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We Trek Over Dirt and Rocks in the Tennessee Hills

Posted in Events on March 1, 2011
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On the eastern side of this great country are some enticing areas for wheeling. When Mike and Norma Marrero contacted us to see if we'd like to join up for some trail riding, we jumped at the chance. They and other members of the Clay County 4x4 Club were going to make the trip up to Jellico, Tennessee, from their Florida homes.

We managed a couple of creek crossings where the water just managed to top a 32-inch tire. Over the period of a few hours, we saw the runoff level rise as our sunny day melted more of the leftover snow.

It was at the tail end of winter, and Mike had picked a great weekend for checking out the trails at Rocky Top OHV Park. The weather was still cold and the overnight temps still dropped below freezing. But our wheeling days were mostly sunny; we also got to explore the area in a dusting of snow, and we found mud made from the cold stuff that was starting to melt and run to lower elevations.

Mike Weaver, the park owner and XRRA organizer, joined us with his wife Jodi for a couple of days to show us around. We ran a trail on the first day that took us into the mountains, which offered some challenging hill climbs made extra soupy with the snow and runoff. We worked our way up in elevation and some required winch work to get to the top.

On our first day at Rocky Top, we encountered snow and a lot of moisture on the mountain trails. Mark Wells brought his '09 Hummer H3 up from Florida and drove it up the slippery slopes. Thirty five-inch tires helped to keep it moving, but most of us still had to break out the winch a time or two to make it up some of the steeper muddy slopes.

Our next day, we split into a couple of groups and tackled a few more of the trails. One group circled much of the park on the Serenity Trail, which took us through some lush, low areas but then topped out higher with some great views across distant valleys. Our other group tackled a couple of the more gnarly runs offered by the Calamity Trail and the recently opened Nerve Wracker, where the crew found big boulders and steep ledges for their amusement.

We had a great time, and the northern Tennessee terrain was challenging and scenic. If this looks like fun to you, check it out. We plan to return when we can.

About Rocky Top OHV Park
The park is located just outside the town of Jellico near the Tennessee/Kentucky border. It's been home to XRRA races and other events. The trails offer everything from milder, scenic routes to much more extreme challenges.

At the top of the Calamity Trail are some serious boulders to negotiate. Some of the narrower rigs were able to snake through the tighter spots, but those rigs running fullsize axles usually had to climb over the tops of the rocks. Brian Miller of Raleigh, North Carolina, crawled and romped his way through the rocks in his '01 Nissan Frontier. It helped to have 4:1 Calmini low-range gearing and a Dana 60/GM 14-bolt combo locked up with 5.13:1 gears. Brian would not escape the weekend at Rocky Top with a lot of straight sheetmetal.

The park is open to four-wheel drives of all kinds, but not to UTVs or ATVs. Private parties can access the park, or individuals can enter for a fee on open-ride days. Primitive camping is also available on-site, and there is plenty of parking for motorhomes and tow rigs. For more info: or contact Mike Weaver at 423/494-1303.

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