A little rain, some pesky mosquitoes, trail repairs on a split pair of shorts, plenty of fantastic views, and, of course, some of the best Jeepers around.
So went the Quadratec/Off Road Consulting team’s adventure during last weekend’s Coal Mountain Jeep Jamboree event hosted by the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA).
The AOAA, located in Coal Township, Pennsylvania, proudly boasts 6,500 acres of endless potential and sits on land that was heavily mined during the 1950s.
With the land sitting vacant for decades, many had decided to use the area as their own personal dumping ground, but since securing lease/ownership rights to the property, AOAA has partnered with a variety of organizations to make the property safe and clean for off-road lovers.
While the site has been open just 2 years, this is the 5th year of it hosting a Jeep Jamboree event. For this weekend’s action, the Quadratec/Off Road Consulting team was asked to be trail leaders for a group that would include green and blue rated trails.
The team spent the last few weeks laying out the route and grooming the trails - the end result being a seven-hour loop that consisted of several challenging obstacles such as ‘Fern Ridge’ and a new trail the team nicknamed ‘The Zika’.
Pre-Jeep Jamboree events kicked off 5pm Thursday July 28th at the AOAA event building, but participants started forming a line around 4pm as excitement really started building for the Coal Mountain Jeep Jamboree.
During the registration process, Quadratec made sure to hand out plents of goody bags filled with Quadratec catalogs, stickers, pens and key chains along with Quadratec travel mugs.
Following registration came the evening’s most important part: participants deciding which trail group they would ride with the next day, as there were several different trail groups all with various trail levels.
Some of the group names coincided with the area’s coal history, with names like Breaker Boys, Coal Crackers and Mud Mining.
The Quadratec and Off Road Consulting team’s trail group was named "Kyle's Follies" after its lead trail guide Kyle Buchter, founder of Off Road Consulting. Along with Buchter, the team had two other trail guides: Jenn Watson and George Soto. All together, it was a great team and everyone was excited to meet the participants for Friday’s trail ride.
The Quadratec/Off Road Consulting team arrived early Friday morning so it could prep its lead vehicle. Soon after, folks who had signed up for the group started rolling in and the guides began organizing vehicles and answering questions about such things like airing down tires and utilizing 4-low vs. 4-high.
The morning driver's meeting was given by Steve Risk, the Coal Mountain Jeep Jamboree coordinator, and he made sure to focus on topics like trail etiquette and common sense trail rules like keeping the vehicle behind you in sight at all times.
Before the drivers all dispersed to their respective trail groups, Risk handed out several Quadratec-provided goods – hats and shackles - to the crowd, even throwing some out to participants! Of course, Risk made sure the shackles hit the ground first.
With the driver's meeting coming to a close, it was finally time for everyone to get seat-belted in their respective vehicles and head out to the trail.
Kyle's Follies trekked out to the western side of AOAA and, not long after hitting the trail, the group had its first trail repair – a driveshaft issue on one of the YJs.
Behind the experience of the team’s trail guides, it was quickly discovered the YJ had a few loose bolts which caused the driveshaft problem. Following a quick repair, the group was soon able to continue.
AOAA has nearly 7,000 acres of various-skilled trail levels including easy green to serious red trails, but it also has some beautiful views and scenic overlooks. While Jeep Jamborees are all about trails and terrain, they are also about the experience and the scenery you encounter, which is why so many Jamborees feature repeat Jeepers.
After passing a few picturesque areas we started to enter the more technical section in the Kyle's Follies Trail ride. This route was planned so drivers had a chance to warm up a bit before taking on more challenging obstacles.
However, thanks to some overnight rain, even the easier challenges quickly became difficult.
The first obstacle was a tight, off camber uphill with rocky, loose and slippery terrain. Even with mud terrain tires and front and rear lockers, this hill was still troubling and felt like a rock staircase.
The action didn't stop there.
Everyone's next task was an off-camber area followed by a steep uphill, and then immediate downhill, surrounded by trees. This was definitely going to test the group's skills. With the trail leader at the top of the hill to spot folks through just in case, everyone made it with smiles on their faces, albeit some increased heart rates.
