Paragon, Hazleton, PA

The first CORE trip to Paragon was in one word, “GREAT”! I think the only thing that might have made it better was if there had been a few more of us there. Mike Peterson’s plans changed at the last moment and he could not make it. Keith blew out his diff the previous weekend. Although he was able to locate parts this past week, getting them installed in time was not possible. We missed you guys.!!

“I think Paul took a deep breath and just muttered “Yeehaaawh” to himself, and took the plunge. And a plunge it almost was too!!”

Those making the trip were:

  • Gil Campos and Sherrie Burns, and “The Wheel Chock” in Gil’s ’99 TJ
  • Mike Vincenty and Donna Edwards in Mike’s ’90 YJ
  • Paul and Julia Woscek in their S10 P/U

We made our way separately, to Hazelton, PA, and after fighting traffic here and there each of us arrived in the early evening. All of us had booked accommodations at Hazelton’s Comfort Inn. After “discovering” one another later in the evening, we spent a very pleasant couple of hours in the Inn’s lounge, enjoying some light spirits, each other’s company, and listening to a rather enjoyable 2-man band.

Off Roading commenced the next morning after we had enjoyed a “Continental” breakfast – again, in the lounge.

The entrance to Paragon is off of PA route 924, exit 143 of I81. We had to backtrack only 2 miles to get there from the Comfort Inn. Finding the water tower was easy. A swinging metal gate clearly labeled Paragon Adventure Park (PAP) marked the turn off from paved road. From here it was a short run around the water tower and down the dirt road, called Tower road, to a very large cleared area. It is here that Paragon personnel set up each morning when the Park is open. Two trailers, one with assorted foodstuffs, and the other with various informational items, greeted us as we pulled up to the staging area. We paid our fees, signed waivers, got maps, rules and orange flags, and were on our way. A short aside- three vehicles is the minimum group size allowed at Paragon. I did not ask, but assume that they would pair you with other groups if you came as a one or two vehicle party.

PAP trails are divided into three areas, strip mine trails, valley trails, and mountain trails. Within each area, trails are given color/number designations denoting their difficulty- Yellow = 2wd access roads, Green = stock, Blue = modified, Black = heavy modified, and Red = extreme modified. Each color is further broken down into a 1, 2, or 3 designation. Considering the group’s makeup, I planned to stay on blue designated trails.

Throughout the park, signs with these color/number designations appear to tell you what trail you’re about to go on. Each trail also has a name, which is only found on the trail-listing sheet- I suppose so that later on when your telling war or horror stories about your ride, you can refer to something other than a number when speaking of a particular trail.

Anyway, from the staging area, it’s a very short drive to the intersection with Coal Bed Road, the main East-West access to all trails. After the usual pre-trip vehicle prep, we were on our way. I quickly got us lost trying to find a good first trail. I erroneously thought that the place on the map labeled “office” was the staging area, and had us several miles east of where we actually were. It was Donna and Mike who figured it all out and we found ourselves at the extreme western end of the park. Not to worry though, as this afforded us access to High Road (12 green 1), via a steep but short hill climb, which in turn led us to the Turtle Rock Garden (8 blue 1).

The Turtle Rock Garden was the group’s first opportunity to test nerve and equipment- and also spotting skills. We found out that Donna was a “natural born” spotter. Mike and Paul both inched along at first, but each foot traveled brought more confidence. We emerged from the garden onto the Turtle Trail (7 green 2) feeling good about ourselves and our equipment.

The Turtle Trail led us into the western end of the valley area where we opted for a trail called the Spare Tire Inner loop (45 blue 1 or 2 depending on direction). After a short ride on Spare Tire Outer Loop (44 green 2), we found ourselves in a beautifully forested area where the trail went in and out of large water holes and led to a very interesting stream crossing. The entrance to the stream is marked by a steep descent with a tree and roots on the left and a steep curved bank on the right. After liberal debate on whether we should try to cross, or opt to return to Spare Tire Outer Loop, we hesitantly made our way across. I went first in my TJ. The let down into the stream required slow going but once in the stream, crossing it was a piece of cake. Not so for getting out on the other side. There are two exits from the stream; one is very steep with a large rock in the middle, while the other is sided by two trees, with steep bank and the remnants of a tree stump right in the middle top. Once up and out, I returned to take pics and guide the others across.

Meanwhile, there seemed to be further discussion going on, on the other side about the wisdom of following me across the stream. However, Guts and Glory won out over caution, and Mike and Donna soon followed. Mike maneuvered is YJ nicely coming down the bank and crossed with no problem. Getting out was, of course, a different story.

The steep bank presented a challenge and the two trees limited maneuvering room. The stump proved to be Mike’s undoing though, hanging him up by the skid plate, and after a couple of tries, he submitted to the winch. It was then Paul and Julia’s turn. After more debate, I think Paul took a deep breath and just muttered “Yeehaaawh” to himself, and took the plunge. And a plunge it almost was too!! Paul’s S10 p/u being longer, required more room to turn down the steep bank into the creek. He got too far up onto the slopping right side and in a frightening few seconds, found himself teetering precariously to the left. Mike ran back across the creek to assist, stabilizing the back right side, which he later said was more than three feet off the ground. Paul was then able to back up and reposition himself and into the stream he went. Paul got creative, trying both left and right sides of the stump, but in the end, he too got hung up on it and we winched him out. After all that effort, the group voted for lunch, so we paused to eat and take in the scenery, which was beautiful. A short note; Mike may have earned himself the nickname ” Skinny Dip”, because he managed to spend s good bit of time in the water- an editorial note by the way, from our leader, Keith! LOL

Post lunch travel was uneventful as we enjoyed a combination of blue and green trails- the Spare Tire Outer Loop (44 green 2), Rocky Meadow (47 blue 2), The Laurel (46 blue 2), and the Boy Scout (48 green 2). This brought us out onto the Haul Road, which traverses the park from east to west. We decided to head out from here as we had to be out of the park by 6 pm or there were stiff fines to be dealt with. I made a quick detour however, after discovering a stream that came right out of the ground. We negotiated the Stream trail (31 blue 1) to see it then headed up the Haul Road.

I headed us up 2wd Easy Loop (36 green 2) and then 2wd Harder Loop (37 blue 1) intending to take Rabbit Run (10 blue 2) back towards the Coal Bed Road and out. Somewhere while negotiating a stream crossing on 2wd Harder Loop, I made a wrong right turn which took us up a pretty steep rock strewn incline and onto the Squirrel Trail (34 blue 1), which was great except for one thing- I was heading us away from the park’s entrance and didn’t know it! Mike and Donna came to the rescue. Mike had been running a GPS plot and realized that we were heading south instead of north and that we had crossed back over our previous track. We ended up right back at the Spring. However, at least we knew where we were. We opted this time to head straight up the Haul Road and onto the Valley Road (11 yellow 3), which took us back to Coal Bed Road and back to the staging area. We made it with about 30 or 40 minutes to spare.

I think if I had any complaints at all about the park, it would be that a few more signs are needed at critical trail junctions.

After getting our vehicles street worthy again, and a quick trip back to the Comfort Inn to retrieve items that each of the three groups had separately left behind, we were south bound for dinner at the Cracker Barrel in Frackville, PA, 20 or so miles away.

We had a good time relaxing, eating, and talking about the trail and future vehicle mods. We parted ways afterward, and headed home, with memories of a great trip!

Trail report written by Gil Campos. Pictures courtesy of Paul Woscek and Gil Campos.

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