Central PA Offroad Park

The Capital Off-Road Enthusiasts (CORE) held their inaugural run to Dave Walls’ Off-Road Park in Altoona Pa on October 21-22. We were accompanied by members of the Expeditionists Ford Expedition off-road group. The weather was beautiful, the company was great, and the trails were awesome! So who went on this little jaunt to the mountains of Pennsylvania?

“At the trail head, we stopped to air down and say our prayers before tackling the trails.”

CORE:

  • Bill and Deb Haegele, Ford Expedition, President
  • Mike Peterson, Jeep XJ, Charter Member
  • Gil Campos, Jeep TJ, Secretary and Sherrie Burns, Charter Member
  • Keith Holman, Chevy S-10 Blazer, Charter Member
  • Mike and Donna Vincenty, Jeep YJ, Charter Member
  • Miles Oliver and Mike Kupec, Suzuki Samurai, Charter Members
  • Jamey Lawrence, Jeep TJ, Charter Member
  • Tom and Austin Barley, Toyota Pickup, Guest
  • Marty Miller, Jeep XJ, Guest

Expeditionists:

  • Bill and Deb Haegele, XLT, Ringleader
  • Mike Wolfe, Eddie Bauer
  • Tom Cody, XLT
  • Dave Hacker and Jamie Batista, Eddie Bauer
  • Cindy and Regan Barley, XLT

We all gathered at 9:00 AM Saturday morning in the AutoZone parking lot in downtown Altoona where we met Dave Walls and his friends who would be guiding us for the next two days of fourwheeling fun. It also gave everyone a chance to check out each other’s trucks, especially the really “built” rigs that were going to tackle the hardcore trails.

We headed out of town and in a few short minutes reached the trail head to Dave’s mountain. That’s right. Dave owns the mountain where all of this madness takes place. At the trail head, we stopped to air down and say our prayers before tackling the trails. The first trail was a fairly easy trail that took us to the main campsite where we hooked up with some friends from the Off-Camber Crawlers who had camped out the night before. There we split up into the hardcore group and the moderate trail groups. Trust me though, when I say that the moderate trails were the roughest trails that I have ever run in my Expedition.

It is impossible to remember the names of all of the trails that we ran over two days, so what follows are general impressions of the trails with some specific examples thrown in as we go along.

The first few trails were fairly easy, similar to what we have run in the GWNF but with a few more rocks and fallen trees thrown in. We ran one fairly steep hillclimb up the powerline trail that started out OK but near the top turned into large, loose rocks. I got hung up on one large, basketball sized rock that my left front tire refused to climb. I had to stop and move it out of the way before proceeding. Of course, stopping on a steep uphill is always interesting, especially for the person directly behind me. But we got going again without problems.

Once we climbed up the powerline trail, we turned into the forest. The trails through the forest are quite tight, especially for something as big as the Expedition. However, once one learns where the pivot point of the truck is, it is amazing how you can steer it through the tight confines of the trail. Of course, every now and then I have to stop and do one of my patented 27 point turns, but those are few and far between. It was good to have Deb along too, as she could watch for trees on the right side as I watched for trees on the left side. This way we managed to squeeze through trees with only inches to spare on either side. Of course, you had to watch for your own head too, as the trees could easily take you by surprise! Climbing over the fallen logs was always interesting too, as you never knew if you were going to have enough clearance to avoid getting high centered. One or two of the Expeditions as well as Marty Millers stock XJ had to be helped over some of the rocks and fallen trees by building up some rocks under the tires to gain some additional clearance.

After a few hours of playing around on the easier trails, we stopped for lunch. Dave asked us if we were ready for something a little tougher. We all answered with a resounding “YES.” Little did we know what he had in mind. What he did have in mind was taking us DOWN the hills that the hardcore trucks drive UP. That doesn’t sound too hard you say? Well, these “hills” were the toughest, steepest, most chewed up pieces of earth I have ever seen. How steep were they? Well, I had over a half tank of gas in my Expedition. Halfway down the first hill, my gas gauge plummeted to the “zero” mark and the low fuel light came on. The truck kept running, but I panicked, thinking I had punctured my tank with a rock even though I have a gas tank skid plate. It wasn’t until I reached the bottom of the hill that the gauge leveled out. The other hills continued like this for the rest of the day.

