Jeep Cherokee Harlan KY day 3

XJlist Spring Fling Harlan, Ky day 3

Saturday morning brought more rain as I added power steering fluid to Jenny’s Jeep and bled the air out of the system. Through the breaks in the drizzle, we had scrambled eggs made on Frosty’s grill.

Getting a slow start from camp we decided to make a leisurely run along the east ridge of the park to see the vista the group had found the night before. We headed up the other end of trail 15 out of Middle Fork. This trail starts of with a steep twisty climb before it follows the ridge out to the helicopter pad.

Just at the top of the hill, a place we spent way too much time at on our first trip to Harlan, there is now a very deep mud puddle.

Mud Puddle

Just as we were lining up to go through he puddle, Evan called on the radio that his Jeep was leaking transmission fluid and was not moving well. I pulled out a hospital cloth for him to lay on and he found that his control arm had hit the transmission lines and crimped both and punctured one of them.

Jeep Cherokee repair

It took a while, but we eventually gathered enough hose, clamps and tools for him to cut and splice the two damaged lines. We headed out again after he was repaired.

From there we made our way on to the Helicopter pad. We continued on the trail past the pad and drove up to the vista the guys had found the evening before. The view form there is spectacular! We enjoyed lunch there and posed the Jeeps for a group photo.

Jeep Cherokee off road

Jeep cherokeee
Jeep Cherokee

Next we made out way to Mason Jar. We decided to follow the new signs instead of the map thinking that they may have made a short cut to the entrance of Mason Jar that was not mapped. However, we were disappointed to find that the signs led us to the exit of Mason Jar. And Mason Jar is a one way trail!

Janice and several others decided to walk the short trail while some of us drove around to the entrance. At the entrance we saw a buggy on huge tires having a terrible time getting up the first obstacles. He would just sit there and use his big engine to dig out dirt at the bottom of the rocks. As we met the walkers, they told us of two wranglers that were broken down further up the trail.

Neal, Frosty and Josh elected to go ahead and run the trail while the rest of us decided to explore elsewhere. We loaded up every one into the back seats and cargo areas of our Jeeps and made the trip back to the exit of Mason Jar to pick up their Jeeps.

Neal's XJ Mason Jar

Form there, we went to Lions Den so that those who missed Thursday adventure could at least get a feel for what it was like. We watched a Wrangler on one ton axles crawl through but not without great difficulty.

From there we headed back to Middle fork to play on the hills there. We had just started up Running Board when the others caught up with us. Scott P made a run but ended up backing down.

We decided to head back to lower rock garden to play around more. After some time there we headed back to camp to enjoy the now famous steaks and potato boats around the camp fire.

Videos of this trip can be found on Youtube:

Rail Bed
Mud Puddle 1
Mud Puddle 2
Scott in the Lower Rock Garden
Josh on Killin Time 1
Josh on Killin Time 2
Haywire on Profanity

Jeep Cherokee on Rail Bed

XJList Spring Fling Day 2

Day two in Harlan dawned wet and foggy. We slowly crawled out of our tents. I found Scott Paulman working with a leaking bead on his XJ. He used his Highlift jack to break the bead and clean the debris that had collected there. We tossed it in the back of my Jeep for a run down to the air supply at the bottom of the hill. There we reseated the bead and filled it with air.

Frosty treated me to some of his farm fresh eggs cooked on a propane grill. We said good bye to Adam as he headed out to attend to other obligations for the weekend. Then we started planning the day. One of my favorite trails from our last trip to Harlan was Rail Bed and I was ready to run it again. So we decided to go there first and work our way back through the park.

Wayne Klotz junior and senior arrived and unloaded and next Jennifer and Janice arrived. We lined up the Jeeps and headed up the Putney Trail. The overnight rains had made the trail a bit slick in places and this provided a great warm up for things to come.

About half way up the mountain we met a pair of off roaders coming back down. There day had ended early with a broken rear drive shaft on their Wrangler. Getting past each other took a while on the narrow trail especially with one of the Jeeps being injured.

At Middle Fork we all took a run up one of the play hills and headed on out to The South side of the park. We really appreciated all the new signs that Harlan County parks has added. Good use of the grant money in my opinion.

We found Rail Bed and somehow, I ended up in the lead as we poked around for the way in that does not require going up the water fall. I switched on my front locker and headed up the rocky trail.

