Oak Ridge, VA Trail Report

July 24-25 2010


1st Annual Wheeling for Hope charity event, Oak Ridge Estates, Nelson County VA, July 24-25 2010 CNC 4x4 attendees: Dave Henson, Doug Johnson, Galen Koch, Jack Losco Sr., Jack Losco Jr., Mike Rayos
July 24-25 2010
     One word to sum up this event, HOT!!!! Hot as in weather, overheating engines, hot camping, not to mention hot trail riding. Oak Ridge Estates is a privately owned property(the Holland family) that was formerly home to Camp Jeep East. It is host to 4 to 6 events a year and only VA4WD events at that. There are approximately 47 miles of trails there, easy accessed by stock rigs but with plenty of optional lines and hard obstacles. Tight, twisty, steep and numerous describes the trail riding!
     Friday July 23. Was able to to get out of work early(early for me that is) and was on the road by 5pm. 147N to 70W to 86 then 29 into Va. Easy and scenic road tripping, really nice drive. Stopped at a Dollar General for supplies, rode by plenty of beef farms. Met up with Doug and Dave at the staging area for the event and they led the way to the campground. I appreciate you waiting guys since it was dark and I am sure I would have been lost! Campground turns out to be the hub of all the trails since you access pretty much all the trails from there. Doug had offered room in his motor home and being the youngest I got to sleep in the bunk above the cab. Turns out the ceiling to bed height is the same as my one man tent"bodybag" so I was very comfortable. Having a/c and being able to shower at night was a bonus. Unpacked, got jeep ready for Saturday, made lunch and crashed ready for Sat.
      Saturday July 24 Up real early since we have to be at staging area by 8am. Met up with Galen who as a guide has to be a the staging area by 7am. He asks the 3 of us, Doug, Dave, and myself if we can give rides to his niece, nephew and wife for at least 1/2 a day. No problem there and we even get to the front of the group line. Meet up with Grandpa Ted, his son Kenny and grandson Kyle. I met Ted and Kyle in May at the Rausch Creek event. Ted's experience was very valuable as he got my junk off the trail and helped with the repair. He drives an early YJ(sounds funny for me to write that) with the 4.2L, flexy OME lift, rear ARB and 31 inch Boggers. He spends much of the year towing the jeep behind a motor home traveling across the country(sounds idyllic eh?). Our group was close to 20 rigs, with three or four of those being Land Rover/Range Rover guys. More on them later. Driver's meeting at 8am with a warning to how hot it is going to be(I vastly underestimated how much water I would need), a blessing and prayer from a local chaplain, and on the trail we were my 830am..
We are on a long loop trail(I don't really have any names) that passes by a huge pumpkin/corn field that enters the woods downhill. There were three lines to choose from, easy, med, and hard but since it is a loop it means we will be climbing these on the way out. No problems to report on the trail, just a good intro to what we would be doing this weekend. Creek crossings, steep climbs, and very, very narrow. If you were concerned about not getting any pinstriping well too bad. On the way up and out I followed Doug and Dave up the med way and Jack chose the hard line. to me it looked kind of sketchy with the bottom two ledges and then a pair of ridge type rocks halfway up. Jack climbs the double whammy no problem then gets to the ridges. One has to put the drivers side front tire on one rock while the passenger side rear has to climb at the same time all the while avoiding a large tree on the right. Did I mention it was narrow too with lots of loose dirt? Jack gets up on the rocks but lets off the throttle too soon and slides right. Gets up again and slides left. Gets hung on his rear diff and left rear control arm. Bounces around a bit but does the climb with heavy throttle to many cheers from us but there is a telltale popping noise from his rear axle. He drives all the way up to the top with no issue and parks next to the pumpkin field. Next guy to try the hard line was a TJ on 35's still running a Dana 35. Not a Super 35, but the stock 35. He gets bouncing all around the ledges at the bottom and breaks the drivers side rear of course! Him and his group we well prepared though as they all had spares and a tool that presses against the broken side tire, attaches to the frame and has 2 rollers that let the tire spin. He winches to the top and his group repairs while we eat lunch. While eating my PBJ, pringles from a can, and guzzling a root beer I wander around to check out the group's rigs. well the landy guys have been all day with the windows up and a/c on(no joke). I watch as one of the guys pulls a San Pellegrino from an ARB fridge, then lays out a sandwich on a cutting board and spreads Grey Poupon on it! I look at my PBJ and laugh. Turns out those guys landy guys will not return for Sunday because as they told Galen, "It was too hot."!!!!
