Another CORE tradition continues. For the past several years CORE has trekked up to Rausch Creek for its Thanksgivings Day Run. This year we held the event on “Black Friday”.
” I knew Frog Hole was deep, but I didn’t know it was that deep!”
I met our crew early Friday morning in Urbana. This year, we were joined by:
- Keith in the BlaZeR2 (CORE),
- Dave Fowler in his lifted TJ (CORE),
- Loc in the yellow Rubicon (CORE),
- Paul Lepine in the Jeep Unlimited (guest),
- Mike Vincenty in the white Rubicon (CORE)
We hit the road around 6:50 AM. On the drive up it made special note of the masses who were slaves to their own holiday tradition; queuing up waiting in line in over crowded shopping malls. I chuckled to myself at the site of the overflowing parking lots and the long lines already forming outside. My destination would have no crowds, no noise, and none of the over commercialized hoopla that comes with this time of the year.
On the drive up I enjoyed the beautiful sunshine as it cast a reddish glow on the mountains to the west. Fall must have come late this year because the trees on the mountains still glowed with highlights of browns, red, and golden yellow; a nice site to see indeed.
You could now tell it was the start of the holiday season. In addition to the crowded shopping malls, 18-wheelers were heading south loaded to the brim with fresh cut Christmas trees.
We arrived at Rausch around 9:30 AM. This was my first visit to Rausch after the opening of the new park entrance and the new assembly area. I overshot this new park entrance and had to get a few of us turned around.
After the customary vehicle preparations, I got the group started. On this run I wanted to try a few things differently. We proceeded to blue trail 1. At the entrance to trail 1, we were greeted with a large berm to get over. No problem here.
A few hundred feet on this trail we hit our first significant obstacle for the day; a small, steep, and off-camber hill climb, with significant rocks thrown in for good measure. Near the top was a large rock formation that in order to clear required that you go right. However, if you go too far right you could easily slide off the hill and likely roll. So the trick was to go right of the rock formation but very close to it. This would put your vehicle in an extreme camber, leaning to the left, so much so that a roll over seemed to be in the realm of possibility.
I lined up, picked my line and took my first shot at the climb. Part way up the Jeep lost traction and could not proceed. I back down and evaluated by options. Loc called out to engage the lockers, so I did. In my second attempt the Jeep climbed up. I cleared the rock formation on the left and slowed as the vehicle became off camber. The off camber was so unnerving that I leaned myself to the right and grabbed the “oh-sh#t” bar with my right hand. I thought a flop over onto the left side was very possible. Slowly I proceeded forward and the Jeep leveled out. At this point I noticed the nervous twitch in my right knee and felt how dry my mouth had become. Wow! “This is a whole lot more than I bargained for!” After clearing the top I realized that the excitement wasn’t over just yet on this “blue” trail.
I got out of the Jeep and surveyed the trail ahead. The trail turned a bit to the right. More large boulders lay ahead. The trail also sloped greatly to the left so as to put your vehicle in another off-camber situation. Oh great!
I proceeded slowly. The Jeep again leaned left. Again so extreme I stopped and asked Dave if everything was going to be ok if I proceeded. Dave assured me it was. The Jeep slowly leveled. My nerves settled and I thought about how much I hate extreme off-camber situations.
Having cleared this section of the trail I went back to assist others over. Dave was next. His Jeep with 35” tires climbed up nicely. At one point when he crested the top as was at the most extreme off-camber angle, his right rear tire lifted off the ground. It didn’t seem it would take much more to push his Jeep over on its side. Fortunately this didn’t happen. Paul with his longer wheel base Unlimited was next. He took a couple of shots at the climb but kept losing traction near the top. He decided to air down before attempting again. Loc climbed the hill very nicely. Loc yelled out with a grin, “This is great. Its 11 AM and we have already spent one hour on this challenge!” Indeed we did.
Paul finished airing down to 15 lbs and was ready to try again. Don’t think that airing down really makes any difference? Well on his very next attempt, Paul in the Unlimited successfully climbed the hill. Nice job!
Keith was next. The all terrains tired and the fact that those who preceded him loosened the dirt on the hill prevented the Blazer from making it up. Keith wisely chose to skip this obstacle before something regrettable happened.
The rest of trail 1 was uneventful. At one point there is a black rated side trail with a large spanning rock garden. The boulders on this side trail are too large for stock vehicles. But they are perfect for lifted vehicles such as Dave’s and Loc’s. Both Dave and Loc enjoyed navigating as the rest of us watched the show.
From here I wanted to get the group onto trail 4, also a blue trail. Trail 4 is described as “Rocks, bowls, optional Yellow Jacket Ridge (BLUE-BLACK)”. On prior runs I found that this is a fun trail with lots of challenges for stock and mildly lifted vehicles. Basically trail 4 is one long rock garden, rocks pretty much everywhere. Lots of focus and concentration is required to successfully navigate the constant stream of obstacles along the trail. Off of trail 4, Dave, Loc, and Keith all decided to tackle Yellow Jacket Ridge. Dave and Loc both crawled over the large boulders on this ridge, but it required the full concentration of the drive and a spotter to get them both through. Now you would not think that a stock Blazer could make it through these rock formations, but with very careful and skillful driving Keith showed us that it was indeed possible. Quite impressive to watch.
We stopped in the bright sunshine for lunch and struck up a conversation with a group of fellow 4-wheelers who were exploring the park for the first time. After lunch we completed trail 4; nothing eventful other than I got hung up on some rocks. From here we proceeded to blue trail 2.
Trail 2 starts our very nice, some rocks here and there scattered the trail. Some of us chose to try our hand on a small rock garden containing moderate sized rocks. From here we continued to the infamous hill climb. I took the by-pass. Dave was one in our group that successfully climbed to the top and over.
While others played on the hill climb, I pressed along the trail and stopped just past the “Frog Hole” pit. Dave caught up to me and we both looked at the water hole. We discussed the possibility of his vehicle successfully making it through. Dave decided it was worth a try with his 35’s on the TJ. He proceeded slowly into the pit but soon found the front of his Jeep quickly sinking deeper. Forward progress had stopped. He tried reverse, but the spinning front wheels dug his Jeep deeper into the pit. By this point the muddy water had submerged a good portion of his Jeep and the engine stalled.
Muddy water was pouring into the Jeep. Dave crawled out of an open window. We assessed the situation. By this time Loc appeared. Dave hooked up the winch cable from Loc’s Jeep to the D-shackle submerged in the cold muddy watery soup. Loc tried to pull Dave out but instead was being dragged towards the pick. We had Keith extend his winch cable and anchor it to the rear of Loc’s Jeep bumper and tried again. Slowly Dave’s TJ emerged from Frog Hole; muddy water pouring from its doors.
I knew Frog Hole was deep, but I didn’t know it was that deep!
Before attempting to start Dave’s Jeep we check it out to see if it ingested any water via the air intake. None was found. The Jeep fired up. It did run a bit rough, and we found out a bit down the trail that we needed to dry out the distributor cap. Dave pulled the cap, dried it with towels and gave it a shot of WD-40. Now the engine was purring smoothly.
We wrapped up trail 2 by heading up towards Crawler Ridge. We didn’t go the top of the ridge as time was running out. We called it a day and started our ride back to the assembly area.
What a great day! Lots of action, lots of fun, and good friends. If you missed this run, you missed out on a great day. The tradition continues!
Trail report written by Mike Vincenty. Pictures courtesy of Loc Pham and Mike Vincenty.