2006 Safari - Doug, Dutch Creek and the Safari

Being from northwest Ohio limits your local opportunities for trail riding. Therefore, we always have our eyes and ears open for a chance to join in with others for a great trail ride! We first searched out information on the Two Rivers Jeep Club events in late 2003, as we were planning our wheeling calendar for 2004. Their website ( ) was very informative, but I also like a personal recommendation. As luck would have it, or good 4-wheelers get around, we met a couple from TRJC who were in attendance at the Mudchuggers 2004 Sno*Blind Trail Ride ( ) at West Branch, MI in February 2004. Diana & John Murphy had brought their CJ-8 Scrambler up from IL to run in the snow. We spent a day on the trails and shared an evening dinner and conversation about our wheeling travels. They invited us to come on down to Pittsfield, IL in May 2004 for our first Safari. So that was our first Safari and introduction to the Two Rivers Jeep Club folks. We had a great time, felt extremely welcomed by the TRJC members and local community folks. We knew we would be back for another event!

May 18-20, 2006 was our opportunity to visit west central IL again and enjoy the hospitality of Pike County and the Two Rivers folks! I spoke with various club members very involved in the Safari, but the information and numbers were not verified as Official stats, but from my observations, they are surely in the ballpark. There were 190 Jeeps and various other 4x4’s registered and inspected on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. Each vehicle was assigned 1 of 4 color groups based upon vehicle specs and driver experience. Trail sign-up was Thursday evening with 15 trails to choose from, rated from 1 (stock) to 5 (most difficult). During inspection and trail sign-up, there were family/vehicle events and dinner available, with proceeds going to the DARE program and 911 Pike County folks. Over 300 people were registered for the 2006 Safari. You see a wide variety of rigs from 7-10 states.

Breakfast was served by the local American Legion at their Hall. Each trail has its designated parking area to line up in, for an orderly exit to the trails. Drivers meeting followed and we left for the trails at 9:00 AM SHARP! The local police provided traffic control to facilitate a SAFE exiting of 190 4x4’s in two directions, as 15 groups head for their own trail head. The trails are all on PRIVATE land and many of the land owners are TRJC members, with some of them serving as Trail Leaders. Over 30 land owners provide their property to wheel on. Lunch was on your own and it is always wise to go prepared with some extra food and water for the day.

We had signed up for a 2+ trail on Friday named Dutch Creek Challenge. The land owner, Trail Leader and currently President of the TRJC was Lee Ator. During our ride Lee provided local history and county information. The farm we rode on was approximately 900 acres and belonged to Lee’s wife and her brother and sister, having been handed down from their grandparents. Lee has lived in Pike County all his 50+ years and he or his wife have always lived on ground that drains into Dutch Creek. So he was quite familiar with the terrain we were negotiating all day. As usual, ratings can change with the weather, especially after a nice rain. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, Pike County had only received 1 inch of rainfall in May so the creek was mostly dry. However, being dry, we were able to run additional trail that this ride doesn’t usually travel over during the Safari in the Spring, each year. We spent a fair amount of time in and out of the creek, in and out of ravines and woods. It is not uncommon to see deer and turkey along the Dutch Creek trail ride. Lee did jinx me, telling me he thought I might have a problem with this log crossing on the way up the creek, but I didn’t until we exited this loop and we needed to strap our Grand off a log in the creek on the return trip across this same obstacle.

As with most trail rides, there can and usually is some carnage and breakdowns. The Trail Guides will lend assistance, as well as the other participants, so no one is left in the woods and the local agricultural community is talented in making repairs to get you back on the trails. A great supper was again served by the Legion with raffle drawings held after the eats. Home made, ‘ir parking lot made, ice cream was available for a donation, with all proceeds going to the Two Rivers Christmas Basket Fund for elderly Pike County folks. Then it was off to our local lodgings for the night.

Saturday was the same schedule. This time we elected one of the 1 rated trails for an easy ride in the pastures and woods of two other members of Two Rivers. After all, we had an eight hour drive home to Ohio on Sunday for the Grand. We spent the morning at OR Freesen’s farm enjoying the scenery and spending a little time under OR’s Jeep putting his front driveshaft back together, after he pulled an XJ out of the bottom of a steep creek crossing. We decided to head to the Tate’s farm for lunch and to run some of their Ridge Rambler Trail after lunch, to finish out the day. The farm we ran on was about 600 acres where Jenny and Hamer Tate have built a beautiful log home, over looking a pond, meadow with a woods back drop. As we ate lunch on the wide porch, we watched deer grazing and a family of woodchucks, sunning themselves above the pond. Hamer told us this farm was about 200 acres of tillable ground, 200 acres of rolling pasture and 200+ acres of woods and ravines, including pipeline hill. It made for excellent wheeling!

The local girls volleyball team was ready with a Jeep wash, when we returned late Saturday afternoon. Another donation to a good cause. After another delicious and plentiful dinner, the final raffle drawings were held. Everyone went home with some form of a prize. Mine was car wash tokens, so the Grand got cleaned up a little more on Sunday morning. It was mentioned that over the past 14 years, over $750,000 in donations have been made by this club to local Pike County organizations and individuals in need. The club currently has approximately 190 members and during all the events they put on throughout the year, both public and private, the local Chamber estimates they bring in $2 million a year in tourism to the Pike County area. Obviously, Pike County and Illinois know what 4-wheelers like and are willing to partner with us!

It was a fantastic event, put on by excellent volunteers! We’ll be back again! Hope to see some of you there!

Created: 4 June 2006