West Virginia Trail Report

July 2-5 2009


Written by: Mike Ratos

CNC attendees; Carl "Bad Luck" Barclay and Denise, Steve "What was that noise?"Fischer, John "Iron Chef" Herr, Randal "One Try" Holmes and Megan, Mike "The Ambassador" Rayos, Scott "it's about the push, not the pull" and Blair Roberts, Craig "The Stomach" Scibetta, and Jeff and Shannon "Winner, winner, chicken dinner" White + Logan and Sylar. 

Thursday July 2
     The group decided to meet at the Flying J travel center at exit 150 on I-40 agreeing to leave at 10 am. I arrived late of course due to yet another doggie emergency but we left in orderly fashion. Carl and Denise had left the triangle area at 8am to arrive early and stake out the campground area for us. Thanks a bunch Carl! No issues as far as driving goes, we took turns taking the lead and all was fine until we got to the entrance ramp to Highway 52 North. I had warned over the CB that the ramp was a short quick right turn and those trailering need to watch it(pretty much everybody but me was trailering). Jeff made it interesting but cutting it extremely close and slamming on the brakes. I really thought you had missed the exit Jeff!
     Stopped for a lunch break in Fancy Gap, VA at "The Country Convenience Store" where we absolutely overwhelmed the lunch counter folks with the size of our order. But to their credit, excellent burgers, fires and onion rings. I had forgotten how much food Craig Scibetta could put away and would be continuously amazed the rest of the weekend.  
      Made it to the new Walmart Supercenter in Fayetteville Wva, around 3:30 pm or so to stock up on weekend essentials. Remember what I said about Craig's hunger pains, I think Walmart was happy and the checkout girl even dissed John Herr and Steve Fischer. The weather was fairly cool which made the drive pleasant and setting up camp a breeze without having to break a sweat. Carl had marked out a good level area for us with room to set up the various canopies, tents and trailer setups. I got made fun of course for my single person Eureka"I found it!" Solitaire backpacking tent. At eight feet long and 2.8 feet wide it got called everything from a body bag to a condom to comments about my having "tent envy". Well, when you are traveling in an old CJ5 every little bit of space counts! It was also at camp that Carl displayed his "pockets with shorts" ensemble. If you can imagine these shorts were shorter than 80's era tennis shorts! He got cracked on good for his fashion sense. John showed me how to make a Hobo Pie pizza, and a Hobo Pie Smore, they were both delicious! Did you know there is a "fart app" for your I-phone? The things you learn in camp! Slept like a rock BTW in anticipation for the next day's wheeling.
Friday July 3
     Check in and trail sign up was handled at the Mountaineer Off Road pop-up trailer. This is a deluxe offroad popup with a rack for supplies and an ATV. Sleeping room for 6 with a bathroom and outdoor shower this trailer is as sweet as Craig's but with room for 35's! We decided to stay together as a group for the first day and then split up for the second day as the bigger jeeps/bronco would play on some harder stuff. I signed us up for Little Sister followed by some creek playing. Drove the 15 miles or so from camp to trailhead and pulled into the staging area. As Scott would comment, "This is a cluster!" About 75 vehicles, tow rigs and trailers, plus various ATV's were there waiting to stagger their starts. When we rode up the trail we had no drama at first and the temps and weather were beautiful. Made it through the first creek crossing and gully then up the first rocky hillclimb with me following Carl Barclay and Craig following me. I gave it a good go and near the top of the climb was just too much for my rear locked CJ5 shod with 31's. Too slick and too rocky I called for Carl to pull my cable. It was so slick I couldn't get out of the jeep without it sliding backward. I had to stand on the brakes! Carl hooked me, handed me the controller and nothing... Replug the controller, shake it a few times, make sure the winch clutch is engaged and nothing... Crap!!!! Really crap!!!! At the bottom of the hill there is a flat spot that has just enough room to park and let other rigs go by. This is the same climb that in '05 that I broke my rear driveshaft on my YJ and banged my way backwards down the hill. I pull into the spot and Craig comes over to help me. We check all the connections, battery, use my test light to check the circuits, even plug in his controller, and again nothing. I had brought spare solenoids as those have crapped out on me before and we were ready to try those when Craig noticed a loose wire dangling. It turned out to be the ground wire for the remote box! Yes it was really that simple. For those of you that are winch equipped, check your grounds!!! It worked in my garage before I left but all that driving must shook loose the screw grounding that wire.  