The hill that we went down was extremely tight and twisty. You had to very carefully steer the trucks between very closely placed trees. It was also very chewed up, with a large, tire eating rock halfway down. At the bottom of the hill was a boulder field with 3 and 4 foot boulders that had to be traversed before reaching the bottom. Everyone had to be spotted down this portion of the trail. The Expeditions came very close to losing the bead on the tire eating rock as the trucks were too wide for that part of the trail and the rock pressed right against the tire and rim. Fortunately, no one did. The smaller trucks were able to squeeze through without a problem. The boulder field at the bottom was quite a challenge which took a bit of finesse from everyone to navigate.

The next major hill we went down was Axle Hill. So named because the hardcore guys tend to break axles going up it. This hill was VERY tight and twisty as well as steep. Even before we started down the hill, we had our first casualty when a rock ate Dave Hackers left front tire. Out came the high lift and the spare was on in no time. It was on this trail that I leaned the left rear corner of my truck into a tree, putting a fist sized dent into the fender above the rear taillight. At the bottom of the hill was a large, sloppy mud hole and a stump. I hit the stump and went WAY off camber before backing off and going around. Several people got stuck in the mud including poor Dave Hacker who got royally stuck and had to be pushed, pulled, prodded, out of the mudhole, spraying everything and everyone within 15 feet of his truck with stinky mud! Further on down the trail were several off camber sections which caused some problems including another tree which ate my driver’s door.

We had to squeeze between two trees, one of which had a rock at its base and pitched you into the other tree. This pushed my driver’s side door handle into the tree, pushing my door panel in. I quickly backed out. After surveying the damage, I locked my door, grabbed the door handle and yanked. Viola! Instant body repair. The main dent popped out leaving only two small dents and a scraped up door handle. A chain saw was brought out and the offending tree was cut down. The rock still caused several people problems getting them stuck.

Finally, at the end of the day and end of the trail, we had to try and squeeze between two rather large trees. There was no way the Expeditions would fit through without ripping our mirrors off. We had to go around. Unfortunately, going around meant going through a large boulder field. I asked my friend Jamey Lawrence to spot for me (I always seem to end up being first). After several false starts, I finally made it through, but not without some damage. My passenger side runningboard was severely bent, folded, mutilated, and spindled. So they decided to move the offending rock! After spotting everyone else through, we headed back to the campground to plan the evenings activities.

A large group of us went out to Don Pablo’s for dinner and lots of margaritas. Back at the motel that night, the management threatened to call the police on us if we didn’t quiet down. Heck, it wasn’t even 11:00 PM on a Saturday night! Oh, well. It is Altoona after all.

Sunday dawned another beautiful day, but only Keith Holman, Jamey Lawrence, Deb and I felt like more wheeling. Sunday, Dave took us on some of the trails on the other side of the mountain. Not as tight as Saturday’s trails but very fun nonetheless. Several good hillclimbs, loose and rocky. We ran Bee’s Nest trail through the forest which was very scenic and had some good challenges with some boulder fields, fallen trees, and tree stumps to maneuver around.

We finally wrapped things up around 2:00 PM, said our good-byes to Dave and his friends and headed home. It was a great weekend of wheeling. No one broke anything serious. Dave is a hell of a nice guy and we all can’t wait to go back. At least I can’t!

Monday I took the day off to scrape Altoona off of my truck. Also to repair the body damage. It is amazing what you can do using a 28 mm socket as a body hammer! Anyway, my dents are much smaller now. All I have left to do is wash the beast, polish out what scratches will come out, and put lots of wax on it. Until next time, keep the shiny side up, and always remember to Tread Lightly!

Trail report written by Bill and Deb Haegele and Betsy and Oliver (The Fourwheeling Puppies)

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