With summer is fast approaching and I had not been to Rausch Creek since Thanksgivings Day weekend. Much too long. It was time to organize a ride trail for CORE members and guests. This run turned out to be one of larger CORE events with 13 vehicles participating.
In a matter of minutes JC too emerged from the trail. JC commented to the group about needing a towel to clean off the seat of the Suzuki.
Our trail riding crew for this run included:
- Keith Holman in the Chevy Colorado (CORE),
- Dave Nichols (CORE) and Jim Farish (guest) in the Toyota Landcruiser,
- Dave Fowler in his lifted TJ (CORE),
- Alex Hinson in the Rubicon Unlimited (CORE),
- Loc in the yellow TJ Rubicon (CORE),
- Paul Lepine in the Jeep Unlimited (CORE),
- Josh Felts in the full size Chevy pickup (CORE),
- JC in the Suzuki Samari (CORE),
- Bob Weaver in the blue TJ Rubicon (CORE),
- Mike Vincenty in the white TJ Rubicon (CORE),
- Jay Nokkeo in the lifted (guest),
- Jeffery Miller in the Rubicon (guest),
- Jeffery & Marisa Morenz in the Unlimited (guest)
Rausch Creek (www.rauschcreekoffroadpark.org) is a “pay-for-pay” off road park. It has over 1,700 acres of land with over 30 miles of trails with difficulty rating ranging from green (easy) to black (extreme). Recently a competition area has been added to the park that allows you to try your hand and driving through and over various concrete obstacles.
On this run we had vehicles ranging from bone stock to well-built. Driver off-road driving experience ranged from beginner to advanced, My job on this run was to lead our group though various tails with enough challenges for both the beginner and the experienced driver, keep it interesting, ensure that everyone had a good time, ensure that everyone remained safe.
We started the ride easy on green rated trail #1. This is a short easy trail that is all flat with occasional small rock gardens containing small boulders. No issues for anybody on the ride. This green trail has a side access trail that leads to an area with lot of large boulders to play on. This trail and area is rated black. Vehicles with at least 33” tires can navigate this black side trail; however no one in our group took advantage of the opportunity on this run.
Next on my planned agenda was to hit blue rated trail #2. This is always a fun club run trail. Being a blue rated trail, the driving challenges get more interested as the rocks are larger and the rock gardens longer. Stock vehicles can navigate this trail but the occasional undercarriage scrape may occur.
Soon after entering this trail the first significant rock garden appears. A by-pass exists around the rock garden if you want to avoid the rock garden. I approached the rock formations and knew from prior runs that I would need a spotter to safely clear the area. Donna jumped out and became the spotter for this area of the trail. Once you drop onto the rock garden, you lose all visibility to the rock you are driving over. At this point you have to focus only on the directions from your spotter. With slow driving and excellent directions from my spotter I cleared the area without a scrape. Donna continued to spot the rest of the group through this area and everyone made it through safely.
More long areas of rocks greeted us on this trail. Several folks took advantage of these rocks for extra fun and challenges. Further along this trail we hit the next major obstacle – the hill climb. This is a very steep short hill what is well rutted from vehicles attempting the climb. A steep decent is immediately on the opposite side. I climbed the hill without difficulty but did scrape the transfer case skid plate even with the short wheelbase Jeep. I knew that the longer wheelbase vehicles would have greater difficulty once they reached the top. Alex in his Jeep Unlimited gave it a shot. He made it to the top, the front wheels cleared the top of the hill, but the undercarriage hung up on the crest of the hill. Forward motion was stopped. He could not back up either.
Out came the tow strap. The strap was hooked to a solid anchor point on the back of the Jeep and attached to the front of the vehicle behind Alex’s. A slight backwards tug got him off the crest of the hill. Alex made another attempt at the hill this time with a bit more speed. The front of the Jeep cleared the hill, went a bit further but still was hung up with the four wheels losing all traction because of the high centering. Several of us decided to see if we could get behind the rear bumper and push him forward off of the top of the hill. With a couple of heave-hoes, and rocking his vehicle up and down, this was enough for the front wheels to pull the Jeep over the crest of the hill.
