Hill Country 2001
by
Ken Womack

Our October SHR Run was in the Hill Country west of San Antonio.  We were lucky enough to be invited by San Antonio Jeep Exclusive (SAJE) to run on a private ranch that they have a partnership with.  The trails there are awesome! SAJE has cut a network of very challenging trails there through dry creek beds and up and down hills.  The scenery is beautiful and if you’re from the flats like us, these hills are mighty close to mountains!

This run was light on SHR turnout (4 rigs), but high on the fun factor.  Shawn & Sierra Pagan, Lee & Deborah Miller, Dave Rebbin and Myself were all able to go.  Shawn and Sierra and I caravanned from Houston Friday afternoon, arriving there early in the evening, while Lee and Deborah got there about 10:00 pm.  Dave drove up very early Saturday morning and met us for breakfast.  After a fine meal and coffee, we were off for the ranch.  There we met up with the rest of the crew, some had just arrived and some had camped and were getting aired down and ready to go.  Mike Boyd, their President led our group, a moderate series of trails.  There were an easier trail group and also an extreme group.

Even though our trails were rated moderate, they were plenty challenging.  SAJE cuts their trails tight, with only trimming trees when absolutely necessary, plus, the trails are naturally tight in many sections because they are through little rock canyons and washes.  A full size vehicle just couldn’t fit through several sections of trails there.  Our trail was called “Border Collie” because when they first cut the trail, the rancher’s Border Collie followed them everywhere they went, thus the name.  We started through a dry creek bed around a huge boulder and up a series of ledges.  Our group of four rigs ran about mid pack in a group of 10 Jeeps.  Mike Boyd and Bobby, The Cajun, were master spotters, who knew the trail perfectly, every rock, ledge and line.  We were in good hands.

We got to a steep, short hill just left of a dry waterfall.  This hill had a 1-foot ledge close to the bottom, which made climbing tougher cause you couldn’t gas it until you got over the ledge.  All 10 made it up, though one Jeep had to be winched.  The trail then snaked around cedar trees and brush back to the creek bed where we were soon in a small canyon with high limestone walls on each side.  This was where paying close attention to your spotter was extremely important.  Mike spotted each Jeep from the front, while Bobby kept close watch on the rear, slowly getting each rig through the walls.  It wasn’t easy! One Jeep without a front locker could not turn enough to steer through and had to be jacked up and steered by the tires by hands to line up to make the exit.  Jerry and Jason Lovell’s Jeeps made it through easier because of the CJ-5’s shorter wheelbase.  Shawn got through pretty easy as well as Dave Rebbin.  Lee got into a little jam, but with teamwork, expert guides and Lee’s driving skill, he got through with a minor scrape or two.  When my turn came, I put my total trust in my spotters and got through ok.  There were some very minor scratches and dents on various rigs through here, but that’s to be expected from time to time on very challenging sections.

The day was fun, the weather perfect and the trails pretty and challenging.  We ran until about 4:00 pm when most went back to camp, but Mike took 4 of us for some extra credit on a hard trail It was a hoot! It was a tight trail of continuous ledges that was pretty technical.  One TJ bent a rear control arm badly.  Mike pointed out the trail back to camp, and stayed behind to help the wounded Jeep get back to camp.  This trail was awesome! Some SAJE members went back to San Antonio to get spare parts and the TJ was fixed that night and back on the trail the next day.

After airing up, several of the group went to town, some to the café, some to the other restaurant, a fine Bar-B-Que House.  We waited until 6 o’clock for the ribs to be done and so did half the town! We hoped there would be enough ribs for everyone and I think there was.  After a very tasty meal, we went off to clean up and return for SAJE’s traditional campfire.  They are a fine bunch and know how to have fun.  Since it was Halloween, Ghost Stories were told around the campfire.  But according to some locals and some reliable sources, some of these may be real.  You see, the area was once an area of struggles between native Indians and settlers of the era all the way from the early Spaniards to settlers up to the early 1900’s.  Bloody gruesome skirmishes and ambushes happened in the area, and some believe spirits still roam the area.  Whether or not you believe these stories doesn’t really matter, but Bobby, The Cajun and Storyteller told them rather convincingly.  The night was cold but fun.   

I had to leave the next morning, as well as Lee and Deborah, but Shawn and Dave stayed Sunday and had a great time.  Many thanks to SAJE, for inviting us and showing us a great time! They cut some of the finest trails anywhere, and keep them totally spotless! I did not see one piece of trash anywhere! That’s the way it should be.  They were gracious hosts, excellent spotters and fine folks.  We hope to be invited again soon, and I will definitely go again, hope you all do too!

... Ken Womack