On June 16th, 2007, a band of us dared the area south of Connellsville, PA known as Casparis.
“Dave decided he’d try it and with little, if any effort just rolled right over it, making it look so easy.”
The group for this trip were:
- Alex Hinson & George Hinson in a JK Rubicon
- Gary Owens in a TJ Rubicon
- Dave Dorrin in a TJ Rubicon
- Mike Traylor in a TJ Sport (guest)
The day started bright and early on the cold morning with a meeting at the Maryland Welcome Center on I-70 at 7am. Mike showed up and after waiting till 7:30 for Gary, we decided that we’d continue on thinking he missed it and went on to the next meeting spot. Only a few minutes after we’d pulled out, my cell phone rang and it was Gary saying he had just arrived at the welcome center. I told him we’d wait at the Sideling Hill Center for him, where we also met up with Dave upon arrival. Once we were all together, we heading on. The last leg of the trip there is the longest, almost 140 miles from the Sideling Hill Center.
We finally arrived at the Sheetz in Connellsville were we topped off, grabbed lunch and took a much needed pit stop. We did some quick talking about what our plans for the day. It was going to be the same as last time, try and find the rail road bridge, but not get lost doing so.
We headed on to the trail head and made our way along the path to the first split. Along the way, there was a little bit of rock climbing, but nothing serious. After the split, we got our first and only major stream crossing of the day, with each of us making a little splash.
We arrived at the caverns around noon and had lunch. Dave made an excellent suggestion of eating atop one of the hills of dirt in front of the entrances. This turned out to be a rather good idea since there was a nice cool breeze coming from the caverns and blowing on us while sitting in the 90 degree sun. Mike, Gary, and I went into the caverns to look around again. This was Mike’s first trip here, and last time Gary was here, it was too cold to really enjoy it. It still amazes me at how big these mines are and that they are still here. But what seems to be more amazing is that most of the people living in the area have no clue about them.
After lunch we headed back along the spur and continued along the main trail towards the 3 way split. It was here that we got up close and personal with the wild life, Gary being the first to get introduced. A black snake, about 4 feet long, was making its way along the path. After coursing it out of the way and back into the woods, we walked 2 of the 3 trails to see how bad they were. I also decided to try the rock obstacle again from the last trip. And again was unable to get over it once my jeep had slid down into the ruts.
Dave decided he’d try it and with little, if any effort just rolled right over it, making it look so easy. Gary then followed the same path, but had to give a little more effort, maybe it was because he didn’t have his sway bar disconnected. Mike opted out of trying since he didn’t have lockers. This was awkward that older Jeeps were doing what a new 4dr couldn’t. But it was discovered that my main hang up was due to my skid plates dragging on the rocks. If I had taken a wider path like Dave and Gary, I could’ve made it up, but without a lift kit of some kind, there was no way I could have done the path I picked.
It was also here that we meet a bunch of local boys out on some ATV’s and go-karts. We asked them about the rail road bridge and river crossing and how to get there. They said they were sure about the rail road bridge, but they knew how to get to the river, and would show us the way.
We continued on to the mud holes at the top of the hill which then led us to the 4 way split from last time. Again, we took the right path leading down the mountain and towards the river.
Along the way, the path got rather rough, and I don’t mean bumpy. This particular path is subject to washouts during major rain a storm which means that there is one big rut along part of the trail and it’s almost constantly muddy. We all got some nice tilting on our rigs, along with some good flexing.
This trail led us to a split which I remember very well from the last trip. The path leading to the left goes to the river, and this was verified buy the guys on ATV’s that were riding behind us. This time, since all of us were jeeps, we thought we could make it down with us riding inside the rut. However, a massive log was discovered in the path and this caused us to worry, not so much going down, but coming back up if we had to. After some debate, we decided that we were going to skip this and take a different path.
Now, last time, we went strait and up the mountain, but this lead to a dead end causing us to have to come back and take the path to the right. We decided to skip all the hassle of getting lost and stuck and just take the path to the right.
Just like last time, there was a lot of debris along the path and plenty of challenging spots giving us all a good suspension work out. We got a few photo in along the way, but mostly tried to keep moving. We also came to the abandoned Jeep again. I chose to go through the mud hole, and Mike followed. Gary and Dave decided to take the high and dry road around the old Jeep. After some more winding through the forest, we finally came out on at the top of the rock obstacle we had done earlier. We then decided to head back to the top, past the mud holes again, and take the path leading straight, which should dump us out on the Fire Tower Rd.
Not to far in and we came to our first major mud hole, and seeing that this may be the last photo op of the day, we each took turns going through getting plenty of pictures. The first mud hole was about 30 feet long and not very deep, but we all still kicked up some mud.
We then came upon a second, but much larger mud hole. This one was about 60-70 feet long, and didn’t appear that deep. This is where I learned first hand to check the dept every time, not just once. It was also were everyone else learned, having someone else go first helps a lot. This was a very deceiving mud hole. At first, nothing seems wrong, only a few inches deep, but about 20 feet in, it suddenly drops to about 20″ inch’s deep which is about 20 feet long, then comes back up to being only a few inches deep. This is rather scary if you don’t know about it because suddenly, your jeep takes a noise dive into the water and up to your bumper. That’s not the worst part, after going a bit in the shallow section, you suddenly get another drop, but this time, even deeper and up to your head lamps this time. After forging though and doing a bit of rock climbing to get out, you then hit a 2nd mud hole, but luckily this one is no more than 4″ deep.
That was quite a scare for me to have my jeep suddenly sink down like that. Everyone else was surprised when it happened, but knew to use caution when coming across.
After this, we came to a split where we weren’t sure of which path to take, seeing as how both seemed too led to a main road. We decided to take the left path but found it to start leading away from the road after a short distance. This made us turn around and take the other path instead. Gary and I started noticing familiar things that assured us that we were on the right path. After some more twist and turns, we came out on to a more developed path.
Mike decided to have some fun and does a nose stand with his jeep against a dirt wall while the rest of us took pictures. After a small break, we continued on getting closer to the road. Along the way, we came across an ATV play ground. It was a cut out from the hill side that had some sharp hills and such for ATVs to run around on. We decided to check it out another time since it was getting late. After some more winding through the woods, we finally came out onto a road, the same place we came out when Loc, Gary, Paul L., and I came here.
A few punches on the GPS and we were on our way back to Sheetz in town. Once there, we starting airing up and also decided that due to a time restraint on my behalf, we’d grab supper to go and hit the road rather then stopping someplace to eat.
Everyone made it home safely, with plenty of mud on their jeeps after enjoying a great day with good friends and lovely weather. Hope to make it back there soon for some more exploring, but till then, stay safe and tread lightly!
Trail report written by Alex Hinson. Pictures courtesy of Alex Hinson.