Big Dogs Spring Fling, Gore, VA

Several CORE members have made it to Gore VA for the Big Dogs Off Road Events at the Cove Campground in the past but this year’s Spring Fling was a first effort to have a club presence there.
Spring Fling was Friday, June 6 through Sunday June 8. Miles Oliver, in the Orange Zuk, is a regular trail guide there. Mike Vincenty and Donna Edwards made the trip this time in their YJ and Keith Holman took the BlaZeR2 for the fun as well.

The Executive Summary:
It rained.
I had a good time.
The tent leaked because of the heavy rain.
We all got muddy.
We climbed a few rocks.
Keith got winched over a fallen tree.
We all got muddy. (Did I mention the rain?)
Mike and Donna’s brakes broke.
We all had a good time.
Keith won a door prize.
Mike left the Saturday night activities early and missed out when his name was called for a door prize.
We all had a real good time.
Keith saw several friends I hadn’t seen in a while.
It rained.
The sun came out on Sunday.

“I began to think I might be in over my head when the camp road through campground 4 required shifting to 4Hi to avoid getting stuck in the road.”

Miles arrived on Thursday for some of the prework and Mike and Donna drove up Friday afternoon. Keith chose to wait unitl later Friday evening. Arriving at the campground, you check in with the campground and pay your $30 per person weekend camping fee. (just a note for those on a tight budget: taxes are added so allow some extra, I believe the total for one came to around $35 and change.) These fees go to the campground and are the same for the three day event whether you come for one day or the whole weekend. Paid in advance, the BDOR folks collect $85 to cover their costs including event insurance, the band on Saturday night, etc. $120 for 3 whole days of wheeling just as hardcore as you’ll find on the east coast ain’t too bad.

Arriving at the campground around 10:30 p.m. (did I need to mention it was raining? this is spring 2003 after all), I checked in and asked if they could help locate the other CORE members. Miles was relatively easy to find as he was with the BDOR folks. Mike and Donna were a little tougher to find as the Cove technically assigns a campsite but recognizes that folks are going to camp with their friends so it’s anyone’s guess as to where they really pitched camp.

So I drove around a bit. I began to think I might be in over my head when the camp road through campground 4 required shifting to 4Hi to avoid getting stuck in the road. Making several loops of the campground, I finally went back to ask Miles if he knew where Mike and Donna were. He informed me that they were down that way on the right. Down that way put me back in camp 4 with the muddy road. Around 11:30 or so, I gave up on Mike and Donna and decided to pitch my tent at an empty site and look for them in the morning. It turned out the empty site was directly across the road from them but as late as it was, they had already turned in for the night.

OK, that’s all really cool, but tell us about the wheeling.

The directions for Saturday were to meet at camp 6 between 7:30 and 8:30 with a drivers’ meeting at 8:30. We arrived in the designated spot to find on time to find only a few campers in the field. Turns out the rain and carnage from the day before had postponed things a bit. The vehicles were of all sorts, primarily Jeeps, with an assortment of Toys, a few Zuks, some thing with Rockwell axles that bore no resemblance to anything I ever saw in a showroom and only 1 Chevy. We got into our assigned groups (we were on a 4 trail, the easiest assignments of the day). Miles had arranged to lead that group so we could all go together. Also in the trail 4 group were a couple of modified TJs and an XJ. (Jeeper talk for 2 Wranglers and a Cherokee).

Communications via CB would be hampered a bit as the Zuk’s open (non-existent?) top had allowed our trail leader’s CB to short. (Did I mention it was raining?) We were off with Miles in front, the other non-CORE folks, followed by Keith with Mike and Donna bringing up the rear. The ride to the first trail was over more of the campground roads when we suddenly took a sharp uphill left onto our first trail called U-turn Hard. I think the name was partly because the narrow side clearances forced you to turn frequently and hard to go between the trees and boulders. Within 10 feet of the camp road, you were into a rock garden that had most backing up a little to give it another go.

Not far along the trail, our group had to go across a fallen tree surrounded by wet leaves and some throughly slippery stuff. Miles made it over with no problem. The other Jeeps did pretty much okay although the Cherokee did have to take a second go at it. But the BlaZeR2 was just too close to the ground to make it over. Being unable to move forward or back, we tried stacking rocks and using the hi-lift eventually joined three straps together in an attempt to pull it on across with the Cherokee from a position of greater traction. But that didn’t work either. Finally, Miles offered the Zuk’s winch cable. Keith agreed as we had already spent way too much time messing around here. The others moved out of the way so he could come down the hill and anchor himself against a tree as the BlaZeR2 had the Zuk outweighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 to 1. As usual, there were no cameras around to record the event. But there were plenty of witnesses! Just a few seconds of winch had the BlaZeR2 over the log and on our way. Many thanks to all who assisted in that effort! Mike and Donna then came across the tree in relative ease.

When we reached the next level spot, Miles shifted the order to bring the BlaZeR2 up closer to the winch. I’m happy to say it was not needed the remainder of the day. Our next trail was to go down the bypass for Winch Only. If that’s the bypass, I see how the trail got it’s name. Although we were coming down, it’s a lot of tight spaces in rock gardens. We worked for almost every inch. Did I mention it was raining? The rain, which had been going on in this area for weeks, added a level of challenge to the entire weekend, even on this level 4 trail. Reading the descriptions, I would put our path on a borderline 5 in good weather but 5 to maybe even 6 in spots with the slippery factor thrown in.

