4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD!
I originally avoided planning any trips for the month because I was scheduled to be a trail guide for Camp Jeep at the end of June. But events conspired against me and with the likelyhood that I will not be able to participate in Camp Jeep, I figured I might be able to fit in a short ride.
The kids have recently learned to ride the bikes without training wheels. Basically, they were having troubles because of the training wheels so I just suggested we take them off and see if they could learn to ride without them. I removed Ted's and he rode away like he had always known how to ride a bike. Tom needed some support for a little while, to get the hang of leaning into turns instead of out, as training wheels tend to require. But after a couple hours and some initial reluctance, he too was cruising around without the training wheels.
The fact that the kids were free of training wheels opens up some new possibilities for them, riding in places where the training wheels would be a problem - like on rough surfaces. So when I thought about going for a little ride, it dawned on me that I should bring their bikes and take a trip up to a place where I see mountain bike riders all the time, and a particular stretch of trail that is dead easy and only slightly sloped for quite some way. So we loaded the bikes on the rack and hit the road.
As we did not bring anyone with us (this was to be nothing much different from a trip to a park, with nothing more extreme than a bumpy road) there was no muster to speak of. We stopped at Sheetz, I aired down and disconnected, then we went in, ordered sandwiches, and grabbed our usual assortment of drinks, chips and goodies for lunch on the trail.
What was new about this process was the level of involvement of the kids. This time they were very happy to remove the valve stem covers and screw on the automatic trail head deflators. WooHoo! Now my kids are airing down for me! I disconnected the sway bar while they took care of the air. I checked and adjusted the tires to matching pressure. Some gas and we were on the trail.
We drove in to the trail head without event. The water in the streams at the entrance was the highest I have seen, certainly owing to the long spell of rain we had been having. This made the crossing pleasant but by no means difficult.
The trail was nice and clean, with no fallen trees that were not already there, and driven over several times. We drove along and enjoyed the scenery and discussed the impending first mountain bike outing. I almost drove down to the section I had in mind and then remembered that it was slightly uphill from the end closest to the trail head. So I sold the kids on driving up to the end of the trail we were on and then coming in from the other end so that they would have a slightly easier time riding. They were all for that so we continued toward the end of the trail.
A little ways down the trail we came upon a man who I would learn was named Rich, from Long Island, New York. He was out enjoying the day and had started walking from the park uphill from where we found him. I always like to greet people on the trail, and especially people on foot so that they don't feel as though we're unfriendly. He was pleasant and we passed the time of day. I told him of our plans to check for fallen trees and any other incidental trail maintenance that we might attend to in the course of our ride. He told me that there some trees down a little ways up the trail. I considered my saw in the back and hoped it would suffice.
We parted company and I drove on up the trail. The kids memory for locations, even traveling in a different direction from where we had approved on other occasions continue to amaze me. As we passed some fallen trees that we had cleaned up three months ago, one of the boys recalled how we had stopped and cleared the trail. I confirmed that indeed this was the spot. It's nice to know that the boys have a good sense of direction - you never know when it could come in handy.
Finally we came to the tree that Rich had spoken of, and it was a doozy. It was a two-trunked monster with quite a large number of branches that had fallen as a result of our recent stormy weather. It was too large and had too many sections to be removed by one person with a 24 inch bow saw. We needed to scout for a way to go around it, with plans to come back with a chain saw or three, and a small crew.
I led the kids on a brief hike that scouted out the best route through the woods that would get us around to the other side of the fallen tree. Luckily, I was able to find an easy path that allowed us to get around without cutting any living trees, and with very little likelihood of damaging the Jeep or getting stuck. I like as much challenge as my nerves can stand but when I'm alone, I would rather limit risk to the absolute minimum. If the way around was much more difficult that what I'd found, we would have just turned around and gone back the way we came.
So we walked the way I planned to go, cleaning up some fallen wood, checking widths, and mentally evaluating the side slope that we would be dealing with as we drove on the side of the hill. Nothing was too steep and the clearance, though tight in a couple spots, was possible if I didn't slip around too much.
We walked back to the Jeep and got ourselves loaded back up. I drove the way we had walked and came to the one spot that I knew would require removing a fairly large fallen tree or two. I worked on one with my saw and got it down to where I could drive over it. We were now directly behind the fallen tree, and could see the root ball. There was another dead tree that was in the way of getting past the fallen tree and back down to the trail. So I put the strap on it and gave a couple tugs. I was facing down a moderate hill, with two fallen logs in my path. So I had to jerk it back uphill a bit and go backwards and uphill over the logs in the process. I made a coule tries and then I saw that Rich had come back.
