By Ken Womack
run came about after I looked at the calendar 4 months earlier and realized that
I would have my birthday off, and on a Friday to boot. So what better activity
than 4-wheeling on your birthday could there be? So that would be the plan. I
contacted members of the Southern High Rollers and my buddies, Buddy Overstreet
and Jimmy (Buck) Buckelew and asked them if they would like to go. Well, several
SHRís were already going to FWD-FWDís Memorial Trail Ride there in Clayton
Memorial Weekend. But a few decided to go and so did Buddy, Buck, and Buddyís
son Darrin. When it was first put in the newsletter, it was called Kenís
Birthday Run, and the name stuck.
run started with a small caravan of SHRís, Michael Ecord and Raymond, Paul
Trotochaud and myself. Buddy and Linda, Darrin and his Family and Keith and
Darla would leave about noon. We left at 8:30 from Splendora Thursday AM.
Don Cavanagh and Todd Karasek left at different times Thursday.
Just before we got to Clayton, the sky opened up with a hard rain. When
we arrived in Clayton we stopped by Indian Mounds Campground to let Jess know we
would be staying in town that night, but back in the morning. It was raining too
hard to set up tents. Buddy and his Boys would arrive later, and luckily the
rain had subsided. Todd and his brother Scott would be staying in a motel in
Clayton, while Don Cavanagh arrived at 3 in the morning, then set up camp. Whew!
What a trooper!
19, 1st Day, Friday
Well, we got lucky on the weather situation, the rain stopped last night
and the sky, while still over-cast, wasnít threatening rain. With only a
couple hours of sleep, Don was ready to go. We gathered up our gear and loaded
up for the first day. Buddy would lead today and I would tailgun. We planned to
do the easier trails today and the tough ones Sat. Good thing we chose the
easier ones, cause the trails were still wet, but the hillsides were already
drying. Nice thing about Indian Mounds is that the trails start right out of the
campground. Buddy led us to the head of the TreeLine Trail off the Charcoal
This was a great warm-up trail to get your springs heated up and your
cobwebs swept out. This scenic trail while not real hard; it was enough to get
your attention. It snaked thru the wooded hills and across ravines to get us to
the crossroads of Rock Hill and 3-stage. We decided to start Rock Hill, then
turn to do Lost Creek, a trail I hadnít run yet. Since Don Cavanagh was open
front and rear, and had only 31Ē tires, Buddy and I decided he would best be
near the front. So Don fell in behind Darrin (new trail leader), and Buddy.
There Don would be in between Jeeps with winches and V-8 power in case he
got into trouble. While there were several high points in the day, the most
prominent one was Donís driving skill. He was truly awesome! He was able to
negotiate the tricky Lost Creek trail with only some occasional spotting and a
couple of tugs from the tow strap.
This trail had a spot that I had great trouble with. A large exposed rock
slab with a large hump in the middle skewered me like a piece of meat on a
kabob. Why I chose that line Iíll never
know, cause it got me crossed-up sideways and high-centered with my front drive
shaft on the rock. Todd Karasek and his brother Scott came back to help me, they
tried spotting, but I was hung up. I got out the Hi-Lift Jack to jack up the
back end to stack rocks to get Jeep Thrills high enough to clear.
It wasnít enough to get over, but enough to be off the front drive
shaft. Out went the winch cable, and I was drug off that %&*@ rock!
put a couple of Jeeps in precarious positions, but all got thru. Todd had some
carburetor problems here, but made it thru. By this point, I had finally woke
up, and drove thru without a hitch. Next came a steep hill that was a little off
camber. It had 2 approaches, one thru 2 trees with a small ledge that forced you
way too near a tree, and another around it, thought slightly more off-camber.
Buck chose the tight one, made it, but his transfer case slipped out of
gear, and Boss Hogg came barreling downhill backwards and hit the tree and
became wedged in! After knowing all were safe, we all laughed like crazy! It
scared poor Buck half to death, and gave Keith and Darla the thrill of a
lifetime. Paul pulled ahead to pull up Buck, but would slip to the side. Finally
we shortened the strap and Paul yanked him up. After this incident, we climbed
out and up the mountain to the main road. From
here we continued on to Survey Line Trail. We traveled a good distance before we
got to the trailhead.
On the first hill, Toddís ARB compressor burned out a fuse and was
quickly changed. Todd also seemed to have some bad gas, as his Jeep had some
carb problems. He made this one
easily, as well as the next. The next was the hardest obstacle, a large rock
slab face with a rise in the middle. Dry, this isnít too bad, but wet, itís
scary. Don scrambled right up with just a little wheelspin. We encountered some
ATVís here, and they were amazed how Jeeps were able to climb. Survey leads to
Clayton Trail and to the start of Bus Line. Down we went over water bars
(erosion control bumps that work real well) and over large ledges and boulders.
Many of these rocks were sharp. After successfully going down, we turned around
and went back up. It was fun to watch Jeeps climb what seemed like impossible
inclines up a red ribbon that was the trail straight up the mountain.
