Walker Valley ORV Park
Near Mt. Vernon, WA
May 5th, 2012
This Saturday was a good half-day of wheel'n. I finally got my TJ out on the trails again after no wheel'n all winter. And my friend got to try out his new JK Unlimited (4-door Wrangler) that he got a few months ago. He's been working on modifying it this winter with a lift, some 35" tires, skid plates and such. This Saturday we got to try it out. And it's a good thing he put the skid plates on.
The weather was somewhat cooperative on Saturday with only some overcast skies and just the barest of light rain fall. Later in the afternoon the clouds dissipated to reveal sunny blue skies. Yet the trails were nice and sloppily muddy. It made for more challenging trail conditions but then that is part of the fun.
We brought our two sons along with us (about 4 years old) and both had a great time out in the Jeeps on the trails. My son liked both the trail riding as well as the opportunity to get out of the Jeep. This happened frequently enough as we'd hop out to spot my friend in his JK over some obstacles. One of the first big obstacles was this steep climb over a slick stump root in the middle of a clear cut. In all honestly I didn't think I'd make it all the way up and over myself. The plan was to get the nose of my rig over the root and then winch up the rest of the way. But apparently I had enough traction. It took about 5-7 minutes of working it but I got my old TJ up and over. Then it was my friend's turn. After 15 minutes of trying we finally busted out the tow strap and I pulled him the rest of the way up and over the stump. Despite his dual locking axles and mud terrain tires it was just the odd particulars of the trail and his particular rig that he wasn't able to get over this obstacles. Under different conditions I don't doubt I'd be the one getting pulled by his JK. Once past this we continued on another 10 minutes until our lunch stop.
Further up the trail things had gotten more chewed up during the winter as we exited the clear cut and the trail disappeared into the trees again. We came across a section of trial with some nasty rocks stick up prominently, particularly right where the oil pan and belly of the Jeeps would be going. Fortunately I was able to thread my Jeep around and position it to take the least punishing line through the rocks. My friend wasn't so fortunate. With his longer wheelbase he wasn't able to get the rig rotated on the trail and ended up dragging his skid plates and frame right over the rocks with this gut wrenching "screeeeeEEEEAaaaach! Thud! Thud! ScreeeeeeeeEEee . . . . "
Then, 100 ft later there was a drop over a slight muddy rock ledge. I tagged my rear gas tank skid dropping over it but that was it. My friend, however, was treated to more scraping noises as his frame got hung up due to his reduced breakover angle. By the time we got done with this trail it was getting on into the afternoon and we only wanted to be out for a half day.
Damage to my Jeep was pretty much no-existant on this trip. My friend's JK, however, had some dented plastic bumper covers (expected, he's waiting on some aftermarket offroad bumpers), much scrapage, a torn front driveshaft dust boot, and a bent control arm bracket. We'll reinforce the bracket before the next run and address the torn boot, too.
Despite the JK Unlimited Wranglers being on the market since '07, this is the first time I've wheeled with one on the trails. It was great seeing how it moved and worked its way through the trails.
My friend's JK Unlimited approaching the first major obstacle, the
slimy stump root ledge.
Trying to get up the stump root.
Finally, I hooked up a tow strap and dragged him up the last little bit.
It's a good thing the Jeep doesn't have a fancy interior. And it's a good
thin the Britax's cover is easily removable and washable.
Nasty rocks, particularly the one in the middle of the trail, right
where the engine and tranny oil pans go.
It took some work but he got over it, but not without much scraping.
Pas those rocks . . . on down the trail.
It's a good thing the tires stick out a much further than
the body. Not a scratch.
: It is interesting, but with his 3 1/2" lift and 35" tall tires my friend only has 1/4" more ground clearance in his JK than I do with 33" tires and a 2 1/2" tall lift in my TJ. By rights he should be at minimum about 2" taller than me but his gas tank skids hangs below the frame rails between the axles where as I run a low-profile skid plate. There just isn't a way I know of to do a belly-up skid conversion on the JKs. Also, despite nearly identical ground clearance under the belly of the rigs, he has about a 20-24" longer wheel base so his break-over angle is much reduced.
Which was borne out on the trails.
Things I barely scraped over or completely cleared he was dragging his frame over. It would make the most gut wrenching, metal-on-rock screeching noise. Also, while the longer wheelbase didn't give him problems much on the tight turns, it did make it a little more challenging to get his rig positioned on a good line.