When we got to the bottom of the hill on Iron Gap Road, we were faced with a creek crossing. Dropping down into the creek was challenging due to the spring that wet the rocks about half way down and by the off camber nature of the drop.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
XJ List Spring Fling in Harlan
The Yahoo Groups XJlist once again had their Spring Fling meeting in Harlan, KY. I found it interesting that there was never any real discussion this time about where to go, Harlan was the instant unanimous choice.
Black Mountain in Harlan offers great camping, miles of trails and generally a perfect setting for a gathering of friends. But this time, Harlan offered one other enticement – Lion’s Den!
After seeing Lion’s Den for the first time last year, Josh started modifying his XJ to be ready for the challenge. On May 20, 2010 he got his chance.
My trip began early that morning heading north on I 75. The trip was going uneventful until just before the Lafollette exit. I began to feel a vibration I suspected was from the trailer. At first it was only at high speed but as I drive through Lafollette, it got worse. I pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot to check it out. I quickly noticed that there was a large chunk of rubber missing from one of the tires. This was the tire I had chosen to as a spare from an earlier tire failure.
I quickly jacked up the trailer and swapped on the spare only to find it was a little low on air. I pulled out the battery compressor that my parents gave me for Christmas and aired it up. 30 minutes later I was back o the road to Harlan.
I stopped at the Campground office to pay for camping and get a permit and a new map. Then I headed up the steep rugged road to the campground. This road has always been a challenge, but the recent heavy rains had it rutted out more than before. I put the Suburban in 4 low and pressed on. I could here my ramps bouncing, but I knew that if I lost momentum, there would be a scary trip backwards to deal with, so I just kept pressing on and up. Just as I was entering the campground, I met Neal on his way down. I was glad he noticed me and made room so I did not have to back off.
As I got ready to unload, I noticed that one of my ramps had not made the trip and I hoped it was on the trial up the mountain. I don’t need ramps to unload anyway so I dropped Scuffy off and headed down to look for it. Also, I also noticed that the map I just bought was not in the handful of stuff I left the office with.
I drove slowly down the road looking for my ramp and I was beginning to get worried when I saw it poking out the back of Evan’s Jeep. Thankfully Kevin had noticed it and picked it up on his way down to get a permit. I got my map and we all headed back up to camp. Evan helped me set up my tent while we waited for Scott P to arrive.
With the gang there for the day we headed out to the trails. Knowing that rain was predicted for later in the weekend, I suggested that we head straight to Lion’s Den. There was no argument so we studied the map and found the quickest way there.
Trail 45 that leads from camp to the top of the mountain makes for a good warm up. It is steep, narrow, rocky, muddy and has huge drop offs along with very tight switchbacks. We then made a run along the ridge on trial 15. The infamous stair steps on trail 15 now have a by pass. Good thing too as they have really been eroded out.
At the intersection of 15 and 12 some of us continued on the part of the trail that was blocked last time. Adam and I noticed trial 12 above us and a muddy climb connecting the two so he gave it a go. Adam made it up so I decided to give it a run. I was very pleasantly surprised at the traction I got from my Maxxis Buckshots and I made it up the hill easily.
Once we were all up, we headed on to Lion’s Den. We did pause briefly to play on a hill climb that I think is called Grace Trail. Part of us headed over the mountain peak by the radio tower while others went around on the lower trail. We all met back up at Lion’s Den.
As we were walking the trail to see just what Josh was up against, we heard the whine of Frost’s turbo on his Toyota. He was headed into the mouth of the Lion’s Den. Just getting into the entrance was a challenge due to the mud and huge rocks. As Frosty let his rig cool, Josh made his way into the entrance. But now he had to dodge a suitcase size rock that Frosty moved on his way up.
The most prominent feature of Lion’s Den is a huge boulder that over hangs the trail where the vehicle has to make a four to six foot drop. The drop is less near the boulder but due to the overhang you scrape your roof. The drop is less away from the boulder but if you slip off the outside of the rock there is a long drop off the mountain into the trees.
Frosty and Josh made the scary drop both relatively uneventfully. Although I am sure it was much scarier from the driver seats. And knowing that this is the point of no return adds to drama.
The next obstacle in Lion’s Den is a narrow squeeze. There is a ten foot tall boulder beside a tree with only about four feet between them. Even the narrow Toyota and the XJ will not fit. To pass through you have to place a tire either on the tree or on the rock. Or maybe a bit of both.
Frosty made several tries using just his wheel power but eventually he decided to pull a winch cable. We strapped him to the peak of a rock in front of him with also gave an up pulling vector to the cable. With the assistance of the winch, Frosty made it through the squeeze but not without some damage to his custom doors.