Between there and the camp road, we met part of the Grand Cherokee group who were having their Grand Slam East event there the same weekend. Not real sure what inspired it but the flashbulbs were sure a poppin’ as the BlaZeR2 went by. I’d like to think it was admiration for the great skill of the driver in a highly capable vehicle but truly suspect it was so they could show the friends back home what some idiot dared to take onto the trails.

The camp road, which had an obstacle or two of it’s own in the form of some picture-taking rocks, took us to Sissy, which we went up. By this time, it was near lunch and we stopped to have a bite…in the rain so most of the time we sat in our vehicles instead of really looking around and jabbering as is usually the case on these outings. While eating, Miles showed us another path which could be taken but its most significant feature seemed to be the steepness of the downhill angle. If it had only had some rocks to slow you down instead of that tree at the bottom. I’m not sure what the name of that one was.

The Log Bridge trail’s most significant point was a stream crossing (no bridge that I saw) followed by a log that should have had a bridge over it! There were numerous chunks of log which had been used before to make something a ramp over it which I confess to restacking just a bit. The BlaZeR2 made it over okay though. Mike and Donna started having carb troubles about this time so while he worked with that, I walked back and asked the remainder our group if they wanted me to leave them as stacked or move them back. Surprisingly (or maybe not), no one wanted me to move them back so that they got the full experience. Maybe 50 yards after that, the trail turned to axle deep and rutted soup for a significant distance. Then we came to a stream that was followed by more soup with some rocks thrown in for added fun. At about this point, we met one of the harder groups coming the other way. Apparently the Cherokee was having some trouble with the log crossing previously mentioned, so Miles and I went forward to a side road and allowed them to pass while Erik (the other group’s trail guide) walked ahead to get the remainder of our group off to the side so they could pass. I didn’t see it, but was told that the other group’s lone Cherokee managed to lose the bead on not one, but two, tires as he navigated the rocky soup. Eventually, we regrouped after the others had passed.

The slipperiness put you into spots where momentum was the only thing to keep you moving as starting again was out of the question. I have very little experience with this type of driving and was backing more than once because of too little of the skinny pedal.

Along about this time, we had come to realize that Mike and Donna were without rear brakes and headed back to camp to effect repairs. Miles told us we were also to have run up Squealer and up Camp 8 but I heard no one complaining as we called it a day.

Back at camp, Mike tore things down to find that the left rear brakes were not functioning. The backing plate had bent and allowed the shoe to separate and the wheel cylinder to extend beyond its limits. He also discovered the first body damage his Jeep has suffered from trail riding. While looking for a log to use as a jack stand, the folks in the next campsite (from MidAtlantic Jeepers) offered the use of real jackstands. You may notice in the pictures that Mike is heating something over his campstove. This is not a real genuine Urbana delicacy, but an attempt (successful) at heating the coupling at the end of his brake line to allow it to turn without twisting off the line.

A ride to the camp office yielded directions to the AutoZone store where most of the needed parts were obtained to rebuild the rear brakes of the YJ. As it turned out, the bent backing plate would prevent the final repairs but he was able to get things in good enough shape for the drive home.

A big part of the weekend festivities is the band on Saturday night with the drawings for prizes. Because of the rain (had I mentioned that already?), the band played in the firehall in Gore instead of the field at the Cove. Luckily, most ofthe participants seemed to have the concept of designated driver down pat as it appeared many gallons of adult beverages were consumed. The band, a mostly rock group whose name I didn’t catch, was alright although a bit loud for my personal taste. My teenaged daughter will inform anyone who listens that I think all bands may be too loud though. 🙂 Door prizes included some pretty hefty items from the sponsors, included several gear sets and installations; much fuel injector cleaner; and free admissions to future BDOR events. There were others, included a ProComp RockReady rear bumper for a TJ which I won and will probably be trying to sell soon. The firehall event broke up around midnight. All then headed back to the campground where Mike, Donna and I sat around the campfire for a bit before making plans for Sunday and calling it a night.

Sunday dawned sunny, at least I think that was the source of the bright light (and a bit steamy) and I went to see the days’ riders off before heading for home.

Bottom line: Had a great time. Body damage limited to a coupe of small dents in the YJ and some pinstriping that may buff out if I ever get the ambition and time at the same time. Broken brakes that were on the list for a rebuild anyway. A wet sleeping bag. A really good time. Mike and Donna and I agreed that the combination of the wet trails probably had put us at or close to our personal limits of ability and/or comfort on the 4 trails. There is also an air of competitiveness among the more hard core that we usually don’t see in our trail rides with CORE although all were more than willing to lend a hand or jackstand when needed. I had a good time. I’m glad I went, wet sleeping bag and all. I think it would be something that we should try again when we can get more of the club together for it.

Now, about this Jeep bumper….

Happy Trails!

Trail report written by Keith Holman. Pictures courtesy of Keith Holman.

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