Barnwell Mountain or TMTC
By Doug Chartier
By whatever name, it has great promise of excellent
four wheelin’. Well,
“promise” isn’t exactly accurate. It
ALREADY has some good wheelin’.
Entrance to the area is through a gate at the back of
a highway picnic area. More on that
later. The area has the same
“commercial” look and feel as Shiloh Ridge.
Nothing wrong with that, only an observation. It is, after all, a commercial endeavor.
The 8:00 a.m. meeting time and trail starting time
was another “normal” wheelin’ deal. Didn’t
start on time. That’s ok.
Gave us a chance to walk around and see the sites.
trailer for an office, another trailer for fast food, Porta-Pots and an ice
cream wagon that came in later.
So, it has the commercial look and feel as opposed to
the outback wilderness of Las Cruces, Hot Springs, Big Bend and other
“unimproved” areas. In the
“outback” one knows it may be a real chore to recover a vehicle or treat any
other type emergency. In the
commercial areas help is a short distance away.
They even had an ambulance on site.
Don’t know if it was called out or was there just in case.
The term “the ground is rotten” was heard more than once.
This referred to the surface, which was easily broken. My guess is that the trail cutting involved a disruption of
the surface that caused subsurface cracks in the earth that easily gave way when
tires started putting pressure on the surface.
My BFG ATs did not perform well at all.
The surface just kept flaking and churning.
There was very little traction available.
My winch got a good workout. I
expect that the hills will become more solid with use.
Those with more aggressive tread did not
experience the looseness of the earth to the same degree that I did, but must
add that it appeared that a really aggressive tread was necessary.
BFG MTs and similar treads were having trouble too.
Swampers and Boggers were in their element and did well.
Another observation regarding “commercial”.
It was crowded.
Reminded me of a small lake in a desert area on the 4th of
July. Motorcycles, 4 wheelers and 4x4s everywhere.
This actually did not create a problem on the trails themselves.
As near as I could determine the trails were all rather short.
It is almost like a single trail is more like an obstacle or two with a
bit of trail connecting them. This
had the effect of separating different groups so that many more could enjoy the
trails and not run over each other. Back
on the main road connecting the trails the evidence of many groups going to
different trails became apparent.
In the future I suspect a day’s activities
will take on the following type scenario.
“Wanna do 15 first?” (It
will probably have a real name by then) “No,
we have a couple of newbies, so let’s do 7, then over to 13 and then 15.
We might even get 31 in before lunch.”
This is totally unlike the wilderness trails where we do a long single
trail that has a beginning and an end and takes most of the day.
Speaking of lunch, it is now time to talk about
the picnic area at the entrance to TMTC. Half
dozen or more big cement benches and tables, lots of parking room, shade trees,
trash barrels, shed covers over all the tables and a good distance from the
highway. It is a nice roadside picnic
area. The wheelers leave the
trails, drive a quarter mile to the picnic area, stop off at the Porta-Pots if
necessary and then sit down for a nice comfortable lunch.
A single shed and table can accommodate about 20 people.
There were about 6 or 7 in my lunch group, and we kinda rattled around in
the shed area because there was so much room.
Nice, clean and comfortable and a real plus to the total days activities.
The group I was with did not have the cohesion
that I normally see on the trail. It
seemed to be more of a collection of individuals than a group with a specific
purpose. This has nothing to do
with the area, and again is just an observation.
A group of High Rollers would be the same here as anywhere else –
fussin’ and fightin’ about … nah, just kidding, but I did miss the
familiar faces, predictable behavior AND helpfulness and personal concern of our
Maggie and I (Maggie is my 6 month old
Bloodhound pup) arrived a minute or two after 8 a.m. after leaving Houston
around 3:30 a.m. Suzie had to stay
home. She was very disappointed.
This was Maggie’s first trip, and she did well for the first time out.
I took the passenger seat out of the front of the TJ and made a nice bed
for her there. She does require a
bit more room than Suzie.
We did two or three trails that involved long
hills. Had trouble on all of them
– no traction. Had to winch on
two of the three hills, and there was a broken axle or drive shaft on each of
the hills. This was again
attributable to the looseness of the earth.
Building up rpms in an effort to gain traction took its toll. I did not have the traction to crawl.
On one of the hills the YJ behind me broke a
drive shaft. The narrow trail
prevented someone in front of me returning to do the winching. Not that I expected anyone to do that since the YJ was behind
me. After turning around I winched
the YJ about half way up before I had to change positions.
During the position change I began to slide
sideways into a couple of trees. Was
unable to retain the pressure on the YJ and move, so another Jeep with a Warn
8274 came to the rescue.
He locked on and allowed me to disengage.
I did, but was unable to get off the trees with the other winch cable in
the way, and the YJ would be forced to drive in the area where I was stalled
out. The first 8274 suffered a
burned out wire shortly after beginning his pull.
Another 8274 was brought in. This
gave me the opportunity to get out of the way.
Maggie began to get a bit sick shortly after
noon, so she and I left between 1 and 2 o’clock.
I wasn’t too happy about having to be winched everywhere I went either.
We had a good time, and I was impressed with
the trails. It is going to be a
worthwhile place to run. The trails
were relatively dry. The looseness
of the hills was not water related. It
was just loose dirt. I expect that
this will be an entirely
different set of trails after a good rain.
You mud folks will probably be very happy with it.
For rock crawling it was lacking. At
least I did not see rocky areas. “Earthy
vs. rocky”, does that make sense? Lots of trees, dusty main roads, excellent “personal
facilities”, good camp out areas (saw several campers and tents), very nice
picnic area, lots of shade and even some breezes in some places.
This would make an excellent overnight run for
the Southern High
Rollers. It is roughly 225 miles
from downtown Houston with good high-speed highways all the way.