With summer time in deep swing, I was itching to get out on the trails. I heard Rausch Creek calling my name. Saturday morning I woke up to an overcast sky and 75 degrees. Good weather for normally steamy East coast summers.
” I want to be sure to get up that hill. I didn’t need any more unexpected excitement!”
For this event the following CORE members were in attendance:
- Mike Vincenty, 05 White Rubicon (CORE president)
- Keith Holman, 01 Chevy Blazer (member)
- Bob Weaver, 03 Blue Rubicon (CORE vice president)
I met Keith and Bob at the Urbana Exxon. While waiting for the crew to assemble, I made a mental note that for future runs I’ll set up the meeting area to be at the Urbana Waffle House, breakfast would be nice about now!.
Soon we were on our way. The drive to Rausch was quite and peaceful. On the ride up I admired the scenery, all the open land, and wide open spaces. I reflected on how lucky we ere to be living in this country, far away from the troubles in other parts of the world.
It looked like rain I thought. I hoped that it would stay away long enough for us to complete our trail run. Soon we arrived at Rausch. I was amazed at the number of vehicles that had assembled on the hill at the staging area. This was the largest group I had ever seen at Rausch. I later found out from Lynn (park manager), that Rausch has about 120 vehicles at the park on Saturday. I wondered to myself what traffic would be like on the trails with this many vehicles on the trails.
One of our goals on this trip was to explore the new south property. This new property opened up to the public on August 6. On the map is looked like mostly green trails with a couple of black side trails.
My plan was to start the trail run on blue L3 and U3 was thwarted when a large group from hit these trails just as we were getting ready to start. We quickly regrouped and decided to make our way to the new south property first. On the way to the south property, we cut off onto blue trail 2. This is a nice trail described as “An excellent club trail with some green bypasses. Rocks and gullies.” Yep lots of rocks on this trail. They provided enough challenges to keep you alert and focused. At one particularly rocky section Keith and I took the bypass. Bob took this much harder route, showing us that 33″ tires and a 4″ lift make easy work of it.
Trail 2 also has a nice steep hill climb for those who want a different kind of challenge. There are two difficult aspects of this hill climb. The first is the deep ruts on the way up from the many others who have tried the climb. If you don’t have the ground clearance, your undercarriage could hang up as your tires drop into the ruts. The second is once you clear the top, you must turn immediately left, otherwise you will end up descending down the other side of the hill into the trees.
Of course Keith was up for the challenge. He powered his way up with no problem. But when nearing the crest, the bottom of the Blazer hung up and stopped all forward progress. Keith carefully backed down and gave it one more shot, this time trying a slightly different line. No luck again. Bob was next. With the high lift, larger tires, and short wheel base, Bob’s Rubicon crested the top of the hill with no problems. He reached the top so quickly that I was concerned he would keep going…straight, into the trees. Bob had everything under control. After reaching to top, he slowed, turned a bit to the left and proceeded down the other side of the hill. Nice job!
We finished up trail 2 coming upon more rock gardens along the way. Trail 2 continues up and behind Crawler Ridge. This is still a blue rated trail but it becomes much more challenging on this section. Here the rocks are larger, and you have to climb up hill while navigating through the rocks. There are two ways up to the top. One is rated blue the other is black. Keith and I took the blue trail up. Even so, I was careful with the line I took and had Keith spot me once I got to the top where some large boulder had to be navigated. Bob took the harder black trail. He again had no problems.
We proceeded around the back side of Crawler Ridge. Here we had wait for our first, and only group, to pass us. They were coming from the other direction. In their group was one of the new Toyota FJ Cruisers. It looked like the vehicle and driver were doing very well on the trails.
We descended off of trail 2 and headed over to the new south property. After a bit of confusion on my part, we got to the south property. The green S trail runs the perimeter of the south property. We knew it would be mostly a green trail, however we still wanted to explore this section to see what it offered and what was coming. Our first stop was at Tomb Stone. This is a black area off the main part of the trail. It is a large area with lots of large boulders. The middle section of Tomb Stone looks like it would be suitable for those running 35″ or better. The outer perimeter of this section looks like it is doable for those running 33’s.
