CORE’s second trip of the year to the Paragon Adventure Park (PAP), near Hazleton, PA, took place on Saturday, July 27, 2002. The trip was conducted as a part of the MAFWDA’s (Mid Atlantic Four Wheel Drive Association) Paragon Weekend.

” We resorted to using rocks, high lift jack, come-along, straps, winch, and just plain hard labor in getting everyone through.”

Core members and guests attending included:

  • Gilbert Campos- 99 TJ
  • Mike Vincenty- 90 YJ
  • Keith Holman-91 S10 Blazer
  • Len Thompson (Keith’s neighbor)

Keith and Len met Mike at the Sheetz gas station in Thurmont, MD off Rt. 15, and then continued on to exit 77, I81, in PA, where I was waiting for them at 700 am. From there it was about an hour’s ride to PAP. As we headed up I81 towards Hazelton, the weather began to close in on us and I’m sure that more than one of us was wondering privately what kind of day it was going to be.

The turn in to PAP off of PA 924 at exit 143 is normally just passed the second gas station headed west from the interstate. We dutifully made our turn, but after traveling about a half mile were turned back by road construction which blocked further travel. Returning to 924, we hunted around for another road into the area (none of us could quite remember which of several roads was the other access road), we finally found the right turn and shortly found ourselves on PAP’s new gravel access road which leads directly to the sign-in area.

I marveled at the number of people and vehicles who had shown up for the day’s 4×4 wheeling activities. The vast majority of the 4×4 rigs were Jeeps, with anything from stock road vehicles to highly modified monsters. There were also other vehicles there of course, but since Mike and I both have Jeeps (YJ and TJ) we thought the scene very impressive!!

We paid our fees for the day (only $15.00 thanks to MAFWDA). The orange identification flags normally required and to be displayed high, and conspicuously by every vehicle, were waived for the day (I think PAP ran out of them!).

Keith, Mike and I all aired down, with Mike and I also removing our sway bar quick disconnects. After a bit of conversation with MAFWDA staffers, we were on our way for what turned out to be a FULL day of wheeling.

Mike and I had been to PAP only a few months prior, and owing to a navigational error by yours truly, we had gotten lost on the way out of the park, ending up back where we had been and ultimately finding our way out via the Valley road, a very easy in-out access road. With this embarrassment in mind, I quickly suggested to Mike that we make our initial foray into the park on the trail we had intended to come out on the previous trip. Mike quickly agreed, perhaps curiosity peaking his interest, and as neither Keith nor Len had any objection to the plan, WE WERE OFF!

Thus began a 4×4 adventure that literally took us until near 3:30 pm to find our way back to the point at which I had gotten us lost on the previous trip.

We quickly found our way to the Coal Road, the main east-west access road to all other trails, and after a short 4 tenth of a mile leg east on the Coal Road, found our access point, a trail called the AlleyOOP, rated green1, (an easy trail). From here we would wind our way deeper into the park eventually (we hoped) finding Rabbit Run, a blue2 trail, (rated for modified vehicles). The trail I had missed on the previous outing.

As on the previous excursion to PAP, we immediately found that although the park’s trails are generally labeled, markers at key trail intersections, in many instances were non-existent. We did manage to find Rabbit Run, however, via a short cut on the Valley of Dog trail a black2, (for heavily modified vehicles).

This trail, appropriately categorized due to two “PITS” with very steep entry and exit points, also has bypasses so that all of us could make it through. YES, of course I had to try out the “PITS”! The entry to the first one was indeed STEEP! I inched my way over the edge and found the downward angle increasing sharply, to the point at which I found myself thinking that a mistake here might cause me to flip. After passing the edge, I slid, brakes engaged, all the way down to the bottom. Of course, the steepness was probably not nearly as bad as it seemed from the driver’s seat, but in a word- it was scary. The climb out was only marginally less steep with the nose of my Jeep rising ever skyward until I suddenly crested the top and was out. The second pit was not as bad, and all three vehicles accepted the challenge in quick order. Emerging from this pit, we found ourselves on Rabbit Run.

Almost immediately, Rabbit Run headed downhill for close to 200 yards, emerging into a muddied clearing. The descent took us over a lot of loose rock and several nice large rocks. We had no problem getting to the clearing and had begun to think that Rabbit Run was going to be a cakewalk. Driving to the other side of the clearing however, proved to be an eye opener.

Rabbit Run disappeared into the forest, entering an area of large boulders and rocks. This was the landscape for the next 3 tenths of a mile, as the trail wound its way toward more familiar ground over which Mike and I had traveled the previous trip. Traversing this short distance occupied most of the remainder of the morning and afternoon.

Keith, with his S10 and its longer wheelbase had more difficulty than Mike or I, although both he and Mike ended up high centered more than once. Although we found numerous “PHOTO OPS” on this part of our 4x4ing, we managed to use up a large part of the repertoire from our bag of tricks in getting to safer, gentler ground. We resorted to using rocks, high lift jack, come-along, straps, winch, and just plain hard labor in getting everyone through. We pitched in as needed, but I think Mike needs to be commended for his rock toting efforts.

Toward the end of Rabbit Run, we were forced to use up valuable time in walking several intersecting trails in an attempt to figure out which one would lead us in the right direction; again no helpful trail markers. We finally emerged from the forest onto the 2WD trail, a blue2, but easier traveling than Rabbit Run had been. This led directly to 2WD Easy, a green2 trail which we followed until it lead us to the Cabin Spring trail, also green2. We ended up at the spring, a place where large amounts of water emerge from underground to form a rather pleasant stream. Lunch was in order and we paused by the spring and ate as we watched other 4×4 groups moving around us on nearby trails. Mike and I remarked more than once that someone had been watching over us on our previous trip by getting us lost. Had we found Rabbit Run then, we would have never gotten out of the park by the 6: 00 pm deadline.

Feeling somewhat revitalized after lunch, we decided to head out of the park via the Turtle trail, a green2, which Mike and I had utilized on our previous trip. This took us to a forboding overlook into an area affectionately called Valley of the Dogs and rated at black2. Keith took over lead at this point and we headed to the far west side of the park where Keith found a lake he had visited on a previous trip. Photograph taking was again in order. After a short respite lakeside, we then headed back to the Coal road and our starting point.

Upon getting our vehicles road ready we returned to civilization where we gassed up and parted company with Mike who had “promised” to be home early (LOL).

Keith, Len, and I then headed to a local campground about 10 miles away, where MAFWDA had set up a very nice picnic dinner. Keith tried to pay, but was informed that MAFWDA was footing the bill. With this good news, the three of us proceeded to chow down. Keith also used the time to renew a few old acquaintances.

With full bellies and lifted spirits at the successful completion of a physically demanding day, we parted company, each heading home at our own pace.

Trail report written by Gil Campos. Pictures courtesy of Gil Campos, Keith Holman, and Len Thompson.

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