pre-run, I began a waiting game. I was a half-dozen slots out of
contention for being a Trail Guide. On the eve of this pre-run, I had
matriculated into a slot as trail guide, and the person next down on the list
had moved into position as well. I packed light with only changes of
clothes for the days I would be out, my electronics and new digital camera.
I had decided that I'd had
enough of shooting film for these types of activities. Also, shooting
for eBay had gotten tedious since my dual-purpose Video/Digital still camera
was malfunctioning. So with one night to go, I did what conventional
wisdom tells you not to do - I bought a new camera with no time to learn its
operation, and no time for trial and error.
It would be a trial by fire
this time out. I didn't have any worries because it looked intuitive
enough, and I had purchased spare batteries and CD's, and brought along the
cables and instructions.
In an effort to avoid being
late like the first pre-run, I
got up and left home by 4:55am with plans to arrive in Oak Ridge by
8:00am. I was surprised by the traffic at this early hour until I
recalled that it was only Thursday and that it would be a regular
commute. Oh Joy!
After I had driven about 1/2
an hour, I realized that I had forgotten my GPS
cable and my spare battery for the camera. I was not happy about it
since this would prevent me from saving my GPS tracks (or loading old ones)
and I would probably need more battery power than one battery would provide
for my camera. At least there I could pace myself and recharge the one
battery I had each night.
I got to the Haymarket Sheetz
by 5:40am, took on fuel and supplies for the day, then continued down Route 15
to Route 29, where I turned south for Charlottesville.
I reached Charlottesville by
7:14am and caught a little bit of their rush-hour traffic. But I still
made the Liberty gas station in Lovingston by 7:50am. When I opened up
the passenger side door, I discovered the cable and battery that I thought I
had left behind. Good News! I packed them in their rightful
places. I took advantage of the pavement to air down and disconnect
while my gas tank filled. Then I headed for the muster field.
A much smaller group was
assembled than the first pre-run.
Only the confirmed Trail Guides and a couple alternates were present. I
expected this to make the trail run go a little faster. It also turned
out that those present were for the most part driving modified Jeeps.
That never hurts either.
The drivers meeting was held
and we learned that the weather for the weekend was not expected to be
good. This meant that we would probably have to revise the trail routes
as necessary, and face the possibility that if it rained badly enough before
we hit the trail, that we might not even be able to go out.
With the meeting out of the
way, we formed a column and headed out for Trail 3, AKA Bobs Creek.
During the last pre-run we had
abandoned this trail due to various problems. This time, we went in to
the corduroy road, past the tight trees, then up the hill, bypassing the drop
to the rock obstacles, and instead heading straight up the hill.
This was not particularly
difficult but there were a couple of rocks that made it interesting. The
rest of this trail was uneventful, and soon we reached the exit.
Up the road and around a
couple corners and we met the entrance to Trail 7. We drove in through
the erosion, which seems less severe than
year, and down into the first little loop.
It was interesting but not
challenging. I can see where it will get nasty once it rains.
Out of the loop we continued
in and up the mountain to follow the ridge line to the turn around and then
back out and down the mountain. Some light trail maintenance was done to
remove fallen trees.
Next came Trail 2 with the
stream crossing and climb out onto the bank. The water was
than last year, but the crossing was still very passable.
Once up on the trail, we
drove along and passed the optional
hill-climb. It has deteriorated to the point where it is no longer
accessible to stock vehicles and could be classed as an extreme obstacle that
only experienced drivers with built rigs would be allowed to attempt.
And then only if the trail was dry and time allowed.
We drove up the main trail
and eventually got to the turn off for Findlay Ridge. While I like this
trail, it is very tight and winds around trees so tightly that anything larger
than a Wrangler has to make multi-point turns. Along the way, there are
some obstacles that aren't that hard, but compound the challenge of climbing
the steep hill and threading through the trees.
I winched last year, was the worse for wear. The upper rock obstacle
was pretty much impassible, and the lower one was much more difficult that
last year. One by one, we made our way up the obstacle, with some folks
having better luck than others.
At one spot, we had a little
carnage when a tight spot reached out and touched a Jeep. He got winched
out of the pinch and we continued. As we drove along, Jonathan called
out that he was having clutch problems. We stopped and soon learned that
his clutch slave cylinder had been damaged and would need to be
replaced. Jonathan drove on on his own, shutting the Jeep off and
turning it on where needed.
By this time, it was getting
late and so we bypassed the rock garden, and made plans to bypass CJ-5
Hill. Instead, we took a ride down to the crossing on Trail 5 to see how
well the repair work had been done. On the last pre-run, this crossing
had kept us busy winching and
reseating tires. On the way, Dan and Lyle spent some time playing
Choo-Choo train with their straps in the mud ruts.
Once they were fished out, we
continued on to the crossing. Mike Ball crossed the stream and found the
climb out to be more than his Jeep could handle. It still was not
passable for the average Jeep.
So Mike winched himself out
and crossed back. We doubled back, with me leading to the meadow.
Once again a couple Jeeps got stuck in the meadow and were retrieved.
From the meadow, we took the
Trail 4 loop. I made a wrong turn and came out on the downhill side of
the log bridge. So I went back and ran the loop the correct way and
caught up to the group. We stopped to move some fallen logs out of the
way, then ran the rest of the loop, crossing the log bridge after coming off a
slightly off-camber side-hill.
Back on the main trail, we
followed Trail 4 to the exit.