Awesome!! And the sound of Rebel and Bad Boy, (Buddyís and Darrinís)
Jeepís with roaring V8ís was so cool! Darrinís has an AMC 360 with Turbo
400 Auto and Buddyís a 304 with T-18. Both with 5:89 gears and lockers front
and rear. This was Todd, Don, and Michael Ecordís first trip to Clayton and
they had a Hoot of a time, as we all did, and this was only the first day! Keith
is real eager to get his Jeep put together. Michael Ecordís new 4 to 1
transfer case gears and short shaft kit worked flawlessly and he was so happy to
be there! After the drive back to camp, we all cooked and partied, told stories
and jokes, then turned in to rest for day 2.
May 20, 2nd Day, Saturday
Stage Trail is Claytonís signature trail, the one that made the area famous.
Itís no longer the toughest trail there, but is still very challenging and
really is a must do trail for any serious wheelerís. Buddy, Darrin and Buck have all done 3-stage many times, but
didnít want to take the kids up the first part. Understandably, the kids and
mother, and grandmother got out while we went up, one by one. I went up first
with no drama, with Paul next. Paul went up this difficult obstacle as close to
crawling as anyone I have ever seen. I have NEVER seen anyone ever crawl up this
ledge. Itís just too steep, too slick and too
You have to bump up the ledge with your front wheels, then pause, then give it
the gas, but not too much. Next was
Todd, who at first forgot to lock up his front ARB. After locking up, his V-8
powered fiberglass bodied, beautiful red CJ climbed it with no problem.
(Todd must have gotten some better gas, as his red Jeep was running much
better.) Next was Michael Ecord,
with Raymond riding shotgun. Mikeís new Terra Low 4 to 1 was awesome, but the
shift linkage was vague. 2-wheel low and 4-wheel low was right next to each
other, and was way too difficult to tell if you were really in 4-wheel drive.
The first attempt had him still in 2- wheel low, and got him sideways in a bad
spot. Since his driver side brakes had cratered Friday, he slid down just a
little further and faster than felt comfortable for him, if you know what I
mean. After a positive lock up to 4-wheel low, he was ready. Trying in first
gear was too low, and wheelspin was the result without a rear locker. (Though he
was locked in the front). Paul suggested 2nd gear and more gas.
This worked as he scrambled up with a cheer from the group.
Don Cavanaugh rode shotgun with me this day and left his Jeep in camp, so
I had a spotter and a camcorder operator, Cool! After watching us go up, Darrin
and Buddy couldnít resist it. Buck
declined because his transfer case popping and jumping. Wise decision on his
part, I do believe. Darrin was next and climbed it easily, also almost crawling,
but with a slight rumble form the 360 as his rear wheels hooked up. Buddy was
next, made it right up, then stopped in the middle of the hill!?! to see if
Linda and the grandkids wanted to ride the rest of the way. She said no.
The third stage was a little gnarly, but oh so much fun! Paul hit a small
log that bounced under his Jeep and pulled loose his rear ARB airline. In about
20 minutes Paul and Mike had it fixed, and we went down St. Valentine. Over the
top of 3-stage and on to 4x4 Hill which is now closed. (We respected the rights
of the new owners to stay off.) St Valentine is harder than before. Itís
downhill with loose rocks, ledges and very tight turns. Anything bigger than a
Jeep would not fit or be too much of a nightmare to make it.
At the bottom, I heard rumblings of hunger from the bunch, so we ate
From there we left to start Rock Creek. Rock Creek is getting tougher
every time I see it. This trail will someday be a 5. We made it up to the 3/4
mark before I broke a muffler hanger. With just a few minutes and some bailing
wire later we were off. Then Micheal Ecord cut a tire on sharp rocks that were
From there we left for Lower Power Line, a trail I hadnít run all the
way yet. This is a nice long trail that gets tougher the deeper you go. On one
spot you cross a creek, then climb straight
up and must turn a sharp left. Only problem is the huge sharp
cropping up out of the ground. You gotta go right, but not too far because of a
serious drop-off, then left and thru two built in boulders. I walked up the hill
to scope out the line, and picked it right. My Pizza Cutters allowed me to fit
between the rocks. Everyone else
had to climb over (with resulting high centering) or around.
Todd and Scott nearly went too far right and were very close to the edge.
Scott got out to spot for Todd and he got over after a few tries.
Darrin went over this part with no problem whatsoever, his ďDarrin DoneĒ
siping on his Boggers worked so good. Buck got sideways, then leaning. It took
some Keith counterweighting to keep Buck rubber side down. It made for
some interesting video. Buddy was next and had to rumble over the rocks with
clearance and power. We all had some interesting moments.
We kept on going until we heard the river running and saw the extreme downhill section. Only Paul and I went downhill, while the rest took the bypass. This section is really nasty. I scraped real bad several times on the underbelly. At the bottom we cooled of in the creek (start of Snake Pit). Nobody wanted to run it, as it had too much water. Paul was the only one of 7 rigs to try the uphill, and he did a fine job. We all met him at the bypass crest. Here Paul led us out and back to the crossroads of Upper Power Line. We did that one as well. Lotís of ground covered in 2 days, the most I had ever run.
Back down Clayton Trail to camp, the run was over, but everybody was
happy and had all they wanted for the day. We cooked, ate, showered, partied and
hooped and hollered, watched videos and had a fire. A fitting end to a fine
gathering of 4-wheelerís, excellent trails, fine folks, and good weather.
Itís what I wanted for my Birthday, and I got it! Thanks to all that were
there, and letís do it again.