Thanks to guest author Nick Falcetto for this trip report.
Yesterday the Flatlanders Jeep Club of NE Kansas put on it’s first 4×4 fest as a replacement to the now defunct Jeep Jambo. Had a sizable turnout that was very Jeep heavy. I ended up going out in the second group on the hard trail. All short wheel base Jeeps. As we lined up I was sorta the odd-ball: lowest lift, only one without mud tires, one of two that was open at both ends. Ended up second in line behind trail leader John Miller in his CJ-7 with 33″ BFG muds and locked f/r. Entered into the park via the none mud pit entrance and parked to lock the hubs (only two other YJs and no TJs out of 13…felt left out just sitting in the sit watching people turn the dials). John took off and immediately headed for Hard Luck hill. The name comes from the club’s Hard Luck trophy given to the member who has the most problems (lack of traction, breakage, nagging wife, etc) in a given month. Last November, when going up the hill, a sudden rash of breakages gave it the name.
It’s a drop into a ravine and a climb back out with barely enough room for a Jeep to fit in the bottom. Going up there are two routes. One that’s basically straight up, but there’s a ledge in the way that can cause problems (i.e. if you’re moving fast and hit it the front end will become airborne). Other route cuts left right before the ledge. However to do that it must go sidehill a little and the ground drops off quickly to the left. If you get to far left and the drivers tires slip off of the dirt/rock trail into the grass it’s a pretty much guaranteed quick trip to the bottom unless somebody is very quick with the winch cable. Everybody ended up taking the left side. I ended up a too far left for my taste…had a little clutch quiver as I tried to keep from going farther that way. Yesterday was also prom and I had somehow managed to talk my date into coming along for the morning. It was her first time 4 wheeling so she was caught up in trying to hang on and missed the neat drop off. Everyone else made it up without incident.
Headed down another hill and straight for Driveshaft (guess why?) where a CJ had rolled last month. The hill constantly changes depending on who went up it last. This time there were plenty of rocks to make it challenging. I made it almost to the top by crawling but the last ledge can be tricky. It’s steepest right in the middle and there was a rock on top right about where the oil pan would be. Going right leads to a real off camber and most likely endo backwards. The left side puts both passenger tires in loose dirt (I’ve tried it before) which equals zero traction for open diffs. Attempted the slow approach, didn’t work, back down and nailed the gas. Went flying over the ledge straight to the top. The route down is gets pretty steep in the last 15 feet. You basically slid down it and that time was no exception. Yvett (my date) just sat there with a wide eyed look as other Jeeps slid down. Headed thru a couple small stream crossings and up another loose dirt hill. About 2/3 of the way up most people bog down and loose forward progress. Hit that spot and all 4 tires started to spin. Turned the wheels side to side and managed to get up without stopping. The moderate group was a couple hundred feet away on another trail up the hill. They had a PU truck that had stalled on some ledges. Rather than strap it up (“Nothing’s big enough to pull that”…yeah right) the trail leader got it restarted and side it across the hill to the hard trail (intelligence level wasn’t real high), then the truck had to back up across the hill to head up the ledges. I spotted Obi-Wan up the ledges then hurried back to my group before they left me behind.
We passed thru some forests and started up another tall hill. Yvett started to made a remark about how we done just about everything that could be done at a local amusement park (that many couples went to) except the upside down loops on the roller coaster. On this hill the trail goes up then makes a near 180 degree turn sidehill at the top that’s neat as the entire park and lake can be seen. Nice pucker factor for first timers (BTW, her side faced down the hill). Back down the hill and over to a set of ledges. Having played on them many times I picked a challenging route and made it look easy. On top the CJ that had been following me pull along side and ask what kind of lockers I had.
Shocked look on face, “You’re doing pretty good”
Started to head for the entrance via a series of up and downhills. The last uphill was the background shot in the article about it in the Feb. ’98 4×4 Power. John took a quick poll and the vote was for mud on the way out. He went thru first and used the CB to convince me to slick the mud (“gas it”). Thinking I was in third I slowly entered the pit then floored it. RPMs rapidly shot up and as I was coming out I glance at the tach to see it falling through 5500 after the computer had killed the ignition…oops…guess that was first gear. The Jeep was now covered in mud.
Head back to grab lunch and we had to leave to get back home to clean up. Didn’t get to stay for the raffle so I left my tickets with Obi-Wan who probably has a new toy from them.
The good news. She drives a convertible so she was used to the wind noise/top flapping. Even better she wants to go back. Being new to the whole Jeep thing (had to teach her the difference between “Jeep” and the blazer her dad just sold”) she was surprised at how nice everybody was. Only downside was how the mud had fallen in the last pit. The passenger side got much dirtier than mine did and I had to listen to her accuse me of purposely doing that all the way home. Also picked up a loud whistling side on acceleration that got real annoying.
Be sure to read about the rest of the 1st annual Flatlanders 4×4 Fest!
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