Rausch Creek Black Friday Run

The year is quickly coming to a close. At this time every year CORE historically heads out on the trails for a day away from the crowds and the shopping marks the beginning of the holiday season. This year I lead the annual CORE Black Friday trail ride and took the group to Rausch Creek Off-Road Park (http://www.rauschcreekoffroadpark.org). Rausch Creek Off-Road Park is a pay-for-play four wheeling area located north east of Harrisburg PA. It covers over 1,700 acres and has trails for all levels and experiences for the off-road enthusiast.

The next thing I knew I had sunk into a muddy lightly traveled portion of the trail.

This year we had a nice turn out. Participants included:

  • Mike Vincenty in the white Rubicon (CORE)
  • Paul Lepine and son Anthony in the silver Jeep Unlimited (CORE),
  • Loc Pham in the yellow Rubicon (CORE),
  • JC in the blue CJ 5 (CORE),
  • Alex Hinson in the blue grey Jeep JK (CORE),
  • Jeff Morenz in the maroon Jeep JK (CORE),
  • Marisa Morenz in the silver Jeep JK (CORE),
  • Paul and Juliette Woscek in the green Chevy S-10 (CORE),

Our group met at the Urbana Exxon. Clouds hung in the air and the temperature was in the low 40’s. On the ride up, a few miles from Rausch Creek, JC’s truck snapped the drive belt. While the rest of us proceeded to Rausch, Loc drove JC to the nearest auto parts store and pick up a new belt and helped JC get it installed. The rest of the group arrived at the Rausch Creek office area and proceeded to check in, pay the dues, and get the park maps. Upon exiting the vehicle I noticed that it was extremely cold and windy. This should be an interesting day.

The first trail we covered was green trail #1. This is a nice easy trail that is a good warm up to the other trails in the park. There was a side blue rated trail that I explored in hopes of trying something a bit more difficult. But I found that this trail had a deeply rutted out hill climb that I thought would be too dangerous for most of our vehicles. I took a pass on this one and continued on the green trail.

In travelling the park we all noted the large amount of standing black water on the trails. This was much greater than is normally present. The next trail that we covered was blue trail #2. This trail is one of my favorites. It has many rock gardens that will challenge both novice and the experienced. We all took our time on the first significant rock garden. Paul Lepine spotted me and many in our group through this area.

We continued on blue trail #2. The hill climb was the next significant obstacle. This is a steep rutted hill climb that quickly drops off when you get to the top. I lined up and climbed the hill. I heard the transfer case on the Jeep scraping as I crested the hill. Once you come to the top, you need to stop, and turn left as you descend. Otherwise you will end up in the trees or worse rolling down the hill sideways. I descended just fine, but did notice a bit of slipping on the mud on the way down.

By this time Loc and JC hook up with our group after finishing the repairs on JC’s truck and getting it to the Rausch Creek staging area. From here we completed trail #2 to the point where it intersects with trail D. Along the way we hit many of the rock gardens which cover this trail.

I wanted to complete the last leg of tail #2. This portion crosses past trail D and heads up the mountain. It had been several years since I covered this part of the trail, to be sure that it was safe and doable by our group, I first walked the length of the trail. I could see that this section of the trail was rockier than before and it would present more challenges for the group. I felt that the vehicles in our group could make it through this section.

Indeed the rocks were larger and there were more of them. I proceeded carefully. At one point I got hung up and smacked the undercarriage a few times. No damage, but enough to get your attention. Marisa did a great job coming through this section. This was Marisa’s first time four wheeling as the driver in rocky terrain. Good job.

Lunch time was getting on our minds. So we decided to make our way over to the trail under the power lines for our lunch spot. Along the way Loc and Paul took a hand of hitting the blue trail called “Crawler Ridge”. In the past, Crawler Ridge was doable by mildly built vehicles. After seeing it on this run, it now looks like that you will need a more capable rig say with 33” tires to complete this section of the trail.

At the lunch spot we packed our vehicles tightly off the side of the trail due to the large amount of standing muddy water. We enjoyed conversation and tried to stay out of the wind and warm. Here Loc showed his club camaraderie by breaking out the CORE club banner and getting pictures of the group.