Next up was a section called ‘The Dozer Cut’ which is a steep uphill with a large horizontal log in the middle. With the advice of Off Road Consulting's Buchter to take the line to the left of the log, folks made it up the hill with no problem.
What a rush!
Following this encounter, it was definitely time to let the drivers calm down, so the group continued along on easy and more scenic green trails. The drivers all needed the rest because next up - Fern Ridge!
Fern Ridge is just like it sounds; a mountain ridge covered with ferns that makes you feel like you’re in a scene from Jurassic Park. The rock gardens on Fern Ridge certainly were impressive and the team chose lines to avoid damaging the group’s stock JKs, but even taking the less aggressive lines made it a challenge for all.
After Fern Ridge it was time for much needed nourishment, but as folks were discussing the trails and sharing stories, we had to do another small trail repair. This time though, it was a different kind of repair that did not call for bolts or tools. Rather, this one required a needle, thread and duct tape as one of the team’s trail guides found out they had ripped their pants a bit up the middle.
Luckily, the Kyle's Follies group proved it is prepared for whatever the trails have in store! After some sewing and placement of duct tape the shorts were as good as new and we were ready for the second half of our day!
The Kyle's Follies group continued down various green and blue level trails for the afternoon ride, but saved the day’s best part for last. There had been a new blue trail cut a few weeks ago and it seemed a perfect way to end Friday's trail ride.
This challenging trail consisted of tight, twisty areas with large rock sections and, as we started navigating our way through this rather technical trail, they came. The mosquitoes. Lots of them.
This trail proved somewhat difficult to get the stock JKs through the terrain, but after some tough battles the entire group made it past. Those who had to fight the hardest had the biggest smiles on their faces. It was quite an accomplishment!
As the afternoon grew late, it was time to start heading back to the AOAA parking lot. When asked "What was the name of that last trail we did?”, the first thing that came to mind was "The Zika Trail"!
Team Kyle’s Follies’ trail guides all worked hard helping everyone get through the day with no major damage and everyone able to drive their vehicles back on their own.
Saturday morning brought with it some rain and foggy conditions along with a new group of participants for the day’s Kyle's Follies trail ride. And like Friday, the group had to quickly stop for an early trail repair. This time it was a TJ that would not stay engaged in 4-low. Thankfully, the team’s trail guides knew exactly how to fix it and got it locked in for the rest of the day.
Then, while driving to the day’s first obstacle, Kyle’s Follies encountered another TJ from a different group which had broken down. After some shuffling of vehicles, riders were able to continue on to the first challenge.
The group’s trail guides decided to change things up from Friday due to weather conditions, and this let everyone run a second section of Fern Ridge. This new section proved just as technical as Friday’s run, but now there were two areas to tackle. With great trail guide teamwork, every rider was able to get through unscathed.
After lunch the group continued on to some of AOAA’s green trails for a while and soon ended up with another disabled vehicle - a heavily modified TJ that had broken a track bar bolt. Off Road Consulting’s Buchter searched and found a replacement bolt that proved a perfect fit.
With the quick fix completed, Kyle’s Follies was back moving down the trails and everyone knew what was ahead: The Zika trail.
Sadly, heavy rain started to cause problems, so the trail guides gave drivers an option to either drive Zika or take a bypass. Most of the stock JKs opted for the bypass as they were growing tired from the day’s adventure. With the rain growing heavier as the afternoon progressed, we eventually got everyone who attempted Zika through and it was time to head back to the parking lot and dry off.
The trail riding part of Coal Mountain's Jeep Jamboree had come to an end but the Jamboree wasn't yet over. Closing ceremonies included dinner and another Quadratec giveaway, this one consisting of a 125-piece Mechanic Tool Set, ARB recovery bag, Quadratec hats, shovels and ¾” shackles.
The items were handed out to folks who stood out on the trails, such as those who drove the furthest or suffered the most trail damage. At one point Quadratec hats and t-shirts were being tossed around the room in celebration!
Although the Coal Mountain event at AOAA was finishing up, it certainly provided stories and experiences that will last a lifetime. Because, when attending any Jeep Jamboree, you can always expect a family friendly environment, professional trail guides, and the best Jeepers around.