7th Trail Builder - New Salem - July 25, 2009
By Mark


On July 25th we met at the VFW for a work day two weeks prior to the 2009 4X4 Blast.  A breakfast was scheduled but something went wrong and only club members wanting to eat showed up so everyone had to fend for themselves and find their own breakfast somewhere in town. 

After a quick trip to McDonalds and a board meeting we separated into groups and Doug led our group of six Jeeps to the New Salem Trail.  “Pooh” let it be known that he was going along to help work on the trail but that he usually stays to harder trails, a statement that would come back to bite him by the end of the day. 

We weren’t sure what we would find after our Gilligan’s Island adventure at the Safari so we were prepared to fix problems.  We found that the trail had dried up a lot since we were there last but we also found a lot of ruts where there had never been ruts before.  On a few of the hills there were some of them that were very deep and might possibly present a little bit of an obstacle to stock Jeeps at the Blast. 

At the Safari we spent over three hours winching on one hill and we now refer to it as “Three Hour Hill”.  We found it to be dry but rutted and it definitely does not look like it could ever take three hours to negotiate much less need to use a winch on.  Hopefully it will never again live up to it’s name although the ruts and damage we did to it at the Safari could be interesting if we have rain again. 

Most of the trail was dry and everyone made one trip down and two trips up The Point of No Return, a hill that we don’t run when it’s wet as everyone seems to hit the tree at the bottom.  During the day we used the chainsaw a few times to clear the trail and we had to throw a few logs into one of the creek crossings to smooth it out for a stock Jeep.  We also trimmed a lot of brush back, especially the berry bushes with thorns hoping to stop them from entering Jeeps at the Blast.   

We also found mud in a few places.  In an area where there wasn’t mud before I was leading the group when I entered a creek crossing that looked pretty solid.  I entered it slowly and managed to sink to my axles in really slimy thick mud.  I was stuck and no matter how much wheel spin I got I wasn’t moving so I had to use my winch.  Yes, I had my air conditioner turned off.  Once I was out everyone entered the hole with some speed and managed to crawl through it and up the other bank.  On the way back through it I entered it properly and managed to not embarrass myself.  I do have to say that there was a lot less mud in the area after I winched out as I took a lot of it with me.  After everyone got through the area the second time Chad found that he had separated a bead from a wheel and that he had a flat tire.  It didn’t take long to change it and we continued on.

At the end of the day we took everyone to the two mud holes at the very start of our trail that have been eating Jeeps for a couple of years now.  The first one was pretty dry and everyone made it through.  At the second one we found that the time spent on it at the Safari had completely changed it.  Before it was a smooth trip downhill into a 90 degree right hand turn onto a flat area where the mud caught you as you then tried a hill climb while staying caught in some pretty deep ruts.  Now the bottom of the hill is really dug out, you drop into a hole and the mud is a lot deeper.  No one that tried it made it up the hill without pulling winch cable.  When we came back to the area and ran it backwards Chris and I took the bypass which brings you into the mud hole at a different angle and allows you to just run on the outer edge of the mud.  “Pooh” took the hard route, drove down the hill into the hole and then made the left turn trying to climb out of the hole.  He made a great attempt but the left front U joint failed and took out the inner and outer axle on the left side.  We pulled his winch cable and after he was free of the mud he was able to drive his Jeep to his trailer.  So much for it only being a 2 rated trail.

It looks like New Salem is in pretty good shape for the 4X4 Blast.  Baring another tornado and torrential downpour at the Blast we should be able to have a couple of good days on the trail with only a few areas that might require some winching.  New Salem is certainly shaping up to be a 2 rated trail that offers just a little more for the same price.  Doug, Don, Justin, Megan, Chris and I are looking forward to the Blast, meeting new people, and having a great two days on the trail.

Created: 1 Aug 2009