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.
Posts Tagged ‘Off Road’
Places to Ride in Tennessee
We read on a few internet forums about a road called Iron Gap road. We finally found it on the map and saw it was between Cowan and Winchester. There are a lot of interesting things to see in that area so we thought we would make a scouting run before loading up the Jeep on the trailer and making a full scale assault.
We got to Iron Gap by taking the road through Cowan and then taking the new 64 bypass just outside of Winchester. We then took HWY 16 due south to the top of the mountain.
Just at the top there is a fire tower visible. We turned there and hit Iron Gap road beside the Keith Springs Community Center. We saw some trailers parked there so our plan is to park ours there when we return.
The road starts out paved. But just before you get to a nice farm house, the road veers right and becomes unpaved. There is evidence of an old gate here. The trail starts out as a nice unpaved road with a few shallow mud holes. Janice drove her stock XJ while Jennifer navigated. I sat in the back.
The road followed the ridge for about three miles. Then as it started down the mountain, it stared to get a bit rockier. I got out a spotted Janice as she drove over some of the smaller rocks. As we neared the valley floor, the rocks got bigger and the hill got steeper. After walking a particularly tricky section, I decide that we should turn around. If we had had another Jeep with us or some recovery gear I might have tried it, but it looked too risky to try coming back up alone.
Janice was tired from the drive over and the bumpy ride in so I turned her Jeep around and headed back up the hill. We posed for a few pictures on the small stair case climbs. It definitely looks like a place we will have to return to with the off road Jeeps.
Back on the pavement, I had hoped to return to Cowan via the Turnpike road. We found what I think was the road, but it was marked private by a hunting club. So, we elected not to risk it and headed back to Cowan the way we came.
We stopped for a quick tour for the train Museum and to check out the old cars in the Texaco across the street. We then headed up the mountain to climb the overlook rock near Sewanee just at sunset. Since Jennifer had never seen the campus at University of the South, we made a small detour through the campus. She did not see much in the dark however; just enough to want to come back.
UPDATE: Return to Iron Gap
Dick Cepek Crusher Tires on Jenny’s XJ Jeep Cherokee
In order to get a bit more off road capabilities, Jenny decided to go up a couple of tires sizes. She ordered a set of Dick Cepek Crusher tires from Tire Rack after reading many reviews and considering factors such as shipping time and customer service. To read more about her decision making process see her blog post at: http://thejeeptalks.blogspot.com/2010/11/dick-cepek-crusher-tires.html
The Dick Cepek tires have a very interesting tread pattern in a dog bone shape. The side lugs are in the shape of a skull and cross bones. The tread has a huge void area that makes for good traction in mud and rocks and self cleans quickly. The lugs are also siped for improved wet traction on pavement.
The tires arrived quickly from Tire Rack and were delivered by my friendly UPS driver who was kind enough to off load the very heavy tires in front of the shop door.
Mounting them on the rims with my manual tire changer proved to be a challenge due to the heavy sidewall construction. It was difficult to compress the tire enough to get it to slide into the drop groove on the rim. In fact, we got only three mounted before the concrete anchors that held the machine to the floor failed. I had a local tire shop do the last one and I noticed even his fancy pneumatic tire machine had a little trouble pushing on the last part of the bead.
While I was mounting the tires, Jenny worked on opening up her fender wells to accommodate all that rubber. The stock flares were removed and the flange was folded under to make a smooth surface in case the tires did contact the body work.
In the front, the bump stops were also extended an inch and a half with spacers mounted to the bottoms of the coil spring perches. The tires looked great mounted on her black Cragar steel wheels.
On the road the tires are surprisingly quiet. The road feel is fantastic and they are very smooth running. The tires required very small weights to balance which surprised me considering the total amount of rubber on them.
On the trail, they showed their value right away. She first aired them down to 15 psi. They did a fantastic job of getting her up the very muddy class III and IV trails in Harlan, Ky. The sidewalls still looked very stiff over rocks however so on day two she dropped the pressure more to 11 psi. I was pretty sure that as stiff as the sidewalls were there was little danger of them popping off the rim.
In the infamous Lower Rock Garden the tires did a fantastic job of gripping the rocks. The skull shaped side lugs that I had thought were mostly for show gripped rocks like glue. At one point the only thing holding her to a rock was the side lug and as she drove forward the tire went up the rock instead of slipping off. And this was in wet snowy conditions.
She was very happy to make her first successful run through the Lower Rock Garden. The new tires worked great.
Also on one very muddy climb where the only trucks that had made it up ahead of her were running Swampers, she made a quick mud slinging run and made it all the way to the top in one pass. The deep bone shaped lugs dug in and cleared out just as they were needed to make it up the twisty climb. I think she embarrassed some of the guys running BFG’s in that she made it look easy to climb the hill.
As we were leaving on Sunday, she aired them back up to 30 psi for the trip home. Even at interstate speeds, the tires ran smooth and quiet. The Dick Cepek Crusher tires proved to be very tough and versatile. They handled everything she threw at them: rocks, mud gravel and pavement with equal ability. Hopefully the tread life will be as great as the traction and she can enjoy them for a long time to come.
