I received an email in late February from Mike Ahrens who was in Washington on a temporary assignment with the BLM from his home in Arizona. He told me he was looking to connect with someone who might show him some East Coast ‘wheeling. There was a PAJeeps trip planned on March 15 to Rausch Creek and I was getting itchy to get out of the house as I hadn’t been driving and ‘wheeling since November. I had gotten to go along on the New Years Day run as a passenger but it’s just not the same. Besides, the Blazer had a new locker I hadn’t gotten to play with yet. As it turned out, the weather on March 8 was cold and rainy and I opted out so we put together this trip when the weather would probably be better.
As it turned out, we stopped at our usual meeting spot 30 miles south of Rausch Creek at the truck stop and stood around in the cold and wet snow talking about what a miserable day it looked to be. But, as you know, a bad day ‘wheeling beats a good day at work, so we headed on to the park. By the time we got there, there was perhaps an inch of snow on the ground but it had stopped falling. Let’s go!
“By the time we got there, there was perhaps an inch of snow on the ground but it had stopped falling. Let’s go!”
The CORE members and guests in on this ride include:
- Keith and passenger,
- Mike from AZ –Blazer
- Alex – JK
- Dave D – Rubicon TJ
- Dave F – TJ
- Josh – Long and lifted Silverado
- Paul L -LJ
- Paul H – JK
- Chris Carswell from Frederick – TJ
Guests and their vehicles:
A couple of H3s that joined up with us at the park (sorry, I never did get their names) When we arrived at the park, there were also two Hummer H3 who were traveling together. As one of them was driving the new Alpha (V8 and All wheel drive) we started a conversation which soon turned to them joining us as we would also be covering blue and green trails.
We started off from the office and headed immediately to Blue Trail 1. We had run this one before on a previous trip. I hadn’t attempted the twisty off camber obstacle stretch last time and wanted to give it a shot with the new locker. The entrance to Trail 1 is a truck-high hill that goes almost straight up, has a sharp crest and then right back down between two tightly spaced trees. The Blazer did okay as did the TJs but the crest was just too sharp to allow the Silverado to start back down the other side without getting hung, just too much wheelbase. The H3s and JKs also elected to skip this one because of the width (of the vehicles, as you couldn’t say there was width between the trees, more like narrow!)
We finished off the 1a trail past the mud pit where we encountered a purpose built buggy with a small heat problem. One of the H3s (the one with the couple inside) carried enough jugs on the rack to make most any trek, including several gallons of clean water which they shared.
We turned onto D trail headed with a trip through the blue Crawler Ridge. We got separated from the H3s here as they went in search of something better but by the time we got through, they were back.
We decided to head into the newer south section of the park. Somehow, I got turned around and we rode at least part of the big loop backwards. To this day, I’m still not certain how I managed to accomplish that but we missed the turn from E to S but it was pretty definite when we reached the intersection of S and S-1 that we had been going only one way but that it was the wrong way! So we had lunch there and got me oriented again and took off in the right direction.
We cautiously crept along the blue trail to Lake Christy. It was pretty wet and slippery thanks to the morning’s snow. We sent a couple of folks in and discovered that we could get all the way to the bumps leading into the lake. Several went right over the higher hill with the path to the shallower side of the lake. Dave D and Josh went over the lower hill to the left and into the deeper water. The size difference was pretty evident as Dave was able to fit between an underwater boulder and the shoreline. Josh went to the lake side of the boulder but managed quite well due to the greater height.
After playing around the lake a bit, we headed back to where we had left the others at the S-1 trail. You have a choice coming out to go right and ease your way back up to the S-1 or you can go sharp left and up a steeper (and very slippery black mud) hill. Though a couple tried, only Alex was able to go up the left hill. Very nicely done with a minimum of slip.
We continued on around the S loop and came upon the quarry to the left. All but Paul L and I went down into the quarry for some play. While there, the Alpha H3 was climbing up a steep and off camber path when it seemed one wheel lost traction and then grabbed which let out a nasty pop. He came on up out of the quarry with a growling from the running gear. While the pop was pretty definitely from the front (probably a CV axle?), the AWD setup wouldn’t allow him to shift to RWD only. By the time he’d reached the top of the hill, the Alpha was pretty much done for the day. His buddy started the long trek to pull him back to the park entrance where GM would be called to deliver some warranty service. A rollback tow truck met him there and subsequent emails revealed a CV axle, a front prop shaft and a transfer case replacement. Darn the luck.
As there was still time in the day, we took the long way back, the C trail, and watched as the FJCruisers played a bit in the clearcut section that is behind where the office used to be. As we pulled back into the parking lot, we saw the rollback arrive to take the wounded H3 to the shop and took the time to air up and get ready to head for home.
Mike A told me we were a bit colder and that the ‘wheeling was a lot greener (thanks to the trees) and a lot cooler. He thanked us for the entertainment and extended a warm invitation should any of us ever find our way to the southwest for some ‘wheeling. Another great day made better by friends and fun.
My apologies for taking so long to get this one written. Thanks to Alex (especially) for a number of great pictures to tide you over.
Trail report written by Keith Holman. Pictures courtesy of Alex Hinson.