The others in the group either cleared the hill or were wise enough to take the bypass. We pressed on through trail #2 encountering more challenging rock gardens along the way. Donna with her good eyes continued to spot folks though the rougher sections of the trail.
Next on the agenda was blue rated trail #4. This blue trail has become one of my favorite trails in the park. It is a short trail that is basically one long rock garden. This is quite a technical trail that requires your full concentration to navigate and pick your lines. It provides the perfect set of challenges for stock and mildly built vehicles. We entered the trail and proceeded along. Everyone travelled slowly and carefully. I took quite a bit of time to get our large group through this section of the trail due to the rocks and spotting required. Adjacent to this trail is black rated trail “Yellow Jacket”. This is a side trail with lots of large boulders. It presents a significant challenge even for those vehicles running 33” tires. Dave Fowler took a shot at “Yellow Jacket”. He made it look easy with this 35” tires on his Jeep. Really neat to watch. By this time everyone was hungry for lunch. We pulled off in a large shady spot at the end of trail #4. Here we relaxed and enjoyed our food and the conversations.
After lunch we decided to explore the newest section of the park, the south side. The south side has green rated trail S that travels around the perimeter of this area. We reached this trail and took a side trail down to Lake Christy. Lake Christy is at the bottom of a large bowl formation. You probably decent well over 100 feet to reach the lake’s edge. Once you reach the bottom you have two choices: 1) turn around the exit the way you came in, or 2) cross the lake in two parts. It turns out that the lake that came be crossed as long as you stay on the very outer edges of the lake.
This was my first experience with Lake Christy. Alex assured me that on prior runs that he crossed the lake by staying closed to the shore line. I dropped into the lake, hugged the left edge of the lake and made it to the landing spot about half way out. The water reached to near the bottom of the Jeep doors. Not being sure of the depth of the remaining portion of the lake and not being as adventurous I waited until Alex attempted the crossing. He proceeded along, covered the first leg of the crossing and proceeded through the second leg of the crossing. So crossing the lake it was certainly doable as long as you stayed out of the middle. Most of the group crossed both legs of Christy Lake. A couple of us not being as adventurous as the others decided to exit the lake bowl returning the way we came in. We hook up with the others at the top of the lake bowl on the far side.
On the opposite side of Lake Christy were two trails out from the lake. Both were up hill climbs that got you out from lake level up to the trail. The first was “extreme”. The second was “difficult”. Almost everyone in the group took the easier of the two, the “difficult” path. Large ruts greeted the drivers at the top of the trail and the trail narrowed quite extensively. Everyone who tried this path made it out fine.
Loc and JC decided to try the difficult trail out. Loc went first. With is heavy foot, Loc plowed up the hill. At one point the front of his Jeep lifted a foot or so due to his speed and the bouncing up the trail. At the top of the trail thing got really hairy. Here Loc had to climb a large worn rock berm that while at the same time continuing to climb up hill. Loc powered up the hill, applied the gas and bounced his way out. What a sight to see.
JC was next. He took powered up the hill and got to the small landing immediately before the rock berm. He applied the power; the tires on the Suzuki spun and tried to get traction but could not pull his vehicle up. JC tried several more times. With each attempt, I had visions of his small wheel base vehicle tumbling backwards. Wisely JC chose to use the assistance of the winch on his vehicle to complete these last few feet of the climb. In a matter of minutes JC too emerged from the trail. JC commented to the group about needing a towel to clean off the seat of the Suzuki. After what I saw, I would think so.
By now it was getting a bit late into the afternoon. We took a leisurely ride back to the admin office. Here most folks aired up for the ride home. Bob, Jay, and Jeffery stayed on to cover more trails. On the way home, we stopped at O’neal’s Pub in Pine Grove. Josh had won a $50 gift certificate from this great little Irish pub. A small bunch of us got treated to a decent meal before the long ride home with a reduction in the bill thanks to Josh pitching in the $50. Thanks Josh.
Trail report written by Mike Vincenty. Pictures courtesy of Keith Holman, Jeffery Miller, and Mike Vincenty.