My favorite thing about Rail Bed is that it is all rock. No mud mixed in. And the rocks are big enough to be challenging but not so big that they overwhelm my 33” Maxxis Buckshots.

Jeep Cherokee Rail Bed

At the end of the trail, I noticed that the ground around the last big rock had really eroded away compared to the last time I was here. I elected to take the easy way out and skip the last boulder. Well, the easy way out is not so easy any more either. There is a name sake piece of rail road track that has been uncovered by the erosion right at the apex of the climb threatening to slice the tires of any one who stays in the ruts. I gave it one try but I slid into the ruts right at the rail and I decided to drop back down.

Jeep Cherokee XJ off road

The second option for and easy out is to squeeze by a tree on a very narrow ledge. This is made even more challenging by a strategically placed rock that the bottom that prevents lining up the way you would prefer and by a root at the base of the tree that requires a bump right where you don’t want to bump. Also, should you miss, there is about an eight to ten foot drop on to the rock you are trying to bypass below.
I picked my way up carefully and made it past the scary part just fine. I parked and went back to watch the others coming up behind me. I missed most of the action but I got back just as Wayne was taking the bypass exit. I spotted him around the rock and he chose the narrow ledge as well.

Next up was Jenny enjoying the traction of her new rear Lock Right locker. I spotted her around the rock and she took off up the hill. She may have bounced on the tree root or the ground may have given way, but for what ever reason, she suddenly found her left front tire dangling over the edge. See the video here:

Jeep Cherokee XJ off road

She held firm on the brake pedal while I ran up to get my winch cable. Wayne Sr. took my cable and hooked on to her front tow hook as I held by brake and spooled in the cable. The tire slid back to the bank but was firmly hung on the root s and would not pull back over the lip. The Klotzs grabbed her tow strap and quickly secured her B pillar to the tree for extra stability.

Jeep Cherokee XJ off road

We tried to have be back up to pull the front tire back onto the surface but that caused her rear tire to slip over the edge making for an even more serious situation. Neal Hoover realized we needed another winch ASAP so he made the run up the cut with the piece of rail track partially blocking it. He made and incredible drive up the hill and turned just at the right moment to miss the tire slasher and pop up over the crest. He got his winch cable connected to the back of her Jeep and she was again stable.

Janice held the brake in Neal’s Jeep while I held the brake in mine. I could not see well from the seat of my Jeep so I handed my winch controller to Neal. He held his wireless remote in one hand and worked my winch with the other. Matt remarked that he looked like he was playing X box winches as he maneuvered Jenny’s Jeep.

After some tense moments she was finally back on stable ground. She drove up the rest of the way parked and ran to find a place to pee.

Next in line was Matt. As he approached the tree on the ledge he started to slip on the tree root as well. When his spotted motioned for a turn to the left, he just shook his head no. His spotter called for a bump and again he shook his head no. Eventually he carefully powered his Jeep over the root and up to safety.

Next, the guys with larger tires decided the safe way out was to go over and around the last boulder. They all made it out just fine.

Jeep Cherokee XJ off road

After we all calmed down some we headed to the nearby lower rock garden to play around.

Jeep Cherokee XJ off road

Jeep Cherokee XJ off road

It was there we saw a very strange contraption. It had the body of a XJ, the grill of a CJ and the frame and engine of something Fordish. It seemed to be abandoned there.

Jeep Cherokee XJ off road

Next, we headed up to a new trail called Killin’ Time. Neal got caught between a rock and a hard place and several of us decided to abandon the run and go watch from the nearby road. When Josh made his run he got hung at about he same place as Neal did. Neal climbed in the back of Josh’s Jeep and gave a demonstration of how active ballast works as a traction aid. Neal jumped out and Josh made it up the rest of the trail.

Jeep Cherokee XJ off road

Next we found our way to Profanity. This somewhat difficult climb was made even nastier by the wet slippery mud. I was near the back of the pack and watched as several Jeeps made the climb. As the trail was getting more and more torn up I decided to take the parallel climb along with Jenny. About that time, Wayne popped the bead on his rear tire and had to back down. I went back down and assisted with getting his tire changed.

Jeep Cherokee XJ off road

As we were getting ready to move on, Jenny noticed her power steering was not acting right. We popped the hood and saw fluid every where but in the reservoir. There was no apparent leak in the hoses so we collected fluid form the group and tried it again. Evan looked in to see if he could see the leak as Jenny turned the wheel. Fluid sprayed out everywhere as he jumped back. The source of the leak was found and it was the pump shaft seal.

