Walker Valley Apr 2021

The Timber Tamers have been really blessed over the past couple of months to have something like 8 new people contact us with an interest in joining our 4-wheeling club. And, we have been offering an opportunity to mentor people new to wheeling to help them develop experience and skills in 4-wheeling so they can enjoy themselves more fully and more quickly. About a week and a half ago, the BOD developed an idea of holding a trail run to help the newer folks have this opportunity in a more structured setting rather than just “letting it happen” however and whenever. So, at our meeting this month we proposed to the membership having a “Welcome Run” to do just this, which everyone thought was a good idea—and we planned it for today!

I offered to lead the run, and proposed starting at 10:00 AM, since Gary M wanted to be there, and I know that Gary isn’t an early morning person. (Something about working second shift…) What was really cool was that we had a number of current Tamers say they wanted to be there to help, and most of the new candidates said they wanted to and thought they could be there. Great—it’s a date!!

I arrived at Walker Valley in my stretched white JKR about 9:20, as I wanted to be there and get aired-down before anyone else arrived so I could give them my full attention. Of course, after we’ve had a couple of weeks of fabulous sunny warm weather, reality hit and the PNW met us with its finest—cold rain, and plenty of it for the day. Gary M arrived in the Miss Understood about 9:30, and then a few other folks showed-up, including Chris L with his red Cherokee, Steven A and Rudy D with 2 passengers in their huge “camo” 4-door JK on 40s, and then Chris B and family in his green TJ. We were joined by Candidates Dan & Sarah, Mike, Paul, Ray, and Kevin. We signed the DNR form for E&E hours, and then held a drivers’ meeting to go over not just our usual stuff, but also some items important for new folks—like Tread Likely principles, asking about tow points, airing-down, etc. We also emphasized that if and when there are problems, we NEVER leave anyone behind. (This will be important later.) It turned out that about half the group had CB radios, and half had GMRS, so we ended-up going with two set of radios for the day, and making sure we relayed messages on both bands. Mike said he’d never wheeled at all in any way before, and he was reluctant to drive his new red 4-door Jeep—even though we suspect he’d have done just fine; the experienced folks were here to help coach with just that! He asked if he could ride shotgun with someone today, so I had him ride with me. So, finally we took off about 10:15 or so.

We drove down Peter Burns Road toward the gatekeeper by the Timber Tamer Trails, and just before we got there, things started going sideways for the day. A motorcyclist came past the rear of our group and stopped at my Jeep to ask if anyone could open the gate—then he told me that a friend of his had crashed his motorcycle, and hurt his leg badly. He wanted to know if we could get the gate open so his friend’s wife could get their truck up to him to take him to the hospital. Since we couldn’t open the gate, I went ahead through the gatekeeper to check out the situation, and Gary helped spot the new folks through the gatekeeper.

The motorcyclist led me to the top of the Lower Timber Tamer Trail, and about 25 yards down from there was a motorcyclist lying on the ground beside the trail with a foil space-blanket over him. I went to talk with him while Mike stayed in my Jeep, since he was dressed only in shorts after having played tennis earlier in the day. I talked with the injured man, and found that his back hurt and he couldn’t move his left leg because of the pain below his left knee. I radioed back to Gary, and he phoned the DNR officers (Gary B and Jim C), but only got voice mails to start with. We ended-up calling 911, and waited for the ambulances to arrive. We covered the injured man with another blanket and a more robust space tarp, which also helped keep the rain off him. In the meantime, the line of Tamers came up the Lower Timber Tamer Trail, and checked-in with us as they passed. Gary and Chris B stayed with us at the scene of the accident to wait for the ambulance, and Chris L and Steven agreed to take the rest of the candidates up to the upper Gravel Pit to work on some basic wheeling skills. Sarah, who also has a medical background stayed with me, so Mike then went with Dan to go with the rest of the Tamers to the gravel pit.

Finally, the ambulance arrived, got the motorcyclist “packaged-up”, and headed out. The other motorcyclists told us how thankful they were that we helped and stayed with them. We told them that this is one of the things we do as Tamers. Then we started heading up the WV-22 road toward the EZ Valley Connector—and then we heard that Gary B from DNR was driving up to connect with us and pick-up the E&E form.

