Black Friday Trail Ride

The CORE Black Friday trail ride has been a club tradition for many years. This is my trail ride to organize for the club to allow those of us who would rather get away from the holiday shuffle and bustle of the crowds and go some place a bit more adventurous and have a good time with friends. This year our adventures took us to Rausch Creek Off Road Park near Tremont PA.

The water holes looked like a partially melted Oreo cookie smoothie with blocks of floating ice.

Joining us this year for this annual CORE event were:

  • Mike in the white Rubicon TJ (CORE)
  • JC in the black Jeep TJ (CORE)
  • Paul and Anthony Lepine in the silver Rubicon LJ (guests)
  • Joe and Dan Eberly in the white 1988 GMC Suburban (guests)
  • Ryan Leonard in the green 1998 Jeep Cherokee XJ (guest)
  • Brad Twinam and Rich in the dark green 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee (guests)
  • Gerry Viglietti in the Black 2014 Jeep JK (guest)
  • Billie Cox in the silver 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee (guest)

Based on prior experience I knew that we had to hit the road from Urbana MD by 6:30 AM to get to Rausch Creek Off-Road Park at a reasonable time to allow a full day of wheeling and adventures. This year JC from CORE met me at the Urbana Exxon for this trip with guest Paul Lepine.
I was disappointed a bit that more from CORE could not make this trip but prior commitments and family functions this holiday season prevented many from participating. Little did I know that Paul had lined up a full suite of guests and others to join us on this trail ride. JC apparently was really looking forward to this annual trip because I came to find out that his work shift ended at 4 AM, he caught a short nap, and met us at the Urbana meeting location by 6:30 AM. Wow!

On the drive up to Pennsylvania we encountered some light snow flakes. I watched a beautiful sunrise off to the east welcomed the day as we proceeded up route 15. As we reached the higher elevations in Pennsylvania we could see snow still clinging to the trees, signs of the snow fall from the recent days. I wondered to myself what awaited us at Rausch Creek and about the conditions on the trails.

We arrived at Rausch Creek with a chilly 27 degrees and overcast skies. We checked in, got our trail map, and hooked up with Paul’s guests. So a trail ride that started out with three vehicles ended up with eight. This was already turning out to be an interesting day.

On this annual trail ride I planned a typical route to follow trails comprised of green and blue rated trails. Our convoy began the ride on green trail B on the East property. This trail is the main trail that cuts across the East property. What amazed me this year was the sheer number of deep muddy ice-filled water holes along the trail every few hundred yards. Each of these water holes was anywhere from six inches to two feet in depth. You never knew what rocky treasures awaiting you as crossed these holes. The water holes looked like a partially melted Oreo cookie smoothie with floating blocks of ice. With all of the rocks and ice I felt like a bobble head doll bouncing left-right-left-right…

We made our way to the entrance to green trail 1a. Folks tried their hand on a nice hill climb to the right of the trail head entrance. Paul attempted first and made it look easy even with all of the snow cover. Brad and Rich in the black Grand Cherokee also climbed this hill. On the hill climb JC hit a boulder that popped the bead on his right front tire and damaged the steering box to the point where is was steadily leaking power steering fluid. A good trail Samaritan assisted JC, helping to reseat the tire bead with his CO2 tank. Soon we were back on the trails moving forward again.

Another technical trail challenge arose with Joe Eberly’s 88 Suburban when he realized that his front axle was not engaging in four-wheel drive. While the front left was manual hub was engaged, it was clear that he did not have four-wheel drive. While the repairs on JC’s tire bead were taking place, a quick removal of the left front hub on Joe’s Suburban and a couple of light raps with hammer got the engaged.

The next trail to hit was “club friendly” blue trail #2. More challenges awaited us on this trail; more rocks and more snow. At the end of this trail we encountered a rather large water and mud hole on the Pole Line trail. I watched cautiously while a group in front of us made their way through this hole. By watching it became that the line that hugged the power line pole was the shallowest and could be navigated without much problem.

From here I brought the group onto green trail D where Paul’s son Anthony in the LJ and Bill in the Silver Grand took a side trip up blue trail Crawler Ridge. Crawler Ridge is a very challenging uphill climb made even more so by the fact that there was very fresh snow and ice cover. With Anthony at the wheel the LJ made its way up the hill over large boulders and navigated a very tight rock crevasse that temporary hung up the Jeep. With a little bit of backing up and repositioning, Anthony expertly climbed over the rock and was on his way – what a great job!

