Oak Ridge

VA4WDA 10th Annual Trail Ride

Paul fords river

10/4/02 - 10/6/02

Jim C.'s full-sized photos

Way Points

4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD! - Click here for details!

4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD!


Earlier this year I went out to Oak Ridge to do some Pre-runs for the Jeep Jamboree.  I signed up too late to be a trail guide but was able to run some of the trails.  We were told that the VA4WDA would be hosting an weekend even in October there, so I made plans to attend.

Road ReadyRoad ReadyRoad ReadyRoad Ready
Road Ready
Road Ready

I packed my stuff on Thursday night and left early from work on Friday.  I wanted to arrive early at the camping area so that I could find a reasonably flat space for the tent. 

Friday OCC Lunch

I went to lunch with some of the OCC gang in Reston, we talked about things off-road, and then I headed out.  I made good time and arrived at about 2:30 in the afternoon.  I set up my tent and reserved a space for Jim who was arriving a little later.



View of CampView of CampView of Camp

Some guys, including Brad, set up next to us.  We got to talking and I learned that Brad was new to this, taking his Jeep out here for the first time.  Later, while Jim and I were returning from the store, he mentioned that Shoe Creek was nearby.  And so it is - there on my GPS is the first of several waypoints that I had entered to guide myself to the trail-head.  So back at camp, I invited Brad to join us.  He was game so we got ready to go and hit the road.

We were all running topless - a decision that would prove fateful later when the rain came.  I followed my waypoints with some trepidation since I had never gone to the trail head from this direction.  I knew the waypoints were correct but because we had ultimately left the trail and taken a different route home on my other visits, my reckoning left something to be desired.  At one point I overshot a turn because it was a familiar route but coming in from the "wrong" side of the road.

Once we got back on the right road, we soon found our way to the trail.  But not before we met another group of Jeeps coming out the other way.  Hmmmm - wonder where they're coming from....?

We reached the trail, aired down and disconnected.  We were soon in 4WD, crawling up the gravel road into the woods.  The rain came and got us all a little wet, but it wasn't too bad.  We came to one of the rocky hills that we like to climb.  I took a shot at it and finally managed to get up after a few failed attempts.  Jim followed and, after some trepidation, Brad made it too.  Now we're 'wheeling!

The rest of the ride was pretty routine.  I failed to find a portion of the trail that I wanted to run that would have taken us up a gnarly section and around to the top of Cash Mountain.  Instead we thrashed around some trails and eventually went almost to the top of the mountain in the rain.  The road was quite steep and difficult in the dark and rain.  Eventually we decided to turn back because of a tree that blocked our way.  Under better conditions we would have removed it and continued, but with the rest of the weekend ahead, it didn't seem worth the trouble.

We hit the road and drove back to Oak Ridge.  No problems but Brad had a "moment" when we got back to Route 29.  As he crossed the median to get on the highway, he went a little too fast and found out what it feels like to be disconnected on pavement!  Whoopsy!  


We all went to the main muster field at 8 AM to get ready for the ride.  People slowly showed up and lined up in the hap-hazard way that is the norm here.  The drivers meeting includes registration tasks, rules for the weekend, and general business.  


While we were waiting Rob and Nikki showed up, along with Doug and Jon F. 

Nikki and RobJeep Liberty (side steps removed by trail 1/2 hour later)

So we all decided to get in line with Lyle and go out as a group.

Muster Area
Muster Area
Muster Area

Not long after we got in line, a guy comes up to me in and asks for jumper cables (first thing in the morning, before the FIRST trail ride of the weekend).  Resisting my unfortunate first reaction to suggest he stay home if his Jeep is broken, I instead get my cables out and give him a start.  He decides to leave his Jeep running and tells me that he also does not have an emergency brake.  I think back to my days with the CJ-2A that had a non-functioning e-brake and understand what he faces - a day that involves parking a running Jeep someplace where it will not roll away.  Now I am starting to have visions of a long, hard trail ride.

Saturday Group Photo

We formed up, switched to channel 5 on the CB, and headed for the first trail.  It consisted mainly of a dirt road that first runs along the perimeter of a couple nice fields, then drops into the woods where it provides access to a skeet shooting range. 

Poker Run with Brad

In the field, while the rest of the group is stopped for a Poker Card drawing, Steve goes running off by himself with a long trail of steam following him.  Add overheating to his list of malfunctions.  Once he is satisfied that his Jeep has cooled off, we continue on.