After talking with Gary B, the three of us (Gary M, Chris B and I) headed up the EZ Valley Connector and up to the BR-16 Road; it was about noon at this time, so a significant part of the day was absorbed by helping the motorcyclist. We drove that up to and through the Skills Area, and then on to the Gravel Pit to meet with the rest of the group. Only, they weren’t there. Not only that, but we couldn’t raise them on either the CB or the GMRS radios. So, we drove back out down the BR-3802 toward BR-38, and Sarah connected with Dan via text; he told her that Chris L was coming down to meet with us and take us to where they were. Chris connected with us at the intersection of BR-3802 and BR-38, then led us up to the rock quarry where they had been—not the gravel pit! Then I saw why we hadn’t connected with the radios—the rock quarry is in the bottom of a steep-walled pit that would block out almost all radio signals.

As it turned out, they had been playing up there on the boulders a bit with Steven and Rudy doing some “gymnastics” on the boulders. We delayed there for a while to let Chris B and Ashley feed their kids. From there we were back together as a group, and we discussed taking a path down Humps and Bumps, down the backside of the Skills Area, then back down the EZ Valley Connector and to offer the opportunity to go down the Upper Timber Tamer for those who wanted to wheel a little longer while affording the opportunity for those who needed to leave sooner to go down BR-22 to the gatekeeper and to head home.

As it was a bit later in the day (like after 3:30), Chris B said that he and Ashley wanted to get their small kids home for supper and bedtime, so he said that they’d head down in front of the group so they could head out and get headed home quickly. Oops.

I was running as tailgunner at that point, and just as I eased onto the EZ Valley Connector, Chris radioed that he thought he just broke a tie rod. (Like I said—oops.) Fortunately, he was at a spot where there were two trails so he wasn’t blocking the trail. Once I got far enough down to park, I walked down and found that Chris indeed had a broken tie rod. We had a classic Tamer “Swarm” with everyone gathering around and looking to help. He already was on a blue poly tarp that Steven and Rudy handed him (because of course, it was still raining), and he was under his Jeep and was removing his tie rod. Steven and Rudy needed to head home, so they got ready to head down to the gatekeeper, and agreed to lead the candidates down through there so they could get home, too—although Dan & Sarah decided to stay with the rest of us working on Chris B’s Jeep.

The ever-resourceful Chris L noted that TJs and XJs utilize the same Y-link steering with the same components, so he suggested taking his Cherokee back down to the parking area and putting it on his trailer, then taking the Y-link tie rod and drag link off his Cherokee to take back up to put on Chris B’s TJ so he could get out and home. Gary drove down with Chris L while the rest of us contributed extra tools (like wrenches, BFHs and even pickle forks—we all carry too many tools!) for getting the TJ tie rod removed. As it turned out, the TRE on the pitman arm proved to be very, very stubborn–so stubborn that Chris B ended-up unscrewing that end link from his drag link adjusting sleeve, and then threading Chris L’s Y-link into his still-mounted drag link adjusting sleeve as he installed it. Finally, we were able to head down to the gatekeeper and toward the parking lot. (Needless to say, we chose NOT to go down the Upper Timber Tamer!) At the parking lot we all sighed a huge sigh of relief as we aired-up our tires for the drive home.

But of course, the story couldn’t simply end there. Chris L headed out toward home with his Cherokee on his trailer—and without a tie rod. The other 4 of us headed out to accompany Chris B home, which proved to be a good thing. As he hit a pothole on Peter Burns Road at about 15-20 mph, he got a pretty bad death-wobble. So, we went slowly. We stopped at a gravel turn-out at a close gate on Walker Valley Road to put more air in Chris’ tires (as he’d only aired-up to 22-24 psi, and we thought more air might help. However, a woman came out of the house across the street and said we couldn’t stay there even to put air in the tires. So, we left from there, and drove down to the Big Lake Restaurant where we took his tire pressures up to 30 psi. Chris also thought to take an old 4-wheeling trick he’d heard from Luke M of attaching his winch to the front axle to cinch it down and stabilize it. After we pulled out onto Highway 9, we were able to drive at 35-40 mph without problems. So, we decided that 35-40 mph would be a decent speed to drive!

The four of us headed toward Chris B’s home in Monroe via Highway 9 and backroads rather than I-5 and Highway 2. Dan & Sarah turned toward home in Arlington, so Gary and I escorted Chris the rest of the way home without incident.

All in all, quite the day, although not exactly what we’d planned as a “Welcome Run”! Plenty of complications with the injured motorcyclist and Chris’ breakage, but at least we had a great opportunity to demonstrate and showcase the ethics of the Tamers that we will leave NO ONE behind. What was really great too was that all the candidates said that despite the issues of the day, they had fun, and they asked if we’d have another Welcome Run to go over more of the skills that we never had a chance to do today. And YES, WE WILL!!!

John Vandergrift