A group of dedicated CORE members headed to Tremont, PA for a winter run at the Rausch Creek off-road park. Runs to Rausch have always been one of my favorites and this was no exception. The weather promised to cooperate. I had been a bit concerned earlier in the week because of the recent snows in the area.
” U3 is described as: “Off-camber obstacles, rocks, slippery when wet!” It was the “slippery when wet!” part that bothered me.”
The group for this adventure included:
- Dave Dorin, 2003 Rubicon
- Steve Backus, Jeep TJ
- Paul Woscek, 2001 S-10
- Mike V and Donna, 1990 YJ
We agreed to meet Monday morning at the Rausch Creek staging area around 9 AM. We met Paul at the Thurmont meeting area and headed up for the drive to Rausch. This was an uneventful pleasant drive.
When we pulled into the Rausch Creek staging area, Dave and Steve had already arrived. The sky was clear and blue. Snow covered the ground, but the temperature was rising, a perfect winter day. We prepped our vehicles and discussed the trails to run for the morning. We decided to stay on the blue trails. The plan was to run L3 from the bottom to the top. Then pick up U3. We would explore the West side in after lunch. We left the staging area and headed onto the trail labeled “shortcut to A”.
As we entered the short cut to A I began to wonder what kind of challenges the snow would present for all of us during the day. I have driven trail runs in the snow before, but never on trails where the obstacles were snow covered. We came upon a small rocky section on the right. I tried to climb this section, but could not get traction because of the snow. Now I began to think that maybe things would be a bit difficult for us today. I backed up and took an easier route to the left. Unknowingly, I missed the right turn to L3, so we ended up on trail A. No problem. We will run U3 first then run L3 from top to bottom.
In the Rausch Creek trail descriptions, U3 is described as: “Off-camber obstacles, rocks, slippery when wet!” It was the “slippery when wet!” part that bothered me. None the less, we proceeded up A right into K and very quickly was at the entrance to U3. This trail was still completely snow covered. No vehicle had traveled on this trail since the snow fall in the prior week. This ought to be interesting! We entered into the trail and cautiously proceeded on. Running this snow covered trail was unlike anything I have ever done. The snow blanketed the entire forest so it was difficult to follow the trail line. Several times I had to get out and take a more careful look around the forest to make sure I kept the group on the trail.
Driving on the fresh snow covered trail made me feeling a bit like walking in the dark. You knew that there were hidden obstacles in front of you, you could make out a rough shape, but you really did not know what you were riding over. As you drove forward, you proceeded very slowly because you did not know what the next step would bring. Very cool! In the park, there were lots of downed trees and broken limbs scattering the ground. Many of the trees had their tops broken off as if very high winds had snapped them off some time this winter.
At one point, the trail appeared to go left, I started heading that direction but soon found that I was going into the woods. I should not have turned left, rather the trail proceeded straight ahead, but the trail was blocked by a small downed tree. So we stop and out come the hand saw and hatchet to clear the trail. After a bit of time, the trail was cleared. Remind me to get a chainsaw for future runs. We emerged from U3 back onto K. We turned right and entered L3 at the top.
In the Rausch Creek trail descriptions, U3 is described as: “Some slippery sidehills, rocks, hillclimbs, bowls. Extra challenging in the rain and snow.”
Hmm, “Extra challenging in the rain and snow”. Let’s see. We travel along, encounter some rocks along the way and proceed nicely. This trail was much easier to navigate since it had been recently traveled. We came upon the large bowl/pit that Dave and Keith drove in an out last summer. We got out and discussed the possibility of navigating this bowl in the snow. We figured the descent would be possible, but a bit challenging due to the deep tire ruts. However, on the other side, the climb out looked impossible. It was very steep (it was more steep than last summer) and a large boulder stuck out from the other side that would have to be climbed over. The bottom of the pit was water filled and ice covered. None of us knew how deep the water was under the ice.
While exploring this bowl, a group of Land Rovers was coming up U3. We watched as their trail leader descended down the steep part of the bowl and to the bottom. His vehicle broke through the side and into deep mud. I think that Dave was glad he didn’t try this with his Rubicon. We watched at the Land Rover tried to go forward or backward. It was not going any where under its own power. Out came his winch cable. This allowed him to extricate himself from the bowl. Our group proceeded down L3. There were more rocky areas that needed to be navigated and trees close together that we had to squeeze by. The only concern here was that since the rocks we snow covered, none of us wanted so slide off and slide into a tree.
