The pre-runs were completed, with
the last one done the day before this, the first day of
the main event. We encountered few problems, other than some minor fallen dead wood
that required clean-up. But even though the trails were in good condition overall,
there were a few problem spots and the threat of rain promised to make all the trails more
difficult than they'd be on a dry day.
I got up at 6:00 am. I had
organized all my gear the night before knowing that I would awaken with little energy to
get organized and still get to breakfast on time. I went to the Rescue Squad
facility for breakfast. I was one of the first to arrive.
Soon after, everyone else started showing
up. Breakfast was classic - eggs, bacon, sausage, and ham, with biscuits,
gravy and grits. I went for the coffee first and then had something to eat, mixing
with the trail guides and guests.
As instructed, I finished up and got over
to the muster field to prepare to receive our group and ready the vehicles for the
trail. The morning was overcast and the weather report promised about 1/2 inch of
rain. So we had our day cut out for us. It was just about certain that we'd be
using straps and winches.
Participants began to trickle in and soon
we had a very long line of vehicles for our group.
I worked my way down the line, running
down the check list of items trail guides needed to verify:
- does the driver know how to engage 4-Wheel
- assist with airing down and disconnecting
- stagger vehicles with winches
- check for proper installation of tow hooks
and compatible spare tire
- make sure each passenger has a seat belt
Our group shaped up well. Susan and
Brandt had installed a tow hook on the front of their Jeep after an inspection during
registration the night before revealed the need.
Some, like Matt, Jeff, and Mike already
had some experience and were busy getting ready for the trail without need for
assistance. Some people were new to trail riding and received assistance in line
with their experience.
We helped a couple people disconnect sway
bars for improved traction, and made air pressure recommendations for airing down.
On a dry day, I might have been less concerned about airing down for these trails, but
with the rain looming, and so many stock tires, it was important that we give each driver
as much of an advantage over the elements as possible.
Steve from Extreme had set up his trailer
with lots of good stuff for sale. I got a chance to talk with him for a few minutes
in between everything else that was going on.
Dwain Schrader from the Jeep Jamboree
organization joined me for the ride. It was nice to have a co-pilot that was over 5
years old! I hope my idle chatter didn't drive him crazy!
The drivers meeting was held. Chris
and the Jeep Jamboree organizers gave instructions to the participants so they'd know the
rules of the road, developing weather conditions, provisions for emergencies, and other
Our group was to start on Trail 2.
This trail first crosses a stream, with a steep climb out the other side, then after
bypassing an optional hill climb (closed for the event), winds its way up the mountain to
Findlay Ridge, where it snakes along the entire length of the ridge. Mike crossed
first and pulled up to allow space for the rest of the group.
Marge was one of the first to
cross. When she got to the other side, she was unable to climb the hill. It
was discovered that her 4-wheel drive mechanism was not activating, so her Jeep was
winched up out of the way. We later learned that a vacuum hose was
disconnected. Chris and crew reattached it and left her Jeep waiting for her at our
trail exit later in the day.
Marge jumped in with one of the other
drivers and the rest of the group made their way across the creek. When all and
reached the other side, we continued up the trail. Along the way, a few obstacles
The first obstacle of note is a climb
over some loose rocks with bad ruts, and some large boulders blocking the way. For a
stock vehicle, this section is very difficult. Even built vehicles can have problems
with this section, and indeed, we did strap a few vehicles past the rough spot.
Once we got everyone over the rocks, we
continued along the way. We stopped for a break and I noticed an interesting
personal touch on a yellow TJ. The owner had removed the dash bezel and had it
painted to match the outside. It reminds him of his CJ. I really liked it, and
lament that my black TJ pretty much denies me the option of doing the same thing since it
would hardly be noticeable, being black already.
We moved on and soon came to the optional
rock garden. Some people chose to bypass it while a few decided to give it a
try. Megan took the controls of Mike's YJ and showed us how it's done.
The rest of the drivers who opted in,
took their turns driving through. The rock garden involves driving a slightly
off-camber route then turning around to approach a narrow passage between a large tree and
a large boulder. The vehicle must have one tire placed just so, in order to get past
the tree and boulder. Then, after a little more driving over small boulders, the
vehicle must straddle and drop off a boulder the size of a VW Bug!
Matt gave it a run but had trouble
planting his tire on the rocks. With each attempt, he moved the large boulder a
little bit further away from the tree. By the time he decided to go around, the
opening was wide enough for a little Jeep like mine to sneak through with ease. And
so I did...
By now it had been raining off and on
again for almost two hours. We decided to bypass the off-camber loop (aw shucks!)
and CJ5 Hill, since it was thought that too many vehicles in the group would encounter
problems that would hold us up, risking a late return for dinner. Instead, we
descended from the ridge and took a break, then made our way to the excavated
We received instructions to make the
crossing and climb the hill that immediately follows. This kept us busy for the rest
of the afternoon.
I don't think anyone had trouble with the
crossing itself. The descent into the creek is long and smooth, if not a bit
steep. The climb out on the other side was a little bit more difficult for folks
with stock tires, but everyone made it up to the "landing" on their own.
From there, a hard right turn and a steep climb up a muddy, rutted hill. Most of the
stock vehicles ended up getting strapped or winched up.
From here, we followed the trail back to
pavement without incident. Marge found her Jeep waiting for her, with 4-Wheel drive
alive and well. We regrouped at the staging area to air up and reconnect sway
bars. Then we drove to Wintergreen for dinner and tall tales time!
The drive to Wintergreen was a pleasant
one, and seeing the long column of Jeeps, was almost moving. Dinner was nice.
I was pretty dirty from getting vehicles aired up and reconnected so I put on my second
T-shirt and made a cursory attempt to clean myself up. But most people had come more
or less directly from the trail so I didn't get too worried about my shabby appearance.
The drive down off the mountain was
perhaps more harrowing than anything the trail threw at us. I had my hands full,
driving in a pea-soup fog down the mountain. Mike Ball hit a deer that got a
way. I got back to the motel in one piece, and as far as I know, so did everyone
I once again got my gear sorted and
readied for the next day, and swapped hotel rooms so Jonathan and his wife could have a
room of their own. At this point he still had not gotten his Jeep back together from
the problems on the pre-run, so he was riding shotgun and doing spotting and stuff.
I was a bit more fortunate, and glad to help him have a little comfort overnight.
After making some notes about the days
events, reviewing the images, and saving my GPS track, putting various batteries to
recharge for tomorrow, I called it a day and crashed. But not before I took a couple
pictures of the Jeeps in the parking lot.