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Cruising, East Texas Style

Cruising, East Texas StyleWhy is it that all the cool trails in Louisiana (all two of them) are closed during hunting season? Can’t they see that my big red FJ-40 isn’t a deer? Anyway, the lack of trail access for our club, LA 4X4, makes it hard to wheel in the winter, so we scheduled the January trail ride at Barnwell Mt. OHV area in Gilmer, Texas. I had wheeled Gilmer on Labor Day weekend and I knew it was going to be a blast, so I really talked it up to the club. As the week of January 14, 2001 rolled around, so did the rain. I kid you not, it rained EVERY DAY for 5 days prior to our trip. After wheeling Gilmer on a dry weekend, it is safe to say I was pretty worried about getting up those tight, east Texas hills! Well, time always tells and at the witching hour, the caretaker at Barnwell Mt. called and said the trails there would be closed due to the rain. It had been two months since I wheeled and I was dying to test out my new 35” Goodyear MT/R’s and new front ARB. I was going to ride that weekend and ride I did. As the numbers of committed “wheelers” diminished further and further, I formulated a plan to divert the January LA 4X4 ride to Shiloh Ridge OHV area near Alto, Texas. I gave the caretaker at Shiloh Ridge a call and she told me that they never close. I replied “Giddy up!” Since this is a Land Cruiser forum, I have to say the Cruisers, as usual, were in the minority on the run. Final count on D-Day was 3 J*#ps and 2 cruisers (not counting my FZJ-80 tow rig.) My Cruiser, as most of you know, is Kate. Kate is a 1977 FJ-40 with a 2F, SM465 transmission, lockers and 35” meats. My Cruiser buddy that helped me fend off the J*#ps was Rusty Biggs in his 1977 FJ-40, code named “Green Piece” after his partial green paint job. Green Piece has 33” Boggers, SM420, and a rear locker and a wild man behind the wheel.

"Great place to experience the traction associated with slickrock"<BR><BR>

Finally, the J*#ps consisted of 2 well-equipped TJ’s with 35’s and a YJ with 33’s.

The best way to describe Shiloh Ridge is that it is a free-for-all OHV area. What you see is what you get, red clay hills criss-crossed with trails, huge mud pits (if that is what you like) and 2 small, challenging “rock gardens.” If you have never wheeled rocks, these little rock areas are a great place to experience the traction associated with slickrock, but they are very small and limited. The most fun was the dirt hills, especially after all that rain! Red clay dries pretty fast, but the hills are steep and 2F’s aren’t the best for getting those wheels spinning on long pulls.

We did a little scouting on Friday while we waited on the rest of the crew to arrive and the caretaker gave us directions to the rock areas. The guy in the YJ immediately broke a Dana 30 U-Joint on the first obstacle and we spent most of the 3 hours before dark getting back on the trail.
Broken J*#p<BR><BR>
Saturday morning the weather cleared and it was very cold (21 F). Rusty had his 6-year-old son with him and his ’40 is topless, so needless to say, I immediately had a co-pilot. We first went to the rocks (of course.) I scooted up the hill first to show that it can be done and was followed by the first TJ. He had no problem, but the next two J*#ps struggled and took a strap at the top. The run of the day was when Rusty took the hill in his ’40 without a front locker after the J*#ps in front of him had front lockers and had to be strapped!
As I said before, those muddy hills were quite challenging.  <BR><BR>
Rusty and I did well, but we stretched those 2F’s a little more than we should have. Right before lunch, Rusty’s P/S belt let go on him, but fortunately, I had a spare in Kate.
I had a go at it on “the hard side.” <BR><BR>
We ended up playing on the clay hills on the South side of the property until after lunch and then we had to have a go at the rocks again. I had to go over the area on the rocks where the YJ failed on Friday and broke it’s U-Joint. Once we got there, I had a go at it on “the hard side.” I don’t know if anyone has ever gone the route I chose, but it was pretty hairy! PIC 5 After 2 tries, I finally made it up and over!
"Sometimes, people know when it is time to quit while they are ahead". <BR><BR>
After the mess I made of my ascent, Rusty and the J*#ps decided to stay on the sidelines for this bit of idiocy. Sometimes, people know when it is time to quit while they are ahead. Frankly, I have never had this 6th sense, and if I could develop it, I’m sure I would be thousands of dollars richer! Of course, while we were on the North side of the property, we had to take another stab at the rock hill. As I was in front, it only made sense that I take a different, harder line since I had made it up 2 times previously. Where is that 6th sense when you need it most? As you can probably guess, things did not go exactly as planned on my final ascent of the day. Just as I neared the top, I felt a loud “thump” and all forward progress ceased.
"The carnage count was pretty much even, one  J*#p and one Cruiser left on trailers and the rest went home in one piece". <BR><BR>
The right front U-bolts on my front axle had snapped in two on my custom U-bolt flip kit. When the U-bolts gave way, my axle shifted and my front driveshaft came apart and my brake line was severed. Nice huh? I was VERY glad to have my M12000 Warn winch on my Cruiser. There is something about breaking hard at the end of a trail ride that makes people want to call it a day. Both of the guys in the TJ’s drove to the trail and were definitely ready to call it a day. Rusty had proven he could make this particular obstacle and was not exactly jumping-at-the-bit to do it again. So we called it a day. We packed it in and called it a successful trail ride. The carnage count was pretty much even, one J*#p and one Cruiser left on trailers and the rest went home in one piece. Comparing the two OHV areas in East Texas, Barnwell Mt. and Shiloh Ridge, both have a lot to offer every type of wheeling imaginable. If you like tight, technical trails go to Barnwell. If you like trails that are a little wider with the option of a mud run or two, Shiloh Ridge is the place for you. Look up Shiloh Ridge on the web at Shilohridge.com or give them a shout at 800-432-3965.

Copyright ©2001 Nolen Grogan
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