by Ken Womack
The last SHR run of 2004 and the first one of 2005 was held at The Superlift OHV Park near Hot Springs, Arkansas. A long time 4-wheeler in the area held and hosted runs but recently moved. His name was Richard Robilio, and was a co-founder of The Park. He called the run here at New Year’s, "Fire and Ice", and I don’t think he would mind if we borrowed it. The name comes from the weather possibilities, It could be ice cold or warm.
We had seven rigs with their owners plus some visitors from Indiana- my Brother and his Family. It was a pretty good turnout considering the way the holidays fell during the week. Our group consisted of : Eddie and Pat Stokeley- black YJ, Don Schelat – Khaki Rubicon TJ, Swede Garpne- black TJ, Eric Barnes and Dave Lubbers - white CJ7, Milton and Barbara Short- red TJ, Jerry and Kim Ware-green YJ, and Ken Womack red- YJ. My Brother Glenn came without a rig, but rode with me, along with his sons.
Eric, Dave and Swede arrived earlier on Thursday and had already run some trails late that afternoon. When we arrived we set up camp at the KOA, while the rest got checked into their rooms nearby. We got to The Park and signed in and ready for the next day’s runs.
One of our traditions of a Hot Springs Run is a 1st nite dinner at The OutBack Steakhouse. While we knew we would have to wait some, the wait was much longer than should have been on a Thursday night. The food was great though and the camaraderie had already begun. My Brother Glenn and his Family arrived while we were gone and got set up back at the KOA. Milton and Barbara would be arriving very late and staying at one of the cabins.
We all showed up at The Park, aired down and assembled for our Driver’s Meeting.
Eric Barnes has been to the Park several times and knew the trails, so I asked him if he might want to trail lead. He graciously accepted, and with the help of buddy Dave, they successfully led us through the many trails there. I became the tailgunner and got to visit more with my Brother and his son’s Nathaniel and Alex.
Our first trail led us across the ridge of the mountain that came eventually came right above camp. While there are other ways down, we deiced to come down Free Fall. I would lead us down that one, since I had done it the most. Free Fall is a VERY STEEP downhill section that is scary, but in a controlled way. It has high banks and berms that hold you on the trail, but it is so steep and loose that crawling is out of the question, and standing on the brakes will not help. You have to choose a low gear and brake without sliding, which is no easy task. We all came down safely with our blood pumping much faster and our adrenaline flowing freely!
Next we went to The Twin Hills area. The two steepest hills are closed due to pipeline work, but there are still two more climbs. We chose a very steep incline that all of us enjoyed. Next we entered the trailhead for A-18. This trail is very long with several different degrees of difficulty. It’s rated a 4, but I consider it a 3 dry. When wet it would be a 4, However, I would not recommend doing this trail when very wet. Buckhorn Trail is long and runs through gullies up and down and around and around. When dry, it can be done without lockers if you take the easier bypasses, though a pull by the strap may be needed at times. Our group did it all with no problems. There are some short hill climbs and well as long steep ones. The scenery is wonderful, taking you through pine and hardwood forest. Our group enjoyed this one greatly, as did Brother Glenn and his two sons.
We then met for lunch back at camp and visited with Clyde and Linda Stanford. You probably remember them from Barnwell Mountain. They are the new Park Managers for Superlift. They were very helpful and very gracious hosts. They told us about the Friday Night Run complete with black-eyed-peas to bring in the New Year. Black-eyed-peas on New Years is a must for the Traditional Texan, and was a great idea, Linda!
After lunch we assembled for The Ravine, which is one of my personal favorites. Rated a 3, it is a hard three with spots very close to a 4, especially when wet, as it often is. With 2 rigs open front and rear, this trail was a definite challenge. Swede’s and Milton’s Jeeps were open, but with careful tire placement and spotting, they were able to claw and scratch up and thru some of the difficult sections. This trail has genuine rock crawling on it, but is doable without huge amounts of rockstacking and winching. Locker equipped rigs can crawl this trail with little problem, except when wet, which would make it harder.
Eric decided against doing the Gorge, because it has two sections that aren’t doable without lockers, a wise choice. After that we did some trails across the road. The Red Oak trail, rated a 3 is long winding and steep, with fantastic scenery all around. It has a great combination of terrain. The folks who cut this trail deserve a big pat on the back, cuz it’s awesome. After a couple more trails, we headed back for camp. Later that nite several in the group went back to The Park to shoot fireworks and celebrate the New Year. Later we had a campfire and enjoyed the evening. Our first day was very good indeed.
Sunday morning we again met at The Park. Eric and Dave had already done a few trails and were warmed up. We did the Buckhorn East trail (or south) next. It’s another long trail that has some hard hills and many easy and mediums. It takes you on the borderline of Park boundaries thru more awesome scenery. Eric, Eddie and Don took an optional steep hill for additional thrills, and they reported it to be a great climb. We moved on down the trail which turned into an old shelf road from yesteryear, then back to a trail. We passed some world class rock climbs and some of the rock trails used in rockcrawling championships, like The Vertical Challenge and other rated 5 and 6. None of us felt that froggy. The weather had turned very foggy and then into drizzle. About ¾’s the way in, it became a light rain. Our last obstacle was an optional rock wall climb that wasn’t doable wet even with the wildest rock buggy. The bypass was between two tightly spaced trees and a rock ledge in the middle. It was harder that it looked, and a few rigs had to winch over.
Once on top, we decided to go back to the office and decide what next to do, since the rain wasn’t letting up. Eddie and Pat, Jerry and Kim, and Milton and Barbara decide to go on in to town and enjoy some of the sights of Hot Springs while Eric, Don and I went on to do more trails. We decided on the Ravine again and did so although it was wet and harder now. About ½ way into the trail, Eric's steering box brace broke. Eric and Dave decide to go back, so he could make the necessary repairs back home. We said our goodbyes and then Don and I finished the trail. With a steady rain falling and no end in sight and only 2 rigs remaining, I decided to call it a day, too. Don was the die hard, staying on to explore a few of the easier trails before going in.
The rain Saturday kind of spoiled the ‘wheeling, but not the fun. Milton and Barb left for Beaumont that evening, because they prefer night driving. The rest of us enjoyed the night life or just rested up. It was a pretty good weekend of ‘wheeling and fun. My Brother was very impressed with our Club. He took many pictures and he, his wife Diane and their boy’s Nathaniel and Alex had great fun and a special time. Clyde and Linda Stanford did everything possible to show us a good ‘wheelin’ experience. Many thanks to them, to Eric and "Shotgun Dave" for leading us on our trail excursion and to all who came up to ‘wheel with us, and to The Superlift Park, It was Cool! Let’s do it again. Happy Trails to You!