Prentice Cooper State Park

Riding in Prentice Cooper State park

Having been inspired by youtube videos and some photos I saw on the web I decided to revisit Prentice Cooper State park for my Father’s Day adventure. I had been there about ten years ago but I only drove one trail. I am still not sure which trail that was but there was a big warning sign saying only 4×4 vehicles were allowed past that point.

Here is one video I saw:

This is Haley Road which all the reviews said was the gnarlyist trail there.

Here is another video of a rock we found on Haley Rd.

On Saturday, we were at another event near the park so we took the Suburban and drove the main road called Tower road. It was closed at one point for Turkey Nesting. We tried a few side roads but they were narrow and the Suburban is hard to turn around so we did not venture off the main road. We did find the marker for Haley road so we knew where to go in the Jeeps.

We returned on Sunday with two Jeeps. Since my off road Jeep is still suffering from worn ball joints, I took my daily driver. This Cherokee has 30″ BFG ATs that are pretty worn. Open differentials and slight less than stock ride height. Jenny’s Jeep has 31″ Maxxis Buckshots and a three inch lift. Also open diffs.

Taking the street Jeep allowed Janice and my son will to ride along. Jenny had all three of her kids with her.

We stated on Persimmon road. Our map showed it connected to Haley Rd. We made a few turns that turned out to be dead ends and then came to a spot where a tree blocked the road. There was an ATV bypass but there was no way to get my Jeep through. So we turned around.

We then made our way to Lusk Point via Sulphur rd. I could have driven the Suburban on this one. The view from Lusk point was beautiful. We had a picnic lunch here.

We drove out on Lusk Point Rd and found a Honda stuffed into some trees along Tower road. Not sure how she got there. Both air bags were deployed but every one seemed OK. She had lots of family there to assist but was still stuck. I hooked up my tow rope and pulled her back on to the gravel road. I left her family to deal with getting the car home from there. She said she was on her way to visit her father’s grave for father’s Day. Glad she did not join him there.

He headed on down to Haley road. Just a short way in is one of those 4×4 only signs. I stayed in 2wd just to be stubborn until I got tired of using the brakes to hold back on the hills. If I had two low I would have used that. We dropped down a rocky hill and crossed a shallow creek. I kept waiting for the good part. After the creek, the road smoothed out. After rewatching the first video above, I realized that was the good part.

Near the end of the road we did find the rock ledge pictured in the second Video. I took the bypass and spotted Jenny on her way down. After looking at the hill form the bottom, I decided to go up it. I took a line slightly right of the Dodge in the video and made it up easily. Jenny then turned around and drove up as well.

We drove on to see if the road really did intersect HWY 27 like the map said. Sure enough it did. Funny that there is not one of those 4×4 only warning signs on that end. Just a sign with lots of park rules.
There is a funny sign that says Speed limit 1 MPH. I think there is a number missing.

We headed back in to try a side road we saw that looked interesting. No name ion this one but the map showed it went back in the direction we first tried on Persimmon Rd.

This road turned out to be the most fun all day. There were several climbs that looked like there would be no way a stock Jeep on 30s could make it. But my little Jeep just crawled up with ease. I hardly spun the tires. I was thinking that going back down some of those might be interesting.

About that time I met a Chevy Pickup across the road. I got out to chat and found there was a tree across the road. None of us had a saw and the bypass was too narrow for even our Jeeps, much less the Chevy. After a meet and greet, we turned around to head back down.

That is when Jenny’s Jeep balked. Princess did not want to leave. She bucked and snorted and refused to run. There was vapor in the fuel rail. We could hear the pump running but it was boiling before it got to the injectors. After a long discussion about carburettors and propane while the ice melted on her fuel rail Princess fired up.

It would run fine if the RPMs were over 2000 but if it got below she would die. More ice on the fuel rail was needed to get her to restart. Driving down the tricky trail was made even more exciting for Jenny by trying to keep her Jeep running. Loosing power brakes and power steering while going down the tricky rocks was a real challenge. It took a while but we finally made it back to Haley Road. We chose to drive the short way out and take HWY 27 home.

It was a fun day in the woods and I do want to go back and explore some of the other side roads. But I do have to laugh at the folks who said Haley rd was really gnarly. My stock Jeep Cherokee made it look easy.

XJ List Spring Fling 2009

May 2009 Trip to Harlan, Ky

The semi annual meeting of the Yahoo Groups XJlist was held once again in Harlan, Ky.

We began the trail runs Thursday afternoon by doing some exploring. Even though the group has been to the park many times before, there are still places we have not been. We began by looking for some places that we had seen on YouTube. First we went in search of Pinball and Railbed. Our maps were somewhat hard to interpret and these trails were not marked but we soon figured out which ones were which.

