It was a beautiful weekend with excellent weather with low all the way down to the 40's and high's never more than the lower 70's. The group consisted of Tim, Dianne, Trent...JR and Becca...David, Tammy and Dawson...John and Jennifer...Jake, Alicia, Sloan and Ethan...Eric and mother and father (Latt and Wendy)...and Ashley and myself. Tim, JR, David, Eric, and myself met in Hickory to caravan together. John was already at Harlan and Jake was planning on traveling up later in the day on Thursday. During our travel up, JR blew out a trailer tire between Morganton and Asheville. We chanced the tire quickly on the side of I-40 and then stopped to get a new tire in Asheville and eat lunch. We arrived at at the cabins around 6:30PM I believe pretty much during the only hard rain of the weekend. Jake and Alicia arrived about an hour after we did. The cabin setup was certainly a lot more accommodating than the hotel was last year and the cabin were fairly nice. The next morning we gathered at 9AM to begin riding. From the cabins, it took approximately 35 minutes on various trails to get to where we were going to begin our ride for the day. We reached the beginning of the first trail (Railbed) and stopped for everyone to lock hubs, air down, etc. We got in to begin the trail...and the starter teeth stripped on Tim's Jeep and it wouldn't crank. It was rolled off to crank it. Unfortunately Tim did not have a starter onboard and he decided to head into Harlan in attempts to purchase and installed a new starter. The group proceed with riding Railbed. The trails were fairly slick from the rain the night before. Everyone made it through this trail without winching and all exited the trail on the exit of their choosing. The next trail was Fish Fossil and this is a pretty good creek trail that rocky with a slick hill climb exit. A few people required winching on this trail in the creek due to some difficult log arrangement. The only carnage on this trail was Jake's front winch burnt up trying to pull his jeep free from one of the logs. The hill climb exit was not as difficult as last year and everyone was able to exit easily. We stopped at the Lower Rock Garden to eat lunch. Just as we started eating, Tim returned from Harlan in the Jeep with a new starter installed and rejoined the group. As people was finishing up eating, people began to begin playing in the rock garden. John was the first person to enter. At the very end of the rock garden there is a section that you have to climb several large rocks at once. In John's attempts over this, his chassis flexed and his engine fan was pushed by the shroud into the radiator and damaged the radiator. I came around to winch him over the rocks, but the buggy couldn't do it alone so JR was asked to help. As he was pulling beside me to attach to John his brakes went out on his Jeep and he T-boned my buggy front We accused him of driver error at the time, but later in the trip we did confirm there is an actual problem that is hidden in the brake system somewhere because he lost brakes again at the end of Saturday and had to use him emergency brake from rolling into two trees. We ended up pulling John free backwards. John decided to drive his Jeep back to the cabin and Tim followed him to ensure he made it back. The remaining vehicles played on the rock garden for a little longer. After the lower rock garden, we rode Killing Time. This trail is properly named because we spend hours getting everyone through this trail. It's a rather difficult trail that is inclined, slick, and very rocky. I went first and about 2/3 of the way up the trail the fuel pump on the buggy started giving issues and I had to get to the top of the trail wide open before the pump died on me. I made it to the top and parked it and walked back down the trail to meet the group. With each person attempting this trail the difficulty became progressively worse. Most people required some degree of assistance on this trail at the worst part. As about the third rig was attempting the worst part, Tim arrived again to re-join the group. Tim continued helping vehicles through the trail and I left to go put the spare fuel pump on the buggy at the top of the trail. Tim tried the trail last and probably put one of the hardest hits on the frame i'd ever seen. He was trying to climb a large rock and the Jeep shifted sideways and the nose of the jeep was dropped about three feet and landed on the front spring hanger. It hit so hard it busted the hood latch on the jeep....but that was all. By the time everyone completed Killing Time, it was time to head back to camp. One the way back to camp, my buggy was having issues with an idler pulley and we went to Harlan to get a replacement. John went and ordered a new radiator for his jeep, but it couldn't be picked up until 7AM on Saturday. JR also put a good dent in his rear quarter panel but I can't remember which trail this occurred. My parents arrived at about 7PM and we had the group dinner with some awesome food. Thanks for everyone's contribution to the dinner. John left to get and install the new radiator early Saturday morning. We left the cabins a little later but the first place we went was to the Middle Rock Garden. Several people played on the rock garden and this rock garden is pretty good. Once we completed this we began the long trail ride to the start of Mason Jar. Along the way, we passed Can Opener and the Upper Rock Garden and several rode these obstacles. We got to the entrance of Mason Jar right after noon and we stopped to eat lunch at the entrance. Mason Jar is a trail that rides along the ridge of a mountain and the view from the entrance is amazing and it was the perfect place to eat lunch. My buggy started having fuel pump issues again climbing the hill to where we ate lunch, so i pulled the filter out while people were eating to clean them and completely removed the pre-filter (which turned out to be the problem). Mason Jar trail is no joke. This is class 5 vehicles only trail but the beginning 800 feet are the worst. There is a three tiered ledge and then a severe off-camber area that leans the vehicle into a tree hard. We knew this issue would take a while to work everyone through. I passed these areas first and Tim and JR followed. Beginning with Eric, we used winches to slowly pull the rigs through the area while using Tim's winch with a strap on the interior roll bars of the remaining vehicles. After an extended sequence of working through this area we got everyone through without damage we thought (turns out we bent the window track on David's rear door with the cage strap and the window wouldn't roll up without some adjustment). The group began to move forward up trail slowly until.....the starter teeth stripped on on Tim's Jeep again. Where the jeep was positioned, the only option was to try to pull it off up hill to start it. John hooked to Tim in attempts to pull him up the hill. The hill was steep and John was really snatching when snap....his front driveshaft snapped in half. We then winched Tim down the entrance to Mason Jar to a location where the Jeep could be rolled off and John followed in 2WD. Tim and John drove back to the cabins, but the group as a whole was too far committed to turn around so the only option for those remaining was to finish the trail. The trail was steep, difficult, and slow but a lot of fun. Eric got into a few trees with the top of his doors and pulled about a 3' wheelie on a rock. We exited Mason Jar at about 4:30PM. I called back to Tim and he had attempted to locate another starter but none remained in Harlan, so he was unable to join back with the group. David decided to head back to camp and Jake, JR, Eric and myself continue on a little longer. We went to a short hill climb trail called Tombstone and most people required a tug or winch at the top. Eric got into the bank in one of his attempts up this and tore off his passenger side rear fender. We continued down Windmill Trial to Lion's Den so those that have never seen the trail could have the opportunity. It look awesome, but unfortunately due to breakages and being so late in the day, nobody was able to run Lion's Den this year. From Lion's Den it was about a 45 minute trail ride back to the cabins. Eric's tire carrier also broke his taillight today when it over-opened once. The following morning (Sunday) JR, Becca, Tim, Trent, Latt, Ashley, myself, Jake, Alicia, Ethan, Eric and Jamie went to ride the Zip line course at the Evarts trailhead. Nothing in the course was changed from last year, but it was still awesome and everyone had a really good time. People arrived home at various times, but I know I arrived back home at 7PM on Sunday. We had a great time on this trip despite the various issues. I want to thank everyone who joined and hope you enjoyed it as much as we did! Everyone please let us know when you have photos or video available for viewing and feel free to send out a few photos in the email as well. And anyone feel free to comment on/add to/or contradict anything I said as my memory is not the Thanks again to everyone!
September 2013
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