After living and four wheeling in the Washington D.C. area all of my life, and the opportunity to go somewhere else and explore new trails presents itself, I get all excited and ready to travel to new and foreign places. Keith had an invite from former members of CORE, Gil and Sherrie Campos to stay in their backyard and camp while attending a trail ride. They live in Tennessee less than an hour drive from the Coal Creek off Road Park. So, with invitation in hand, and some local trail guides from the Rock Solid Jeep Club lined up we hit the road in search of adventure.
Of course you know what happens when CORE goes camping…
Along for the trip were the following brave souls:
- Bob Weaver, Jeep Rubicon, CORE
- Keith Holman, Chev Colorado PU, CORE
- John Tompkins, Jeep TJ, CORE
- Mike Tompkins, Guest
- Brandon Tompkins, Guest
We hit the road Friday morning heading down I-81. After a cell phone call, I learned that I was driving about an hour behind the rest of the group. I was attempting to catch up when I got stuck in a 10 mile backup that dashed any hopes of my catching up to the rest of the group. Sherrie had graciously offered to fix us all dinner on Friday evening, and I was in jeopardy of missing dinner. By late Friday evening we had all arrived in the Campos’s backyard and had set up camp. I had my Motor home, Keith had a small tear drop trailer and the Tompkins’s were in a large tent. After dinner we enjoyed catching up with the Campos’s on their large back porch. After all the story telling, it was time to retire for the evening. Of course you know what happens when CORE goes camping, and it did not disappoint us on this weekend either, with strong gusty thunderstorms during the night on Friday. By Saturday morning however, it was all clear.
Saturday Morning we got off to a rather late start. As we were starting out I had remembered that I had left my wallet in the motor home. So, I had to do a quick u-turn and return to retrieve my wallet before continuing on to Coal Creek. We also stopped at a Subway to get lunch, but found that it was closed. We finally arrived at Coal Creek off Road Park about an hour late. Our local trail guides were there waiting for us. We went to the office to pay for the daily land use fee and prep our vehicles for the trails. Joining us for this part of the adventure we added:
- Larry and Debbie Bryant, silver Rubicon Jeep
- Dave Halstead and clan, orange Rubicon Jeep
- David and Becky Bryant, Jeep TJ
- Gil and Sherrie Campos, Riding as guests, (sold Jeep ?)
Coal Creek is an active mining area, and the locals tell us that the trails change all the time in both difficulty and locations depending on what mining equipment is in use at the different areas of the park. But with thousands of acres to play on, we did not interfere with any ongoing mining. One thing that I noticed right away, is that compared to other pay to play parks, is that there are no bypasses along the trail. You either do the trail or turn around and back out. Trails are rated by color, and we stayed on the green trails, as we had several stock vehicles with us. Another observation is that the trails are spread out and sometimes several miles apart from each other.
We stopped at the top of a mountain for lunch. Our view was interrupted with a large wind mill farm looking out over the valley. The locals told us that when they are in operation, that they make a loud swooping noise as each blade passes by. After lunch we were trail riding again. We passed many gas wells in route to each new trail. By the end of the day we had explored about 5 different trails each varying in length and complexity. The trails are numbered so that you can find them on the map if you wish to purchase one from the base store. We were following the locals however, and did not need to purchase a map.
By about 7pm we all agreed that we had enough trail riding for the day and that it was time to head out for dinner. The locals told us that they had a great dinner location for us to go to in Oak Ridge. So all of us hit the paved road and headed into town for dinner.
After dinner we thanked our trail guides and said our good-bys as CORE headed back to Gil and Sherrie’s for the evening. I think that we were so tired that we went straight to bed Saturday night. Sunday we were again treated to a scrumptious meal prepared by Sherrie. After breakfast we all packed up and hit the road for home. Note to self: check the NASCAR schedule before we plan the next trip down to Coal Creek. We hit all the race traffic in Bristol. Coming up I-81 we then hit all the traffic with families taking their children to college at VA Tech and other colleges along the way. We had all arrived home Sunday evening, happy but tired.
Special thanks to all of our Local Trail Guides from Rock Solid Jeep Club for this trip. We could not have done this without you!
Trail report written by Bob Weaver. Pictures courtesy of Bob Weaver, Keith Holman, and John Tompkins.