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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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....
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.
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.
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
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.