Some trails live in infamy. You've seen the photos and heard the stories, but you just can't believe it could be that bad. It's all tempting and looks like fun, but you wouldn't want to actually run it. For North Easterners, Ontario's Trail 17 is just that type of trail. The trail is just 8 long miles filled with tire-swallowing, log-ridden bogs that are nearly impassable in the wet season. The Swamp Stompers 4x4 Club in Michigan knows this area well, and we went along to see if the rumors were true.
The water levels were lower this year, which made the trail a bit easier than prior runs. On the other hand, it was snowing and raining most of the day, which made things much more interesting. Between the weather and the spring runoff, it made this trip a tough one. For more information on the Swamp Stompers 4x4 Club and their trail rides visit www.swampstompers.com.
Dave Golubosky led this swampy trail for the day. He named his Jeep the Mud Shark, and rightly so. It seemed to find the nastiest pits of the day being the first through. Dave has put a lot of thought into this Jeep, and not the kind you bolt on. Everywhere you look there is something nifty, custom, or creative. The Jeep runs a 258 with Howell fuel injection that feeds the trussed AMC 20 with custom disc brakes and a Detroit. A Dana 30 with a Lock-Right pulls duty up front, and 4.10 gears and 33-inch SSRs keep it chuggin' right along.
This Jeep took the brunt of most of the mechanical failures during the day. John Murphy, president of the Swamp Stompers, also has a nice CJ-5 that the club has nicknamed Murphy's Law. The TJ powered through a lot of the trail but had to be towed after some severe grinding was heard in the brand-new front differential. After popping out a coil spring, breaking a shock mount, debeading two tires, bending a wheel, and splitting the front axletube in two, it was definitely time to start looking at changing his last name.
It's rare to see a 4x4 this old and well preserved in the rust belt. Mike Cann and his dad Mark brought out the only fullsize in the group for their first run on this trail. The '74 Bronco was right at home in the mud, and the brush didn't seem to phase the Rhino Lining paint job a bit. The 9-inch and 44 have 4.88 gears and have been spooled to keep all those 38-inch Boggers gripping.
This nicely set-up '98 TJ is owned by John Atherton from Back Country Off Road in Waterford, Michigan. The Jeep has a unique rollcage that has been very well thought out right down to the windshield camera mount. A 5 1/2-inch Rubicon Express kit provides lift while a 4.0L powers an ARB'd Dana 60 rear and Dana 44 front with 4.88 gears and 36-inch TSL SXs on bead-locked wheels.
David Neu used to wheel quite a posh Cherokee. After a few too many comments about its shininess, he decided to build up this Jeep which he'd been trying to get rid of for a few years. It sits on four YJ rear springs on top of the axle with a Ford 8.8 out back and a Dana 30 with TJ shafts up front. The 4.88 gears and High Angle Driveline shafts turn the 35-inch Parnelli Jones Dirt Grips.
Ed Turonek's Cherokee has been a project from the start. After the first small lift, his wife said to just go for broke, and this is the result. Modifications are extensive for a Jeep having only 14,000 miles on it. Ed is a toolmaker by trade, and fabbed up a custom long-arm setup for his 8-inch Rockcrawler coils that sit on dual Dana 44s. The 38-inch TSL SXs provide traction even on a trail like this.
This '03 Ruby is Jerome Plouhar's first Jeep. It was set up right from the beginning with the 6-inch lift kit from Nth Degree Mobility. The Dana 44s run the stock lockers out to chromoly axleshafts for the added stresses of running the 35-inch Trxus tires. If that doesn't get him through, an XD 9000i winch is ready to get the rest of the way.
Grand Cherokees are becoming quite popular to build up as trail rigs. Marv Farley got his a while back to be different out on the trail. The Jeep has the 5.2L V-8 with a JET Performance chip that feeds a custom NP249/231 custom combo to create a part-time unit. Other mods include a Ford 8.8 rear and Dana 30 front axle with Detroits and 4.10 gears, a six-point custom rollcage, a 7.5-inch Rubicon Express kit, and 34-inch Trxus tires.