Josh learned form Frosty’s passage and lineup up a bit differently for the squeeze. Josh made good use of his new exo cage but still managed to hang his spare tire on an overhanging boulder. We had to remove it from the carrier for him to pass through.
Just past the squeeze you have to make a hard left turn. Again there is an overhanging rock and depending on how you land after the squeeze, you may be tucked will under it. Both Frosty and Josh used their winches to assist in making the turn. Josh’s stinger proved to be a slight hindrance here but it held up well to the abuse from the rocks.
The exit of Lion’s Den is a huge rock that is too tall and narrow to be driven over. Frosty and Josh tried different lines but both resorted to a winch cable to get them over when they both ended up on their cross members with all four tires in the air.
There was much rejoicing as we celebrated the victory of the Lion Tamers. All the engineering and fabrication time were made worth while by the successful passage through the Lion’s Den.
Today, Will and I were repairing a broken radiator hose on his Jeep Cherokee. We decided to take the red Jeep to town for the parts run.
Less than a mile from the house, I heard a whirring noise form the left front tire. I also felt a sudden pull to the left. I looked out the window and the left front tire was completely flat!
I stopped in the road and backed in to a convenient field entrance since this road has no shoulder. I flipped up the seat and discovered that the jack I expected to find there was missing!. I had a spare but no jack.
Just as Will and I decided to just walk to the house, it started to rain. And rain very hard. We were just beginning a conversation with the folks sitting on their porch at the next house up the road when we had to dive for cover in the Jeep.
After the rain calmed down a bit, we decided to ask the folks there for a ride to the house. The fellow was nice and drove us the mile or so down the road.
Back at the Red Jeep, I noticed that the tire was not just flat but the tread had separated and the sidewalls had split. I am glad I was doing only 30 mph or so when I heard it. The rim was not damaged.
I was really glad I had brought the breaker bar and sockets as the lugs were very hard to get loose. But after some struggling they all come loose and I was able to swap on the spare. About that time, the rain quit.
Will tossed the torn tire into the back of my Jeep and drove it home while I drove the Red Jeep. I guess Scott will be shopping for a set of tires before he can sell it now.
How to replace the Ball Joints on a Jeep Cherokee
While I don’t fully understand the mechanism, our off road group has found a strong correlation between worn ball joints and broken front axle shafts. I did not really believe the theory until my ARB shaft broke. See the video of it breaking.
With the weight off the wheel you can see the joint separating.
I got my new ball joints from Crown Automotive. I installed the driver’s side ones last night.
Before I began, I coated my hands with Market America Clear Shield.
First, I lifted up the Jeep and removed the wheel.
Then, since this is an AMC Jeep, I used my 7mm hex bit to remove the brake calipers. Mopar Jeeps will use either a 12 or 13 mm socket.
Next I removed the brake pads and rotor hat.
I stored the brake caliper on top of the lower control arm and removed the pads and the rotor to expose the bearing.
Next I used a 13mm 12 point socket to remove the three bearing retainer bolts.
I carefully tapped the carrier out of the knuckle. I left the axle in the bearing since it will go right back in.
Next, I used a 3/4 inch wrench to remove the tie rod from the knuckle. This step is not absolutely, necessary but makes it easier.
Next I removed the retainer bolts from both ball joints.
I used my tie rod separator to separate the ball joints from the knuckle. It came off rather unexpectedly and hit the floor. Glad it missed my foot.
Next I used a wire brush to clean up the surfaces where the press would rest.
I collected the correct adapters to press out the upper joint.
The upper joint pressed out easily
Next I collected the correct adapters to press out the bottom joint. Note that the screw for the press had to pass through the upper ball joint hole.
The lower joint was very worn.
Then I collected the correct adapters to press in the new ball joints. Note that this is a newer Dana 30 and the surface for the press is slanted requiring a tapered adapter. Some of the older axles had this surface machined flat.
Pressing in the lower requires a tapered receiver cup on this axle.
With the new joints installed I began to put it all back together. There is not enough clearance for a grease fitting on the lower joint. The kit came with a fitting that I put in temporarily and grease the joint. I then replaced the plug.
I then installed the knuckle and tightened the bolts. I then inserted cotter keys to keep the nuts from turning.
I then replaced the tie rod and keyed it.
Next I greased the inside of the knuckle and reinstalled the bearing and axle shaft. I used the bolts to pull the carrier into place.
Next I reinstalled the brake rotor, pads and caliper.
With the wheel back on I am done and ready to do the other side. Well maybe later.
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