2008 CNC West Virginia Children’s Charity Off Road Jamboree
July 3-6, 2008
By Mike R.
Thursday July 3
Randall Holmes and I agreed to meet in Hillsborough and then caravan up to Summersville, WV for the 08 West Virginia Children’s Charity Off Road Jamboree. With the exception of last year (I was registered and showed up but got called back home for an emergency) I have attended this event every year since 2001. The trails have changed a lot, locations have changed a bit and the host club Mountaineer Off-road has also changed a bit. This event is one of their fundraisers for both various children’s charities in the state and also for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Randall shows up a bit late from our agreed time because he had to stop at a hardware store to find a locking nut for one of his lower control arm bolts. I had decided to drive my CJ5 all the way there rather then towing (after talking my wife into it) to add to the adventure. We topped off the fuel tanks and hit the road for the nearly 6 hour 320 mile drive. My cj was built in the days when the speed limit was 55 but she held steady and true at 65 mph even totally loaded down (like packing 1000 beans in a 10 bean can). We got to the Songer Whitewater Campground around 6pm after stopping in Fayetteville for the weekend essentials. You know all the “B”‘s. Beer, brats, buns, and bread. We set up camp when I realize that I have forgotten my rain fly. The camp store luckily had a tarp and the girl working the counter said I would need this since there was a small chance of rain that night. We covered my tent and around 8pm it started raining. I think it rained pretty much the entire time except during lunch time on Friday’s trail ride, a little bit on Sat’s ride and then none on Sunday.
Friday July 4
Randall have signed up to do the River trail, rated a 2 on a 5 scale but with all the rain now maybe like a 3. I had never done this trail before and I was determined to ride all the stuff I hadn’t done in my YJ since I always like to play with the bigger boys back then. We ran Spider Ridge to River trail (pretty easy) and stopped for lunch along the Gauley River. What a beautiful setting and a much different lunch stop then we are used to. One of the guys from Ohio in our group brought along a Pocket Fisherman to try his luck and wouldn’t you know it he caught a smallmouth bass on his third cast. On the way out we play in some mud holes and 4″ diameter 5ft. long tree branch decided to ride along. The tail gunner Jim and I stop to unwedge it from between my driver’s side leaf spring and gas tank skid plate. We caught back up with the group who are now at the hill climb (check the pics and vid) and the group is attempting one jeep at a time. Its steep and covered with loose rocks (think a longer Dutch John with loose stuff) and a nasty ledge near the top. The Rubi’s (incl. Randall) clear with a little drama pivoting around the ledge. The YJ in front of me has trouble clearing the ledge and were setting up to winch when he decided to try one more time. A telltale SNAP followed. Initial we thought it the ujoint on the drivers side front axle (I was carrying a spare) but it turned out to be the actual stub shaft (I left my spare shaft back at camp). He had a portable winch set up so the Rubi in front of him actually backed down the hill and we put the winch cradle into his receiver. As the Rubi drove I ran alongside with the remote for the combination pull cable/tow up the rest of the hill. Check the video for my ride up that climb (thanks Randall).
One of the great things about riding in WVa is that many of the trails are actually in the creeks. I counted 6 creek trails this year. We finished out Friday riding Bowl Creek. Because of all the rain the water level was pretty high. So high in fact that the water was coming in through the drain holes in my floorboards! No breakage yet. Back to camp where we were treated to BBQ pork sandwiches, beans, scalloped potatoes, lemonade and sweet tea and brownies.
Saturday July 5
After awaking to rain again we signed up for the Little Sister trail which I think is a classic WVa trail. A little bit rocky, very steep, muddy, slick, some sections are right alongside the mountain (don’t look left, it’s long way down), finished off with a ride through the woods with some rollers, nachos and off camber sections. Sounds fun right? Remember it was raining again and it had rained all night. Slick was understatement. Randall was in the first group was ahead of me but I don’t think he had too much trouble. I, on the other hand had to pull cable 4 times. Only once was because of too little ground clearance. The climbs were just too slick for 31 inch street tires. After surviving that we rode Left Fork Creek which is where I cracked my windshield. The Rubi in front of me brushed some tree branches which hit my windshield when I passed next. Later on I slipped on a ledge (its in the video) landing on my bumper which I think flexed the body enough to crack the windshield. Damn. We all stopped for lunch (in the rain) and then hit the creeks again. I didn’t ride this time with the water levels rising and tried to spot Randall in another creek. I had his camera in my hand and was passing in front of his jeep when I suddenly slipped. I guess the fall was pretty bad because another driver Mindi (Carl Barclay’s fave) was screaming. I yelled for Randall to not move an inch because I was literally under his front axle. I didn’t drop the camera though I did break off his right side fog light with my arm trying to stop my fall. He wasn’t too mad though and made me feel better by saying it didn’t work anyway. Thanks Randall. The group continued again into Bowl Creek where the yellow TJ broke his Dana 35 driver’s shaft on the exit (the easiest part of the creek). We attempted to fix it with a couple of rachets straps and a Hi Lift jack body but ended up winching him out of the way with the driver turning left every time the tire would come loose. A group would come back later with a trailer to get him out because the splined part of the shaft was really jammed and twisted in the carrier. Our group kind of split up (one of the nice things about this event since you can kind of do your own thing if you let your trail guide know) and I took Randall up to the Gatekeeper obstacle on the waterfall trail. The actual obstacle is a 5 foot stepped ledge with water runnning down it. He gave it a couple of good attempts but then backed down. We took the bypass and ran the rest of the trail. This is a rockcrawler’s wet dream. I mean that because the trail is yet another creek bed with big ledges, rocks, uphill through a steady stream. I think this was Randall’s favorite trail. We left there to go back to the campground through yet another rainstorm that was as hard to drive in as any of the trails to make it back in time for the raffle (we didn’t win anything) and fireworks. Fortunately the rain held off long enough for the fireworks display at 9:30pm and the bonfire party afterwards. Much beer was drank, many stories were told and a very good time ensued.
Sunday July 6
We packed up camp and hit the road around 10:30 am. We split up in Princeton so Randall could visit his sister and I filled up and headed home arriving around 4pm. I’m stoked because I only filled up the CJ 3 times. Topped off in Hillsborough, topped off Friday am before the ride and again on Sunday in Princeton. I still have nearly half a tank. Can’t wait for next year and would recommend this event for anybody no matter what size ride.