According to the news reports, this year over 97 million US residents (about one third of the entire US population) would be heading out for the Black Friday shopping frenzy. This year, as has been the tradition for over 10 years now, a small band of CORE members bucked this Americana crazy experience and headed out for the trails in Pennsylvania. This year our adventures took us to Rausch Creek Off Road Park (http://www.rauschcreekoffroadpark.org/) near Tremont PA.
This was a wonderful trip. It included lots of water and mud, snow, rocks, spinning tires, a recovery, mild carnage, good fun and friends.
Joining us this year for this annual CORE event were:
- Mike and Donna in the white Rubicon TJ (CORE)
- Paul and Juliette Woscek in the green Chevy S-10 (CORE)
- JC in the black Jeep TJ (CORE)
- Andrew and Cherie Taylor in the silver Nissan (CORE)
- Paul Lepine in the silver Rubicon LJ (guest)
- Kevin Barnes and Jeff Nichol in the silver Land Rover (guests)
I have come to learn that the Black Friday trail ride to Rausch Creek requires that we get on the road by about 6:30 AM. So with that in mind several of us met at the Urbana Exxon to convoy our way into PA. In Urbana we hooked up with JC, Paul L, Kevin and Jeff.
Days preceding this trip it rained extensively in the DC metro area. On the drive out I wondered if Rausch Creek had any snow and if so, how much. The drive up was spectacular. We watched the sunrise and the beautiful sky colors change from dark to red to orange and yellow. The farming fields had all been cut and a frost covered the fields. All of the lakes and ponds were frozen. It definitely felt as though winter was nipping at our heels.
On the drive up we hooked up with Paul and Juliette and finally met Andrew and Cherie at Rausch Creek at about 9:30 AM. Immediately upon our arrival what struck me was the snow on the fresh snow on the ground and the cold temperature. Did I mention the feel of winter?
We prepped our vehicles, paid our dues, received our maps and headed for the trails on the east property. Access the east property is easy if you depart from the right of the administration office. Of course having not been to Rausch in well over a year, I left the assembly area and went left. This route took the group through the competition course. No worries, I saw another group heading towards the shortcut to B so we followed.
My goal for this trip was to run the greens and blue trails but also find those that included black rated side trails for those in our group looking for more challenges. The first green trail with easy access is green 1a. This trail also includes a nice black rated rock garden so I thought this would be a great start for us. Immediately after entered this trail there is a blue side loop to the right with a nice hill climb. I wanted to get our group to take a shot at this hill climb but could see that another group of vehicles was attempting it and were having difficulties getting one members up and over. We decided to skip this loop and try again another day.
Further down the trail we approached the turn off for the black rock garden. Paul Lepine silver LJ, Kevin Barnes in the silver Land Rover, and Paul Woscek in the green S-10 all were up for the challenge. The rock garden is long stretch of decent sized boulder spread out over a large area. There was a fresh coating of snow covering everything so knowing what your where driving on certainly must have been more challenging. Paul, Kevin, and Paul all negotiated this section quite well while the rest of us watched, took pictures, and performs some spotting when necessary.
We wrapped up green trail 1a and proceeded to make our way to blue trail 2. Trail is a very nice “club trail”. This trail has a nice mix of boulders, rock gardens, hill climb, and water in “Frog Pond” for those up for this. We entered this trail and immediately came upon a rock garden. I asked Donna to spot me through this section especially since I could not make out the best line because of the snow. One great thing about Rausch Creek is that there are plenty of bypasses for the difficult sections. A bypass was available for those who did not want to tackle this rock garden.
We moved along to the hill climb. This is always a challenge. The hill climb goes straight up, with two deep dug out ruts where your tires go. Once you hit the top, the trail immediately drops off where you need to turn slightly to the left. Because of the steep up climb and immediate drop off, longer wheel base vehicles without a decent lift can high center on their undercarriage with all four wheels losing traction.
Paul Lepine climbed this hill no difficulty spinning his tires a bit to push over the crest. Kevin was next. His attempt required that he take on a bit more speed to allow his momentum to push over the top. His vehicle did get hung up on the undercarriage a bit, but with the extra momentum and a bit of gas he pushed through. JC in the black TJ motored up with no issues. I waited for the others in the back of the to join us at the hill climb but noted that there seemed to be some kind of delay further back in the line.
