I Made it to Barnwell late...
...Sunday, about 12:30. After driving for 2 hours straight from Dallas, I pulled into Barnwell with my buddy behind in his EXTREMELY stock TJ. I had finished the last "fix" to the Zuki nearly 12 hours prior to the minute when I spotted the sign next to the office that read "Welcome First Annual Zook Run".
Laura White, Mike Shannon, and a handful were left but picking up shop. It was great to meet you guys and see your rigs, even though Mike didn't bring his Suzuki. We talked for a few minutes, then Laura suggested we try "Twister", and "Clydes Canyon", both 3 diamond trails. Lauras eyes seemed to light up as she told me "...you'll catch some air...". I grinned as steered the Zuki back to the main road and off to "...catch some air...". Thanks Laura. [img]/wwwthreads_images/icons/smile.gif[/img]
"Twister" is the name of the trail, and not because of its twisty turns. "Twister" is appropriately named due to the way it will twist the frame of your Zuki this way and that way and back again over and over and over.
I never had all four wheels on the ground at the same time during the first stretch up the trail, which consists of a moderate climb up a series of close knit wash outs that run diagonally down the trail. With my rear spring packs missing the overload spring, I could flex wonderfully through them, but my stock front couldn't handle the deep ruts, and constantly kept air between the ground and one or the other front tire. (rear springs up front as soon I get these plates welded for them)
A few off camber turns, more wash out stretches and "Twister" was done. "Let's do that again!" So back to the beginning. It's a great little trail, just wish it was a longer.
My buddy decides he's hungry, so back to the concession stand for a good turkey sandwich and drink. While he's gulping his down and talking Jeep jargon with another TJ owner, I'm looking at the map and trail ratings. I notice that we passed two trails on the way from "Twister"; "Shake, Rattle, and Roll", and an inconspicuous little trail named "Houston Creek". I am looking for these names on the trail ratings when I am interrupted by something and put the ratings back in the glove box.
Time to hit the trails again. I tell my buddy that I am curious about these two trails that we passed. I had caught a glimpse of a portion of "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" on the way in and it was obscenely rough, but what about this "Houston Creek"? A tiny little opening in the trees, soft top soil, and no big rocks jutting out to attack my t-case... so it must not be so rough afterall. So off we go, me in the lead, 98 TJ behind.
This trail started out nice and slow, soft top soil and lots of 8" diameter tree stumps cut short. About 20' into the trail, then an off camber hair pin turns on this same soft top soil. This leads to a 50' or so hill littered with small rocks amongst the little tree stumps and soft top soil. Did I mention the angle of descent on this hill? Roughly a 60* incline. At the bottom, an immediate 90* left turn and straight back up a smaller-- but no less steep-- rise between trees that turns sharply back to the right again as it goes down. No problem.
I am grinning ear to ear as I drop it into first, forget I have a brake pedal, and head on down the hill. I lost footing only once briefly and kept my Zuki straight for the entire descent, cut the wheel just before the bottom and found myself facing the next obstacle head on.
I get up the next hill and outta the way of my buddies TJ as he comes sliding left and right down this hill now, the weight of his Jeep taking him this way and that. I wagered to myself which end would make it to the bottom first, front or rear? But he made it facing forward.
I'm wondering at this point if this is a 4 diamond trail. 4 diamonds are usually reserved for locked and lifted vehicles. I had 4 1/2" total lift without counting the tires. But no lockers. The Jeep behind me had 3 inches of lift and no lockers. So off I go now, down the little drop and another hair pin turn to the left. I am now face to face with the first climb I have never, ever been able to get up under my own power.
Rocks, tree roots, a washout along one side that cuts across the trail between the first two rocks. And soft, loose top soil. I knew I was not going up the minute I saw this climb, but I couldn't go back the other way. Coming down that first hill was easy, going back up without lockers? Impossible.
So I launch my first assault on the hill. I get up the first rock with relative ease, it's flat, and large enough to get the tire all the way up on it, and it sits at an angle close to the angle of the ground around it. It's just a little slick. I get over it and start to dig into good dirt while the driver side tire is bouncing like crazy on the tree roots. I change angles in mid stride, try to hop over the roots and get back to the middle of the trail. Bounce! It worked, WOOT! BANG! Uh oh... all forward momentum has ceased and tires are not spinning in the front any more. I back off the gas and roll back down the hill. Looking up, I see my enemy, and it stares right back at me.