     Dana 35 repair is finished and we make the long climb out of the woods with Doug in front of me carrying Galen's wife Sandra. We get a little separated and as Jack and I come around a corner to another climb Doug is stalled out on the hill. He keeps firing up his 304 but can't keep it running. Jack is behind me popping and groaning and every time we turn his rear is locked up. Turns out Doug is out of gas! His gas gauge in his CJ doesn't work anymore, which is about right for a cj. His temp gauge works but not his fuel gauge. My fuel gauge works but not my temp gauge. He had simply gotten distracted at the gas station while filling his motor home( a solid 6 mph getting here) answering questions and forgot to fill his cj up. We roll him backwards down the hill and into the woods to retrieve later. He then jumped in Jack's TJ to found out what the noise is coming from underneath as we go back to camp. A Yj guy offers his 5 gallon gas can to Doug which is back at camp at his RV. So Doug, Jack, Sandra, the kids and myself go back to camp while Galen takes the rest of the group on another trail while we plan to meet him at the "Corner Market" gas station in Shipman(don't blink or you'll miss it) when they get off the trail. While setting up Jack for a possible repair, I drive Doug and the gas can back to his jeep back in the woods. I turn around so as to back down the hill in case I have to strap Doug out while he fills up and he literally comes running out of the woods 30 sec later! Turns out that when he backed into the woods to get off the trail he also backed into a beehive! He got about a gallon in the tank we make a "beeline" out of there! We go back to camp to drop off the can and pick up Sandra as the kids parents have come to pick them up and off we go to the Corner Market in Shipman to fill up on gas and drinks. It was hot!!! Doug put exactly 13.9 gallons into a 15 gallon tank so lucky for us the Yj guy had that can! I'm not sure as this point what happened with Galen's group because we weren't with them but we ended waiting at the station for like 2 hours! You'll have to ask Dave Henson what happened. We finally get the call to meet with the group and follow them back to camp where we cut through to another steep, narrow chute of a trail. It goes up and down and snakes all over the woods with a couple of small rock gardens thrown in for good measure. We come down another hill and then have to make a hairpin turn back up a backside of Daniel looking area. Hard line to the left, med in the middle and easy to the right. There is a pic of blue TJ spinning all tires on the obstacle. She ended winching to another TJ in front of her and as soon the winch anchor drove off she bounced back down again into the obstacle. Doug drives up the easy line and becomes the winch anchor. I take the med. line thanks to encouragement from Dave and get up the ledge on the 2nd try! We watch the only XJ in our group take the hard line and floors it going up with a little bouncing and smoke. The trail came out of the woods at an old chapel which was the family chapel and graveyard. You don't see that on a trail everyday. Back to camp around 445pm and Doug and I decide to drive around the property roads to possibly see the mansion, carriage house, etc. since dinner wasn't until 6 with the raffle to follow. Road to the mansion is closed since it is under repair but we do get to check out the carriage house. I had heard the big field across from the carriage house was where all the vendor stuff and lifestyle activities for Camp Jeep took place. I had a difficult time imagining 3,000+ jeeps being there but I believe it nonetheless..
Back at camp for dinner which was pork sandwiches(very tasty), with excellent coleslaw and baked beans + cold drinks. Perfect after a very hot day wheeling! Raffle sponsors included Pepsi, 4wd hardware, U4WDA, Warn, etc. I came away with a sweet jeep hat, a D-ring, and Currie tire deflator. Jack won two IronMan 2 tshirts! Hope he is a fan of those movies! Our emcee had asked us to yell out a redneck "WooHoo!" after you won something. As the raffle went on and folks got more hydrated(liquid courage) the "woohoos" got louder and longer. Then winners were encouraged to cartwheel as well which became very amusing and entertaining. The rest of the weekend on the trail you could hear the occasional "woohoo!" after clearing an obstacle.
     Jack's damage to his TJ was thought to be the pinion gear, then the ring gear since there was soo much metal debris in his diff cover. Ended up being his rear Rubi D44 locker! Sound familiar anybody? Jack Sr. gave evrybody a good laugh when he found a small maglite in the skidplate of Jack Jr.'s Rubi! He thought it was lost months ago and it still worked. He did lose a pinion strap bolt in the grass of course but I had a spare strap and bolt in my stash.