Still being a bit cautious after Adam’s tumble at the end of the last trip, the group decided to avoid the steeper climbs and try Railbed. Railbed begins with a vertical water fall and then proceeds up the hill in a boulder filled gully. No mud, just a lot of rocks. Neal tried the waterfall in his XJ with lockers and 35 inch swampers. There just was not enough room to get his XJ into the correct position to climb the steep slick face of the waterfall.

We all took the bypass and headed up the rocky trail. The loose large rocks made lockers a must for the climb. We each tried different lines and eventually we all made it up the trail. This was one of the most fun climbs of the trip. We noticed the big piece of rail road track buried in the dirt beside the trail. This is where the trail gets its name.

We moved up to the nearby lower rock garden where we have played many times before. While I was waiting and watching I was surprised when a fellow in a Chevy Avalanche showed up. After talking with him for a few minutes, I discovered he was in charge of parks and recreation for Harlan County and is basically the guy in charge of the park.

We discussed the future plans for the park and I learned his goal is to make Harlan County the premier off road destination on the east coast. The new permit money goes directly to the park maintenance and improvement fund. The permitting system was instrumental in getting the land owner to agree to the long term lease needed to get grant money to further improve the park. Turns out he is a avid off roader himself and has personally carved out many of the trails on the mountain. I feel good about having him in charge.

We did some more exploring and learned how some of the trails interconnect. Not a bad warm up for day one.

On the way back down the mountain to camp, I noticed my voltmeter suddenly drop. Back at camp, I tested to find that sure enough my new alternator had quit charging. Ironically, I bought it right there in Harlan last fall. I quickly pulled it off the Jeep while my burger was cooking on the grill.

After a quick snack, I borrowed Jenny’s Jeep and drove into town for a completely no hassle swap at Advance Auto. It was sprinkling rain when I got back so Jenny draped a tarp over my Jeep so I could keep working. Just as I was trying to align the bolts, I heard a loud noise and felt something stinging my legs. I realized it was not just raining but hailing. I quickly dove into my Suburban and waited out the storm.

When the rains finally slacked off, I hurried to finish the job before dark. Long summer days are nice. I got it all back together and tested before settling in by the fire to catch up with my friends who I only see twice a year.

Friday morning, we awoke to find very slick and wet conditions. Harlan gets very slick form these sudden thunderstorms. Even the road up the mountain, Trail 45, becomes a serious obstacle when it is wet like this. We took time to remind each other of the danger and agreed to have fun anyway but to watch out for each other on the trail and pay close attention to our radios.

Our fist challenge was trail 15. This is fondly know to our group as the Slip and Slide after we had to come down it late one evening after getting caught in a sudden thunder storm. We headed up the slip and slide hill.

The second climb of trial is punctuated by a small two rock step. It really does not look that intimidating. However, because of the steepness of the climb the near ninety degree turn just before it, it is difficult to arrive that the first rock with enough momentum to get over it. The rocks are also deceptively simple looking.

Neal, after having quite an interesting time there last trip, decided to winch up. Evan and Kevin made the climb using lots of throttle and even with out the benefit of lockers made the climb easily. There was plenty of drama associated with the speed but his Bilstein shocks served him well as he hopped over the last two rocks. I thought I had plenty of momentum to make it over the crest but to my complete surprise, I simply bounced off the first rock and stopped between them. Even flipping the switch to the front locker was not help and I found myself in a very scary slide backwards just as Neal had done last year.

I quickly regained control and backup for another run. Again I bounced on the first rock and slid backwards. Knowing a unlocked Jeep had just made it up just aggravated me more. I backed up again and using all the traction my Maxxis Buckshots could find and the torque of my Titan Stroker, I blasted up the hill with plenty of speed to carry me over both rocks. I was glad the stock lower control arms were up to the task of continuing to locate my front axle.

We did a bit more exploring of the park and made another trip up Railbed just for fun. We had planned to get in Mason Jar before dark but when we arrived there was a large group of Toyota Truggies there. We really expected them to make short work of the gate keeper at Mason Jar with their large bead locked tires and flexible suspensions.

However after nearly an hour of watching and waiting, they had only one truck past the gate keeper and it was stuck at the second rock. We decided to call it day and try Mason Jar the next morning.

The story of Mason Jar will continue in the next post.

[phpbay]Jeep Cherokee, 5[/phpbay]

Rally Racing in the 100 Acre Wood

Rally Racing in the 100 Acre Wood

This weekend I traveled to Salem, Mo to be steward for Rally America and the rally in the 100 Acre Wood. This car rally is a stop on the national tour of the rally America Championship as well as the Regional Rally Championship. There are two regional road rally races – Trespassers Wil on Friday and 100AW on Saturday. The national rally is both days combined.

