TRAIL REPORT #1
By Andrew Taylor
As CORE has done for many years we wanted to give folks a safer alternative to Wal-Mart shopping on Black Friday, and instead invited them to come to Rausch to have some fun! Along for the ride were the following:
- Andrew & Bob Taylor – Silver Xterra
- Mike O’Grady – Tan Xterra
- Jeff Burgess – Gray Xterra
- Keith Herstek – Green Xterra
- Mo Brethower – Blue Jeep LJ
- Wook Kim – Tan Toyota Tacoma
- Jim O – White Chevy ZR2
Some of us caravanned up from Frederick, others, including those from PA and NJ, met us at Rausch. After a quick drivers meeting we broke into a Green Group, thank you Mo for offering to lead, and a Blue/Purple Group for the more experienced drivers.
We headed east out of the parking lot onto A and 3B. About 5 minutes from the parking lot I got a little hung up on a small rock, nothing big, but while trying to get off of it a loud pop erupted from under the vehicle. We limped along to the end of 3B and 3A with it occasionally binding. Several in the group met us at the top of 3A, but they took the fun black lines up.
I drove back and forth a bit with others outside trying to determine the cause of the binding. We decided it was either the drivers side front half axle (a bad CV?) or the front diff itself. With the group being split on which they thought was broken, and Jeff having a spare half axle for my vehicle, we took the time to replace the assembly on the trail. My Dad was humored that not only did the group have the spare part, and the tools to do the job, we had multiple of all tools, jack adapters, impact guns, socket sets, etc. Everybody helped out, but it was no use. With everything back together the binding continued… I decided I better call it a day. I would limp home in 2WD since the binding didn’t seem to happen then. The group headed off for more trails. I heard that by the end of the day 3 of the 4 vehicles would end up having an issue. Mike managed to shear a valve stem off a tire, and one of Keiths shocks got stuck in the compressed condition! At least I didn’t have all the fun!
TRAIL REPORT #2
By Mo Brethower
Black Friday lost its low-price allure when my youngest sibling traded tickle-me Elmo for Arduino. Amazon Prime and Alibaba long ago covered my demand for instant gratification and low-priced/possibly-counterfeit electronics. Determined to return magic and adventure to the day after turkey-and-football day, I asked a friend to join me at Rausch Creek for some fun. After all…what’s blacker than the coal-dust-mud of Pennsylvania?
It turns out, the sky at 5:30 is pretty black. Black as coal, black as fresh rust-converting chassis paint, and black as Trent Reznor’s ex-girlfriend’s soul. It’s still the best time to navigate the DC beltway and continue the CORE Rausch-run ritual: meet at the Get-Go on Patrick Street in Frederick, then continue north. Rolling fields and farmland slowly turned into mountains, framed by frost and blanketed with fog. At long last, we found the Disneyland of Dirt, the Six Flags of Shale, the Cedar Point of contact patches…Rausch Creek!!
Before hitting the trails, there’s the last bit of prep work: air down, disconnect sway bars, meet the drivers, check the paperwork, check radios, discreetly double-check your tools and first aid kit. I had two other rigs with me, a Tacoma TRD Off-Road, and a Chevrolet ZR2. Long wheelbases are great for climbing hills, and while Rausch may call the green trails easy, they’ll still let you flex out your suspension. Or, in my case, test the integrity of your skid plates.
Trail A warmed up the group, and let us break the ice on some late-November puddles. As we made our way back up 3A, my passenger dared me to try one of the black hills. He always has a joke ready to go. A turned to C, and into some slick, muddy rocks. Jim in the ZR2 pulled me out of a puddle after the LJ spent a few minutes waiting for a group to pass. The rear locker wouldn’t engage, and I had to drive to work the following Monday. Free from the mud, we continued up C, onto B, then to Frog Hole.
Frog Hole’s puddles hid plenty of rocks and sediment. Between the sediment in my brakes and checking my skid plates for integrity, I didn’t like some of the noises coming from the Jeep. After a few hard bumps, the group developed a decent strategy: crawl the puddles with low range, and a smooth throttle. Up until an extraordinarily tight turn, we made really great progress. Long wheelbases and full-size rigs don’t tend to ninety-degree bends. After consulting with Green Group, we elected to back out, and make for a manageable run up B. Once there, we continued through G, P, Tower Road, and Goldmine Road/ E trail.
Lunch found the company of Blue Group! We were disappointed to learn of Andrew’s mysterious clicking noise, but accepted his plan to drive home. We re-checked the rigs, and set off down E for the south trails.
In the south trails, we found a really, really great hill climb. The first obstacle was a v-notch that you had to straddle on a stock suspension. It’s exciting enough to need a spotter, but really let the full-size rigs shine. We stopped near Lake Christy to watch other rigs show off on the purple and black trails. Despite my best intentions, it filled my head with build ideas for the LJ (after new skid plates, of course). In my eyes, though, the highlight of the trip is trail 21. If you like, there are some really tough lines you can try with a stock TJ. Low range and a smooth throttle let the LJ crawl right over most of them. I backed off of one, knowing that I had to drive home.
With a little daylight left, we made a brief jaunt into the West section, then meandered back through to the competition course next to the parking lot. With a fresh group photo, and a nice sheen of mud catching the late sun, it was time to air up and head home. The LJ redeemed herself for getting stuck by pulling a high-centered JKU free from a rock. Aired up and loaded up, it was time to go home.
Pictures courtesy of Andrew Taylor and Mike O’Grady.