet than the first time through. The people ahead had some issues with sliding against a tree, and the guy behind me (the same guy who flopped), backed down the hill and headed up the trail on his own. I could see that the problems ahead were going to take some time so I backed down off the hill to accompany him.  I almost stuffed it into a tree at the bottom trying to stop.

We found the climb up the hill to be much harder than the first time today. I had to strike a balance between too slow and too fast. We made it up and continued to a plateau of sorts. There, we stopped to do a more complete inspection of his Jeep to see if we could find any more damage. He reorganized the contents of the Jeep, and put his fuel-soaked jacked in a plastic bag that I happened to have.

Soon the rest of the group caught up to us, and after a brief chat, we continued up the trail. Like the hill behind us, the trail condition had deteriorated from the rain. We worked our way down to the exit, threading the Jeeps through the trees. Several times I had to gut it out when the thing just slid for trees or gullies. As luck would have it, I got out again in one piece.

At the bottom, I crossed the stream and parked on the road to wait for the rest of the group. Soon we were all out, and headed back to the Muster field.

Epilogue

OCC Contigent

I met up with a small group from OCC and we told our tall tales from the day. Carl and I went back to strike camp, and everyone else hit the road for home - they had been up since 3am and no doubt were ready to call it a day.

We went and hit the car wash. I respooled and cleaned my cable first, then flushed the mud and chunks out of the underbody. And of course I took care of appearances. Carl took off while I finished. I went and aired up, and caught up to Carl at the gas station. We drove back to camp and packed.

Camping Trailer

The camping trailer made it much easier than it would have been if we both had tents. Soon we were on the road to home.

Carl on the Road

It was a great day, even with the rain!

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Oak Ridge is Private Property.  Trespassing is vigorously enforced and prosecuted.

At the request of the Jeep Jamboree local coordinators and site owners, GPS coordinates are not being posted for this trail report.


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