We were still at the top of L3. The next challenge was carefully descending down a rocky hill. This presented no problems for anybody, just had to take your time and be careful. The rest of L3 was nothing terribly difficult. Rocks here and there, nothing this group couldn’t handle. We worked our way back to A.
From A we headed over to trail 2. Trail 2 was another untraveled trail. Like before, we proceeded cautiously. The snow had a smoothing effect disguising the size and shapes of the rocks on the trail. We came upon a mini bowl. Of course Paul had to try it. He dropped into it and found his front left tire sunk. He could no longer move forward. Out came his winch cable. He grinned ear-to-ear as this was his first opportunity to try out his new 12,000 lbs winch. He tied off to the nearest tree and started winching. Slowly the front of his S-10 lifted from the bowl and his vehicle was out.
We pressed on. Eventually I came upon a decision point. Go right for a rocky snow covered adventure. Go left for a mild snow covered adventure. I started going left, and then look more carefully at the terrain ahead. It looked suspiciously flat. Then I remembered Lynn (Rausch Creek office manager) saying something about two bowls on trail 2. I got out and decided to test the area we were about to travel across. I walked out on the flat area and heard the sound of cracking ice. Needless to say I backed up and alerted the group to go right, since we just found the second bowl on trail 2 and it was water filled and covered with ice that would break if you tried to drive across.
Lunch time was approaching so we found our way to the West side of the park via Tower Road. As we approached the West side of the park we pulled off on Power Line road, and broke for lunch. Here we relaxed, enjoyed the beautiful day, and good company. We were entertained as we watched Mandy catch snowballs tossed in the air.
On the West side, we started with green trail J. The first part of J is a nice drop which requires that you straddle a large rut in the middle. Trail J is a downward descent into the valley, at off-camber. Since the trail was snow covered, your vehicle tended to slide to the right. No matter how hard you tried to steer left, siding to the right was inevitable and a bit unnerving. We all proceeded slowly and cautiously as we descended into the valley.
At the bottom of J we turned right on the 15. This was a nice easy blue trail, more obstacles, rocks, and logs. On the north side of 15 we encountered a rutted section of the trail. There was a stretch where the tire tracks were so deep that if you rode in the tracks, your differential pumpkin and undercarriage would drag. Steve got hung up and could not make forward progress and could not back up. Initially we tried placing logs and rocks under his tires to see if we could get him some more lift. When that failed, we attached a tow strap to the front of his vehicle and the back of mine. After a few minutes of me tugging and him driving, he broke free. Dave and Paul headed left of the ruts and were able to straddle the tough areas.
We turned left onto 11 and made our customary stop at the boulder garden. A short distance futher, we entered trail 12 on the left. A little ways into this trail we came upon a water/ice filed pit that had the color and texture of a watered down Starbucks Frappuccino. I drove into the pit and found my wheels submerged up to the axles in this frozen muddy mixture. I was making good progress until I got to the other side. The exit from would require you climb out. Not a problem except that the wheel tracks were severely rutted and deep. It became apparent that without larger tires your axles and undercarriage would drag, stopping all forward progress. I backed out of the pit and we discussed alternate ways to enter trail 12.
At about this time Mandy, romping around as she does, probably not knowing that the pit was a frozen/muddy watery mix, decided to make a leap into the pit. When she it the cold water, she scrambled out of the pit as fast as she could. We all stood around laughing hysterically. Mandy shook herself off the best she could. I’m sure Paul had dog bathing duty when he got home later that night.
We found another way into 12 that avoided the pit. We entered 12 and proceeded along. This was another nice trail. Rock scattered along the trail with some occasional spotting got everyone through. We emerged from 12 back onto J. From here we decided to call it a day. We headed back to the east side of the part via H and on the way back explored green trail C. We arrived back at the staging area, where our vehicles were prepped for the ride back home.
This was a really memorable ride. The weather was great. The trail riding on fresh snow was totally different. A great day of wheeling with good friends. If you didn’t make it, you missed another good one.
Trail report written by Mike Vincenty. Pictures courtesy of Paul Woscek.