Central North Carolina 4X4
October 2nd through October 5th
Driving: Steve Fischer, Craig Scibetta, Ken Carter, Scott Roberts, Dave Anderson
Passengers: Craig’s Dad, Doug Johnson, John Herr
Thursday Oct 2
CNC left the triangle area in a few groups. Craig, in his TJ, was pulling a pop-up, Scott and I pulling Scott’s TJ. Ken pulling his XJ, Doug and John in Doug’s RV pulling my TJ, and Dave Anderson pulling his Bronco.
Our group intended to meet somewhere around US1 and I-85 at around 8:00, but as it turned out, only Scott, Craig and I arrived on time. The three of us decided not to wait, to press on, and perhaps meet up with the rest of the guys over lunch. Due to a host of reasons, the others finally met up with each other in the Henderson area, an hour and a half behind us. So our convoy was now divided into two groups.Going Through Washington DC
The drama all started in Henderson… Before the second half of the convoy could get onto I-85, Doug’s rear RV tire lost its tread and was whipping around. The force of the whipping tread damaged the inner wheel well and even damaged the water main. Luckily there was a tire shop nearby!
The drama continued shortly after Doug’s tire repair, when Ken’s air intake tube popped off, forcing the 2nd stop of the day. This was an easy repair, but set the tone for the weekend. The second half of the convoy missed the detour highway around Washington DC and ended up in some serious traffic where a woman sideswiped Dave’s trailer, leaving a purple streak on the trailer tire!
Slowly but surely, everyone made it to Echo Valley Campground. Where we set up camp for the weekend. Craig’s new pop-up camper became home for Craig, his dad, and Scott. John, Doug, and I slept in the RV, and Ken and Dave cuddled in Ken’s truck camper. Just kidding… we were only speculating about the cuddling.Craig’s Pop Up Camper of Love
On this first evening, we went up to Rausch Creek, where we met up and checked in the Bay to Blue Ridge Cruisers, a Toyota Land Cruiser club that was holding their Fall Crawl event. We left RC and headed into town, where we enjoyed some good country cooking. While we were eating, a young guy came up to our group and asked who owned the Cherokee. Ken responded, “Which one?” We all laughed, and it became one of the most repeated quotes of the weekend.
After finishing dinner, we headed over to the grocery store for some last minute supplies. The night was finished off sitting around the fire in typical CNC4X4 fashion.
Doug’s RV and our firepit
Friday Oct 3
The group headed up to RC to begin the trail rides. We checked in at the front office and proceeded to head for the West Property.
Dave lost a bead Ken entering Trail 16
The goal was to head over to Rock Creek first. Rock Creek is a HUGE rock garden and is classified RED. Many of this year attendees went to Rausch Creek last year, and were anxious to hit some of the real hard trails that they didn’t get a chance to try last year.
After traveling down some fire roads, we made our way to Trail 16, a Black trail, which would lead us to Rock Creek. Trail 16 was a rocky creek bed trail, consisting of sharp rocks averaging between 2 to 4 feet. Halfway through the trail, Dave’s inner bead came off the rim and we had to use my CO2 setup to reseat the tire.
Trail 16 led us to the end of trail 13 A, which dumped us out at our first challenge, Rock Creek. Through the woods you could see a large bright white area of rocks, just wetting our appetite. Somehow, I don’t think that any of us expected to see what we saw! This was the largest rock garden you can imagine. It was about the width of a football field, but is over 1800 feet long! I have read conflicting stories about this rock garden. Some say that it is a glacial deposit, and others say that it was man made as a dumping area for rocks cleared through the coal mining process. Either way, it was HUGE! The rocks ranged in size from tire sized rocks to Volkswagen sized rocks.
We all joked that we would line up and race to the end. After Scott and Craig led the way out into the rocks, it quickly became apparent that we would need a spotter to make any progress. Scott got himself lodged in the rocks first, with Craig soon after. The rocks were very porous and provided us with tons of traction. The only issue was navigation.
After we all made our way into the rock field, Scott came down hard on a rock and we noticed that his tires both immediately pointed toward the passenger side. This was very worrisome, because the steering wheel didn’t do the same thing. At first glance, Ken suggested that the pitman arm was stripped. Doug poked his head under Scott’s TJ and noticed a large crack in the pitman arm. I believe it was here that the NC brown bear was first spotted on the trip (inside joke)
We pulled off the pitman arm, and started thinking talking through the options. First, we could drive my TJ back to camp, and take off my pitman arm, and bring it back to Scott. Second, we considered welding the old arm. Luckily, a third option popped up. Scott called the front office for suggestions on 4X4 shops nearby, and learned that they had a TJ pitman arm at the office. Craig, John, and I spotted each other out of Rock Creek and made our way up to the office, where we purchased a used pitman arm for $20!!!! What luck!
Steve removing a shock We felt as though we pressed our luck enough in Rock Creek and wanted to hit up a few more trails. We would have spent all day getting to the top of Rock Creek, so we pushed on in search of more excitement. We traveled out of Rock Creek via Otter’s Trail (RED) and Stout (GREEN with BLACK play areas). I ripped off a rear shock mount on Stout. I simply unbolted it, and wheeled the rest of the weekend with 3 shocks. It was no big deal, especially after getting to use the “Carter Creeper”.
