On Saturday, May 26, 2007, a small group of us braved the unknown area south of Connellsville, PA known as Casparis, an abandoned mining town.
“Even with lockers and my sway bar disconnected, I couldn’t get over it.”
Along for the ride were:
- Alex Hinson in a 2007 Jeep JK
- Joshua Felts in a 1994 Chevy 1500 Pickup
- John Tompkins and his son Branden in a 1999 Jeep TJ (guest)
The day started off early with a meeting time of 7:00am at the Maryland Welcome Center on I-70 westbound. John and Joshua were the only 2 to reply saying they would defiantly be there. While some others showed interest, it turned out to be only the 3 of us for the day. With a quick stop at the Sideling Hill Center on I-68w to see if anyone showed, we made the long haul to Connellsville. The area looks so much different since the last time I went, but that will happen when there isn’t a foot worth of snow covering everything. The day couldn’t have been better, sunny, in the upper 80’s all day. I even had my top down for this trip.
We topped off and grabbed lunch at the Sheetz in Connellsville before heading to the trail. We had to take a small detour since the main street was blocked off for a town event due to the Memorial Day weekend. Once on the trail, we proceeded up the first hill to a nice wide spot where we then aired down. After that, we proceeded to the first of many splits in the trail, and took the right road which leads to the mines.
While on root to the mines we meet a PA State Park Police officer out on patrol and got to talk to him for a few minutes. After talking to him a bit and telling him that we were a 4×4 club and that we were also part of Mid-Atlantic, he told us that it was ok to be on the trail and that as long as we didn’t cause any problems there wasn’t anything he could do. He did say that they sometimes have problems with people coming in and making a mess and such, but because we were part of a club and know the rules of “leave no trace” that he wasn’t worried about us causing problems. This was very reassuring and now I have no worries about having club events in the area.
At the mine’s we meet a couple out exploring the area and talked for a few minutes before they headed on their way and we headed into the mines for some exploration. This time we had some decent flash lights. We walked about half a mile or so into the mines just looking around. There is a lot of trash lying around in there, including 2 refrigerators. Once back to our cars we decided to have our lunch now since it was a convenient spot, and already 12 o’clock. I had to administer some first aid to myself as well. Took a fall while in the mines and cut my hand open. Nothing a big Band-Aid couldn’t fix.
After lunch we headed back to the main trail, the trail to the mine is an out and back type of trail, there is no other way in or out. Along the way, I spotted a nice mud hole that I wanted to try. After testing the dept and thinking it over, I decided to go for it. Turned out easier than I was expecting. John’s son wanted to try it as well, so they went through it as well. Josh, not wanting to look bad against the jeeps, went through it as well.
After some playing in the creek crossing we proceeded along the trail to the 3 way split as I call it. It’s a point in the trail were you are given 3 paths to pick from that all lead to the top of the hill. The far left is easy except for a small rock ledge, but if approached correctly, can be done with little effort. The middle one is rather straight up, but is lined with tree roots and rocks in what looks like steps. Last time I was here, this is where I saw an Xterra tear his front axel apart. The third option has the hardest climb with a bypass. It’s a steep hill with ruts on each side that goes up for about 10 feet before hitting a collection of rocks. There is a rock face about 25″ tall that you must get over with your left rear tire while at full lock on the other 3 tires. Even with lockers and my sway bar disconnected, I couldn’t get over it. I decided to back off and do the bypass instead once I saw that my tire was about to come off the rim. John and Josh both followed the same path.
Once to the top, the three trails all meet another trail road in “T” intersections. It was here that I was wondering were the trail goes leading to the right, little did we know that we’d find that out later in the day. We went to the left which lead to a large collection of mud holes. After that, we came to a large clearing where 4 trails all met. Before, when I was riding with Loc, we took the path leading strait, but since this time, we wanted to find the river, we took the right trail. Both my GPS and Josh’s GPS said the river was about 2/3 to ¾ mile to the right, so it had to be the right choice. From here on, things got interesting.
We started our decent down, and the further we went, the worse it got. First the trail was getting smaller and smaller, it even had a few spots where Josh had to make several attempts to get by, and that’s with both mirrors folded in. There was also plenty of mud to help make things interesting. At one point, the trail literally gave out from underneath my jeep almost causing me to role down the hill.
We came to another split at which we decided to go right, and now that I think about it, the left was probably the one that went to the river. The trail had a number of fallen trees and other debris lying in the path which we stopped to remove. At one point, I got a large branch wedged into my track bars and was rubbing my front drive shaft.
After more battling with the trail on squeezing around trees and over rocks, we came to another split. This time, we tried the “alternating choice” idea, and went left. This led us to a real bind. The trail became so narrow that rocky that we decided that it would probably be best to turn back. It seems that from that point on, ATV’s have been shaping the path. After back tracking a bit and taking the right path, it wasn’t long before arriving at yet another split.
This time, we decided to walk the paths before proceeding, and a good thing we did. The left trail, which went down the mountain, ended up being too much for us to try this time around, especially with Josh’s Chevy and its wide wheel base. So up the mountain to the right we went. This trail had a few minor splits along the way which lead to some confusion and John being in front, at least for a while. I got back in front when we came to a rock climb and John wanted to see it done first before attempting it. This was his first time off roading in quite a while, so he was still relearning the limits of his jeep. This trail became rather rugged after a while. It seems that no one had been down it for some time. We again had to remove a number of fallen tree’s and debris along the way.
Along this part of the trail we came across an abandon Jeep Cherokee that has been practically stripped of all the usable parts and the rest left for rust. It looks like an old Wagoner style jeep, but the tail gate did say Cherokee. It was also here that we found fresh bear prints in the mud, just something worth mentioning.
By now, we are starting to worry, its getting late, the sun is setting, and we have never gotten any closer than 500 feet to the river, not to mention we are not sure where we are. It was at this time that we decided that we’d continue on since the trail now seemed to be heading back to part of the trail we were on.
Some more mud spots, hills, rocks, etc, and suddenly we are at a 3 way split once again. After trying to figure out how to get out of here, Josh discovered that we were back at the location where I had attempted to do my rock climb. We had made a complete circle and come out on the very trail I was wondering about earlier in the day.
After a big sign of relieve, we decided to hit the large collection of mud holes again and come back down one of the 3 trails we went up before and head back to town on the trail used to get in. Once back in town, we aired up and plotted our course for home. John and his son stopped somewhere along I-68 for dinner while Josh and myself continued on.
I learned a lot about the area, as did we all. Branden and John got to take plenty of pictures. Josh got more anxious for his lift kit. What a day, new trails, great friends, one heck of a learning experience for us all.
See you on the next off road trek!
Trail report written by Alex Hinson. Pictures courtesy of Alex Hinson.