A little further down the trail we come to a pair of whoop-de-do's.  They're not very deep but they are close together.  Just about the time I got past them the group stops.  Turns out the Liberty has damaged steps that must be removed!  Brad's steps on his TJ are just fine, to give you an idea how low the steps on the Liberty "Renegade" are.  How ironic that a vehicle that is packaged to appeal to an off-road audience would be so ill-suited to handle even a basic trail.  The offending running boards and brackets are removed and the group continues not but a few more feet before Steve has to stop because his Jeep has overheated.

He shuts it off to let it cool.  We wait...  When he tries to start it again (dead battery, remember?), his starter won't work either - even with a jump start.  After a brief moment when I thought we were all going to sit there and wait for Steve, he decided to stay back and let the rest of the group go on without him.  We caught word of him later over the CB but didn't see him on the trail again that day. 

Along the way we forded a river - very deep on the entry side and tame the rest of the way.

Watching the crossing at Rucker Run
River FordRiver FordRiver Ford
River Ford
River FordRiver FordRiver FordCrossing Rucker Run

Crossing Rucker RunCrossing Rucker RunCrossing Rucker RunCrossing Rucker RunCrossing Rucker RunCrossing Rucker Run

Total distance traveled: 6/10-mile. It is now lunch time... We get moving again, but with frequent stops. When we reached pavement, Jon was having some trouble getting back into 2WD.  He caught up to us and we headed in to the second trail.  This trail meanders through a field with no real challenges for any but the most inexperienced drivers. 

Nikki and RobNikki and RobNikki and Rob

We stopped to eat lunch: 1.5 hours shot.

Lunch Bunch

It is now 2pm. Distance traveled: 1.2 miles. No obstacles in sight. We are driving in mowed fields.

Right after lunch, Jon Fotos' transfer case self-destructs. He was headed down a hill when the drivetrain just froze.  He managed to get it into something long enough to get the Jeep off the trail.  From there he rode with Rob Caveleri for the rest of the day then goes back later to get his Jeep. 

Finally, around 3pm we get to one of the trails that I ran on the Jeep Jamboree pre-run (the one that claimed my rear bumper) and got to the big rock obstacles. We made the crossing that gives access to "Zen's" mud bog, and the hill.

Nikki and RobNikki and Rob

I DID IT! WHOOO HOO! I scrambled up first try and Jim tackled it too.


Now we're having fun (it took long enough...).  Russ in the shortened Toyota makes short work of the large obstacle.

Trail 3 ObstacleTrail 3 Obstacle

The rest of the trail was so-so until we got to the section that climbs up the ridge and doubles back. On the way in , there is an erosion wash cut that is a pretty deep "V". A guy in a Dodge Raider gets seriously side-ways in it, so I strapped him out.


On the way out, a guy in a tall CJ7 gets even more seriously side-ways and he is winched out.

Russ' ToyotaOoopsOoopsOoops

End of Saturday, except for the interminable door prize drawing (lots of prizes, each number called out three times, etc.)


Rob and Nikki hit the road early. 


We meet at the muster field to start at 8am and guess who's there? Steve...  This time it looks like he has fixed all his problems. Wrong. Once again, we get on the trail and... Well I am getting ahead of myself. We headed out to the first (and only) trail that had any serious obstacles other than the one rock outcrop on Saturday.  We hear stories about CJ5 hill ("no one made it on Saturday" - might not be true) and that is where we are going!   Kewl!   

OK, so we cross a stream at the beginning of the trail (fun but easy).

Lyle fords riverDoug fords riverDoug fords river and smilesBrad
Paul fords river
Paul Crossing Paul CrossingPaul fords riverPaul fords river

Almost right away we come to the first obstacle.   It's a huge rock at the bottom of a very steep hill, that is strewn with rocks all the way up. Scary steep and scary rocky.


Most people decide not to do it.  Maybe I should have skipped it as well...  Russ in a Toyota bob-tail pickup with a super-low crawl box and lockers front and rear, crawls up it like it was a sidewalk.  He made it look easy.   

Russ on first respectable obstacleRuss on first respectable obstacle

Russ on first respectable obstacle
Russ on first respectable obstacle

Next comes Doug in his lifted Cherokee.  He bashes some on the big rock at the bottom then goes up the hill!  Yee- Ha!

Doug on obstacleDoug on obstacleDoug on obstacleDoug

I decide to see if I can get my front wheels up on the big rock at the bottom. I was able to but slid back off.  So I sat there for a second thinking about whether or not to try again.  I noticed that the line seemed perfect, that all I had to do was "bump it" a little and I would be up - so I did.  And I went up. It was very dramatic...

