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Nov 01

The Cass Experience, to bee or not to bee!

Posted by trlfrog  filed under    0 Comment(s)    Add a Comment  comment-icon.png

P1030296.JPGPicture this, you’re new to off-roading, you have been out a few times and have managed to keep your daily driver in one piece so far, you also have started modifying your rig in preparation for tackling more difficult trails.  Now you would like to see if your work has paid off, but you don’t want to get in over your head, and you would like someone with experience to show you the ropes.

A few months ago Mark, one of our experienced longtime club members, offered to lead a trail run to Byrd’s Adventure Center.  Byrd’s has about 500 acres of off-road trails, is surrounded by the Ozark National Forest located in NW Arkansas, not far from the small town of Cass.  Mark’s offer however was not just to take the lead on the trails but to also offer some of his experience to some of the less experienced guys in our club.  The offer was to find some challenging trails that some of the newer, slightly modified rigs, could experience and to provide some pointers about how to spot, how to choose a line through a difficult section of trail, and how to use a winch to help get you through some of the really rough spots without tearing up your rig!  Several indicated they would like to take Mark up on his offer so the trip was planned and Mark recruited the help of two other veteran club members, Stan and Brian, to help make sure everyone had a good time.

As the date drew near, the weather forecast looked perfect, there was a chance of rain about two days before the trip but partly cloudy and about 76 degrees for the day of the trip.  As it turned out it did rain for about three hours a few days before we arrived but it was just enough to settle the dust on the trails.    Also as sometimes happens several ended up with conflicts for the date planned so we only had two rigs besides the three veterans on this trip.  Nathan was driving a 07 Jeep JK 4dr, with a 3 inch lift, 35” AT’s and ARB lockers front and rear.  I was driving a 08 Jeep JK 4dr, with a 3 inch lift, 35” MT’s, and an e-locker in the rear.  Both Nathan and I have wheeled for about two years, so we are both still new to this crazy sport and we have stuck to mostly level 3 rated trails with an occasional level 4 trail on a 1-5 scale.

Well, that wouldn’t be the case on this trip!  With trail names like Knuckle Buster, Between the Rocks, and Slight Hell, we would be on four and five rated trails all day!  Everyone gathered at the park about 10am, Our trail guides all trailer their rigs, as for Nathan and I we wheel our daily drivers so no trailer for us.  After airing down, disconnecting or from sway bar links, and removing doors, we were ready to hit the trails.  Before we headed out to the trails, Stan led us in prayer, thanking our Father for His awesome creation and asking for His protection as we hit the trails.  First up was Knuckle Buster, a level 5 trail.  The park describes the level 5 trails this way;  For extremely modified 4x4 vehicles, winch, 2 locking differentials, spotters, and big lug nuts recommended!

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We took everything slow, Mark, Stan, and Brian did a great job spotting for us and we only pulled winch line once or twice getting to the end of the trail.  This was one of the most technical trails, I’ve attempted, with big rocks the entire trail.  Nathan and I made it without body damage however and were ready for the next challenge.

First, it was about time for some lunch so we headed up one of the access roads to a large wooden cross that sits at the top of the hill, overlooking the valley below.  Everyone had packed a lunch so we circled the rigs just off the trail by the cross and enjoyed lunch and trail talk before heading back down the hill to our next trail.  Stroller Trail is a level 4 trail that winds through and around some large rocks.  Nathan and I were doing alright until about halfway down the trail.  Nathan was the third rig behind Stan and Brian, Mark was behind him and I was bringing up the rear.  Nathan was having a difficult time on one really rocky section of the trail up ahead.  Everyone was out of their rigs watching Nathan as he followed instructions from Stan trying to get him over this one rock.  After about ten minutes Nathan decided it was time to pull the winch line once more! 

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I watched from my rig as Matt and Stan located a large tree and wrapped the strap around the tree and hooked the winch to the strap.  Nathan was given the thumbs up to start winding the winch line in, just as the line tightened up and started to pull his rig I heard a large CRACK!  I looked over as the large tree the winch was tied to started to fall! 

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As you can see this tree was about 24 inches in diameter and over 60 foot tall and the whole thing was headed straight for Nathan’s jeep!  Brian and Stan jumped out of the way as the tree came to rest just about a foot away from Nathan’s jeep and blocked the entire trail.  No sooner had the tree hit the ground did I hear one of the guys shout BEEEES RUN!  Yes the tree was hollow and a large swam of giant hornets were flying everywhere.  Nathan was still recovering from watching a hugh tree just miss his rig, now he was scrambling to release his seatbelt and run for his life!

Everyone gathered just down the trail where I was watching all this.  Brian and Nathan had both been stung twice!  Thank goodness neither was allergic to bee stings.  We got the bee stings treated then thanked the Lord that no one was seriously hurt.  Our attention then turned to Nathan’s JK that was still stuck, still attached to the now fallen tree, and now in the middle of some very excited bees. 

P1030373.JPGNathan, dawned a rain suit, bandana, cap, and gloves and went to rescue his JK from the giant hornets, two guys grabbed fire extinguishers and circled around the front to create a diversion!  Now the challenge, Nathan was still stuck, but was able to back off the rock and then back down the trail about 100 foot to safety once again.

Everyone turned around in the trail and headed back out the way we came to another level 4 trail named “Between the Rocks”  This was a beautiful trail with boulders half the size of a small house!  Fortunately most of them were not in the middle of the trail.  After negotiating our way around several huge rocks we finished the trail and called it a day, and what a day it was. 

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Well, Nathan and I had gone  to learn how negotiate difficult trails and we had learned plenty, most important, just because a winch point looks solid doesn’t mean it is, so the next time you throw a strap around a large tree or other winch point make sure it is well grounded and BEE careful!

Until we ride again,

Trailfrog out!

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