We told her not to steer more than necessary and headed back up the trails. Back at Middle Fork, Jenny asked Evan to drive her Jeep back down trail 45 as he power assist was coming in and out and she did not want to battle the tricky trail 45 without it.

Back at camp, Evan loaned Janice and Jenny his BMW for a parts run while he and I started removing the damaged power steering pump.

Fast ride to town

New members Ron and Tracy had arrived at camp by this time so the rest of the group took them out to see some trails before dark. They found a beautiful vista on a trail we had never explored before.

Jeep Cherokee XJ off road

Even and I had the pump off before the girls got back with the replacement. When they arrived we were ready to pop it back on when we saw the new pump did not have a pulley, just instructions on how to reuse the original one. Instructions like, “Do not use a hammer!” We tried several methods to remove the old pulley but eventually decided to we had to have the correct puller. Evan and I headed back to town to take advantage of Advance Auto’s loan a tool program.

Back at camp and armed with the proper implements, Evan removed the old pulley and pressed it on the new pump.

Jeep Cherokee XJ repair

We got it all bolted back up just about dark and left the filling and bleeding for morning. We settled in by the campfire for and evening of food and fellowship.

Golden Mountain Off Road Park

Golden Mountain Off Road Park

Golden Mountain
Golden Mountain

For Halloween, Janice, Jenny and I decided to visit Golden Mountain Off Road Park for their Halloween ride. We really had no idea what to expect. We had seen pictures of other off road parks that had Halloween rides and expected to see lots of rigs decorated for the holiday.

Princess in costume
Princess in costume

Jenny had decorated her Jeep for a spirit contest at Caleb’s school so she left part of that in place. She and Janice also dressed as Bunnies. Her son Caleb dressed as the Black Knight.

What we first noticed when we drove through the gate was the beautiful fall colors. It was easy to see why someone named it Golden Mountain. The landscaping around the many pavilions was very nice as well. I am not sure what this place used to be but it was something really nice.

We waited at the vacant pay booth for a while. Finally I decided to call the phone number listed. The fellow said he was doing some work on the toilets and would be right down. He was very friendly and when he found that it was our first visit, he gave us a map and told us the general layout of the park and which trails he recommended we start with. He then informed us that we had the whole park to ourselves and he did not expect any one else to come.

We parked in the huge gravel parking area just inside the gate and I unloaded Scuffy while Jan and Jenn found the restrooms. The restrooms are located in a big building that overlooks what used to be a stock car dirt track. It has more recently been used for motor cross racing from the looks of it.

The guy had warned us that it would be slippery on the muddy trails. Well, with that warning in mind we set out for trail 1 marked “easy.” We made it a few yards up the trail before we found out just how slippery the mud is there. No worse than Harlan or Aetna but no better either. The “easy” trail was now quite a challenge.

Jenny got hung up on the first few rocks and had to take time to air down before she could go further. I made it to another set of rocks and my lockers just allowed me to get scarily sideways before I called it quits and let the front end slide back down the hill.

Trail 1
Trail 1

Easy trail? What else was in store for us here?

We then took trail 3 also marked easy but at least it was flat. Off to both sides was lots of fun looking hill climbs that would have to wait for a drier day. We soon intersected trail 2 and followed along to an interesting pavilion in the middle of nowhere. It looked like it had a fishing pier but there was not really much of a lake there now.

We followed trail two on further and came to a ledge that reminded us of the one on trail 15 in Harlan. Remembering to keep up momentum going into it we both made it up just fine. Trail two ended at a gravel road beside a beautiful lake and more picnic pavilions. We walked around the area for a while before following the gravel road down to the parking lot to get our rain gear.

Bunnies at the picnic pavilion by one of the many lakes.
Bunnies at the picnic pavilion by on eof the many lakes.

This time we took trail two up the hill. I tried in vain to stay out of the big rut on the down hill side of the climb but I eventually gave up and hugged the rut to the top. Once at the top I realized I was in two wheel drive. Jenny made it up just fine.

Running between trails 2 and 3 is trail 16. It looks like a rock garden. It reminded me of Pinball at Harlan just about one third as long. The rocks were slick form the mud but I really enjoyed the small climb. Janice and Jenny took turns riding with me as I ran the trail two more times.

I then tried to run another upper part of 16. This trail looked easier but it was not. The rocks were larger and there was more mud between them. After banging on my rock rails a few times I finally backed out and we went exploring again.

