Wheelin’ For Hope

This is not the typical CORE trip report because this particular trail ride was not sponsored by CORE. The Woodland Wildfires, a Relay for Life of Nelson County, VA team, has hosted an event since 2009 called Wheelin’ for Hope. The event is in honor and in memory of all friends and family who have been affected by cancer. All proceeds from this trail ride are donated to the American Cancer Society. As of 2009, Wheelin’ for Hope has raised and donated over $50,000, to include this year’s event.
CORE Members in attendance were:

“Are we on the right trail?”

  • Larry and Berna P (Blue JK)
  • Andrew T and Cherie W (Silver Xterra Pro-4X)
  • And approximately 400 (+/-) other participants (various colors and makes plus one other Xterra)

The 47 miles of trails to be explored are on the property of the Oak Ridge Estate located in Nelson County, VA. Wheelin’ for Hope was restricted to the first 200 vehicles to be registered. All 200 spots were sold, and as far as we could tell all 200 were there. The staging area was setup with 10 lines, 20 rigs per line. Yes, the trail guides had to register also and were included in the 200 number of rigs. People had come to wheel from as far away as Germany by way of New Jersey. Most participants were from Virginia however, I spotted license plates from South and North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Texas, and Quebec, Canada.

Berna and I arrived on Friday evening to sign in at the staging area and collected our goody bag. Andrew and Cherie would be arriving later Friday night and would sign in on Saturday morning. We met up with them around 7:30 a.m. that morning at the staging area. After the greeting ritual, I gave Andrew the honor of picking the line for us to join. One of the rules for the ride was to pick the shortest line, enter it, and then to line up in the same line the next morning. The reason to stay in the same line was to guarantee you didn’t travel the same trails as you did the day before, plus you kept the same guides. After everyone picked and settled into their lines, all drivers attended the mandatory drivers meeting. Final pit stops were made as we all are aware; civilization ends once on the trail. (Gents to the left, ladies to the right please).

When airing down of tires and vehicle inspections were completed, it was time to go. Our trail guide, Herb C, called over the CB and informed us we would be the 7th line out. In short order we were on the move around 8:45 a.m. We entered the trail via a quick pass through of the event camp ground. The trail started out easy and I thought for sure Andrew was not going to have any problems wheeling with their stock Xterra Pro-4X. Herb was interested to see how the Xterra performed since he had just bought one for his wife. We traveled for a ways and then the fun began! Now I was concerned about the stock Xterra! Oh, and for Andrew and Cherie of course. The trails we traversed consisted of obstacles with names like U-turn, Skinny Rock, Z Ditch, CJ5, and so forth. The terrain consisted of rocks, logs, mud, stumps, water, and did I mention Rocks!? There were by-passes which allowed Andrew and Cherie, and anyone else as far as that goes, the option to forgo a particular obstacle. The ones Andrew attempted with the Xterra were flawless and there were no pull straps or winch unwound on his account.

As the day went on more chatter started over the CB between Mike C, our assistant trail guide, and Herb. Mike asked Herb “Are we on the right trail?” The silence was deafening. Herb finally responded over the CB, “When I am leading we are always on the right trail.” Again silence. We pressed on, so evidently we were on the right trail. Come to find out they were making fun of a fellow trail guide who tends to get lost. No name given. I found out later the name of the guide was *****; let’s just call him “John Doe”. Later in the day we came across “John Doe” and his group, they were on the wrong trail. Case closed.

We continued wheeling a couple more hours or so then it was time to stop for lunch, stretch, and meet folk. The folks from Germany, by way of New Jersey, were with our group and had no fear of any of the obstacles with their orange JK Rubi. After lunch we pressed on looking for more obstacles. We did some steep climbs, off-camber stuff, log and water crossing, and everyone’s favorite…Mud! Our last obstacle of the day was a water crossing (CJ5); time to get some of the mud off! This crossing was down a sloping bank, into the water, then up a steep bank of solid rock on the opposite side of the creek. For this obstacle there was no by-pass; it’s the only way out. “Are we on the right trail?” By this time of day, Berna and I are far back in the line, with Andrew and Cherie up front somewhere. As we sat waiting our turn to cross we hear all this squealing of tires of a vehicle trying to get up the opposite bank…Andrew?! We couldn’t see because we were too far back on the trail and trees blocked our view. No, it wasn’t Andrew, it was a TJ, with lockers no less. (Andrew has video.) After three attempts the poor lad had to have assistance to get up the bank. We know what that means, winch! Oh no, don’t say it’s so! As for Andrew and Cherie, they were already up (no assistance needed thank you very much!) and out of their rig taking pictures and video. After a few other rigs ahead of us made it across and up with no assistance I knew I didn’t want the winch to come to our rescue. As I approached the bank to go into the creek I noticed the rock bank on the opposite side had water running down it glistening in the sun light. Slick rock! As we approached the rock bank I kept the momentum and up we went as pretty as you please. I have proof, again Andrew has video. Good end to a good day on the trail. It was around 5:00 p.m. when Herb led us out of the forest and back to the camp ground for dinner and raffle festivities. Yes, we were on the right trail; all day.

Dinner was included in the registration fee and after 8 hours on the trail we were starving. Lunch was only a memory by this time. The dinner was catered by Tiny’s Catering and consisted of hamburgers, hot dogs, BBQ chicken, baked beans, chili, and all the fixin’s. Drinks and cookies were also provided. After everyone had eaten, relaxed in their comfortable folding chairs while sipping on a tasty beverage of their choice, and chatting with old and new friends, it was time for the raffle drawing. The items to be raffled were amazing. This is just a sample of what was given away: 6 winches, 5 hi-lift jacks, several grab handles, floor mats, a winch recovery kit, a Mickey Thompson $500 gift certificate, baskets of soaps/lotion and other smelly stuff for the ladies (although no lady won one), and other miscellaneous stuff I can’t remember. It was amazing the number of raffle tickets people bought. Again, the proceeds from the raffle went to the ACS. After a while, Berna and I needed to leave so we gave our 7 feet of tickets to Andrew and Cherie and wished them good luck and a good night. As luck would have it, at the end of the raffle they still held all their tickets and the ones we gave to them.

Sunday morning surprised us with rain as it was not to start raining until later in the afternoon. Berna and I decided it was best we head home, so I informed Andrew of our plans. He and Cherie hit the trails again with Herb, Mike, and the same folks from the day before. Andrew later informed me that Herb called it “a day” around noon because of the rain and the trails becoming unfriendly.

All in all, it was a great time and we had the opportunity to participate in a worthy cause. The Woodland Wildfires, and everyone else involved in setting up the event, did an outstanding job. You felt welcomed and enjoyed the company of those around you. I know Berna and I plan to be at Wheelin’ for Hope 2014. “Are we on the right trail?” You bet!

Trail report written by Larry Pope. Pictures courtesy of Larry and Berna Pope, Andrew Taylor, and Cherie Wood.

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