2007 at Oak Ridge VA - A Trail Guides Perspective
I didn't even really see Camp Jeep. Mark (jppilot61) and I were the stationary
winch point on Findaly Ridge (Trail E - rating: Difficult) so we got to spot
people over this little slice of heaven everyday (Running it every morning had
it's advantages too).
That's the lower part, this is the upper part.
In both shots the trail guide in the lovely lime green t-shirt is me.
They were long days. We would check in at the staging area at 6am and head right
out and up the ridge. There were trail rides at 7, 10, 1 and 4...so we wouldn't
get back off the ridge until 7 or 8 pm. The best way to describe it was like
playing right field in a baseball game....long periods of boredom in between
moments of sheer terror.
We kept everyone to the right of both the gardens cause it was the easiest (and
thus quickest) line through...the only exceptions were other trail guides. We
let them play / show off and pick whatever line they wanted....we only spotted
for them if they got hung up.
We had three breaks: a Liberty ball joint, a CJ7 driveshaft & a Liberty valve
stem and only had to pull cable 6 times. We didn't do any strapping....it was
quicker to just hook them.
Ironically enough, our first pull was on a guide. He just slipped and got wedged
between his diffs in the upper garden...the last run of the first day and we
gotta pull our first cable for a trail guide. Of course we busted his chops the
rest of the weekend...wouldn't you?
Our second pull was right after that...on a Libby. He tried to go around a rock
instead of putting a tire on it...which sent the bottom of the wheel into the
rock....which popped the ball joint right out of the upper A-arm. Here's the
kicker...we call it in and they get a Jeep Engineer on the radio.
Us: "The ball joint on the drivers side steering knuckle has separated from the
upper control arm"
Engineer: "That's impossible...you can see the ball?!?"
Us: "Yes, we can see the ball on the top of the knuckle. It is separated from
the upper control arm."
Engineer: "That can't happen...where is the ball? How are the wheels oriented?"
Us: "The wheel is laying face down on the ground. The ball is attached to the
top of the knuckle which is approximately 2 feet from the upper control arm."
Engineer" "That can't happen...the ball joint can't separate like that"
Us: "Um....we're looking at it and we beg to differ"
Needless to say, we gave up on getting any help from Jeep on this one.
We ended up holding the Libby up with a hi lift and stabilizing it with a cable
pull snatching down from a tree. Then we used ratchet straps and zip ties to try
to hold it together. In the middle of trying to do all this, the guy running
this show (Chris Boucher) is calling us on the radio telling us to leave it and
they'll make arrangements to come get it later. At that point we were about 10
minutes away from seeing if our redneck engineering would actually work. So we
decided to ignore Chris. We figured if we got the dude rolling, cool. If not,
then we'd leave it. Welp, it worked, we got him all the way back down the
mountain. I don't think Chris was too happy, but I know the owner of that
Liberty was happier than a pig in slop that we got him off the ridge. While we
were all getting ready to air up/reconnect, he walked up to us, shook each of
our hands and said thanks...then he said thanks again. It was worth a potential
lecture from Chris...
...and that was only day 1.
Our 3rd pull was after the CJ7 snapped his rear driveshaft. We think it was
damaged before hand because he never even got into the lower garden....it
snapped on the approach. We had to snatch him to a point where he could get to
the bail out....then he winched himself up and out of the way until they could
get a driveshaft too him. Everything else was basically stockers who got in bad
positions...two stock Wranglers and another Liberty. Mainly just quick pulls to
get them either dislodged or "over the hump".
All in all, 3 breaks and 6 pulls is not bad considering that we saw between 150
and 200 Jeeps crawl that obstacle. Mark and I got into a pretty good rhythm
spotting and were able to move groups through quickly.
The other good story is this one...since we were up there all day, everyday,
they would send lunch up for us with the guides of the third group (1pm
ride...would usually get to us around 2:15 or so). A sammich, chips, an apple, a
bottle of water and a cookie. Now by Friday, the garden was getting pretty dug
out...so along came the 1pm ride and they had 27 Jeeps with them. So I walked
out to meet the lead, Brian. We talked for a minute about the condition of the
obstacle, yada, yada and he mentioned that he had our lunches. Since Mark and I
had packed food with us and since I was more worried about moving this large
group of Jeeps through as quickly as possible...I told him I'd get the lunches
in a bit.
By this point, Mark and I were a well oiled machine...I'd spot them over the
lower rocks, then Mark would spot the first set of uppers, while I went around
to spot them over the second set of uppers. We got them all through in about 45
minutes. So we look around and don't see the lunches...sure enough, Brian forgot
to leave them and he's now like a half mile up the trail to allow room for
everyone. We busted his chops about it before letting him know that we had food
with us and it was cool.
But that's not the end of the story....about 30 minutes later, we are listening
to their CB chatter as they go back down the mountain when we hear Brian say
"I'm eating this sammich I just found in my Jeep". So I just call out "Jackass".
Long pause....then he says "I didn't think you guys would hear that"
Here's the thing...we had food. But after 12 hours of cycling 4 times from heavy
sweating/adrenaline to cooling off/re-hydrating/boredom (5 times if you include
the initial rigging before the first group even got there)....we still needed to
get back down the ridge. It's steep, rough, tight and very technical. So all we
wanted was the cookie....for the sugar rush.
The moral of the story is that Brian's new nickname is now "free lunch"...and he
will never live it down.
Anywho, we had Saturday morning off and only had one run Sat afternoon, that's
where we had the broken Liberty valve stem. We sent the rest of the group ahead
and were going to lead the Liberty out ourselves. It was shortly after changing
the tire that we got the call telling us that severe weather was coming, they
were clearing the trails and we have to get off now. OK....we are on the ridge
of a mountain. It's two miles of rough terrain in either direction, Mark and I
could get out in 20 minutes....but we have a woman and her kids in a stock Libby
with no spare tire that we have to get out as well. She did alright though. We
got off the ridge pretty quickly and the weather skirted around us anyway...so
it was all good.
I don't want to sound sappy or anything...but the best part was when a trail
guide would take a more challenging line, twist up his suspension real good and
hang a tire in the air or something. You'd see all the little kids faces just
light up...especially the ones who, like their parents, were wheeling for the
first time...that was pretty cool.
The above are the only pictures I have...and they were taken by another FM2CD
member, Jericho (who was also a trail guide). He didn't have a 1pm ride on his
trail, so he tagged along with us Saturday afternoon to set up for the 1pm run
(My wife Jen tagged along with us as well on Sat). Mark and I didn't have time
to take pics when people were running it because we were too busy. But Jericho
did get one pic of me about to clear the upper garden:
I should point out that we don't get paid as trail guides, we are volunteers. So
why do we do it? Why do we sweat, get dirty, bleed, stress out and lose sleep to
try and make Camp Jeep a success? Well, we tell everyone we volunteer because of
a love of 4 wheeling, love of our Jeeps, to introduce people to the sport and
show them just what Jeeps are capable of.
But the truth is....we did it for the
lime green t-shirts...and we got 3 of them.
See ya'll on the trail...