He asked if we were stuck and I explained what we were doing. I gave the dead tree another pull and it came down, clearing our way to get out. I worked the Jeep around some saplings and got myself back down onto the trail without doing any damage to the woods or the Jeep. Rich and I talked for a little while and he helped me take down the kids bikes from the roof rack. Eventually, Rich continued back up the trail from where he had come, and we sat down for some lunch. I had remembered to bring the chairs this time and we had a pleasant lunch.
The kids started trying out their bikes on the trail and I had to remind them that the "kids moutain bike trail" was a little further down, past the steep slope that lead to a stream crossing and some rough going.
So we put the bikes back up on the rack and drove down through the rough section.
When we got back down to the smooth part of the trail, I took their bikes down off the rack. I gave them some instructions and turned them loose. I followed behind.
I soon discovered that they went much faster than I had expected and faster that we normally drive in the woods! I was being left in the dust of a 4 and 6-year old! Well dust probably isn't the right word because it was wet and muddy.
As a matter of fact, Tom pitched into a mud puddle and came up all upset because he got his bike gloves muddy. I stopped and got him cleaned up with some wet wipes and sent him on his way.
We came upon a long stretch of mud. Teddy has been driving in a mud puddle at home for weeks so I was not surprised to see him go splashing right in. Tom wanted to get past the mud without going through it so I stopped and guided him along the edge and got him to the other side.
Then they both took off again, leaving me to scramble back to the Jeep so I could keep up. No doubt about it - I need to get a mountain bike!
We came to where the trail slope increases down and gets more rocky. The kids stopped to evaluate it and I advised them that this was the end of the "kid mountain bike" section and that we should load up the bikes. Tom hesistated and did not go much further. Ted ignored me and started down the hill. At first I thought maybe he had it under conrol but then he took his feet off the pedals in an attempt to stop by using his feet instead of the coaster brake. That was the beginning of the end. He accelerated rapidly, got hooked in some small stones and pitched off to one side. He fell gracefully and didn't hit his head or twist any body parts, but he did scrape his forearm a bit. Needless to say there was some crying.
I went down and checked him over. Finding no broken bones, I got him to his feet and walked his bike back up the hill for him, giving him comfort until we got to the Jeep. I used an antiseptic wipe to clean off his scrape and arm, then put a bandage on his scrape (at his request - it really didn't need a bandaid). He started to worry that I would splint him and I promised him that it was not needed, for which he was relieved. Tom was happy that he avoided Ted's fate and let me put his bike on the rack, along with Ted's.
Ted started telling me that he was never going mountain biking again. But soon enough he told me that "his head" told him he could make it and that he didn't need to listen to his father (that would be me...) about the hill being too steep. He basically admitted that he should have listened to me. Again kids surprise me. I wasn't even bringing it up, but it was good to hear that maybe next time he would think twice. I was just happy that he didn't break anything and that I had the supplies on had for the minor injury that had come out of it. With bike gloves and helmet, he made out well. (On the way home we went shopping elbow and knee protection at Ted's request!) On the way this stream crossed the trail.
With the bikes all loaded and our mountain biking adventure finished with mixed results, we drove back down the trail and took the other branch up to the ridge. We found things pretty much as usual, but with one fallen tree gone and a new one further up to take it's place. We found a large quantity of beer cans and soda cans and cleaned that up. Then we turned back around and came back down to the trail head.
We had just about reached pavement when I spotted two BFG A/T's laying in the stream. How strange? They were evenly worn but spent 35's - two to be exact. It pains me to see people leave stuff like this out here. There can be no mistaking where these tires come from and yet people think that no one in the world would ever make the connection between a 4-Wheeler and some large A/T's? No wonder the trails are getting closed...
I got out to get the water out of them and throw them on the rack to take away to the transfer station (that takes tires with no fee and no questions asked...) Just at that moment, a small group of people out for a walk happened along. I can't imagine what they made out of a scruffy guy throwing these big tires in the air and getting all wet in the process. The kids talked to their little boy while I secured the tires to the rack, then we finished exiting to the trail head.
We returned to Sheetz where I aired up and reconnected the sway bars. We threw away the collection of beer and soda cans we'd retrieved from the woods, then drove down to our local recycling center to dispose of the 35's. Then we went to Toys 'R Us and shopped biker body armor... I think we're going to try the specialist bike stores and see what is available one notch above the "toy" quality stuff. I think this mountain biker stuff could just take!
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