Wow! What a great weekend. Two days of wheeling in the Catskills, the trails here offered a lot of variety. We encountered mud, rocks, mud, hills, ravines, and yes more mud. The weather was perfect, mid 60’s both days and not a cloud in the sky. Before I get into the run down of what happened during these two days I would like to thank all the folks at OK and in NY for providing us a great place to get off the pavement.
Friday started as a rush home from work and pack all the stuff kind of day. This was my first opportunity to use my new Explorer Sport-Trac to flat-tow my CJ, needless to say it worked great. Departure time was about 6:30. I met Matt at our usual spot and off we went for NY. We rolled into the Best Western about 9:00pm, after checking in we started to prepare our Jeeps for Saturday. Otter arrived right before us and soon after about 5 other Jeeps showed up. After a good B.S. session we all turned in for the night anticipating some good wheeling the next day.
We all met a Mr. Willy’s, a local restaurant that was kind enough to let us use their lot as a home base. After airing down, disconnecting, locking hubs, etc… we had a drivers meeting where Jim laid down the rules and wished us a good day. I was on an intermediate level trail led by Vinnie and Corinna. The intermediate level required 31″ tires, suspension lift, and a locker recommended.
Soon we hit the pavement off to the trail, I was oozing anticipation since I had not been jeepin’ since early August. After a short drive we arrived at the trail-head, a quick shift to 4 low and in we went. Right away we encountered a sloppy goopy muddy trail. This trail was very nice, not too hard but a constant mix of medium sized rocks, mud, and tight quarters. A driver needed to pay attention most all the time to keep from bottoming out or hitting the trees. We soon arrived at a section that was an off-camber down hill descent into a deep stinky mud hole about two feet deep. This led to a nice stretch of a slow rocky stroll through the woods.
Next we arrived at a steep downhill descent that went through a small stream and right back up a steep ascent, this was fun. By this time everyone was settling in and getting more comfortable off the pavement, also the driver personalities started showing up. I was near the front of our group and several times I could hear the roar of a V8 from the back of the pack. Turns out it was Matt with his classic Bronco having some fun after discovering he was not in 4wd.
After a short break we arrived at a tough muddy rocky uphill section followed by a section with large rocks. Next was a steep uphill ascent that the first stuck of the day occurred at. After Matt went up the hill Bryan had his turn, The first try no luck, the section try with a little more go pedal no luck, the third try ended him up somewhat sideways and wedged up almost against a tree. Time for some winching, Bryan unreeled his winch and attached it to a tree saver wrapped around a tree at the top and with the flick if a switch up he went. The next drivers to hit the hill did so with more use of the throttle and many of them provided us with some entertainment.
Immediately following the hill was a tough rocky section that provided a test of the old skid plate. I think this is where I bent my driver’s side shock mount. After watching everyone creep through this we came to a flat area next to a creek where it was time for another important activity, Lunch. Having eaten and B.S.ing we were off again. The group soon encountered a nice hill climb followed by a rocky descent where Keith blew a tire. Kieth unhooked his high-lift jack from the roof of his Cherokee and started jacking. It was a little awkward due to the Cherokee being in a down hill position, but after a few minutes the spare was on and we were on the move.
A fun section that was muddy and filled with large tree roots followed, this section required the use of the bump-and-run technique. We then encountered a steep rocky up ascent, this provided a good challenge to all of us, we all made it though, again you could hear the Bronco reverberating through the woods as he went up this area. After this area the rest of the day was through some small challenging trails and over some whoop-de-do’s. The way out was back tracking part of the trail that led us in, it seemed much more difficult getting out, the trail was tighter and required more backing up. I think that everyone was getting tired by this point and concentrating on what was ahead was getting more difficult. Soon we were out, back on the dirt road that led us into the trail. Everyone got out of their vehicles to strech, unlock hubs, air up, B.S. etc…Then we hit the pavement to go back to our hotel.
