This Saturday was calling to be one of the hotter days of the year. The weather forecast for the Washington Metro area called for temperatures in the upper 90’s with a heat index of 105 degrees. A good day to head north and try find and get some relief.
” The valve stem was ripped off. Quickly Loc completed the rock garden and got onto level ground.”
For this event the following were in attendance:
- Mike Vincenty (member) , 05 White Rubicon
- Keith Holman, 01 Chevy Blazer (member)
- Loc Pham, 04 Yellow Rubicon (member)
- JC Campose, 75 CJ 5 (member)
- Miles Oliver, Lifted Suzuki (guest)
I met the CORE crew between 6:30 AM and 6:45 AM (always seems to be too early). Loc was setting up his new video camera and GPS on his Jeep. Keith noted the big grin on Loc’s face. Loc replied, “I’m always excited with I go off-roading!” I too looked forward to this run. This would be the first run for the Rubicon since installing a 2.5” Old Man Emu suspension kit. I was interested in seeing how it performed.
From Urbana, the drive to Rausch I sabout 2.5 hours with one stop along the way. On the way up I noted the temperature of 75 degrees. I was amazed at the low lying fog blanketing the farm lands and covering the road along the way. I listened to country music on the radio during the quite drive.
We arrived uneventfully at Rausch some time after 9 AM and performed the 4×4 ritual of preparing for the day’s adventure by airing down and disconnecting sway bars.
After getting to Rausch my hopes of a much cooler day were dashed. It was a bright sunny day and the temperature was rising. I noticed that the registration office was busy. Two windows were servicing 4-wheeling customers. The cost to wheel for the day is $30 with your Rausch Creek annual membership card. We pulled to the assembly area and prepped our vehicles.
At that time I reviewed the new Rausch trail maps. I had planned on running some familiar trails on the east side of the park (L3 to U3), However looking at the map I could see that trail U3 no longer existed. The entire south east side of the hill side between L3 (lower 3) and U3 (upper 3) was cleared of trees. On the map these areas and beyond were highlighted in yellow and marked for future development. Additionally, the mapped showed an area marked in red labeled “Comp Course”. I could see that Rausch was going through changes.
We decided to go ahead and run trail L3 and explore these “changed” areas. We got the the L3 entrance and proceeded. With all of the trees removed this made driving on L3 disorienting. I struggled to find familiar landmarks.
L3 starts out level with occasional small boulders or stumps. As you move further along, you climb upwards along the side of the hill. The small boulders get larger and more frequent. Strategic driving and careful navigating is necessary to climb over or around the boulders.
As we moved along L3 I could see several side “black rated” trails to the left. More largely built vehicles were working to navigate these trails.
The highlight of L3 is at the end where the trail gets much steeper with many large boulders covering it. Picking a good line at this point is important in order to make it up the hill and through the boulders. This is the spot last November where my Rubi got hung up on the rocks. This time with more ground clearance, I made it up without difficulty. The rest of our group also made it up without any major problems.
Once you reach the top you realize how dramatic the area has changed. You can see the competition area being built. You can see the new park entrance and large staging area. We entered trail K (really a dirt road) that goes through the middle of this timbered area and the competition area. To the left was a large group of vehicles playing on the boulders setup in the beginning of the competition area.
As we left the competition area we proceeded to enter familiar territory again. We made our way to trail 1a via access road A, F and B. The small boulders and occasional rock gardens provide small fun challenges for stock or mildly built vehicles. At about the half way point is an optional black rated rock garden. Miles and his Zuki were up for the challenge. The Zuki with its 36” tires and skillful driving by Miles made this look easy. So easy that Loc was also up for the challenge. With Miles spotting him Loc entered the trail and did great. However, towards the end of the trail his right front wheel caught the edge of a rock and we all heard the distinct hissing sound of air escaping from the tire. The valve stem was ripped off. Quickly Loc completed the rock garden and got onto level ground.
Out came the high-lift. Miles offered to swap the tire with the spare. Also while we had the high-lift out, Miles demonstrated how to pop the tire bead with the high-lift. He removed the damaged valve stem with a new one and remounted the repaired tire as the new spare. Soon all was well and we pressed on.
The next trail that we hit was blue trail 2. This is a nice trail suitable for a stocker, but also with enough rock gardens and side trails for lifted and built vehicles. I took my Rubi on one of the more challenging rock gardens. On prior runs I did not try it with my stock vehicle. But now with the 2.5” lift, completing this section was not a problem. Nice.
Again on this trail the built Zuki took all of the difficult lines without any problem. We continued on to the end of trail 2 and onto the trail taking us up to Crawler Ridge.
Crawler Ridge is also a blue rated trail. It starts out easy enough but as you get up to the ridge you see the trail split. Go left for extreme. Go right for and easier, but still very challenging path. I went right. Even still at the very top I was faced with climbing up a large boulder. Two paths looked possible to get over this obstacle. I took a line to the right, but soon found that this was a bad choice. Forward movement stopped because I was hung up underneath. Loc came forward to spot me over the rock. It was here that Miles used his winch to pull a TJ that got hung up coming down through the most difficult path on the ridge.
Miles took the Zuki up the difficult path. Again no problem. Loc too took a shot at the difficult path. He navigated his lifted Rubi over the large boulders but got hung up at the last set. We tried various approaches to get him over. No avail. Out came his winch line. One slight tug got his vehicle up and over.
Lunch was the next item for the day. We parked on the top of the ridge in a nice shady spot. We relaxed and enjoyed good conversation.
After lunch we headed over to the west side of the park. I took us down trail J. While on J we took a left and ran a short horseshoe loop blue trail 12C. Somewhere on this trail Keith bashed his rear bumper and flare out the edges. I press on hoping to get us to blue trail 18.
I found what appeared to be an access point via trail 10-B or 10-C. We cut into the woods. We drove through the woods where the trail became muddy and deeply rutted in spots. After some driving, I soon found myself back at the entrance point. Some how I got us completely turned around. I never did find trail 18 (save this for next time). From here we made our way to Rock Creek. Rock Creek is a glacial deposit of large rocks, stretching for about 1,800 feel and over 100 feet across. We watched as Miles with the Zuki played on these enormous boulders. It is amazing what you can do with 36” tires on your vehicle.
We left the Rock Creek and entered green trail 14. This trail snakes back and forth through the forest. Seemed that it would never end. I was getting late, so we decided to take a leisurely ride back out from the west side of the park. On our way out we also hit green trail 19-A and trail 11. From here we made our way back to the east side of the park and back to the assembly area.
We never did get the full relief from the heat that I had hoped for. But that does not matter. We rekindled old friendships, helped one another through difficult spots, and had a good time.
A good day indeed.
Trail report written by Mike Vincenty. Pictures courtesy of Loc Pham, Keith Holman, and Mike Vincenty.