Derek, Doug and myself met at the Flying J at Haw River at 9am and hit the road to Laurens, SC. Carl had left earlier and was about an hour and a half ahead of us. The drive down was uneventful and we rolled into Gulches ORV Park around 2ish. Carl was already there and we went in and got registered, met the owner Skip and our tour guide Dean since it was our first time there. We ended up only using two campsites down by the river. One site was big enough for all of us but we kept two just so we didnt end up with any rowdy neighbors (sites 2 and 3 were only about 100 feet apart). We got camp set up and headed back up to the office to get started. Ronnie pulled in about this time and joined us for the initial ride. Dean gave us a guided tour of the park, pointed out some of the main attractions, and generally just introduced us to the area. They call it an introduction to the park but its really for them to gauge experience level and ability. The next day I spoke to Dean briefly and he said he thought everyone was enjoying themselves but the guy in the white Jeep (Doug). He said “I just cant read that guy”. During the tour we stopped and played at a couple areas. The first rock garden/climb was TNT. Derek made easy work of the first ledge then got up near the exit and tried to flop on his passenger side. A couple guys threw a rope on his XJ and tugged just enough to keep him from going over as he backed down off of a big rock, eventually making it on his second try. I believe Ronnie also went up the same route as Derek then I followed behind. We headed on around the park, you can get from one end to the other in about 10 minutes on the main loop that circles the park, and dropped into an area called Death Valley. This is a collection of three trails that all have some cool twisty climbs to get out. There is one steep dropin that is an option that I tried and later Ronnie tried it (the next day). Once Dean knew we could handle ourselves he cut us loose, it was getting dark at this point, and we went out exploring. We rode into the night circling the park about three times hitting most all of the intermediate trails. We eventually called it a night around 10 or so if I remember correctly.
On Saturday, we got going around 9:30 and headed straight for Death Valley again so all of us could play around in the daylight. All 5 of us did Radical Ravine which is a short uphill climb (maybe 100 yards) that has a nice ledge in the bottom and some twisty ruts at the top. After that I headed over to Shipwreck, another part of Death Valley. Shipwreck drops in then you have to go around 3 or 4 good sized boulders before a slick 45 degree rock face that is about 20 feet tall. It is muddy at the bottom so your tires get nice and slick before hitting it. It takes throttle and wheel spin to get up. It took me three tries after smoking the tires a bit. After the rock face, you have the choice of an easy out to the right or more rocks to the left also going uphill. I worked my way out to the left and back around to the group to find out everyone had been working on Ronnie’s Jeep and I had no witnesses of my incredible driving skills. =) Luckily I had two cameras running. Ronnie then tried Shipwreck. He made it past the initial boulders and got up to the rock face. On his second attempt, the front end slid around and was in a precarious position so we decided to winch him up rather than risk a flop
Next we headed down to Skinny Pedal Ridge which is a very short very steep hill with 5 different lines going up. The different lines all have names (Testosteroad, 3D, Apple Pie). We ate lunch here and played around a bit. Some of these climbs are stupid crazy and are the type that the rock bouncers you see on youtube would do. On my last climb I hammered on it pretty hard to get over the top. A decision that would come back to haunt me. We strapped back in and headed to trail 30 which runs alongside Papa Gulch, one of the more diificult trails. It is a deep V notch that will throw you into the walls and put you on your side. There are exits along the way should you decide to jump out and not do the whole thing. I dropped in and started working my way up. At one point, you actually go beneath a tree stump that is undercut. This tree promptly sheered off my CB antenna and also unleashed a widow maker branch that luckily didnt fall on me. Then the V notch dumped me on my right side. I backed up and hit it 3 or 4 more times until Doug noticed my passenger front tire wasnt spinning and my hub was lying on the ground. I winched out and headed up to the parking lot to investigate. Ronnie came along to help. We pulled the rest of the hub apart and the stub shaft practically fell out in my hand. I called it a weekend and grabbed a ride with Derek the rest of the day.
We continued on the trails and hit the TNT rock garden a second time then right into a trail called Heartbreaker. All 4 remaining rigs made it up the trail which had some off camber sections and a couple muddy ruts to navigate. At the end of the trail, there is another ledge (lots of ledges in this park) then you can try the rocky exit or a rutted out exit beside it. Derek and Ronnie both went up the ledge then took the rutted exit while Carl and Doug took the exit before the ledge. We hung around for a while and watched some other rigs bash there way through this section.
We headed back down to the bottom side of the park. Carl tried a short trail called Baby Gulch which tosses you off camber one way then off camber the other way before trying to throw you into a tree. Carl made his way through this with no problems.
The last major obstacle we hit was trail 9, another steep hill climb with some huge rocks half way up. Carl made short work of the right side then Ronnie and Derek both took a more difficult route on the left side. Both guys made it look easy. When we told Dean later that both guys had gone up it, he had a look of disbelief on his face
All in all, this is a really nice compact park with lots of obstacles in close proximity to one another and every trail either has a parallel bypass or a viewing area so your entire group can stick together. Skip is a super nice guy and has done a good job of putting the park together. He also has a welder, air compressor and a good assortment of tools on site that can be used by park goers if needed. Doug left a stack of CNC business cards on the front counter for future visitors. I had a great time there and will definitely go back. If anyone else wants to add anything, please feel free to do so.
Carnage for the weekend (that I know of): Derek – broken luggage rack and bent tie rod (I think) Randal – broken hub and stub shaft on front axle, broken CB antenna
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