2012 Harlan, KY
The majority of our group met in Haw River at 5:00 Thursday evening for the trip to Harlan, KY. Myself (Scott), Randal, John, Craig and Ken were all fueled up and had a bite to eat and hit the road by 5:20. The trip up was fairly uneventful (which is good). Around 7:30, Craig received a call from Ronnie. We had thought that Ronnie was ahead of us and was probably checking in at the house. However, he had issues with his trailer and was still in Wilmington, NC. He and Jim got the issue resolved and got on the road. Our group stopped for fuel once and rolled into Evarts, KY around 11:00 to checkin at our rented house. We unpacked everything from our vehicles and made ourselves at home. After hanging out for a little while we turned in for the night. Ronnie and Jim got in around 4:00 AM. They had a long day!
Everyone got up and had a quick breakfast. Then, we prepped our vehicles for the day- removed soft tops/windshields, aired down tires, etc. We went for the short ~2 mile drive up to the pay post. We got our permits and were on the trails by about 11:00. We started off on the Waterfall at the bottom of Railbed. Scott and Craig had to winch. John, and Randal both made it up. Ronnie pulled up but decided to back off because his rear window was getting really close to being pushed into a rock. We continued up Railbed bouncing our way up the muddy rocks. At one point, Randal and Craig were exiting in two different directions. Randal did not realize that when he was trying to exit he was throwing mud 20 feet behind him at Craig. Very funny.
We made our way to another trial called Little Jagger. Everyone that attempted was denied, the rock was very slick. After John tried his Toyota engine did not sound good at all so John with Craig following took the Toyota back to the house. Randal, Ronnie and Scott made there way up to the Lower Rock Garden. Each of us had a great time making it to the top. We then ate lunch while Craig (with John riding) got back and went through Lower Rock Garden.
After lunch we went on several trails and looked for the trail Frankenstein, we missed it so we went on over the Mason Jar. This trail has a cool rock that you can drive up on that puts your vehicle out over a cliff for a great picture. After some picture we continued up Mason Jar with some minor winching along the way.
Then, we went over to Lions Den. The intent was for Scott to get through and then get Randal and finally Craig through. However, he got hung up on a stump- it was stuck in his rear passenger side rim. He could not go forward or reverse. Ken and John chopped away at the stump and Craig, Randal and Scott setup a winch line to pull him forward and to the side. When we finally freed the jeep it was dark so decided that Randal and Craig would go through Lions Den the next day. We made the long trek out of the trail system and down the mountain. We stopped at the grocery store to pick up some items but most people did not feel like cooking so we went to the Corner Café. The food was ok and the service was ok. On the way back to the house Ronnie’s Cherokee started making bad sounds and popping. It was coming from the front differential. He took off the cover and found that the ring gear was missing some teeth. His wheeling for the weekend was over.
We got going a little earlier but not by much. The group said goodbye to Ronnie and Jim- they were headed back home since the Cherokee was broken. The rest of us headed back to the trails for more fun. We went to the trail called Shameless, It was a long rutted uphill climb. Wheel speed was the name of the game for this trail. Some winching was involved butIt was a fun trail. Then we went over to Middle Rock Garden. This is an uphill rock garden. It has several different lines so everyone can pick their own route. Scott was leading and came up to a large rock face. He figured that he would just get on it and just spins my tires. However, He had more traction that he thought he would. He climbed up on it and when the rear tire fell into a hole the jeep went to the sky and started leaning back. Scott tried to put the jeep in reverse but was unsuccessful. We came to a rest with the hood against a tree- pointed straight up. Ken told me to shut it down so he did. Then, Scott got on the CB and yelled for the others to come help. They were there very quickly. We hooked up the winch and got them back on all four tires quickly. At this point we had Randal drive around in front of Scott and winch him up to a flat spot. We pulled the spark plugs and pumped out the oil that was on top of the piston. A little came out of cylinder 6. We started up the Jeep and she ran good but had a lot of smoke. Scott checked the power steering fluid and coolant – both were low so Craig and John went back to the house to gather supplies. Randal, Ken and Scott ate lunch and Scott called his wife to tell her that he was ok but the jeep got a little damage.(due to Ken posting updates on Facebook) Craig and John got back with milkshakes in hand (none for us though). Then, we headed for Lions Den. Scott wanted Randal and Craig to get a chance to go on that trail. Randal made easy work of Lions Den. Craig was good until the entrance. He dropped in fast and his tire carrier hit the ledge and broke off. He took it in good stride and we loaded it up in the back of the jeep. Then, at the narrow part with the rock on the driver side and tree on the passenger side. When Craig laid his jeep against the tree we heard a pop and smoke came out from under the hood. There was a bare wire. We wrapped it with electrical tape. Craig backed up and got to far to one side and was not able to go forward or reverse. So we got out the high-lift jack and raised the rear of the jeep and pushed it to the side. We did this ~four times and got him lined up to try again. When he laid against the tree again the same thing happened – pop and smoke. We finally figured out that the alternator was grounding out on a metal plate when the body was flexing. We removed the metal plate and repaired the wire that smoked all of the electrical tape. After that, Craig made light work of the rest of Lions Den.
We made our way over to Upper Rock Garden. Randal led the way and made it look easy. Craig got hung up at the end. Scott tried to pull him out backwards but ended up getting sideways. I forgot to mention that for this rock garden you are in ~two feet of water mud for the entire trail. When Scott tried to pull Craig out my driver side tires just dug down until we could not see the 40” tires. It was deep. Randal came over and put a strap on Scotts cage to keep him from going over any further. Scott exited the trail before the end and turned around on flat ground to winch Craig out. Took some effort but we got him out. Everyone was tired after all of this so we headed to the Dairy Hut for some milkshakes. After that Craig and Scott washed our jeeps the others went back to the house to start cooking. Thanks Ken for cooking spaghetti! That evening we packed up most of things.
Sunday morning we loaded up the rest of our belongings and hit the road. We stopped for lunch/fuel around 1:00 and got home around 4:30. It was a great trip. Can’t wait to do it again!
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