Dutch Creek- 21 Mar 2009

By Mark

More photos here!

When we woke up Saturday morning March 21st we found it was cloudy and cool. The forecast was for 50 degrees and rain so we were expecting to have a wet muddy day of trail building. Even with the rainy weather predicted we were glad to see another pretty good turnout at the VFW. After looking at the four trails that were open for the day Chris and I decided to go with Lee Ator to Dutch Creek, a trail that we had only been on once previously. Throughout the day we kept commenting about what a good choice we had made. We also wondered about the salaries paid to weather forecasters as the day got sunnier and warmer, reaching 60 plus degrees and we never saw rain. This made for the fourth straight club event where the weather has cooperated and the temperature was warmer than at home.

Lee had already been out several times this spring and we found Dutch Creek to be in pretty good shape. We did some minor maintenance at the bottom of a hill climb in a V notch to divert water and stop future damage to the trail. Lee does a pretty good job with a pick axe and the work was completed in about fifteen minutes. We checked a couple of loops that had not been run yet and only had to move a few small limbs and use the chainsaw five or six times. In most cases Lee had cut the brush with a machete before we walked to his location. In six hours of trail building we probably spent less than fifty minutes on trail maintenance, and the rest on trail enjoyment.

The day was not uneventful and there were some pretty good photo opportunities as tires left the ground, Jeeps stood on end, and the off camber areas left you straining against the seat belt and holding onto anything you could find secure in the Jeep. One young lady was heard screaming in surprise and excitement a few times during the day. When we found a creek entrance that was pretty washed out Lee simply said, “Let’s try it” and stood his Jeep on the front bumper leading the way. He made it and so did everyone else following him. A few of us also had some minor problems with our Jeeps.

When Jim and Angle’s Jeep caught its emergency brake cable and broke a rear shock on a rock we stopped for a few minutes for repairs. While Jim and others fixed the problem I observed a couple of things. People were quick to jump in and help with repairs. My wife was quick to tell them how to get it done, and Lee was quick to corner most of the females on the trail and keep them entertained. (I have enclosed photos to prove all that I’ve said here).

Lee had a heating problem that plagued him and eventually ended his day. His first fix was to run real fast in the creek and let the creek water cool the radiator. When it got hot again he managed to con me out of a gallon of water which helped for a while. The third time was the charm when the engine got hot and started steaming. Lee found that his clutch fan was broken and decided that he would park the Jeep and ride with someone else. I thought that he showed pretty good sense but then I questioned that when he decided to ride with Bill instead of Brenda. When I brought the subject up he mentioned something about being scared of redheads, especially the redhead at home.

Chris and I had a couple of minor problems with the Jeep but they didn’t slow us down or stop us from having a good time. We had a tire that starting to go low after we spent some time in a muddy V notch. I figured that we’d picked up some mud in a bead as the leak was slow so we refilled the tire a couple times from the Power Tank and continued. We also had the check engine light come on so we stopped and checked the owners manual which wasn’t any help. As the engine temp was fine and there was plenty of oil pressure we kept going, the light went out after about an hour. Then when we left the trail I found that the steering wheel had turned about 70 degrees from normal. Knowing that we had a trailer sitting at the motel took the worry away about making a four hour drive with Jeep problems. When I checked the Jeep at home I found that I had picked up another thorn in a sidewall which I quickly plugged. My favorite mechanic found that the computer had thrown a code indicating that the number three cylinder had misfired. He determined that the boot on the number three plug was letting spark jump to the block. A new set of boots and plugs fixed the problem. As our Jeep only has 36,000 miles on it I would not have guessed that it needed plugs. Normal plug gap is supposed to be .035 and my plugs were worn so that the gap was .045 to .060 and the electrodes were worn and rounded. A check of the alignment found that nothing was bent or damaged just that it appeared that threads had slipped at the adjuster by the pitman arm.

Dutch Creek is a fun trail and Lee is a great guide and landowner. There are enough obstacles to keep you entertained all day and to test your Jeep and your skills. There is water, lots of water, hills, mud, V notches, off camber areas, and then the thorns to be avoided. It’s another great example of the land that is available through the Two Rivers Jeep Club and the landowners that are kind enough to let us on their property and who support our club.

Hopefully the weather will continue to smile on the TRJC and we’ll have good weather and a good turnout for the members Appreciation dinner and trail ride on April 4th. See you there.

Created: 28 Mar 2009