We proceeded along trail D where I intended to make my way over to one of my favorite blue trails, #4. On my way there I missed a turn and ended up on the South side of the park on a blue trail I have never visited, “Topless for Tatas”. This trail turned out to be one with lots of twists and turns, and lots of boulders. I would characterize this trail as very technical requiring your constant concentration and focus. It is a very long trail that seemed to go on forever. What was interesting is that this trail was created several years ago by Rausch Creek in support of a charity fund raiser event for breast cancer awareness and research. Sponsor signs peppered this trail every 50 feet or so from many familiar companies such as Warn, American Expedition Vehicles, Quadratec, Rusty’s Off-Road Products, and many, many others. This trail comes highly recommended by me!
At the end of this trail we broke for lunch, relaxed a bit and traded prior four wheeling experiences. From here we headed over to the West property for more exploring. When we registered we were warned that all of blue trail J was closed due to the danger of ice. This is what is great about Rausch Creek, they know their trails and will tell you of any potential danger areas so that you have a good time and most importantly stay safe.

As we made our way to the West property I worried a bit about our decent into the valley. Occasionally I noticed a sideways slip in my Jeep and hoped that there would not be too much ice to make this trip dangerous. It was at this point I really noticed that colors in the park this time of the year were strikingly comprised of only white, black, and brown, for the snow, black muddy water, and deep mud holes. Very cool.

We descended into the valley on green trail H where we hooked up with green trail 11. This trail brought us to what I thought would be mild mannered green trail 14. This trail turned into quite the challenge. Initially this trail cuts into the trees and has lots of twists and turns which are not difficult. However near the end of this trail things totally changed. After clearing a very rocky mud pit we were faced with attempting a very large climb of a muddy uphill “wall”. I attempted to make this climb taking a line to the right but failed miserably. I opted for the by-pass. This is another great thing I like about Rausch Creek. If there is a challenge you cannot make, there usually is a by-pass to get you out of your difficult spot. After I cleared the “wall” climb I looked in the rear view mirror to see the white 88 GMC Suburban behind me with its left front tire several feet off the ground powering through the “wall”. Needless to say Dan in the driver’s seat pulled his vehicle through the obstacle. Very impressive!

After emerging from trail #14 I learned that JC suffered yet another popped tire bead, again on this right front tire. We stopped for a bit on green trail 11 while we worked to reseat and inflate in tire.

From here I took a turn onto blue trail 19-A. This was an uphill turn into a rocky section of the trail that also required constant concentration and focus so as not to get hung up. This was a horseshoe shaped trail that took one up, across, and back down the hill back onto trail 11. The entire group completed this trail with no issues.

We continued our exploration of the West property along trail 11. After a while we came upon a Burgundy Jeep XJ Cherokee stuck in several feet of deep mud on a side trail. We all stopped along the trail to watch the show. It was clear that his vehicle was stuck on something hidden deep under the mud. He could not make forward or backwards progress. We watched as a winch cable was attached to a vehicle on the main trail to pull his vehicle forward over the hidden obstacle. But needless to say Brad and Rich in the dark green Jeep Grand Cherokee in our group just had to also take a run at this mud hole. With Brad at the wheel the Grand entered the mud hole and power through up to the point where the hidden obstacle stopped all forward progress. Nothing Brad tried could free the Grand. Again, out came the winch cable. With a couple of tugs from the winch, the Grand make forward progress and soon was free. Very impressive to watch.

Our group finished up trail 11 and hit the green Power Line trail to make our way out from the bottom of the valley back to the top. This trail is very long and very straight. This trail follows the power lines and is a full uphill climb the entire way. Ice and snow was my major concern on this trail as now it was getting late into the day. No major difficulties were encountered as we made our way back out of the valley. Near the top a few folks played on a hill climb to test their skills and vehicles.

At this point approached 4 PM and I thought it best wise to get the group back to the assembly area so that folks could air up and prepare for their travels home. We met at the assembly area, reconnected our sway bars, aired up, and said our goodbyes. On the drive home I watched the sunset as our day of adventure and fun came to an end. This was a very nice trip. We had a few minor breakdowns that were solvable; we were challenged by the snowy ice covered trails; but most importantly all remained safe and had a good time.

I hope that you can join us on future rides.

Photo Album: 11/28/14 Black Friday at Rausch

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Trail report written by Mike Vincenty. Pictures courtesy of Mike Vincenty.

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