We proceed along trail S and pulled off at the designated “lunch spot”. Here we parked our vehicles, enjoyed good conversation, and lots of laughs. The lunch spot looks like it was an area that at one time supported coal mining. We found an abandoned mine shaft that was closed up and over grown. It appeared descend deep into the ground; something that I didn’t want to get too close to. Bits coal were scattered about. Remnants of tracks were evident. After lunch we continued our trek around trail S.
We stopped a “Lake Christy”. This is a small pond/lake that is off the main trail about 100 ft down. A black trail takes you to the lake and the same black trail is used to get back up to trail S. Bob lined up and carefully descended down the trail. He crawled down in low range first gear. He reached the bottom near the lake, turned around and proceeded up. Bob used his rear lockers on the way up for additional traction. No problem. He made it up.
I decided to give it a try. I lined up and started. Soon I realized that I had made a stupid mistake. While traveling on green trail S I had shifted into 4 high. As soon as I started to make my descent I realized that even though I as in first gear I was still in 4 high. I heard Bob yell out to go a bit slower down the hill. I quickly stopped, pointed part way down the hill and fumbled to the Jeep into 4 low. Bob wondered if I was stopping for a photo op. Nope. Just trying to recover from a stupid mistake before I got into deeper trouble. I managed to get into 4 low and safely proceed down the steep hill. A valuable lesson learned. Before attempting any challenge, review what gear you are in and be sure you are still in 4 low. I got to the bottom, turned around. On the climb up I decided to run both front and rear lockers. I want to be sure to get up that hill. I didn’t need any more unexpected excitement!
Before finishing up trail S, we stopped at the “Water Mud” and the “Quarry”. The “Water Mud” was mostly dry. But after a good rain or in the spring looks like it would a fun area for those who like to run in deep mud.
We headed back to the east property. Along the way we ran blue trail 4. It is described as, “Rocks, bowls, optional Yellow Jacket Ridge (black)”. This is a great little trail with LOTS of challenges, especially for the more stock vehicles. This is a highly technical trail with lots of rocks! I could not take my eyes off the trail and was constantly focused on picking my lines. I did ok until I got to the end of the trail. I picked the wrong line, too far to the left. I got myself hung up so I could not make any forward progress. I could back up by no longer remembered what was below me or behind me. Keith jumped in help, got me safely backed up and helped spot me through that section. Keith and Bob took a different line than I did and it worked well for them both. Spotting was still needed to get us all through. A great little trail! Keep this one in mind for future runs.
Next we ran blue L3 and blue U3. These were the trails that we wanted to run in the morning. On L3, Bob showed us what his Rubicon could do. He traversed a deep, mud/water filled bowl. While on L3 Bob commented on how the weather started to drizzle and “at least we haven’t had to stack rocks”. We proceed to U3 and here we encountered more rocks. It was here that Bob’s comment about stacking rocks came back to haunt us. In one particularly tricky section, Keith got the Blazer hung up on some rocks. There was a rock that was catching is front left control arm preventing forward movement. Additionally there was a rock catching the left rear suspension also preventing forward movement and limiting rearward movement. Keith tried steering left a bit, trying to go forward and rearward, to no avail. Guess what? Start stacking rocks.
Bob and I tried various smaller rocks under the rear tires. We worked for about 20 minutes with no luck. We contemplated breaking the winch out using a snatch strap to get us the proper pull angle. However at this point I was hot and sweaty and was determined to get Keith unstuck using only rocks. Then I found the perfect “large” rock, nicely ramped at about a 30 degree angle. The only tough part was getting it positioned under the left rear wheel. After working on this for about 5 minutes, I hand the rock positioned. Keith bumped his vehicle; the rear climbed and cleared the rocks holding his vehicle. Persistence paided off.
We finished up U3 and headed back to the assembly area. We covered a lot of ground on this run. Even though there were over 100 vehicles in the park that day, we did not notice them. Only at one point did we have to pull off to the side to let 5 vehicles pass.
One of the things that I aways like about Rauch is the diversity of trails that are offered. Even if you are on a blue trail, there are side trails with more challenges. If you are on a trail and hit a difficult obstacle, then there more than likely be an easier bypass.
I had a great time on this run. Running this park with two other experienced 4-wheelers made the experience even much more enjoyable. You missed a really good one!
Trail report written by Mike Vincenty. Pictures courtesy of Bob Weaver and Keith Holman.