Jason's First Time
by Jack Brinks

Jason’s First Time

Talking with Clyde Stanford, the Property Manager at Barnwell Mountain Recreation Area, it was apparent that many trails were becoming grown over from all the rain at BMRA.  And, having not been to Gilmer since the Texas Trail Rides, Shawn Pagan, me and my son Zach decided it was time for a work/fun run.  Zach invited his friend Jason, who is almost like a second son to me, as I’ve known him since the boys were in Cub Scouts together, what seems like a long, long time ago.  It’s hard to believe they both have their driver’s licenses now.  Jason also seems to spend more time at our house than his.  That’s OK though, he’s a pretty good kid.  Although he had ridden ATV’s, he had never been wheelin’ before.  Needless to say, he was in for the rides of his young life!

We met Shawn around 6 AM Saturday morning and had a leisurely drive up to BMRA.  After talking with Clyde and his lovely wife Linda for a while, we unloaded the Jeeps and headed out to start trimming trails.  The sky was already looking ominous as we entered the Houston Creek Trail and, by the time we reached Jack’s Crack, the rain had moved in.  We kept on trimming though, until the lightning convinced us that this was not really the best place to be, especially since neither Shawn nor I had brought tops for the Jeeps.  About the time I decided to turn around and head for the office, I heard Clyde on the CB telling me that someone was heading my way looking for me.  It turned out to be fellow SAJE member Dave Dennison who runs a Jeep named “Flipper” (2 guesses how it got that name, and the second one doesn’t count!).  I think he said he was on vacation, and just wanted to stop by to see BMRA.  With the rain pouring down and the thunder in the background, I’m not quite sure, but I did promise to get in touch with him when we got back to Houston about him joining SHR.  Anyway, we headed back to the office to hide from the lightning and dry out for a while.

When the rain moved on about 45 minutes later, we headed back to the Houston Creek Trail.  Rather than take the now wet and extremely difficult exit, we opted for the bypass, which is a crawl up a ravine. Try it your next trip, just for fun!  It’s the first time I’ve ever gone that way, and it was cool!  Needless to say, Jason was excited.  I almost ran into several trees trying to see the look on his face from time to time!  Fortunately, the trail seems to be run quite frequently and required trimming was minimal.  Future plans for the trail include lengthening Jack’s Crack (even though Shawn was the first to try it, I was the one who found it, hence the name!) by angling the walls at the bottom some.  As it is, it’s a cinch to drive into, but almost impossible to get out of without a winch to keep you from going over.  Since it’s optional, we want to keep it difficult, but do-able by those willing to take a chance of laying it over in the ravine.  We are also considering another exit to the right of the current exit, for those that want a little variety in their lives! 

Next we headed for Twister, a really fun trail, and, with some of the natural erosion that occurs on the mountain, it’s getting more interesting all the time.  If you hit one ravine just right, you can get some major air!  Obviously a great photo op.  (My daughter Jessie scanned the picture and put it on an iron-on, then hand made me a pillow with the picture on one side.)  COOL!  (She had a little help from my wife, Mary).  Thanks, ladies!

After Twister came Spider Ravine and Venom Loop.  Here again, trimming was surprisingly minimal.  The access trails, on the other hand, were like driving through the jungle.  Clyde, (even at 75 years young) was trimming trees and brush with a power trimmer faster then we could clear the trimmings off the trails!  While we were there, some lightly modified Jeeps were attempting to climb the entrance hill of Spider Ravine.  A nearly new TJ ending up on a tree and the group had put together three straps and were preparing to jerk the guy up the hill.  None of the group had a winch.  Shawn and I quickly offered to help extract the Jeep, and reduce further imminent body damage.  Needless to say, the driver was very grateful.  When he offered us money for helping him, I declined, and asked him to just help someone else out in the future.  He assured me he would!

The next morning we headed out again.  I don’t know which trails we ran, but I remember that we were exiting “No-Name” (#9, I think) when I hit a small ledge.  I also remember that metallic breaking sound as I tried to climb it.  I picked up the CB and said “Shawn, I think I broke something”.  Sure enough, the left rear axle shaft broke at the splines.  Unfortunately, with ALL the spare parts and tools I carry in my “shiny silver box”, I didn’t have something capable of extracting the piece of the axle left in my Detroit locker.  So, we put it back together, drove up front of the property, put the Jeep on the trailer, and pulled both axles.  With a little help from friends (especially Dave Witt, the barbeque guy) we were able to push out the small piece from the other side.  Ten minutes later, we were ready to go again.  You can bet that I now have a piece of rod that will do the trick if (OK, when) I need it in the future!

Later, we headed for the Linda Gail Trail on the NE part of the property, trimming as we went.  I was trimming the left side with either Jason or Zach, whoever was in my Jeep at the time, and Shawn would get the right.  Many times we just had to get out and trim because it was too overgrown for a moderate trail.  Part of the reason we went there is because of an optional ravine that has become quite interesting.  Driven properly, you can keep all four on the ground.  Driven for fun, you can get lots of air, either front or rear, depending on which direction you’re heading.  I got a little carried away in front of the camera and almost laid it over, but saved it at the last second. 

After we’d run just about every trail, including Fun Country, Saturday Night Live, Weenie World, etc., we went up front to run Airstrip. 

It’s becoming interesting with a good-sized ledge near the top.  While trying to make the hardest line on the right, I had to back down.  All the weight shifted to the right rear and I popped the tire off the bead.  Instead of trying to fix it on the hill, I backed all the way down to the bottom.  After messing around for a few minutes trying to reseat the bead, I decided it was time for the ether.  Jason was very impressed, and wanted me to do it again so he could take a picture!  We finished up the day running the west perimeter road with Clyde, trimming back the overgrowth as we went.  One area was washed out badly, but we thought we could spot Clyde’s CJ5 through.  As usual, the mud and ravine had a different idea.  He ended up stuck between two trees, unable to go forward or back.  After a little interesting winching and judicious trail trimming, we were on the move again.                                 



Well….after we got Shawn unstuck as well!

We’ll have to go back on another work weekend and install some culverts, as this is supposed to be an access road for emergency purposes, not really a “trail”.

All in all, it was a great weekend.  We got some work done and had some fun too!  I know Jason had a good time, because he had his pictures developed the next day already and he’s talking to his dad about getting the ATVs going again so they can bring them along next time!

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:  “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”.  (As long as you have permission!)

Jack Brinks