Iron Gap Road

by Mike


Trip to Iron Gap Road near Winchester,Tn

Our previous scouting trip had made us really want to see more of Iron Gap road. We paid another visit to Iron Gap road today. This time we were armed with two well equipped Jeeps to make the run. And it turned out we were not quite as prepared as we should have been.

I was sorta of expecting this to be an easy run. After all this is a county road. We dropped my trailer at the Keith Springs Community Center. We tried to call the number of the sign about a parking permit but the recording said it was disconnected.

We headed off down the paved road toward the trail head. About half a mile in, I remembered my radio was still in the Suburban. Jennifer waited while I went back and got my radio.

I drove the first three miles or so in 2wd. Not until we dropped off down the ridge did I switch to low range. Mostly to have more control of the step ledges on th way down.

About 4 miles in we came to an intersection of four roads. The road to the right was blocked by a tree so that eliminated that option. We were left with two choices that went sorta left. We chose the one that continued down the ridge.

The trail soon looked more like a trail than a road. Eventually it ended int he solid rock creek bottom. We crossed the creek and picked up another road on the other side. We chose to turn left. The road followed the creek a short distance before it made a steep descent into the creek toward a crossing. The descent was made even more interesting by two springs that came out of the rocks right were we went down.

A couple of friendly ATV riders stopped to watch us make the descent. They were really surprised to see the second Jeep was driven by a girl.

They helped us get our bearings and we continued on. The trail crossed the creek several more times. Most of the creek bed was dry and it was sometimes difficult to tell what was rod and what was creek.

At one point the road was blocked by a tree so we dropped int o the cry creek bed to go around it. The ATV riders had told us about some new logging roads that were freshly cut in. We accidentally got on one and drove a short distance before we realized we were going away from the creek bed that the road follows.

At one creek crossing, the there was a deceptively deep pool right where it looked like you should cross. I quickly backed out and moved a few feet to the left to cross in much shallower water.

We came to another intersection and again chose to go left. The road at first went between two creeks but then the terrain changed quickly. We chose a grassy spot for a picnic.

We then turned around and took the right fork across the creek. This led us into an area marked Bear Creek Wildlife management area.

We caught up with a couple of Japanese pickups and followed them for a while. It was nice to be following them at a couple of places where the road and creek merged. Right near the end of the gravel, the water was really deep. maybe 24 inches or more.

Right as the road came up out of the water the road was paved. Due to the curve in the road, looking from the paved side, it looked like a boat ramp. You could not see the trail we had just come from at all.

We guessed that this must be the state line. We turned around here. My odometer read ten miles from the end of the pavement in Keith Springs.

When we came up out of the water, I began to feel a significant vibration in my front axle. I was hoping it was just a rock or stick wedged somewhere but it just kept getting worse.

Just before the little water fall we had come down before I stopped and looked over the front axle but did not see anything amiss. However when I backed up, I heard a loud pop and I knew something had broken but I did not yet know what.

Jennifer had already headed down into the creek and Janice was making a video of her climb. I was struggling to get down to the creek.

As soon as I got to the slippery off camber part of eh waterfall, I figured out that I had lost front drive. Jennifer waved me off seeing sparks coming from the front axle U joint area. I knew what had happen then. I had broken an axle shaft U joint.

I locked the ARB and tried to continue. However with the line I was taking puling with only the left front was pushing me off the rocks. I tried to back off but got hung on something unknown behind me.

I got frustrated and finally decided to climb the water fall or else. I hit it with some momentum and let the front push to the side but stayed in the throttle and scrambled to the top.

I crossed the creek and headed back up the way we came down. The axle shaft was making a noise as it clearanced but with the locker engaged, I still had some front drive. I just had to choose lines that kept the left front tire with the most traction.

We were making a run for the trailer when we came to the fun set of ledges. Since we did not get to stay and play on the rocks near the creek bed, Jenny was taking more challenging lines up the ledges.

I had paused to watch her take an aggressive line up a couple of ledges. She was doing quite well when somehow she slipped and caught the rear pinion on a rock. The impact sheared the U joint straps spitting out the drive shaft.

We had to pull the rear drive shaft so she could continue with front drive only. Due toe h shape of the ledge and her lack of a front locker, she could not make it over the ledge. I hooked up the strap and pulled her across. We left the strap connected for the rest of the climb. Once we made it to the top of the ridge line< I cut her loose and she followed me on to the Community Center in front drive. My broken axle shaft was making more and more noise as we ran the mile or so of pavement to my trailer. I was considering trying to swap her front and rear drive shafts when it started to rain. So I decided to just let her drive home in front drive. She said it drove fine all the way home. I was able to make a quick repair of hers. Mine is still on the trailer while I check tot see if I have a spare axle shaft. See Videos in this post: Iron Gap Videos


One Response to “Iron Gap Road”

  1. Ralene Patterson says:

    I love all your posts about Jeeps. I bought my 3rd jeep it’s a 1989 cherokee with 72000 orginal miles but needs some work, but thanks to you it’s coming along nicely….Thanks so much

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