Ahhhh, a good dose of wheeling and no busted parts, exactly what the doctor ordered. My thoughts on the road back took me back through the day, remembering sections of trail, watching the other vehicles, and colorful CB conversations. I was practically back to the hotel and my daydreaming was interrupted by a smell that usually equates to dollar signs, the smell of something burning. Very quickly I heard the guys in front of me on the CB, they were yelling at the Bronco and saying he was smoking and telling him to pull over. Turns out it was a burning pinion gear bearing, they dumped some water on the pumpkin and it sizzled. Matt pulled his Bronco into the hotel lot and left for his trailer.
We checked out our vehicles and retired to the room for a small rest before dinner. About 6pm we headed out to Mr. Willy’s for dinner. Dinner was excellent, Mr. Willy’s provided BBQ chicken and ribs, roast beef, salad, and other sides. After dinner Jim gave out t-shirts to drivers that suffered some carnage during the day, each person needing to tell his/her story. Then Jim started picking names out of a hat and giving away stuff like t-shirts, key chains, gift certificates, etc… After that everyone ended the evening mingling and telling stories, exaggerated I’m sure, about the day. TP anyone?
After getting up late and rushing to get everything together we met back at Mr. Willy’s. Today we were being led by Ramon and Tony. With a wave we were on our way and quickly we arrived at Tony’s farm. Matt trailered his Bronco to the farm and we waited while he unloaded it. He figured that the rearend would hold out through the day considering we never go more than 5mph.
We entered the woods and instantly found ourselves a steep downhill ascent followed by a challenging rocky section. Everyone exited their vehicles to watch as Ramon and Tony spotted us through. After that we went through a tight muddy ditch and then came upon a deep water crossing. I noticed that the water was touching the body of my CJ as I went through. Immediately following we encountered another tough rocky section. Matt managed to wedge his CJ in the rocks, so out came a tow strap and with a tug from Bryan we were moving again. This led us to an interesting muddy section followed by a hill climb. The hill was nothing but goopy mud, there was a large rock at the top and a tree on the right. Attempting to steer was futile, the vehicle followed the deep muddy ruts like an amusement park ride on tracks.
After this section we drove for what seemed like an hour, slowly moving through the woods encountering deep muddy ruts, tight trees, and small rocky sections. After a quick stop we came upon a rock ledge, this was the most challenging part all weekend. The ledge had about a 2 foot rise that needed to be overcome. Ramon was first, he hit it and quickly made it over. The next Jeep, a YJ attempted the ledge. After several tries he decided to go around. Next it was my turn, I positioned my Jeep turned on both ARBs and gave it a shot. On the third attempt after some small rock stacking I was successful. Next came Matt, he tried a few times then decided to go around. A TJ suffered some body damage here when the Jeep slid sideways on the ledge onto a tree. The TJ needed to be winched over the obstacle.
Several others made it then Matt hit the ledge with his Bronco. Everyone gathered to watch this. Possibly every tire left the ground at some point when he hit this obstacle. The Bronco lunged over the ledge followed by a cheer from the crowd. Next, Tom attempted it with his 4 Runner. Soon he discovered that his rear driveshaft had gone south. Luckily he had a replacement and after a short delay the 4 runner was running again.
The group moved along, wandering though the woods as we had all weekend, anticipating what could come up next. Mick blew a tire on his Cherokee, the tire separated from the bead. Since Mick did not have a full size spare the rim was fixed and the tire was reseated. The next tough spot was a steep rocky hill. Steve in his bobbed Toyota pickup was the only one who made it. Matt tried it but his carb complained. Tom tried it in his 4 Runner but had no luck.
A little while later Pete noticed things did not seem right with his YJ, after an inspection from the guys it was discovered that a broken front U bolt was the culprit. No one had a replacement, so in a McGyver style action the u-bolt was re-bent to make one side longer and the other side shorter. Who would have thought this would work? It did and it was enough to get the Jeep off the trail.
And like all good things, the weekend ended. We packed up our stuff, aired up, and headed home. This was probably my favorite offroading trip so far. One can only hope this can be done next year. Thanks again OK for a great weekend.