The Trail Tour is a spin-off of our Ultimate Adventure but a bit less hardcore. It doesn't have camping, and the locals aren't usually trying to kill you with their gnarliest trails. The 10th year of Trail Tour took a group through some great areas in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Our first stop was to Trollhaugen in Dresser, Wisconsin. This area is better known as a ski area during the winter, but during the summer it's a premiere 4 wheeling spot managed by the Minnesota Go 4 Wheelers. We wheeled there by special permission, and it was a fantastic area. Obstacles ranged from mild to insanely wild, with everything in between.
Our Minnesota Go 4 Wheelers trail guide, TJ Peters, led the way and we found the trails to weave throughout the forest with obstacles scattered everywhere. If an obstacle was too easy or just not right for the group, we could move on another 50 feet and check out another. At the end of each obstacle was a trail that put you on the main line and ready for the next challenge. We had roots, stumps, rocks (lots!), mud, fallen trees, loose hillclimbs—you get the idea. It has it all. We spent a day and a half there, and we still didn't see it all.
Day 3 of had us heading north out of St. Croix Falls to Apple Valley Farms near Sand Creek, Wisconsin. Although it's private property, we were lucky enough to get the area opened to us for the day. This is a 2,000-acre working farm that raises beef cattle, corn, soybeans, and just enough oats and alfalfa to feed the cattle. Our trail host for the day was Mike Hagen. His family owns Apple Valley Farms, and he started creating trails when he was very young as a place to play. Since most of the obstacles were hills, wheel speed and cojones of steel were frequently needed.
After a 175-mile road day to Virginia, Minnesota, Day 5 of the tour saw us hitting Iron Range OHV in Gilbert. Operated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Iron Range OHV has 36 miles of trails. The entire area had been hit hard by rains the previous week, and it was easy to see how the area got its name. The iron ore in the ground rusts, and the puddles were bright orange. We were warned to wash any muddy clothes we wanted to keep immediately to prevent stains.
Our day at Iron Range ended with the most extensive carnage of the entire trip, a stripped ring gear. With the remarkable terrain and numerous beatings we saw some of the rigs take during the week, it's amazing that the carnage list wasn't much worse.
The tour ended at a local restaurant. The night was filled with fun stories about the trip. It was a great week, with people who enjoyed a common pastime. In essence, it's what 4-wheelin' is all about.
Interested in attending the next Trail Tour? For more information see facebook.com/groups/trailtour/.
Jeff Meikle brought his XJ out from Michigan. It had rained for about two weeks straight just before our trip, and the trails were slick. Even equipped with JK Rubicon axles and the factory lockers, Meikle found the bypass around Anger Management too slick to stay on line. The winch was brought out. The Anger Management mud hole was just about 18 inches deep, with 3 inches of water on top and the rest the consistency of peanut butter.
Rick Henson brought his beautiful JK out from Coeur d' Alene, Idaho. Formerly wife Kelly's relatively stock daily driver, this freshly built 2010 Rubicon was making its maiden voyage on the Trail Tour.
Tom and Kim Allen, owners of PSC Motorsports, also own this M715, which has the perfect patina. They built the rig for a customer a few years back, then when it came up for sale they jumped on it.
Day 2 had the group in Trollhaugen again. The hills of the area kept us challenged during our entire visit. It was a bit drier during this day but still a ton of fun.
Justin Bingham brought his beautiful 2013 Rubicon out from Boston to attend the event. Equipped with a Recon suspension from Rebel Off Road, a full slate of Nemesis Industries aluminum parts, a Magnuson Supercharger, and Falken Wildpeak MTs on Method beadlocks, the JKU is a well-equipped wheeler. Despite all of those parts, the Apple Valley mud forced Bingham to get a helping hand. Apple Valley Farms is a working farm, and much of what looks like mud comes from cows.
Austin Hagen drove his dad's tube-frame Tracker with our group during our visit to Apple Valley Farms. Dad Mike is a big fan of Suzukis and always builds his rigs with as many factory drivetrain parts as possible.
Tony Fox clears the top of the last obstacle at Iron Range. Equipped with a Vortec 350, a Turbo 400, an Atlas four-speed, Detroit Locker-filled 60s, 37-inch Krawlers with Trail Ready beadlocks, BDS coils with Bilstein shocks, and GenRight fenders, this is definitely a well-built trail rig. Fox is the designated tail gunner for the Trail Tour and has attended 9 of 10 years.
Bob Levenhagen, owner of TNT Customs, works his way up the logs in Iron Range. Sometimes a long wheelbase works for you, other times against you. This was an "against you" time. His Hemi-powered four-door JK, riding on 38-inch MTRs with Trail Ready beadlocks, was trouble-free all week.
Lower Money Talks at Iron Range ORH Park kept us busy with big slick rocks and a very angry mosquito population. Tour leader Scott Frary's custom Hemi Jeep has been around awhile, but it still looks great. Stuffed with 40-spline ProRock 60s (front and rear), Air Lockers, and an Atlas, it was a great fit for the area.
Our trip included the H3 Hummer owned by Michigan-based Daryl Wilton. Despite being plagued with electric locker issues on the trip, Daryl made the H3 work nearly everywhere. We also found out how quickly he can change out front half-shafts. His 35s killed a couple, and he had the fix down to 30 minutes.
Andy Burleson from Billings, Montana, works his new 4BT-powered stretched CJ-7 through Lower Money Talks. This fresh built trail Jeep is outfitted with a 38-inch Trxus Swampers, Trail Ready beadlocks on a 60 and 14-bolt, a Dodge Getrag five-speed, and a 205 T-case with a Magnum doubler.