Since our inception, CORE has always managed to make it onto the trails on New Years Day. It is usually very well attended and this year was no exception. We went to Green Ridge State Forest near Flintstone MD. Many clubs call this their Hangover Run but a bit of my family lore enters into our calling Grandma Holman’s Ride.
We lived next door to my grandmother when I was growing up and I have very vivid memories of the New Years Day traditions of certain foods and my father getting up early to ensure he arrived as the first guest of his cousins family as it was believed to contribute to their good health and prosperity throughout the coming year. Grandma Holman believed that whatever activities you engaged in on New Years would follow you throughout the year. That days’ cooking and other chores were done in advance or postponed if possible. I recall her fussing at my mother for hanging clothes on the line since that would doom her to doing laundry all year.
Grandma Holman believed that whatever activities you engaged in on New Years would follow you throughout the year.
We had a good turnout this year both of members and guests:
- Dave (CORE President 2008) and Keith in Dave’s Rubicon (Gold),
- Paul W (CORE) in his SFA S10 (Green),
- Alex (CORE) and guest Steve, in Alex’s JK Unlimited Rubicon (Blue),
- Jason (CORE) in his Rubicon (Red)),
- Loc (CORE) in his Rubicon (Yellow),
- Gary (CORE) in his Rubicon (White)
- Paul L in his TJ Unlimited,
- Miles in his Dakota,
- Kenny in Red JK 2 door,
- Jamil in Red JK 4 door,
- Paul H in Black JK 4 door
Guests and their vehicles:
The CORE members all met at the Maryland Welcome Center near Myersville MD and added our guests at the Sideling Hill Center. The temperature, which had been cool at Myersville, had become cold and windy by the time we reached Sideling. We regrouped and headed west towards Flintstone where we topped off the tanks and aired down. Airing down really had as much to do with comfort as it did traction as there is not much rugged terrain in the Green Ridge. While we were stopped, a gentleman stopped alongside the road and asked if we would assist with his vehicle that had gotten stuck down to the frame in the Green Ridge. He indicated it was “off the trail” but we told him we wouldn’t go off the trails. He drove away and our subsequent discussions revealed that he had never said where the stuck vehicle was located.
So off we went in search of a good day on the trails of Green Ridge. By design, the New Years Day ride tends to be closer to home and on relatively easy trails as we recognize that folks have to get home amidst the holiday returnees and head for work the next day. Staying overnight to nurse a broken 4×4 is not in the schedule, besides, near blizzard conditions were predicted for “west of the mountains” in the next 24-48 hours.
We pretty much followed our usual route, entering the forest at Old Williams Rd and then proceeding towards the ATV/ORV loop. The conversation included comments on the camping opportunities in the Green Ridge. In Green Ridge, the campsites include a fire ring and picnic table width=’100%’ with benches and a wide buffer between you and the next site. Other than the occasional passerby on the roadway, you conceivably have the area to yourself with the next site out of site.
As we entered the ATV/ORV loop, we noted only one vehicle parked at the trailhead so it looked like we would have the area pretty much to ourselves. About a half hour along the loop, we discovered our guy from Flintstone with the stuck truck. The vehicle which was off the road was a large and heavy Chevy 2500 crew cab and it was literally just off the road. You could stand in the roadway and touch the truck.
When we arrived, there was a crew cab Dodge 4×4 with a chain running from its rear bumper hitch. There was also a pulley with a chain (!!!!!) attached around the base of a tree on the opposite side of the road at the top edge of a small berm with half its roots exposed. There was another chain lying about with a couple of shovels. Somewhere in the mix was an XJ but it didn’t appear to be attached to anything, at least at the moment.
If we had any doubts about helping them, our only alternative would have been to just wait as their efforts at recovery had the roadway blocked. The big Dodge was unable to move the Chevy as the Chevy was firmly planted on its frame.
Although it never was quite clear exactly why or how it happened, the Chevy had come down the hill on the roadway. At the bottom of the hill, a stream crossed under the road through a steel culvert. The rear end of the Chevy had slid sideways off the road and was now resting on its rear bumper with the left rear wheel suspended above the creek bed and its right rear wheel on the edge of the end of the culvert. The front of the Chevy had the bumper (or at least the metal parts which were still attached) resting on bank. The front left wheel was touching the ground, the front right wheel was stuffed up into the wheel well. The factory installed tow hooks (Thank goodness these were there!) were accessible. This was New Years Day (Tuesday) and the Chevy had slid off the road on Sunday night. Based on the other trucks and proximity to town and houses, we don’t think the driver had been out there all of the intervening time.