Preparing for an off road adventure
The excitement of a big off road trip like our annual XJ List Fall Crawl begins well before the event. The planning and preparation are a big part of the adventure.
This year my Jeep was pretty much ready to go. I just had a seal to fix in the transfer case. I would have dug into tan exhaust leak and put longer studs in the rear axle flange but I spent my time on other things.
Jenny’s Jeep got a lot of attention this year. Her Maxxis Buckshots were looking more like racing slicks than mudders so she went shopping for new tires. The time constraint of the event limited her choices as did her budget. She ended up choosing Dick Cepek tires from Tire Rack.
She decided to takes this time to upgrade in size as well. Moving up to 33” tires meant some modification as well.
Trimming the fenders was the first order of business. In the rear she first removed the stock flares and then used a hammer to fold over the flange. The front flares had already been removed and the fenders trimmed but more material need to be removed to clear the 33” tires.
Next, the bump stops need to be extended. A search for hockey pucks at a local store proved futile as hockey is not a common sport in Tennessee. So as a temporary measure, she made spacers out of wood. She cut a piece of 2×4 pine and shaped it to fit inside the spring. Then with the spring fully extended, slipped the block between the coil windings and worked it to the bottom. This will keep the suspension 1.5 inches further away on full compression.
One maintenance item was replacing a worn axle shaft U joint. See the article on swapping axle shafts for how this was done. Another minor maintenance item was tightening up a loose nut in the steering section and installing a new cotter key.
A quick test drive on the trails on my farm showed the advantages of the larger tires right away and the deep lugs got excellent traction in the muddy creek crossings.
We celebrated Labor Day and Princess’s birthday by going off roading at Golden Mountain Off Road Park. I spent the early part of the weekend installing Princess’s SYE equipped 231 Transfer case and getting the pinion angle right in the rear. But by Monday, we were ready to hit the trails.
Our previous visits to Golden Mountain had been last fall when the trails were wet and slippery. This trip they were dry and dusty.
At the park entrance we were greeted by the very friendly park owners. They made us feel very welcome.
After unloading my truck from the trailer and removing the doors from both Cherokees, we headed up trail one. Trail one has always been our nemesis in the wet. It is marked easy on the map but even in dry conditions it is challenging. On our previous attempts is has proven impassable.
This time we made it all the way to the top. Coming back down the other side of trail one proved to be even more of a challenge however. This part of the trail has eroded into a deep V notch right down the center of the trail. The only real way down is to straddle the V. I made it fine but Jenny got hung up in one of the transitions. I had to help her get untangled.
Once down from there, we headed up trail 11. This is a fun rocky climb. There was a spot where Jenny got hung last time, but this time equipped with lockers, a SYE and no doors, she made it easily.
At the top of 11 we made our way to 12 and made the loop. Trail 12 has several rocky sections and then ends in a long hill climb. Jenny got hung in a muddy spot last trip, but there was no mud to hang in this time. Just lots of dust. The dust made some of the climbs slippery, but not like the mud.
We took trail 29 down to intersect with trail two and took a break. This was our first time on 29 with was pretty easy in the dry but would be very slippery if wet.
At the top, we toured the pavilion and the camping areas. Here I noticed my Jeep was running very hot. I soon discovered that the electric fan was not working.
We made the short trip down the paved road to the trailer and I scavenged wire from Jenny’s Jeep to make a jumper for the fan. I simply wired it directly to the battery so that meant every time I stopped for any length of time, I had to open the hood and disconnect the wire.
We headed back up the trail and made the 12, 29, 2 loop again. This time we decided to try an unmapped spur off trail 11. This brought us out at one of the pavilions across from the lake. My Jeep was still running hot so I let it cool and added some water.
Scott called and we arranged to meet him at the gate. After picking him up, we ran back up trial one again. This time we took trail 10 on our way to see the top of bounty hill. Trail 10 we found has a very scary section where you have to make two very steep drops in about the length of the Jeep. Scott spotted me down and then did the same for Jenny. I was really glad we did not have to go back up that section.
The climb back out of the hole was still pretty challenging as it is a steep rutted climb. The climb ends with a choice of two big boulders that you have to climb the face of. I did not want to loose momentum, so I made a quick decision of the one on the left. That turned out to be a good choice and I made it up easily. I got out and was able to spot Jenny to the smaller boulder as well.
My Jeep was running much better with the fan on and the radiator full of water. I was really glad that I was able to make a simple fix.
We took time to climb on the boulders overlooking bounty hill. I have watched videos of buggies going up it but I would really like to see one in person.
Next we went down trail 27 to one and made our way to 21. This required running the same part of one that gave us trouble earlier in the day. Jenny got hung up in the same spot again. With Scott spotting me I drove her Jeep up onto the bank and out over the V notch. At one point Scott said the front tire was about two feet in the air but it did not feel tippy until it had already started back down.
We turned around and headed back down trail 21. We took 11 for the third time just because it is fun and took the exit by the small pavilion. We stopped again to tour the big pavilion and take advantage of the facilities there. Caleb enjoyed the playground for a while too.
We headed back into the trail 12 loop and then took 29 back down and then exited on the lower part of trail 2. By the time we made it back to the trailer, we were all very tired and dusty, but we really enjoyed our day at Golden Mountain.