Showered and crashed after working on the air duct of a 4 cyl YJ and explaining to the owner how change the broken driver's side motor mount.
    Sunday July 25 Up early again and back at the staging area by 8am. Landy guys were nowhere to be found. Emcee passes out some awards like the "Iron Butt" award for the furthest traveled(was from Florida) and the "Hard Luck" award to Jack Losco for not being able to repair his carnage. Emcee throws out some more swag like coffee mugs, t-shirts, zipper lube and the like. Galen mentions to our group that Steve from the LostJeepers club, owner of a very cool CJ10A has a used Rubi 44 air locker sitting on the bench at his shop 30 min. south of where we are. Arrangements are made with Dave Henson who hustles back to the campground to find Jack so he can leave his jeep with the keys in it for Steve to pick up at the end of the day and to give him his award. Talk about a change of fortune!

 On the trail again by 830am and Galen leads us down Wilson Rd. then across a very cool creek crossing with a hillclimb out of the water. I bet folks drive by that every day and don't realize there is a sweet obstacle right there. I didn't get any pics of the creek crossing but did get some shots from the bottom of the next hill climb. More ledges, twisties with steeps thrown in for variety. This trail was fun!!! The trail seemed to climb forever, weaving its way through the trees with the occasional rock garden/obstacle. This was certainly my kind of wheeling! I wish I had more pics but I was too busy driving to stop! Also drove a short loop on the downhill with yet another steep climb followed by some off camber to the left, then to the right. My back and neck were sore after that one. It was here also that Dave's low fuel warning light went on! He had about three gallons left in the tank for the rest of the morning so he skipped a bunch of obstacles. When are you guys ever going to learn? He tells me that up ahead is the infamous "CJ5 Hill" that follows another creek crossing. I ask why the name and he replied that the first time it was attempted a CJ 5 rolled there. Great. Just what a CJ5 owner wants to hear! I watch a number of the TJ's in our group attempt this obstacle since Doug and I were at the very back and they were a-bouncing! Lots of tires sqeaking, left and right, back and forth, back down and try it again. Needless to say it got me pretty nervous watching. I didn't get to watch Doug because I had to run all the way back to my jeep but by the time I got there everybody was lined up out of their jeeps at the top of the climb waiting to see what this little CJ could do. Well I am not ashamed to admit that I absolutely walked it! One try and I was up. When I crested the top I got a "What the hell?" from Kenny. I replied"What ledge? What climb?" with a smirk. Exiting that trail there was lots of mud and more off camber stuff. On to the gravel road and then through another unlocked gate to our lunch stop. Dave went the other way on the gravel to the gas station while we said bye to Grandpa Ted and posse and also to our tailgunner who was having some computer problems. When Dave rejoins us he is now the tailgunner and his coolant overflow bottle is well, overflowing. Not much but we are going to have to watch it. Once back moving we have more steep downhill followed by uphill and twisties then into a creek. We line up to give the creek and it's obstacles a try. I move down 20 feet and then.....nothing. CJ won't start. Check fuel, tank is full, check air filter, good, check spark, good as well. go back to fuel and remove line in front fuel filter then crank engine... nothing. No fuel in carb, nor coming out of hard fuel line. Hmmm.... back to fuel pump. It is as hot as hot can be! Fellow helping us diagnose thinks it's vapor lock so he fills 2 old water bottles with creek water and dumps them on the fuel pump. Doug holds the hard fuel line while I crank the engine and fuel shoots right out! Wooohooo! Reattach line and all is good! I'm going to have remember that for the future as that has never happened to me before. Doug is in front of me and he attempts the bonus obstacle line. Slides down it fine then we hear the distinctive sound of Swamper tire rubbing the roll cage frame tie in! Pics show rear shackle is lying flat against the frame. We grab a pry bar and rock the jeep as Galen tries to free the shackle. Then we hi lift that side of the jeep so the axle can drop down and notice the spring hanger has ripped from the frame! Not good! YJ guy from before offers up his ratchet strap and we wrap the hanger tight against the frame. Doug drives it out carefully with no problems and even gets in on the trailer. Excellent trail day and even learned something new.

All in all Oak Ridge rules!!! If you ever get a chance to attend a wheeling event there you won't be disappointed. We wheeled solid for 2 days and maybe saw half the park! Mike Rayos