Memorial Day Weekend at Big Levels

Traditionally Core 4×4 due a Memorial Day Weekend trail ride with 2-3 days camping. It used to be one of the club’s signature trail rides but due to COVID-19, it was not possible to do this ride last Memorial Day Weekend 2020. It also seemed to be the case as well for this year’s Memorial Day Weekend starting May 28th but a few weeks before the weekend, a trip was posted on our forum for Saturday May 29th by Niels with support from Andrew. Five vehicles ended up joining the trip and it was just a really great day. The weather was not the best with low hanging fog/clouds and a bit of light showers now and then. It was not too bad though and the only disadvantage was we were not able to see anything from the viewpoints along the trail. 

The group was:

  1. Niels Vilstrup in Jeep Wrangler JK Sport
  2. Andrew, Cherie, and Ethan (one year old son) Taylor in a Nissan Xterra
  3. Zach Pittman in a Jeep Wrangler JKU
  4. Kirk Adams in a Toyota FJ Cruiser
  5. Kathy King and guests in a Toyota FJ Cruiser

We met at 10:00am at the entrance of the Big Levels trail. Planned time to air down and enter the trail was 10:30am. The Big Levels Trail is mostly a rating 4-5 on the CORE Trail Rating scale but with an unknown of how deep a few mud pods is, depending on the amount of rain prior to ride, that can bump it up to a rating 7. Especially because for one of them there is no alternative trail round the pods. With the amount of rain prior to this trip they could actually be very deep but only time would show till we get to them.

First big stretch went well without any bigger challenges other than the one we made ourselves. Around 12:30 we stopped onto a flat camping area of the trail and ate lunch. Still foggy and a few raindrops but still notice and cozy lunch with a lot of talking high and low and sharing vehicle upgrades or wishes to upgrades as usual. After approx. 45 minutes lunch we continued.

About 3/4 of the trail ride we came to a part with some big rocks right in the middle of the trail. However, there was a little alternative trail to avoid the rocks. We decided to go over the rocks one by one and that increased the adrenaline level in the blood for all of us. Not least for Niels who tends to avoid these bigger challenges due to no lift and only stock size tires on the JK. But with good guidance and spotting he came over without bigger issues other than controlled sliding a bit on the rock sliders and on the skid plates. 

Next in line was another Wrangler, a JKU (4-door) that shouldn’t have any more of a challenge than the JK. But this time it really showed what a difference a longer wheelbase on the JKU compared to the JK makes when climbing over a rock step like these. Because of a slightly off route over the rocks the JKU ended up hanging on the bottom of the rock and was completely stuck there. Therefore a recovery was needed, and it was done with a winch on the FJ Cruiser behind the JKU that could then pull it back down off the rocks. Another try with the right angle and the route over the rocks was successful however also with help from sliding on the frame of the JKU.

Next challenge we were curious to get to were the mud pods. But only to find out that both were less than half full. It seemed like that the long period with dry weather before the rainy days up to our trail ride had dried them out so much that they were much lower level than usual. Therefore, all vehicles passed through the mud pod without any challenges. 

After the mud pods the rest of the trail was smooth and went straight forward. At the end of the trail, we all aired up again, chit chatted a little more and then went home again. Yet another really wonderful, fun and adventures trail ride with CORE 4×4 in the usual great, easygoing and including group spirit with a lot of nice and fun conversations. I am always amazed how friendly and helpful everyone in the club is not only for club members but also for everyone else on our trail rides that might need help, recovery or even emergency repairs on vehicles and trailers along our rides. It is really such a pleasure to be part of CORE 4×4 and I really enjoy every single trail ride so much. Also, with the friendly and professional guidance on the trails I feel confident to keep challenging myself and the car but not more that it still feels fun and as a great and learning experience. This club is just awesome to be part of and I can’t wait for the next trail ride to come up hopefully soon!

Photo Album: 05/29/21 Memorial Day at Big Levels

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Trail Reports written by Niels Vilstrup. Pictures contributed by Niels Vilstrup, Kathy King, Andrew Taylor, and Kirk Adams. GPS track provided by Andrew Taylor.

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