Windrock 10/18-20 & Black Mountain 10/21-23

Author Topic: Windrock 10/18-20 & Black Mountain 10/21-23  (Read 3687 times)

Offline Wingman

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Windrock 10/18-20 & Black Mountain 10/21-23
« on: October 24, 2021, 05:34:57 PM »
Windrock/Harlan trip report

FLX got an invite from Climax Crawlers, based in Maryland, to join them for a 3-day trip to the Black Mountain Off Road Adventure Area in Evarts, KY. This park has been on my bucket list for a few years so I accepted the invitation. Joe and Megan Bailey were up for the trip too. Not wanting to travel 12 hours one-way just for a relatively short event, the Bailey’s and I decided to go early and visit Windrock Park in Oliver Springs, TN (also on my bucket list) for the three days prior.

Bright and early Sunday morning, we headed southwest. Through New York, through Pennsylvania, through Ohio, and through Kentucky, we drove and drove and drove. 767 miles later, we pulled into Windrock Campground around 9:30pm and into our primitive camp sites that would serve as home for 4 nights. It was chilly and headed into the 40s overnight and I left my heater at home. Oops! Thankfully, my sleeping bag was good for it!

After a very quiet night, we woke to a glorious but brisk morning. I quickly donned all of the layers I had and stepped out into the sunshine to help warm up. We walked to the office, coffee in hand, and checked in and received our permits and trail maps. Then, after eating some breakfast, we headed down the 2.5 mile connector trail to the General Store. I bought another knit cap to help on the chilly nights. A note on this “connector trail”: it seemed long. It meandered. It was probably rated green on a good day but add some rain and it might qualify as a blue trail! There is always the boring option of taking the 3 mile paved road to the Store.

Time to hit some trails! We figured to keep it tame on the first day and chose greens and blues. Trail 22 (blue) looked like a good starter but felt like it went on forever. About half way, Trail 21 (black/red) branched off and I was tempted but reason (aka Joe) shouted and we continued on 22 for all 5.5 miles of it. We turned up G5 (green), G20 (green), up 19 (blue), then back onto G20, 4 (blue), and up G2 (green) to the wind farm. There were many impressive vistas.

During the ascent and descent, Joe began to notice a noise from his front end. We found our way to P1 and stopped at Trail 15 (black/red) entrance to check it out. Being a short trail, we walked it, noting how big the rocks and ledges were. Reason shouted again and reminded us of the noises coming from Joe’s Sami. We made our way back to the trailhead and camp to investigate.

During disassembly, no issues were noted save a kind-of loose wheel bearing. After a little bit of pondering, reassembly was completed and a test-drive down the park road was in order. Joe noticed the smell of burning rubber and then had a no-charge condition. Sure enough, the alternator had eaten the belt and spit it out. It was dinner time and parts stores would be closing soon, so I disconnected my truck and we headed into town to find a belt, food, and a heater.

AutoZone had the required belt, a nearby Chick-fil-A had the required nourishment, and a Tractor Supply had the heater I required. Good-to-go! Back to camp for the evening fire and another quiet night.

Another morning dawned and temps were in the 40s again. I begrudgingly crawled out of my sleeping bag but gleefully fired up the new heater, returning to the warm bag while waiting for it to warm up a bit. This time I enjoyed putting warm clothes on. I grabbed my chair and found a sunny spot and Joe went to work installing the new belt. This turned out not to be the easy task that was anticipated. There was too little adjustment for the shorter belt. Eventually we gave in and put the longer belt on and hoped for the best.

We set off for a different area of the park and found Trail 2 (blue). A short distance in, I noticed what sounded like a bad DC joint in my rear driveshaft. We turned around and went back to camp where I removed the shaft. Joe and I went over it with careful eyes and ears but found no indication of wear or breakage. I reinstalled it and we set off again to pick up where we left off. Once again on Trail 2, we found Trail 16 (black) and motored down until we found “the waterfall”. It was about 30’ high and quite the sight! We enjoyed a bite to eat before moving along the remaining part of this 5.2 mile long trail. We connected with G1 (blue), eventually making our way back to Trail 15 (black/red), and headed in. We tried to get a shiny blue JKU to come with us but he bailed. Making pretty quick work of this notable trail was a confidence booster.

Back to camp once again, I grabbed some firewood from a local vendor nearby and we enjoyed another evening of fine food and a gorgeous full moon. I pulled the heat-soaked Willys into the trailer to help warm things up before bed and keep the overnight dew off. Sometimes I make smart decisions?

Morning number 3 was as beautiful as the last ones have been. After a good pork roll breakfast sandwich, we buckled in and set out, taking Trail 22 again. This time we turned off and into Trail 21. Nothing too bad at first but after a couple of switchbacks, we came onto a rock outcropping on the hillside. Joe and I developed a plan and got up and through without trouble. There were a couple of more spots of challenge that were handled without issue. Another confidence booster! Off to harder trails!