Upon investigating I could see Paul Woscek was wrapping up a small recovery effort with Andrew and Cherie’s on their Xterra. It seems that the Xterra got hung up on a boulder on the right front side that prevented Andrew from moving forward and backward. The crew used a high-lift jack to lift the right side of the vehicle in order to stack a few boulders under the right front tire to allow the Xterra to clear the boulder. This quick work freed the Xterra and they joined us down the trail near the hill climb. Paul proceeded quickly to traverse the hill climb before I could get a chance to capture the moment.
We proceeded through the remaining portion of trail 2 bumping along, hitting small rock gardens, and getting muddy. The next trail I wanted to hit was blue trail 4. This trail is one of my favorites. It comprised of a long running and intense rock garden. This trail forces you to concentrate and stay focused on the trail ahead of you, else you get will get hung up. Every one successfully navigated this trail. This brought us to our lunch spot for a time to unwind and catch up with each other.
After lunch we continued through the rest of trail 4 continuing to encounter boulders and rock along the way. Leaving trail 4 I wanted to give those who were so interested in a more intensive challenge an opportunity to take a shot at Crawler Ridge. This is a blue trail that has a nice uphill climb where you meet a decent size collection of boulders near the top. Paul Lepine, Kevin, Paul Woscek, and JC all took the challenge while the rest of us took a breather.
There was an amazing amount of standing water along the trails especially the green trails. Every few hundred yards we cross deep standing water with frozen ice block and floating broken up chunks of ice, all of this indications of recent freezes and more evidence that winter is just around the corner.
It was getting a bit late but I wanted us to have a chance to explore the west side of the park. I really wanted to explore the set of J blue trails that covers the far end of the west side. However, during registration in the morning I was warned that these trails were closed due to ice cover and the fact that they were off-camber. So instead I hit the green H trail. This is an easy access road that descends into the valley in the west property. From prior trail rides I know that this valley effect keeps the ground much more wet and results in the green and blue trails having a lot more mud. The only concern I had on this trip was the fact that the west side is also a lot shadier than the east side, so I was slightly worried about ice causing us some difficulties. Fortunately, while there were occasional snow patches there was nothing of concern.
We continued until we reached the bottom of the valley and turned right onto green trail 11. This trail bisects the west property. From here the trail turns left to follow the perimeter of the park that traverses from the north to the west. While on this trail we came upon black trail 17 off to the right. Here JC up for more adventure decided to hit this trail. This trail was a short U shaped trail that headed up hill, turned left, and descended back to the main trail 11. I decide to take a pass while the other played on this trail. I waited a while and started to get a bit concerned when the rest of the group did not join up. I investigated and walked trail 17 from the opposite end and found JC working his way up the hill climb. What he was about a 1/3rd of the way up and having a difficult time through an extremely rock section covered with boulders his TJ needed to climb.
Kevin, Paul Lepine, and Andew worked to stack rocks to make a path for the TJ to climb. With tires spinning JC was able to move to the next obstacle. Again more boulders but this time larger with a steeper uphill approach. This section was even more difficult. As much as he tried, the TJ would not climb the rocks and move forward. JC rocked the TJ forward and back hoping to get enough momentum to clear this section. With the tires spinning and rubber smoking, I was getting worried that he could easily snap an axle shaft on the TJ. Fortunately this did not happen, but upon examination of his TJ, we saw that the latest attempts to climb the rocks did manage to rip the muffler and tailpipe off the mounting points. At this point the group wired up the tailpipe and muffler and saved this trail for another day.
We continued following the perimeter of the park on trail 11 until we hooked back up with trail H. From here we wrapped up the west property and made our way back to the parking area via the green trails on the east property. The day had us wrapping up around 5 PM. One great thing about Rausch Creek Off-Road Park is that they provide you access to air so that you may air back up before heading home. All they ask is a small donation. I also noticed that they now will loan you tools and access to a welder if you happened to need vehicle repairs.
On this trip we covered a lot of trails on the east property of the park and just begun to explore the west property. The west property is loaded with lots of trail of varying degrees of difficulties with more focus on trails blue and above. For upcoming CORE trips I would like to get back to this side of the park and spend more time exploring these trails.
This was a wonderful trip. It included lots of water and mud, snow, rocks, spinning tires, a recovery, mild carnage, good fun and friends. On the drive home I thought about the days events and I watched the sky fade from pink pastels to darkness and thought about the many trails yet to be explored. How about you join us next time?
Trail report written by Mike Vincenty. Pictures courtesy of Paul Woscek, Andrew Taylor, and Mike Vincenty.