2008 Harlan Ride

June 26-29, 2008

Harlan, KY

By Craig S.

Well John Herr and I headed out about 11:30, we meet up with Shawn Groce outside of Wilkesboro (his younger brother Cody and friend David as passengers) along with a couple of guys form Charlotte (Benji and John) both with CJ's. We took it pretty easy and made a few stops along the way and arrived in Evarts around 7pm. Evarts is the actual town where the Black Mtn trail system is located which is about 15 mins outside of Harlan. Upon arriving at the Lighthouse Rentals and seeing our rental place was a bit....ummmm....disappointing, lets just say it wasn't overly impressive ;-) but luckily the inside didn't match the exterior in our favor. We unloaded the rigs, unpacked our gear and then walked 3mins to the local burger/ice cream joint to grab dinner. After dinner Benji and John ran into Harlan to grab some stuff at WallyWorld while Shawn and John H decided to make a night run. Shawn couldn't get his lights to work but of course that didn't stop him so with me riding shotgun with John we hit Railbed and Lower rock garden in the dark and it was a blast.

The first trail we hit was called Railbed which we had run in the dark the night before but didn't try the optional obstacle called the waterfall, now in the daylight Shawn attempted it and after a few attempts flopped onto his driver side. John H gave it a try but was also denied and the rest of us opted out so we ran the rest of rail bed which is a nice uphill rocky trail uneventfully. We then headed to the Lower Rock Garden, this is a nice uphill rock garden with the main gravel road running right up along it. We all played in it for awhile making steady progress until at one wide part both Shawn and John H took the hard right difficult side, Shawn had to use some throttle but made it eventually, John was almost through it when he snapped his Chromo front passenger axle shaft. I made my way out of the garden and winched John out onto the gravel road. Since we were only 10mins from the house we all headed back to eat lunch and swap out John's front shaft. After repairs were made we headed back out and did some trail riding until we got to Crawfords Cry trail, this is a step rocky climb with a very large and muddy ledge exit. We all basically got to the top but nobody could make the ledge out and all had to winch. At this point we called it a day and headed to the house where we piled into a couple of rigs and drove out to the Pizza Hut in Harlan for Dinner. During dinner Shawn attempted to find a date for his 17yr old brother from any of the 8 girls working but to no avail, although his friend David did leave with some digits, that was a very entertaining dinner!!!

We headed out towards Mason Jar trail which is an easy but long drive up the main gravel rode with some nice scenery along the way and a playground area near the top. Mason Jar is a fun trail and of course Shawn and John H once again tried an optional difficult line to the far right and in front of a crowd that had gathered put on a show and both made it. After Mason Jar we headed over to Lions Den to take a look and like most of the trails you can opt to run it or take the bypass around it. Lions den is a short tight trail consisting of very large rock outcroppings, after walking it first only Shawn, John H and I opted to run it. All three of us made it although I used every bit of armor I had and needed a rock stacked here and there but this was the highlight of the weekend for me. Lastly we hit the Upper rock Garden which again runs right along the main gravel road so you can jump in and or out of the garden at your choosing. Five minutes after getting there we had 3 of the 5 rigs stuck and needing extraction. John H was in the worst spot and after breaking his front driveshaft joint we had to winch his Toy 5ft straight up using a tree to extract him. Fast forward 30 mins and once again John H somehow wedged his Toy into another spot needing yet another vertical pull to extract him, then 10ft from getting onto the gravel road he broke another u-joint but was able to drive back to the house in 2 wheel drive. We once again headed to Harlan for Dinner at the western Sizzling and once again Shawn struck out for his brother but again it was an entertaining dinner.

We all packed up, loaded up and headed home around noon, the ride home was uneventful aside from the heavy rain that seemed to follow us the whole way which slowed our progress a bit but on the plus side gave our vehicles a nice wash off.

Overall I really liked the trail system and the fact that it's free and just about every trail is accessible from the main gravel road you can choose what obstacles or trails you want to run or bypass and pretty much still stay in a group. The town of Evarts is a bit lacking as there's only the one small burger joint to eat, one gas station, and the only accommodations are not the best (they are really cheap though) but the people we meet we very friendly. Shawn mentioned we only saw about 25% of the place so this is a place I will be going back to for awhile and I think we should keep on the calendar every year.

By John H.

Thursday 6/26
We arrive at the Lighthouse rental at 7p unload and grab some dinner at the Dairy Hut. After dinner, Shawn Craig and I hit the trails for a little night wheeling. We rode Rail Bed, and lower rock garden, and called it a night after that.

Friday 6/27
Back to Rail Bed, and to lower rock garden with the whole group this time. At the optional entrance of Rail bed, Shawn puts his Toyota on its side, and I was completely denied at the same spot. About 3/4 through the lower rock garden, and I break a hub and an outer axle shaft. We limp back to the "cabin" to repair my toy, and grab some lunch. We head back to the trails, and head for Crawford Cry, a nice rocky hill climb, but the exit was impossible, The other John broke a hub, and everyone had to winch out the last 20 ft. By this time its getting late, so we call it a night. We clean up and go into Harlan to Pizza Hut, and then wall mart for some supplies.

Saturday 6/28
First on the list is a trail called Mason Jar, its starts at the top of one of the mountains, and the view is amazing. Next we head to Lions den, After walking the trail, Shawn, and I head in. The trail is like a little canyon your driving between these huge boulders once you drop in your committed. Once Shawn, and I finish, we convince Craig that he should try it. To my knowledge, Craig is the only TJ on 35's that has been on this trail, let alone making it unassisted. On the easy down the mountain we stop at the upper rock garden, and play for a while. Shawn gets stuck in the section called can opener, and I get stuck in one of the entrances. I was pinned between two trees, one at the front and another at the passenger door, and a rock had wedged itself behind my front axle. The only way out was up, so we winched the toy up and pulled the rock out, slap a new u-joint in and I drive out. We decide to play some more, Craig, and Benji did all of the rock garden except can opener. I finished the trail, made it through can opener, and again got stuck near the exit. Another winch session, and I'm free, till the exit were I break another u-joint (the one we just replaced).

Head back.

2 hubs
1 axle shaft
2 U-joints
misc body damage
1 wiper blade