Well that was a pretty good run, I didn’t know there was good wheeling in Devil’s Den, I’m ready to go back again. Going to need lower gears in the CJ though for sure or a locker or two in the ZJ.
The first trail we ran just up a little ways from the horse drop-off was pretty easy, couple good little rocks to climb over, interesting. We had a bone stock Izusu Amigo w/ street tires w/ us. He did pretty good, got up and over some pretty good spots, not bad at all. It was a good trail to start the day and enjoy ourselves.
The Christian Crawlers are a great group of people, if you get the chance you really need to go wheel w/ them. One of them road w/ me in the CJ, apparently his rig isn’t quite finished yet. Nice guy, seemed to know everyone there, seem him before, dangit.. Sorry I’m terrible w/ names!!
Bogey had Channel 5 down there and met us for lunch at the dam and interviewed a couple folks about Christian Crawlers and I think maybe Mark talked to them about Rock Crawlers(?). So I notice people near me scurry away at one point. While I was viciously stuffing a tuna salad sandwich and some Doritos down my throat I look over to find a news camera peering over Mark’s shoulder at me. Freakin sweet, I’m going to be on TV cramming my gullet!! Awesome. I quickly scuttled off in shame. Going to have to make sure my folks’ TV goes on the blink when they air it.
Second trail was on our way past the cave shelter/house which itself was pretty cool. Everyone got lots of pics, apparently around 1905 somone used mud mortar and rocks to wall in one section of a detented bluff to make sort of a small home/shelter. Complete w/ rock couch and sink!
Then it got a little interesting. As we wound our way around to Professor’s, getting excited about some harder wheeling, two vehicles broke trying to make the final hill just before the hard stuff. It was all YJs, minus my CJ and one guy w/ a very well built TJ. Anyway, first to break was a white YJ that made a pretzel out of his drag link. A few moments, come-a-long, and cheapy Hi-Lift handle later we were able to strap him rest of the way up the hill. Time for some DOM and hiem joints!
BTW, deep fallen leaves make for a VERY slippery hill climb. Plus they like to hide ankle-twisting rocks and boulders. Not to be a big weenie, but it was tough. Lots of mud everywhere. Fortunately, I have speakers designed for boats that I got from Rock The Boat Audio. They can handle the mud, water, rain, splashing and whatever else while I listen to my tunes.
Second guy in a shiny red and black YJ (Dustin?) was trying to surmount the first ledge to get up to the hill where the first guy mangled his steering. It’s a steep, sharp ledge w/ a flat rock and slippery tree root at the top. After everyeone clawed and grappled their way over they created a nice little ramp to pop front tires up in the air over. Did I mention the leaves where slick? Once they’d get the front wheels over the top of it both axles were back in deep leaves again, spinning and clawing to get a bite. About the second or third time he popped a good wheelie trying to get up it w/ heavy throttle the front wheels came down w/ a loud “POP..” I called over the CB they might have a look at it once it gets up the hill. “Nah it’s driving fine” said the driver; okay not trying to scare you but… The valiant pilot steps on the gas and gets up the ledge, only to find the front end now making very audible crunchy, breaky, axle-snapped noises as he tries to claw his way up. Okay, so maybe that axle shaft is now in several pieces. Shoot. Luckily everyone has YJs and Mark had a spare in the truck. We get him over to the side to lick his wounds and celebrate his first broke axle. He took it in stride, once again showing they’re all good folks. We all made sure to pat him on the back and congratulate his first of hopefully not-so-many breaks on the trail.
My turn.. Carburaters–especially Edlebrock–don’t like to be stood on end. My CJ-5 had just the perfect wheelbase that would hook the front tires over the top of this little obstacle and immediately flood out and die. Three tries yielded identical results. By then I think I had learned just how much throttle I would barely need to keep it running and get over the rock and tree root.
Yeah, so here goes, I gouge on it just at the right spot to keep the fan turning and lights on thinking I got it when the front end goes straight up–and stays there. Apparently I’d uncovered the perfect balancing spot on the back tires (or bumper?) to point the Jeep straight in the air. For about a good three long seconds (felt like three years) my mind raced through the idiot’s guide to wheeling, “What do I do here, what do I dooo herrrre… Oh yeah, CLUTCH!!!” So I mash the left-hand pedal and the front end comes back down out of orbit and hits the ground w/ a crash. Thank goodness, I was getting tired of looking along the tall trees into the sky like I was sighting a rifle. Engine no longer spinning, I slide backwards nearly into a washout sideways, inviting further disaster as I would land driver-side door up. As I tried to get it started again to fish myself out of near catastrophy #2 I think I hear everyone up top cheering and clapping. Thanks, and now for my next trick.. Ended up having to winch out of a tree and a hard spot and I managed to see-saw my way b/t two trees, nearly slipping off sideways into a deep, downhill washout. Did I mention the leaves made it very difficult? The Warn pivoted me sideways enough to get turned around and heading toward level ground. Thanks to the two guys who ran the winch cable while I nervously held both feet on the brake pedal hoping the washout monster wouldn’t jump out and get me.
As people applauded my efforts I can’t help but wonder how many times I’ve heard, “Man, you put on a good show!” Yeah, but I’m just trying to get up the hill. No autographs please.
It’s late in the afternoon, two vehicles broke, one nearly flipped over backwards, it’s time to go home. So we all head back, relieve one YJ of it’s broken axle, air up tires, regail each other w/ how we REALLY should have gone up that hill, and lament how some of us don’t have low gears and fuel injection. Or a lick of sense when you try 15 times and it still doesn’t work, just apply more throttle. Maybe I just need to put two more axles on top of my Jeep and mount my seat inside a gyroscope.
Ya’ll need to come out there, it’s pretty good. And if you find a scratched up pair of silver and blue Okley’s around the dam, they’re mine.
1996 ZJ w/ smelly exhaust.
1975 CJ-5 w/ smellier exhaust.
1947 Willys w/ smell of old oak tree.