Up the hill we go again almost past the winch spot where Craig says "Mike you gotta back down again, there are four buggies coming at us". Crap!!! Back down the hill again, we let the tube buggies fix their flat and pass us. To kill time I talk with Tom Knopp from C.O.R.E. and I mention how his CJ5(stretched to 100", caged, locked, linked, on 38's, named Tarantula) is what mine wants to be. He says that he misses the days when his CJ5 was like mine(stock on 31's with a rear locker, named CJ Sita). And yes Steve I can strike up a conversation with just about anybody! After the buggies pass we proceeded up the hill with me having to winch from that exact same spot. I told Craig there is at least one more rough spot I am sure we'll have to winch my junk over so he should not get too far ahead. We got to that particular hill and I gave a real aggressive try but to no avail. He suggests towstrapping me and away we went. We completed the rest of that nasty climb with me at the end of his strap doing my best to both not run over the strap nor let it get to full extension. An exciting ride up the hill indeed! We went down the mountain on the logging road trying to radio the rest of our group who were long gone. We finally caught up with them eating lunch at the entrance to Bowl Creek(my favorite creek) and I decided to have Craig prerun the creek for us. It was a blast not counting the very steep re-entry, kind of made you feel like the back end of your jeep wanted to pass the front end. We then had the rest the group play in the creek as well, led by our trail guide David, who insisted we go by his screen name, "Hillbilly". To be honest, I think we all had a hard time with that one. I went through the creek with no problem, had to adjust the line a couple of times because of my tire size and had some water come through my floorboards but other than that pretty smooth wheeling, until I exited the creek that is. We were all out Bowl Creek and standing around talking when my CJ sputtered and died. Tried to start up again, got it going, then it died again. Hmmmm... Check the distributor to see if got wet, nope it was dry as a bone. Early Bronco Greg checks my #1 spark plug wire to see if I have spark, seems okay, starts up when I keep gas pedal all the way to the floor, then it dies again. Greg grabs a hammer to tap on the side of the carb and it starts and runs, and idles fine. Seems that my float was sticking to the bowl of the carb, and all that crawling wasn't helping. I'm going to have to watch that the rest of the day. We move on to another creek where I elect to ride with Craig instead of driving because of my carb. The creek is deep, steep and a lot of fun! Everything is going well until Carl "Bad Luck" Barclay starts to climb a ledge, gets three tires up on it and then a big SNAP! His right rear tire was little undercut and snaps the axle good and loud. We got it on video because I was holding Craig's camera. We tow him out of the creek and got him situated on the access road safely with Craig's jeep strapped to his Bronco for safety. I backed up Craig's jeep to let Scott put on the strap to Carl's Bronco. However I didn't realize that Scott had doubled up the strap, I thought it was at the full 20 ft. length and almost pulled the Bronco off of the jack! If it wasn't for John and Scott yelling a bad situation could have turned out worse. Carl of course is carrying everything else in his CEB but an axleshaft so I run down the road to find Early Bronco Greg who's with the other group while repeating in my head,"'77 big bearing short side shaft, '77 big bearing short side shaft".  Of course when I find Greg I say "77 bearing big side short shaft" and he says "No, but I have a 'big bearing short side and long side shaft for a '77. Will that work?" I grab the short side and a hi lift handle to pry with and run back to our group. If you ever want to combine a workout with 4 wheeling carry those items while running! While Carl is whanging away at his axle with no luck, Steve in the Red Hot buggy is coming up the creek. Long story short his front sprung over axle has so much uptravel that his hydraulic ram is hitting his harmonic balancer, shredding the serpentine belt. He has to get winched out of the creek and we leave the trail system together to find an Advance Auto Parts in Summersville. I led the way out of the winding access road stopping often to let Steve and John investigate what noises were coming from the engine. We would stop, put the hood up and cut off the shredded pieces of the belt since they were hitting the alternator, or pulleys, then start off again slowly. Finally, we made it back to the trailer so I could air up and off to the Advance store. My carb was glugging again but at least I know what the problem was. I called my buddy Don(former CNC member and the guy who installed my carb) and he walked me through some MC2100 carb diagnosis. The bowl is clean and all the springs are there, all the vacuum hoses are hooked up, and John points out how much play the float has. It moved like 2mm left and right, enough for the float to rub against the bowl. Luckily Steve was carrying a hardware kit with bolts, nut, washers and the like. He found a washer small enough to use a spacer on my float that kept it from rubbing the bowl. It worked like a champ the rest of the weekend! Thanks again John and Steve. We celebrated that small victory by eating blizzards at the local Dairy Queen. Back to camp for the dinner of ribs, pork BBQ, slaw, etc. and also to help Carl remove the broken axleshaft. Thanks to Jeff White who came all the way back to camp to get his tow rig and trailer and all the way back to the trailhead to get Carl. Carl was having thoughts of upgrading to 31 spline axles, 4.56's and a Detroit. Watched a great firework display and played some pump, pump, pass, which is a marshmallow pump gun drinking game while listening to the Mountaineer Offroad guys play guitar, bass and banjo around their campfire(I kid you not, those guys are good!).