PaulPaul on ObstaclePaul on Obstacle
Paul on Obstacle
Paul on ObstaclePaul on Obstacle

I got air with both front wheels on the bottom rock, then I almost got sideways part way up the hill.  Then I got air with both front wheels again, bashing over a pretty big bunch of rocks further up the hill before I got to "solid" ground and a good stopping place.  The crowd went wild (they wanted carnage and they got it - my water cooler rolled all the way down the hill...)  Now Jim tried to climb it but got shut down!   

Jim on ObstacleJim on ObstacleJim on ObstacleJimJim

After a few attempts he decided to let it go.   My turn to get shut down came later... Next comes Steve.  

Steve on Obstacle

He makes it.  Mike, the tail gunner, also makes it.

Tail Gunner MikeMike on Obstacle

So the group at the bottom that decided not to do the hill set off up the other way up, and most of us went back to our Jeeps to go up the hill and meet the rest of the group at the trail junction. The main group went too far past the trail junction. We were waiting for Doug to come and drive his Cherokee (blocking the rest of us in) but he was with the main group expecting to get a ride to the trail junction.

I called on the radio to get permission for the passenger of the Toyota to drive Doug's Cherokee out to the trail junction (it was quite a ways from where we were and it seemed like a good way to save some time...) but Doug was in a vehicle with a bad CB and didn't hear us.  The trail leader never got the message that I needed to talk to Doug on the CB. And Doug....? Doug got frustrated and jumped out of the vehicle and walked off into the woods with no CB, compass, map, food, and never been there before...

We finally met up with the main group but left Doug's Jeep behind (he never gave permission so what else could we do?) Long LONG story short, Doug found his way back to the road and then back to his Jeep. Time lost: 2 hours. It is now 11am. And what about Steve?  Well guess what?  He is once again looking for jumper cables, and once started, is once again overheating. And we are going straight up a really steep hill.  A formula for success...

To add insult to injury, the group is once again stopping often and we can't get Steve to the top of the hill before he has to stop or cook his engine.   So we took an early lunch break while Steve's Jeep cools off and gets a battery charge from the Mike.

After lunch, Steve and Mike went out together and were not seen again that day. We got moving again but all our time was used up - we did not get to CJ5 Hill. We did run a major-scary loop that was way too off-camber for me (~30 degrees most of the way).  I could have lived without it for sure.

Oh yeah, I forgot. There was a small hill with some rock obstacles that were optional. Some folks ran them.  

Lyle's son and crewLyle's son and crew

One guy messed up the back of his pick-up truck some. 

OuchWheel-spinTrying again

Erica did it with lots of thrashing but absolutely no carnage - nice job (she skipped the second part). Next came crawler Toyota who once again made it look easy.  


Jim C. went up with a little turf mixing, burning rubber, and scraping chassis. 


Brad did well on the first part and by-passed the second.


I did the first part with similar results to Jim, but got hung on both my front and rear diffs on the second part.  So I used the winch to drag myself off.

Paul stuck on both diffsPaul stuck on both diffsSetting up to winchSetting up to winchWinchingFinishing up

Doug tackled it like a pro.


The trail out was interesting and a lot like GWNF, with a few interesting spots that made up for a little of the wait time. 


Mud Works

We went back to the camping area and packed - last to leave thanks to my ridiculous baggage... Gotta get back to basics on the camping stuff.

Brad's SiteJim C in CampJeep in Camp


On the drive home Doug's Cherokee lost power. We fooled with it some but finally he gave up and jumped in with Jim and later me for the ride home.  I discovered a leak in my rear differential cover the next day when I was cleaning the Jeep.  I removed the cover, expecting to reseal and refill, and found my spider gears were broken, and there we holes in my differential cover.  Party's over!

It was a blast. I think it was the luck of the draw as far as the group we got - but overall, it was worth the trip!

Little did I know at the time that I may have done some damage...  When I got home, I washed the Jeep.  This involved my usual attention to the undercarriage.  I discovered a leak in the rear differential.   Thinking that I might have pried back the cover on the bed of rocks that I was stuck on, I went out and got some sealant and some fluid.  When I removed the cover to flatten out and reseal it, I found that the leak was in fact through a hole that was made from INSIDE the differential...  I looked closer at the gears and found that the spider gears were damaged - two were missing teeth...  Crap!  I cleaned out the differential case well, put the sealant on the cover and closed it back up.  I took it to the dealer.  Let's make a long story short and say that they wanted as much money to fix it as it would cost to install better aftermarket components.  I am limping along with my missing teeth until all the replacement parts come in and I can get it put right. (Front and rear axle components were installed).   I have truly crossed to the "Dark Side"...

GPS Waypoint Coordinates

I have chosen not to provide waypoints or map data for this location 
since it is private property and not open to the general public.

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