The park is really compact so you are never really very far from lots of fun trails. It looks like there is plenty of variety for every body from stockers to buggies with plenty of fun stuff in between for trucks like mine.

We drove back up two and this time took the other loop of the gravel road. This lead us to the camping area which has RV hook up as well as lots of space for more primitive camping. There is also a huge and I mean HUGE picnic pavilion there. It has restrooms, a full industrial kitchen in the concession area and a beautiful fireplace. There is even a bar.

Beside the pavilion is a monster playground for kids. We took time to walk around this area and explore before heading back to the trails.

Play Ground
Play Ground

We then took trail 2 again and attempted to loop back to the part of 1 where we got stuck in the morning. The trails were drying out and the easy trails were in fact easy. The moderate ones were still difficult and the difficult ones impassable.

At the top of the hill on trail one we found a spot marked difficult. Jenny and I both drove between the rocks. I think you are supposed to go over them but we had fun running the trail our way just to say to ours selves we ran difficult trail in the mud.

Coming up trail one we had crossed some ruts that we really did not want to go back down through so we scouted the top of the hill and found trail 21 with connect down. The top of the hill was the only place in the park where the trails were not perfectly marked. However with the aid of the map I quickly figured out where we were.

We drove down trail 21 and took a few minutes to walk around on trials 22 and 23. I don’t think I will ever run 23 in a Jeep but 22 looks very interesting. I will have to give it a try some day.

Trail 22 - want to try this one.
Trail 22 - want to try this one.

Late in the evening we decided to head out. We really did have the whole park to ourselves all day. It was fun that way but I really hope the owners get more business in the future to keep the park open.

I think Golden Mountain is now my favorite place to go off road. The park is small but there is a lot to do there. Lots of trail variety and the fall colors were simply beautiful. I am already looking forward to returning.

Heading out
Heading out

More photos are on Facebook

More Video is on Youtube

Jeep Cherokee Stumble and Stall

Tire Rack

Yesterday, I traveled to Nashville to check out my son Will’s Jeep. He had called complaining of a severe stumble and stalling in traffic. I remembered that this was a problem when I bought this Jeep for him.

When I first arrived, his Jeep would not start. I was finally able to start the Jeep but it did not idle correctly.

I took it for a test drive and found that the idle air controller was sticking and allowing the engine to stall in traffic. Unless I was really alert when decelerating, the engine would stall.

I made my way back to his apartment and used carburettor cleaner to clean the idle air control circuit in the throttle body. After a few squirts the valve started controlling again and was able to catch the engine when it slowed down.

I noted that there was a lot of oil sludge in the throttle body so I checked the vent from the valve cover and found it partially stopped
up. The connection at the manifold was also clogged. I used the carb cleaner to clean the tube and the connection.

I never experienced the stumble but I suspected it was caused by the ECU connection. I removed the big connector from the ecu and wired down the connector. If I had had some contact cleaner handy, I would have sprayed the contacts before re-seating it. The folks at Hesco say there is a common failure of the ECU due to over tightening of the connector bolt. The circuit board cracks here or the threadsert pulls out of the board.

I put just a small amount of torque on the bolt as I tightened it back in place. We let the engine cool a bit and then took it for another test drive. It ran fine taking us to dinner and back. I hope this will cure it for a while.

I also showed Will how to do these checks himself if it does act up again.

Burgess Falls

This weekend I visited one of my favorite Tennessee State Parks. This is Burgess Falls State park in White country just south of Cookeville.

I think the Big falls there is the prettiest water fall I have ever seen. And on this trip the extra water made it even more beautiful.

There are three primary falls in the park. First falls, middle falls and big falls. There are also numerous small water falls in the park that don’t; even have names. Many of these are larger and more photogenic than other falls I have hiked long distances to see.

If you take the scary stairs to the bottom of the falls and hike along falling water river, you can see the remains of the old power station that was there in the 1930’s.

The stairs are on the supports of the old pipe line that run from the dam to the power station. There is also the remains of the suspension bridge where the pipe line took a short cut across the river and through the rock wall.

First falls and the old pipe support
First falls and the old pipe support

Middle Falls
Middle Falls

Big Fall at Burgess falls
Big Fall at Burgess falls

As we were leaving the falls we met several emergancy vehicles coming south from Cookeville. Aparently someone drowned in the the river below the falls. See the article here.
It is scary to think that this is likely one of the people we sat on the rocks with while we admired the water fall.