Saturday July 4
     Up early to eat the provided breakfast of biscuits, gravy, bacon, eggs, and coffee. Delicious! I sign our group up for the Cracker trail, followed by the Waterfall trail and creeks. I sign me up for the Spider Ridge trail which is an easy 2 out of 5. Weather could not have been any better with 70 degrees and sunny. There was no one that wanted to ride Spider Ridge(at least at first) so I killed time at the camp by playing soccer with some of the MOR kids and chatting with Emily, Andy and Steve(also from MOR). Finally I left camp around 10:30 am and drove down to the town of Gauley Bridge to check out the Bridal Falls park. The water level was a little low but the falls were still spectacular. Then I drove up to Anstead near the unincorporated town of Chimney Falls to check out a country store that was closed the last time I was here. Check out the pics to see those sites! I picked a very cool coal miner sculpted out of Wva coal and then I drove down the mountain to the trailhead, arriving there around lunchtime. I happened to catch up with the group I rode with last year(mostly from Ohio) as they were coming off the Little Sister trail and getting on Left Fork creek. Perfect timing! My carb is working great and we get through the creek with a little drama and tire spinning and some great line picking. That was fun! Sure enough as we exit our trail guide Derek says we are going to Spider Ridge to finish out the day. I love this trail as it is really scenic, pretty easy with some challenging muddy spots thrown in for good measure followed by a great mountain top view overlooking the New River and Peters Creek. Near the top our guide stopped suddenly and radioed that there was a ratlesnake blocking the trail. Needless to say he was not happy! When the snake finally moved to the side we decided to drive by him really fast. He only tried to strike the first jeep, I guess he figured that were weren't worth it?! After some pics we went down the mountain back to the access road alongside the creeks and I caught up with a local group that was going to play on the Waterfall trail. Adam(guitarist for the Johnny Staacks bluegrass band) in the red '53 Willys CJ3B talked me into following him. It didn't take much talking into for me to go with him. In this group were about 6 TJ's all sporting 35's, then me and Adam on old CJ's with 31's. Needless to say I was nervous, especially as it was around 4:30 pm and I didn't want to hold everybody up. Up the bypass and back down into the creek I am proud to say my CJ5 did well! We had to stack rocks in one spot and had to winch around the sharp left uphill exit around the tree(thanks Craig for the ground wire tip) and off the trail to some cheers and some well dones! Adam, the wheeling veteran of the group also had to winch around the tree as well but had no problems. Leaving the trail system around 6 pm or so, airing up it started to rain. Lightly at first then an absolute deluge. This would haunt us until the next day, heavy rain and some thunder as well. Just like last year. At the raffle our group won some stuff, like John winning some ratchet straps, Scott winning a Jegs hat and Randal and I winning some money, $20 total. No major stuff though. Back at the tent Scott suggests to move my tent under the canopy which proved to be a good move as the rain didn't let up at all and I'm sure I would have been wet! Everybody was pretty tired especially after John Herr's dinner of BBQ and beans and John fell asleep sitting upright in his camp chair so we decided to call it an early night. The rare black bear can really cook! After a much needed shower I caught up with my old friend Eric Ruggles who is an engineer with Chrysler Jeep. We talked about favorite jeeps, rides, drivetrains and such and he revealed to me that there will be a new engine to replace the 3.7L in the JK's. It will be a 3.6L, 280 hp, and maybe 300 ft.lbs of torque, and better gas mileage then the 3.7L. It will make it debut in the new Grand Cherokee and then probably in the JK for 2011(unless Chrysler goes bankrupt). You may have heard it here first!
Sunday July 5
     Woke up to more you guessed it, rain. Broke down my little camp and was ready to go by 8am. I helped everybody else break down their stuff and was on the road by 9:05 am. No problems or carnage to report other than a broken antenna cable. Sweet trip, I hope to attend next year!