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Fordyce Creek Trail Ride - 4x4 Adventure

Posted in Events on November 23, 2006
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Kevin Yoder leads the Trail Fun group through a portion of Fordyce Creek Trail in his '86 CJ-7. Kevin's CJ uses a small-block Chevy 350 engine and front and rear Detroit Locker-equipped Dana 44 axles. Even with the 35-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrains, this is one of the smallest Jeeps Kevin has ever owned.

Trail Fun is fun. The best part about it is that you don't have to sign up for anything to attend, and all you need is a local or favorite trail, a 4x4, and a few buddies to get it done. Considering the sort of job I have, I get ample opportunities to observe Trail Fun in many parts of the world, but since I usually have a camera in my hand instead of a steering wheel my weekends are primarily observation more than participation. My pal Jason Scherer is keenly aware of this fact and always does his best to include me in any and all Trail Fun events he attends. His most recent suggestion, however, really got my attention. A multiday camping trip through the Rubicon was slated and a weekend was set. As the trip approached, I shaved a day off the front of it because the work was piling up; then we shaved another day for this reason or that, and before we knew it we were preparing for a one-day trail ride through Fordyce Creek Trail. It wasn't multiple days, it wasn't camping, and it wasn't the Rubicon, but it was Trail Fun wheeling, and that's just about all you need when you really get down to it.

After a mad scramble at the office, I left Long Beach, California, in a borrowed truck at 10 p.m. on Thursday night, having already driven more than two hours in traffic with a trailer in tow that afternoon. I was scheduled to meet Jason and the Trail Fun crew at 8:15 Friday morning to hit the trail, so I had roughly 10 hours to complete a 10-hour drive. Did I mention I was driving a borrowed truck? front man, Lance Clifford, borrowed his sister's '91 Toyota pickup for the Trail Fun. The rig has been tested on the streets of Moab and is a poster child for how to build an indestructible Toyota. A Marlin Crawler front solid-axle swap replaced the factory IFS, and a spring-over axle suspension is employed at the front and rear. Other features include 30-spline Longfields, dual Inchworm transfer cases, and 37-inch BFG Krawlers on Alcoa wheels.

All went well until about 200 miles into the trip when the speedometer spiked multiple times then thunked on 0. The check engine light came on after that, then the ABS warning light, and then the speedo suddenly sprang to life again, but only for a second before it fell back to 0 again. This speedo activity and dashboard light show continued for the remainder of the trip and was likely a large factor in my staying awake for the overnight haul: Possessing the insufferable notion in your head that you may be stranded alongside the road at any second is an excellent stimulus. I used a similar stimulus to get me through the next morning on the trail, which involved forgetting to gas up the TJ so I could stare at the gas light the entire time in hopes that I wouldn't run out.

Once I'd made my timely arrival near the Fordyce Creek trailhead, I met up with Jason and a slew of other rockcrawling competitors, including Jason's spotter Lance Clifford, Cody Waggoner, Jeff Mello and spotter Kevin Yoder, and Jason Berger. Also along for the ride were a few Fordyce Trail locals, including Greg Hussey, Eric Linker, Tom Wayes, and Eric Woodworth. We didn't really have much of an agenda for the day: Our goal was simply to go wheeling.

Fordyce Creek Trail extends a distance of 9.5 miles and climbs nearly 2,000 feet. Since we only had the one day and were uncertain of the water level at each of the four water crossings (and what it would entail to cross) we didn't necessarily expect to complete the whole trail, rather we elected to take our time, enjoy the obstacles at hand, and see how far it took us. After a few miles through the thick pine-tree-laced trail, we ascended the mountain to be greeted by spectacular views in almost every direction. This was par for the day as the vistas became increasingly more spectacular. After a few photo stops to take in the view and the trail action, as well as to deal with a few minor mechanical problems, we lunched at the first water crossing and took a refreshing dip to clear off the road dust. Soaking in the Fordyce Creek, we ended up staying planted in the shade for a good spell before turning back the way we came.

By day's end, we'd traveled less than the 9.5 miles but had spent close to 8 hours enjoying an activity that we all love. It wasn't hard-core wheeling, and it wasn't necessarily a great achievement in how much trail you can fit into a day. Instead, it was more about getting out there and enjoying it than it was about where we were going and what it would take to get there. Like I said, Trail Fun is fun. I highly recommend experiencing some in your own rig.

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