We walked around and looked at the situation from all angles. We discussed trying to pull the truck backwards thinking that was the way it had come in but then decided forward motion would be best. In addition to being an “easier” pull, there were the tow hooks that could be used as an attachment point. As it happened, all but one or two of our vehicles were winch-equipped.
The first order of business was getting the chains put away and the other path cleared of other vehicles and shovels, boards and so on. It was decided to use Paul’s S10 as it was likely our heaviest vehicle and had the strongest winch to be the main pull. First though, Jason moved his Jeep to the opposite side of the road perpendicular to the Chevy and in line with the rear axle. Using the berm to help anchor his wheels, we pulled the line from his winch to attach to a nylon strap which had been wrapped around the frame of the Chevy forward of its rear axle. The purpose of this attachment was to ensure the big Chevy didn’t slide further down and sideways into the creek or onto its side.
The next attachment was a block and pulley to a sturdy tree away from the berm with a proper tree strap which would not cut into the tree we were going to use as an anchor point. Paul W positioned his S10 truck facing towards the tree and the opposite side of the road from where the big Chevy was planted. His winch cable was then extended through the block and back down to a short length of heavy nylon strap fastened on the driver’s side tow hook. This allowed nearly the maximum length of his cable to be extended where the winch had its most power. As he started to wind the cable in, we found the planted Chevy was pulling his truck forward instead of the other way around. He moved his truck so that he had the berm to help him hold position as well.
Next, we positioned Paul L’s Jeep directly in front of the planted Chevy on the same side of the road and ran a third winch cable straight down to the driver’s side tow hook. We had the owner of the truck put the gear selector in neutral. Then we had everyone who did not have to be there to back up and find cover as we knew that a broken cable or tow hook could lead to disaster. Looking back on the events, I realize one additional thing we should have done was to raise the hoods on all the vehicles involved. In the event of a broken cable, the hood would have provided some additional level of protection in deflecting or slowing the projectiles. Luckily, they weren’t needed.
After checking that everyone was as clear of the area s could be, Paul and Paul started pulling. The planted Chevy moved but the steering wheel turned to the left towards the creek. In order to leave the transmission in neutral, the steering wheel had to be unlocked. We eased the tension on the cables while the owner got into the truck and turned the wheel back straight. He was going to have to ride this one out.
With everyone back in place, the pull started again. The planted Chevy rolled a little bit forward and up the bank. We stopped everything while the cable attached to the rear and to Jason’s Jeep was released and then pulled the big Chevy back onto the road. Lying in the dirt was the spare tire which had come loose from under the rear of the bed.
The recently extricated folks were certainly grateful for the assistance and said so many times. They offered (and insisted) that we accept cash from them. We passed along a CORE card or two along with recommendations that they investigate the UFWDA 4wd Awareness Course. They promised to look us up on the web. When we regrouped later and realized jut how much cash they had passed along to the folks involved and the club, we were a bit surprised although someone noted that the cost of getting a tow truck out there would have also been astronomical assuming any one would come.
Several lessons and observations:
- Don’t wheel alone. Had there been a second or third vehicle to begin with, the initial stuck wouldn’t have gotten so complicated.
- A controlled pull with a properly rigged winch is often more effective and safer than a snatch.
- Chains are sometimes for towing but not for recovery!
- Recovery hooks belong on every vehicle that ventures off pavement because you never know.
- Proper rigging and safety are foremost in any recovery effort.
The rest of our trip was enjoyable. When we stopped at Lookout Point, there had been several trees removed since my last trip up there. The assumption is that the State Forests rangers were involved but we did have a clear (no fog) view of the winding river below.
We proceeded along and made the three crossings of Town Creek and then followed the road on out directly towards Flintstone. Following a recollection, we decided to head east for gas and air before heading out. The Exxon at exit 62 does not have air but the BP at exit 64 is supposed to. After that, we headed home. It was a great day following a tradition established with friends and helping out a stranger in need.
See you on the trails!
Trail report written by Keith Holman. Pictures courtesy of Keith Holman, Jason Grogg, Loc Pham, Paul Woscek, and Paul Hishmen.