Walker Welcome Run Oct 2021

This is our opportunity for a “do-over”. Six months ago, virtually to the day (on 4/24/2021), we made our first attempt at a Welcome Run for our new members. As you may recall, that Welcome Run was effectively hijacked and taken away even before we got to the south gate by the Timber Tamer Trail where we were beseeched by a motorcyclist to help with his friend who was injured after crashing his motorcycle at the top of the Lower Timber Tamer Trail. Being the socially responsible Tamers we are, we went to his assistance, and stayed with him until an ambulance got there—about 2½ hours later. That meant we essentially lost most of our opportunity to actually do our Welcome Run where we had planned to share 4-wheeling skills with our newest members and candidates. Things have been busy enough that it took us another 6 months to schedule another Welcome Run—and this time we weren’t kidnapped by any emergencies to help with!

We met at 10:00 AM in the Walker Valley parking lot, and we had a pretty big group, which was great! We had 17 people and 14 vehicles, mostly JKs, a couple of TJs, and even a Jeep Commander and a Land Rover! There was also pretty close to a 50-50 split of new people and experienced Tamers—a recipe for a good day! After signing the DNR paper for our E&E hours for the day and the usual discussion of “what pressure do you air down to”, we had our Drivers Meeting and went around the circle introducing ourselves. Then we went through the usual list on the card from our website as well as reviewing our expectations for the day. At that point, it was time to head out!

The first bit of good news is that we all got through the gatekeeper at the south gate, and had no problems at all. Gary Bellows motored by and said hello to all of us, wishing us a good day of wheeling! From there we took the gravel road up to the EZ Valley Connector to get to the upper trails while Moose regaled us with a song. Again, no problems for anyone—making it look like a good group of new wheelers right from the start! The other cool thing is that everyone did a great job of keeping the vehicle behind them in their rear-view mirrors, and we had no issues all day of anyone getting separated or lost. First, we went to the Upper Gravel Pit where we again reviewed our goals for the day, and then spotted the new folks over a few of the short rocky paths to get them used to what their vehicles can do and to get them used to having a spotter help them. The more experienced Tamers also played a little bit on some of the steep climbs there—and then a few of the new folks joined in! (Only 1 got stuck to the point where we had to use a gentle tug with a tow strap to get him loose.)

From there we went to the other play area where we did a little bit of work on the bigger rocks as well as playing on the steep climbs on the sides of the bowl. (And this is where the only bit of carnage for the day happened—one of the front CV joints gave up the ghost in Jeff L’s Tracker. However, since he has front lock-out hubs, he was able to unlock his hubs and continue to drive in 2LO and 2HI. After this, people in six of the vehicles needed to head home to take care of other responsibilities, while the folks in the remaining eight vehicles wanted to drive a trail ride to implement their newly-acquired skills. So, we took the upper gravel roads back to the EZ Valley Connector (which was now even easier for everyone!), and from there we took the W-22 gravel road back down to the south gate.

After the six folks went through the gatekeeper, we remaining eight vehicles headed a couple of hundred yards back and entered the Lower Timber Tamer Trail. With the rain, it was moderately sloppy, and the roots were fun! Everyone made it through quite well, and this further bolstered confidence for our new people!! From there, it was on to the Upper Timber Tamer Trail. It started out a little underwhelming, as the first big puddle was empty. However, by the time we got to the Big Rock, we saw the puddle between the rock and the stump was definitely full! I was lucky, as this proved to be the first time I’ve made it over the rock when it’s wet! Chris L also made it over—and for him, it was his first time to do it with a manual transmission in his XJ! (No one else attempted it…) Then it was over the hill, where we faced the Rock Garden. And it was quite wet. And muddy. And slippery. All the things that make it a great rock garden!! It was a bit of a struggle for all of us, even with spotting. Two of us had to pull winch rope at the middle segment because the mud was slippery, the holes between the rocks got deeper as we went, and the rocks got taller to the point where they grabbed differentials and skid plates. There were two other rigs headed down as we were going up. However, when they saw the challenges we were overcoming, they decided to turn around and head back up and out with us! Probably a good decision on their part, as the sun was setting and darkness was descending. (However, this also made for really beautiful views across the valley as we drove down toward the gatekeeper!)

The gatekeeper posed no challenge as all of us passed through it quickly and easily. We drove down Peter Burns Road to the parking lot, aired-up, bid each other farewell, and headed home. All in all, it was a great day of wheeling, very minimal carnage, and lots of fun for everyone!!

John Vandergrift