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Camp Jeep 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 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 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 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 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 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 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. Wink

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...



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