Shiloh Ridge
By Ken Womack

     This was a run to Shiloh Ridge ORV Park that Larry Crawford and I had talked about for weeks.  See, a lot of the Freeport Area SHR’s work most Saturdays and some weekends, so they plan their 4-wheeling excursions well in advance, then cut loose with a well-planned trip. This was one of those, and I was ready to try out my new Warn Manual Hub Kit with new stronger 1-pc. axles. It was also time to run with my new 4-wheeling friends from New Caney, Buddy Overstreet and Jimmy Buckelew.

    Larry’s Son’s Tony and Chris left Fri. afternoon to secure campsites and set up early.  Larry & Carol Crawford, Allen & Renee Dunbar, Ralph & Robin Cook and their families left after work. Tony has a red Raider (Dodge), and Chris was getting to try out his new ‘92 red YJ. (I think Amanda did most of the driving). Buddy and Buck arrived Friday night also, and had their camps already made. Buddy’s camp trailer is truly awesome, but would take half a page to fully describe it. Buddy and Linda have a CJ-7 named Rebel that has a 304 V-8 w/Motorcraft 2 bbl. carb (that runs vertical), Wagoneer Dana 44 axles front and rear, Dana 19 transfer case, and 5.39 gears in the axles, and a T-18 transmission.

    Jimmy (Buck) has a CJ-7 with a 258 six and also the Motrocraft 2-bbl. He runs a Quadratrac full-time 4-wheel drive case, Auto, Dana 44’s front and rear, with 5.39 gears. Both Buddy and Buck run 36 X 12 Buckshot Mudders that work extremely well. Buddy does all his own work, and so does Buck, and if he needs help, Buddy’s there. Buck’s Jeep is named Boss Hog, and is a nice bright Yellow. (No, Daisy Duke or her Jeep wasn’t there, Darn it!) These guys know how to build em’ and drive em’. More later.

   I arrived with “Jeep Thrills” early Sat. morning, unloaded, and was anxious to hit the trails before the hard rain came. Buddy, Buck and I left for the Ravine (where the steep, short hills are) and got there as a gentle rain started. The red clay covered hills got slick real fast. I led our small group on some warm-up hills in and around the ravine. On a not too steep hill, I had some serious traction problems, I could not steer, and the traction just wasn’t there.  In my haste to get to the trail before rain, I neglected to air down. BIG MISTAKE!  I could not climb this easy hill. On the third attempt, I hammered down, but got too far to the right side of the hill. With lockers front and rear, Jeep Thrills just didn’t want to steer with 35 lbs. of air in the tires. I tried to steer back into the ruts, but couldn’t. I kept climbing the high side, felt the Jeep tipping, got it slowed down to nearly a halt, and then I was on my side. Bummer! No injuries, except to my pride. 

   Buddy called on the CB to see if I was ok, then ran down the hill, got my winch remote, hooked the hook high on a tree on the bank, then had me and my Jeep back on 4 tires in less than 5 minutes. Buddy had a cool head, knew what to do and did it in short order. Definitely and ol’ pro at wheeling.  After getting out, I surveyed the carnage. Luckily it was very slight, a pushed in door (hardly noticeable), and some scratches to the rear quarter panel. After uprighting my cooler, and airing down to 12 lbs., we were off again. Now, I ALWAYS air down, but this time I goofed, was in too much of a hurry and failed to do what I knew I should have done. Airing down is always wise, and really makes a world of difference whether terrain is wet or dry. After airing down, all the hills were infinitely easier. After climbing most the rain slick hills there, we went back to the other side to run the hill that Shawn had problems with back in Dec. We met up with Lee Overall (also from New Caney).  Lee and I chose not to run this hill due to an off camber spot. Buddy nearly made it, but winched close to the top.  Buck went even further, but got a pull from the strap very close to the top.

   After some excellent ‘wheeling, we went back to camp for lunch. After lunch we met up with Larry and his Boys to make another run. This time we ran the whoops (a Shiloh Ridge manmade set of obstacles) along with some long, steep, slick hills. They were a blast, cause you just can’t crawl them.  They require some momentum. Slipping, sliding and just having a blast. I don’t think ANY of us really wanted to run in the mud, but hey, WE WERE 4-WHEELING! Might as well enjoy it! And we did!

   It was refreshing to run with 2 generations of 4-wheelers. The young ones showed enthusiasm, raw talent, and an eagerness to 4-wheel the right way, with respect for other ‘Wheeler’s and using the Tread Lightly! ethic. Kudos to the next generation!  Yea!                      

   After returning to camp, we all cooked, ate and relaxed ‘til a huge thunderstorm came in to totally soak a large number of 4-wheelers. This spectacular lightning storm lit up the sky and put out a deluge of water, ruining camp for lots of folks. Several tents leaked and some tents blew down. Unfortunately, Larry & Carol, Allen & Renee and Ralph & Robin and their families were some the folks that got rained out. They packed up the crew to stay at a nearby motel. I was lucky that mine didn’t leak and Buddy & Linda’s Jeep Camp Trailer was high and dry, literally.  Buddy can haul one or two Jeeps, all his gear, tools, heater, BBQ Pit, etc., etc., etc. in his 3-axle fifth-wheel float trailer. He has fold-down tables and bed, heater, generator, and is 3-feet off the ground. The trailer has a tube frame roof support, with a roll-down canvas roof. Very ingenious, and it works very well. 

  The next morning gave us some cooler weather, but the rains had let up, though the dark sky threatened all morning. The trails were really slick now, but we had a blast anyway. Buddy and Linda left for home, but Buck and Zane (who showed up Sat. night) ran with us ‘til 1 pm. Tony’s red Raider ate a starter, but that was the only serious mechanical problem. Chris and Amanda’s new Jeep worked very well.  Even though it is open front and rear, and has only a four banger, (which works well off-road), they did quite well. As I said before Amanda did much of the driving, and did quite well, I must say.

   Even though Shiloh Ridge isn’t a rock-crawler’s dream or real, real challenging, it IS FUN! Lot’s of area, lots of terrain, with mild or harder stuff. It can be as hard or easy as you want. Excellent for a 4-wheeling camp-out. The price is reasonable, with on-site camping. The staff works hard to give 4-wheelers challenges, and even creates some for us. It’s fairly close to Houston (2 to 3 hours) and can be great fun for a day or a weekend.

   I had a great time for many reasons. One was the chance to run with new friends, another to run with old friends and another to run with the next generation. It’s always a pleasure to run with The Freeport chapter of the SHR’s, and a great pleasure to run with Buddy & Linda, Buck, Zane and Tiffany.

   Buck left just about an hour before we all did, but Larry and Crew and I convoyed back home, with a stop in Lufkin to eat a wonderful Sunday buffet. We were stuffed and left for home.

Thanks to all that made this run, it was cool!