The second rock on the this hill is a small rock, flat faced, not half the size of my 31x10.50 MT. But it sticks almost straight up out of the ground like a tombstone. When I hopped over the roots and slid to the center of the trail, I put my passengers front tire right up against that rock. So the wheels in my head start to turn as I plot a path around the rock, and slowly apply gas and work my way back up.
Hop-hop bounce-bounce as the roots attack the front tire again, slide-slide stop spinning as the other front tire works around the slick rock and loose gravel. I'm slowly climbing up again from an opposite angle as before thinking I've got it for sure this time. Then I hit the wash out, the wheel cuts hard to the right and I have to make a choice: ditch the Zuki in the trees and brush off to the right side of the hill, or move back towards the center of the trail? Obvious choice made, I guide her to the center... to the patiently waiting tombstone rock. Back down the hill for try number three, the final ascent.
Straight up the middle, and cut left at the last moment, throw my right tire on the roots for traction and gun the engine. This should shoot me like a rocket right passed that rock. Then I can ease back into center and use the rock for traction if I need it. Sounded good.
I bounced off those roots so hard and landed on the rock. The rock seemed suprised by this sneak attack and tossed me right back to the roots, apparently in self defense. I had the wheel cut hard right when I landed on the root cluster, and I landed hard on the left tire first.
Scratch one birfield. Have you ever seen one explode before? This one exploded. Back down the hill, this time accompanied by the symphony of clackity clackity clack.
I have to get outta this mess, so after bottoming out my steering left and right to see if I still had any range of mobility on the birfield, I tried one more time. I ease the peddle to the floor get my tire on the first rock, but regardless of how much gas I give it, she won't climb the rock. She does make a loud knocking sound as if to say "I'm trying but I just can't take this anymore...". I was convinced I'd scattered the one remaining piece of drive train I have not replaced on this specific vehicle, the front diff. So I drop it in to 2wd and laugh at making any attempt to get up now under my own power.
I look at my buddy, tell him I'm stuck, then realize he cant get ahead of me, so I tell him WE'RE stuck. Hrmmmm... CB, ch 4, talk talk. Cavalry is on its way.
I (me, not my Zuki) climb back up the first hill, heaving and gasping for air after the climb and wait for help to come. Help arrives in the form of a J10, a 4Runner, a Land Cruiser, a BUFF TJ, a dune buggy, and what appears to have been, in a former life, a Chevy truck.
After much negotiation, I get my Samurai perched safely off the trail between two trees while the Land Cruiser inches ahead of me and up the hill. We tie me up, I unlock my hubs, and away we go. I had to give it a little gas here and there, but we got up and off the trail with no trouble at all.
Thanks are given, stories are shared, I give the Land Cruiser my remaining spare gas (my trailing was done for the day, so I didn't need it), park the Zuki, and go site seeing in the Jeep.
4pm, time to start heading out. I give the Zuki a good and proper examination. Front diff is fine, driver side birfield is busted, but not binding. #4 piston is also the victim of Houston Creek.
But damn I had fun today. So I missed most everybody who came, I didn't get any trails in with Laura and Mike. I had to fight in the garage with my Zuki everyday for 8 weeks, I wasn't about to NOT show up. And all the mods I had put on tested out just fine. My home made body lift held up, no cracks in the welding, no sagging boxes, no squeaking or chirping at the mount points. The rear spring mod worked fantastic, I flexed on the rear like never before, making my TJ buddy gape in awe at the difference. The engine ran nice and smooth (until I wasted the piston). No coolant puking until a block from the house when the belt pulley on the crankshaft fell off and I over heated pulling into the garage from no water pump circulation.
I went there, I broke things on the trail, (real trail breaks, not stupid things mind you [img]/wwwthreads_images/icons/smile.gif[/img]), and I got back home, all under my own power.
Barnwell is a great place in my limited experience there. Nice scenery, lotsa pics of the valleys. Some good trails, many are short, but still fun, and lots of long soft "take a break and take in the scenery type trails". I'm no experienced national trail master, but I give a great thumbs up to Barnwell. And it's obvious that this property only gets better everyday the wind blows down the trails and the rain runs through the washouts.
I'm moving to Fla. this weekend, I got in my last trail for Texas for a LOOONG time, but I'll be seeing Barnwell again this time next year. Laura, I hope you're already planning the next Zook run at Barnwell. I have a date with a rock on Houston Creek, so I'll see you then.
Neal the Zukiguy
"If it is '...a Jeep thing...' I hope it isn't contagious"
88.5 Weber carb, header, 4.16 t-case, 31x10.5 M/T's, 2" s/r, 2" bod lift, front tube, Swift seats