On this trip I wanted to spend some time on the west side of the park. So we packed up the group and proceeded to enter the west side of the park via green trail J. From here we entered blue trail #12C on the left. This is a short loop trail that drops you back onto J. Trail #12C has lots of rocks. It was here that Paul Woscek got his S-10 hung up on a tree stump. I have never seen a more perfect hang up. I don’t know how Paul did it, but he got his entire front axle perfectly centered on a tree stump that was a couple of feet high. The entire front of his vehicle as lifted up, so that the front tires could not touch the ground. Needless to say that he could not backup or go forward.

After using a Hi-Lift jack to raise the front of Paul’s truck, we were able to slide his vehicle a bit to the right, past the pumpkin on the differential, so that the right front tire reached the ground. This maneuver allowed him to drive over the stump and get clear. A very interesting hang up indeed. Next we crossed over trail J and completed the trail #12C loop, ending up on #12B. Trail #12B was a nice rocky and muddy trail. Several streams crossed the trail. At one point the trail was submerged in a deep muddy water crossing. I proceeded slowly as there were submerged boulders hidden in the muddy water.

Next onto green trail #14. Even though this trail was rated green, I would rate parts of this trail as blue. This is a windy switch back trail. It has lots of deep ruts with mud and hidden rocks. More than once I scraped over the rocks. Towards the end of the trail was a wicked drop off. I made the mistake of not getting out and checking the trail in front of me. As I entered the drop off I smacked hard on a boulder. Lesson learned. If you do not know what is in front of you, get out and check.

We hit blue trail #19A. This was an easy short hillside climb with mild rocks scattered about. Unlike most of the other trails, #19A contained no mud. It was getting late, so I decided to take the group around the perimeter of the remaining part of the west side of the park. My plan was to take the green loop trail #11, a nice easy way out of the park. Things were going well until a fork appeared on the trail. I took the left fork thinking that was where trail #11 continued. Soon I found out that the trail was getting rockier, muddier, and tighter. I called out to the group “I think that we are not on a green trail any more”. From looking at the maps I figured we somehow ended up on blue trail #23.

Things were proceeding along, but I could see that the trail we were traveling on was lightly traveled. I came to a section of the trail that was rutted and muddy. I proceeded to enter this portion of the trail and promptly sunk into the mud. I lost all traction and could not go forward or backwards. Out came the tow strap. I put the strap on the rear of my Jeep and hooked it to Paul Lepine’s Jeep behind me. With Paul pulling and me in reverse, I was able to get myself extracted. Thanks Paul. Ok, this time I rode hard left to ensure that my wheels did not drop in the ruts. I called out on the CB for all others to do likewise.

I continued along and got about another 100 feet down the trail. The next thing I knew I had sunk into a muddy lightly traveled portion of the trail. Again I lost all traction and could not go forward or backwards. The perils of being the first in the group… Out came the tow strap for the second time. Again Paul behind me was able to extricate my Jeep from the mud hole. Thanks again Paul.

This time I avoided the mud hole by going hard right. What I thought would be an easy ride out from the park turned into more than I bargained for. Still fun none the less. On the way back to the assembly area, we stopped on blue trail #4. This trail is a short very rocky trail. It is basically one large rock garden. This trail requires that you continuously focus on the trail and carefully pick your lines.

Off of trail #4 is “Yellow Jacket Ridge”. Here we watched Paul Woscek take is S-10 over a set of large boulders. A spotter is required to navigate this difficult section. The rest of the group skipped this part of the trail. We got the group back to the staging area around 4 PM. We spent the next hour or so, airing back up and getting ready for the long drive home. On this run we covered a lot of trails in the park. We had a great time.

With this trail ride completed and every one safe, we parted ways. On the drive home I listened to Christmas Carols playing on the radio. Now I know the holiday season is really upon us.

Trail report written by Mike Vincenty. Pictures courtesy of Alex Hinson, Paul Woscek, and Mike Vincenty.

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