Since 21 exited close to Trail 46 (black/red), we tackled that and then took a peek at Trail 47 (black/red) also known as “Rattle Rock”. This is supposed to be the hardest trail in the park and from what we saw, we have to agree. Although short, it consists of large boulders that seem to all point upward, with gaping maws filled with mud in between. We wisely opted out on this trip and proceeded forward to Trail 38 (black/red) aka “Little School Bus”. Sure enough, there was a large rock the size of a bus in the middle of this washed out gully. Surprisingly, both of us got right through! The last difficult part of this trail was another large group of rocks with no good options on either side. Once again, we got through although Joe wanted to do it while laying his Sami on its driver side.

From there, we took G5 (green) until we arrived at Trail 82 (black). This was a very sloppy and muddy trail that really only had two ledges to deal with. I found one hole that nearly swallowed my tires and sadly doused everything in a fresh coating of brown goo. This eventually put us on to Trail 83 (blue), then to Trail 5 (blue), G6 (green), G5, and back on all of Trail 22 to camp. About half way down 22, Joe’s power steering failed. Investigation found that the custom upper bracket had broken. Five minutes and a ratchet strap, and we were moving again. Once on the connector trail, we found that someone left behind a bundle of firewood, so we recovered it and put it to good use after returning to camp. Another killer meal and a great fire was had under the nearly full moon. The heat-soaked Willys was again used to prewarm the trailer.

Our fourth morning greeted us with a significant downpour about 5:30am. It let up in time for Joe to weld up his bracket. He was smart and brought a wire-feed 110v welder and plugged it into the back of the shower house. The park ranger caught him but since it was such a small repair, allowed him to complete it. We finished packing and strapping down and we pulled out shortly after 9:00am. Onward to Kentucky!

About 100 miles later in Evarts, KY, we filled up with fuel and stopped at another parts store for a couple of belt options. Arriving at the Harlan County Campground around 1:00pm, we found that the Maryland crew had pulled in a few minutes prior. We paid for our land-use permits and camping and started deeper into the campground. I made an erroneous choice and ended up climbing up a gravel access road to a cell tower. Not only was it steep, but there was a switchback turn about ¾ of the way up. I barely made the turn with the Duramax scratching for every inch. Joe did not fare so well on the turn and ended up a bit cattywampus and needing assistance. I unloaded the Willys and hooked up the winch rope and between his truck and the winch pull, he got straightened out enough to unload the Sami.  With the weight reduction, the rest of the climb was no issue.

After situating our trailers on the knoll, Joe did a belt swap on the Sami. The Climax crew swung by and said “hello” and headed out to the trails. Shortly after, Joe was good to go and we set out to investigate the campground and possibly a few trails before the impending rain storm. We found the area that I should have led us to but we opted to stay where we were parked.

We located the access road to the trail system. Near the trailhead, there was a muddy ledge that I tried many times with various amounts of wheel speed and momentum but could not attain. I pulled aside and Joe made it look easy. Not to be outdone or left behind, I backed up further and hit it even harder, barely cresting the top. Whew. A couple of guys from the Climax crew heard the “song of our people” and came down to watch (or heckle). They provided some good intel on what was ahead of us and then made their descent back to the campground.

Opting to investigate a little further before heading back, we hit Trail 15 (class 4) for a few minutes. Feeling the cold winds of change while we drove up and down the mountainside, we turned around and headed back. Once in the campgrounds again, I spotted another potential area and turned down the access road. After finding the clearing, Joe got distracted and dropped into a drainage ditch and stuffed his passenger tire into it hard, stalling in the process. After restarting and trying to move, something was obviously wrong. Sami was looking a little sad. Sad Sami.

He limped it down to the main lot, and after consultation with knowledgeable people, the diagnosis was bleak. It looked like the high steer trunnion bearing pin had sheared. Without available tools and parts, this would be the end of Sad Sami’s wheeling. We shuttled the truck and trailers down from their lofty heights so expertly obtained, to have the final night amongst the lowly RVs and cabins. A fantastic meal of pork loin, glazed carrots, mashed potatoes, and salad was prepared and consumed in the pavilion whilst the skies doused everything for over an hour. Afterward, we shared our remaining wood with the Climax Crawlers and enjoyed our evening around their campfire, laughing our time away.

Our last morning was brief and spent preparing for the long 693 mile journey ahead. The first couple of hundred miles were sprinkled with the splendor of the Kentucky mountains and the terror of tight, windy, steep two-lane roads then degraded to the mere ticking away of time and miles and potholes of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.

It was a bucket list trip spent with some of the best people on the planet! Special and heartfelt gratitude to Joe and Megan Bailey for their companionship and meals!

Offline MrMindless

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Re: Windrock 10/18-20 & Black Mountain 10/21-23
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2021, 08:42:21 PM »
Sounds absolutely spectacular
Michael Maskalans
#571 Last Minute Motorsports
High Miler: 07.5 Ram 6.7 6sp 4x2, ARB, 19.5s
2003 R'Audi Allroad 6sp
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Dumpbus: 97 Ram 24v P-pumped, RoadRanger 13sp
'87 AMC Eagle Wagon


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