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Lake Shore Drive

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The trail line up and air down area at Lake Pittsfield
Lake Shore Drive
an Appreciation of a Fine Trail
By Graham McNeill

The Two Rivers Jeep Club usually offers around fifteen trails for it's club runs, the Illini Safari and 4X4 Blast. The trails range from an easy 1 to a hard core 5. Something for all driver competency levels and family comfort, to the totally insane where you will wish you stayed home with the neighbor's wife.

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Craig Laurich spotting
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Landowner Mike Ray’s lunch area

One of my favorite trails is Lake Shore Drive. It was on this trail that I experienced my first club trail building weekend in Pike County. The trail just gets better and better every year. It was tough back then in a a totally stock, 700 mile old TJ. It still gets your attention in a 35" Super Swampered, Detroit locked Willy's MB.

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The trail meanders across three properties owned by Bob Hammitt, Brian and Rich Hoover and Mike Ray and Tom Dubit. It takes a lot of work and dedication for the Trail Guides to keep so many landowners happy enough to allow the club access to such a fine trail. It is one of the most used trails in the club, yet it is taken care of extremely well by the guides. The land is comprised of creeks, waterfalls, rock outcroppings, swamp, mud, more mud, and steep hills that get steeper going down. Rolling countryside, wooded areas to get lost in for a month and enough gnarly, twisting trails with tire shredding rocks and tree stumps to piss off the Pope.

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The trail is led by Trail Guides Craig Laurich, Jim Smith and Jamie Veach. One would have to wonder if they had all just escaped from an insane asylum the way they like to play and give everyone on the trail a good time. When it gets serious though they know when to get serious themselves and get you out of trouble. They have a relationship with the landowners that you rarely see in the club. They are treated like sons. They often help the farmers outside of club activities. They have cut and hauled trailer loads of wood on many occasions. In return Mike Ray has been known to cut trail just for the Jeep club. On special trail rides you will stop for lunch and find that Mike not only has plates of cookies and brownies waiting, but has cooked chicken and hotdogs for everyone on the trail. Mike also lets us use his cabin for freshening up, lets the kids play on his swings and would even let them fish in his stocked fishing pond.

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The trail is just a short drive from town. A typical group comprises about 15 vehicles plus guides. The "air down" area is on a blacktop road that circles Pittsfield City Lake. You don't even get dirty airing up after a muddy day on the trail.

If it has been raining anytime during or preceding the run you can expect to get very muddy. Don't expect the guides to go running for shelter in a thunder storm because there isn't any. You just keep wheeling and get muddier. You can also expect the creeks to be anywhere from totally dry in places to over 3 foot deep. It pays to watch the person ahead of you to make sure you do not fall into a hole.

The trail takes you around crop land, up and down fairly difficult waterfalls with very sharp rocks interspersed with muddy ravines. There are several rock outcroppings that are used as play areas for the brave, the foolhardy and the adventuresome. Most of the trail is under the canopy of mature trees so it's great in the heat of summer. You will lose count of the steep hills to climb up and plummet down. Obstacles, or challenges depending upon your point of view have such eloquent names as “Point of No Return Ravine" and "Oh S**t Hill". Some have by-passes if you are unable to make them in 3 attempts. If you start to excavate you will hear a loud whistle letting you know you had better stop. If you don't you get booted off the trail.

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The trail will take a full day to traverse depending on the type of Jeeps and drivers. If there is time left at the end of the day expect Craig to lead you backwards through a waterfall or he will find a play area guaranteed to increase your pucker factor.

Regardless of what type of vehicle you drive, you are guaranteed a really great day of wheeling that will bring you back time and time again. My thanks and deep appreciation goes to the fine landowners that let us use their property.

Created: 02/16/00