On our way to Big Rocks play area, we passed a group of JKs gawking at a deep mud hole. I’m not usually a fan of mud holes, but something drew me in. The posted pictures of vehicles in the mud hole, made it look as though the hole might be near the bottom of my door, so I went in with some hesitation. It was a little too much hesitation… I had to back up and go at it with a little more momentum. The mud came up to my rock rail, but we made it through with no issues. Ken followed me through the hole and his 38’s made it look like a piece of cake. No one else decided to give it a try.
We made it over to Big Rocks play area, where we found a couple places to play. In this area, Scott bounced his Jeep so hard, that his motor jolted enough to damage his radiator with the fan. This was the last area we hit before heading to the park exit.
On the way out of the park, we stopped for a group photo, then proceeded to play in the concrete competition area.
When we got back to the camp ground, Scott immediately started to work on his Jeep’s radiator problem. Using a propane torch, he and some others heated and soldered the broken line shut and covered the damaged area with JB weld. While this was going on, we were getting a good fire going and getting ready to cook. We all ate well that night. Between us, we had barbeque pork, ribs, individual pizzas cooked over the fire, steamed clams, beans, corn, and more!
After dinner we sat around the camp fire. Craig’s dad provided us with “Tussin”, which was really just amoretto served in Pepto-Bismol dispensing cups. Craig’s dad then proceeded to inconspicuously toss firecrackers into the campfire. It was quite humorous to hear him deny having done anything as he continued the shenanigans.
Saturday Oct 4
Our second day of wheeling began with some rain. Scott loaned Dave his bikini top, and we we hit the trails. It seemed that no matter where we went, we continued to run into traffic jams. Most of the popular obstacles were jammed with people who couldn’t seem to get traction in the rain. After doing some trail riding to find a less-populated area, we met up with Rich, who had just moved within an hour of Rausch Creek. Rich was driving his Rockwelled FJ Cruiser
We all proceeded over to Boot Hill and Tombstone. These trails are Black, but Tombstone is so eroded, that the obstacle is more like a red. Unfortunately, Dave’s steering issues were too much at that point, and he pulled off the trail. HE decided to bypass his hydro-assist steering ram and run a loop from the ports on his steering box. While he was wrenching, Scott, Craig, Rich, and I headed over to the tombstone obstacle with our passengers.
Craig and Scott took a line on the far right and got a crowd of stockers/newbs warmed up for the show that Rich put on. Rich showed us how it’s done, putting his rev limiter and rear steer to work. It was great fun to watch him smoke his 42″ IROK tires, get them heated up, and launch up the rocks. John ditched me (Can’t blame him) for the ride of the day.
I followed Rich, but took a middle line with a slightly shorter ledge.
After the fun at Tombstone, we met back up with Dave and Ken who were still working on Dave’s steering. As it turned out, it looks as though there may have been an issue with the pump and possibly the ram. While they continued to work, we all ate lunch and debated whether glass was a liquid or an amorphous solid.
We made our way over to Camel Back, and Rich left us for a group of cruisers. Camel Back is a narrow, short trail consisting of 4 of 5 large humps that stick out of the ground. It is quite an anomaly, but lots of fun. By this point, Dave was unable to steer his Bronco without momentum and speed, so we left his truck on a fire road and he became a passenger/photographer. In the picture below right, you can see Craig climbing the second Camel Hump. Just prior to this picture, Craig pinned his Jeep between a rock and the tree, leaving no room to back up or go forward. Dave (and Scott I believe) came over and began rocking the Jeep until he found enough traction to climb. If you look closely, you’ll see the rare North Carolina Brown Bear standing guard over the Camel Hump.
We finished Camel Back and proceeded to run Snake Bite. Snake Bite was similar to Trail 16. Similar sized rocks, but a longer trail. This type of trail was interesting because it was still a rough trail, but you didn’t necessarily need a spotter. The rock gave enough traction that you could point and shoot your way down the trail. It was at this point that Scott’s TJ started emitting a blue smoke from the exhaust and showing a trouble code. Luckily, we were near the end of the day.
Ken, Craig, and I pushed on for one last trail. We went over to Jeeter’s Way, a RED trail that was very short, but very steep. The rock on Jeeters Way was more similar to the rock we have here in North Carolina, in that it was loose and slippery. Ken proceeded up first. He took a line up the left side of the rock and made it 2/3rds of the way up before we needed to stack some rocks to get him over some bumps. He finished the trail commenting that it was much harder this year than last year, as it was significantly eroded. Craig declined to go, so I put it in gear and made my way up. Craig and Ken stacked some rocks for me too, but unfortunately we pulled cable to finish the last 5% of the obstacle. There was a group of big cruisers below us, and I didn’t feel like holding up the show.
The end of the day consisted of a Bay to Blue Ridge Cruiser dinner and raffle. We had a mixture of food, from cold cuts and sausage to chicken on a stick. Dinner was followed by a raffle where we won a few odds and ends. Dave won some Toyota Six Shooter knuckles, and Ken won a new CB. A few of us won some other odds and ends, but nothing worth writing home about.
We headed back to camp and warmed up around the fire, and Ken made some cookies to celebrate Doug’s birthday! Just before Bed, the ever elusive North Carolina Polar Bear was drawn to the fire and terrorized the camp site.
Sunday Oct 5
We headed out around 9:00, this time all together in one big convoy. No issues on the drive home. I think everyone was excited to get a good night’s sleep in their own bed. We split up at the I-85/US1 intersection and went our separate ways, pulling into the triangle area around 6:30
Documented by: S. Fischer
Pictures by: Craig Scibetta, Scott Roberts, and Ken Carter