Coming into the Holiday Inn Express looked like walking into the land of Pooh. The rally committee had decorated the lobby with lots of stuffed animals including Piglet, Pooh and Eeoyre. The hotel workers all sported 100Acre Wood Rally T shirts. It was great to see such community support for the event.

Registration and Technical inspection was held at the Dent County fire house. I was enjoying the 70 degree weather. I met up with several old friends and fielded the question about when Cherokee Trails will run again.

Just as we posting the seeded start order, the fire department advised us that we were under a tornado watch and hail was expected. They wanted to get their fire equipment back inside before the hail hit. We gathered up our stuff quickly and headed back to the hotel. It was raining buckets soon but I never saw any hail or tornados. It did however get very cold very fast.

The start of the rally on Friday was in Potosi, Mo at the Lions club park. Subaru and Mitsubishi had big displays of their racing equipment. NOS and red Bull were passing out free samples.

41 cars started the rally. By the end of the day, most were still running. Front runner and crown favorite Travis Pastrana was not one of them however. He crashed his car on the last stage of the day. Many of the fans at the final MTC were very disappointed not to get to see him come in.

Saturday, during the Parc Expose on the downtown streets of Salem, snow began to fall. By the time we headed out to the stages, the main highways were covered in snow. While the rally cars had little trouble with he snow and winter driving conditions, the workers and officials had a bit more trouble.

The talk of the day was which rally tires to use. Some teams chose snow tires while others gambled with running gravel tires. The early stages had little snow after the course opening vehicles had gone through so gravel rally tires were mostly the right choice.

I am sure Richard Miller can give some winter driving tips for Ford Mustangs after running his 5.0 Mustang on BFG all terrain tires. While these make good gravel tires, they are not so good on ice and snow. I have these same tires on my four wheel drive Jeep so I know he had fun.
Surprisingly the northern stages had less snow than the southern ones. Since it kept snowing mostly of the day as the rally moved south, there was more and more snow on each stage. Those afraid of winter driving need not apply for a race like this one.

The transit to the final two stages was so bad that the course opening cars had trouble making it there. One of the medical staff ran off the road and had to be helped along by one of the sweep vehicles.

Most of the racers had little trouble with the snow covered stage however the leader in SP slowed a minute to drop him to second place. Winter driving skills were put to the test both on the transits and on the racing stages.

The last stage of the day ended up being cancelled due to ice on the low water crossing. Several of the workers were not able to transit the stage to their worker positions. They became stuck along the route and the decision was made to end the rally while they were recovered.

The fans in Salem, braved the cold and snow to come out to the courthouse square for the Mountain Dew Spray of the winners. Salem does not allow open containers of alcohol making a Champaign spray illegal. The victory party was continued at the Eagles Nest west of town.

Car #43 Block / Gelsomino again won the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood. This is the fourth time that Block has won this rally. Following Block were Car #20 Comrie-Picard / Durant finished 43.1 seconds back and Car #34 Foust / Beavis finished 58.6 seconds further back.

Walls of Jericho

Wall of Jericho State Park
Wall of Jericho State Park

The Walls of Jericho is and interesting cut in the limestone mountains of North Alabama. The Paint Rock river bubbles out of a cave surrounded by limestone cliffs called the Walls of Jericho.


The cove is accessed from Hwy 79 just north of Hytop, Al and just south of the Tennessee line. There is a nice gravel parking area and primitive camping area just off the highway.

The trail descends in to the canyon sometime gradually and sometimes rather steeply. There are many interesting rock formations along the way. There are also numerous chimneys and sinkholes to explore and to beware of.

Janice peeking out of a hole in a rock
Janice peeking out of a hole in a rock

About two miles in the is a large sinkhole that you can explore. There appears to be a cave entrance here.

Mike and Smash as seen from the bottom of a sink hole
Mike and Smash as seen from the bottom of a sink hole

After passing the Clark cemetery the trail becomes very narrow and slick. This is the entrance in to the canyon as well.

The canyon walls are stark and steep.
The canyon walls are stark and steep.

After another half mile of narrow slippery trails, you get to the real beauty of the Walls of Jericho.

There is a very pretty water fall at what looks like the end of the canyon. However, you have to go around the bend. Just around the bend, is where the Paint Rock river flows out of a cut in the rock wall. There is also a huge rock overhang.

Waterfall at the Walls of Jericho
Waterfall at the Walls of Jericho
Janice and Smash looking out from the Walls of Jericho
Janice and Smash looking out from the Walls of Jericho

The hike back out was very tiring. It is up hill all the way. And who knew Smash had a little trick up his sleeve?

What is this dog planning?
What is this dog planning?

For Smash’s addition to the adventure, see