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Toyotas Tackle Uwharrie: Crawling With The Olde North State Cruisers

Posted in Events on January 13, 2017
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Every year the Olde North State Cruisers club holds several large four-wheeling events, and for the last six years, they’ve traveled to Uhwarrie National Forest for a gathering of camaraderie and trail running they’ve named Logan’s Run.

Uwharrie is located in central North Carolina and covers just more than 50,000 acres. The land was first purchased by the federal government in 1931, and in 1961, it was proclaimed as Uwharrie National Forest. The Badin Lake OHV Trail Complex offers a number of trails of various degrees of difficulty, offering moderate dirt trails to some with more substantial rockcrawling.

The club’s biggest run yet was in 2016 with nearly 70 registered vehicles, and there were Toyotas spanning some four decades of models. The trails were challenging and fun, and it was a great opportunity to share some time with fellow enthusiasts. A dedicated group of cooks rolled out quite a feast including a roast pig on Saturday night. Thousands of dollars in raffle prizes were given out and capped off the big evening of the event.

Olde North State Cruisers is a Toyota-based club and is part of the Toyota Land Cruiser Association with members from the Carolinas and other surrounding states. The club was formed in 2005 and currently boasts more than 100 members. A lot of volunteer work went into making this event a success, and the club was also able to donate sizeable checks to both Blue Ribbon Coalition and to Friends of Uwharrie. If you’d like to learn more about the club and what they do, go to: oldenorthstatecruisers.com.

One group started the day Saturday headed into the Daniel trail. John Casale climbed one of the first rock ledges in his ’87 FJ60 Cruiser. The trail is just more than 2 miles in length and provides some of the best challenges in the trail system. The trails were unusually dry. When rain hits, many of these trails become really slick and the challenge to complete them rises quickly.
Will Swartz worked his way up the Daniel trail in his ’96 FJ80. He made an attempt to climb Shock Rock, clawing for traction with his 38.5-inch Boggers as the trail kept trying to shove his Cruiser up against the dirt bank.
Allen Dickenson alternates between wheeling his classic FJ40 and a solid-axle 4Runner on 35-inch TrXus tires. After a recent flop, he decided it was time to shorten the top on his ’95 4Runner. The body project still wasn’t complete, but that didn’t keep Allen from making the event and trail runs.
John Casale led us up this rocky slope on the Daniel trail, picking his way through some good-sized boulders and loose rocks. John’s FJ60 uses a 4BT Cummins diesel turning an NV4500 transmission and Dana 300 transfer case with 4:1 LoMax gears. A Dana 60 front and 14-bolt rear axle turn 39.5-inch TSL Swampers.
With experienced drivers, the FJ80 Cruisers did quite well climbing this rocky hill. Their well-planted weight and straight axles on coil springs kept them flexy so they could gain good traction.
Chris Eby’s ’93 Cruiser sits on a 4-inch Ironman lift and was a good example of a well-built FJ80, providing trail capability and comfort for his family.
Over the hill, the trail turned into an expanse of rock slab jutting up from the heavily wooded forest. Ryan Niles worked his ’96 FJ80 down a series of steps.
With about 70 vehicles in attendance there was a lot to look at and talk about with other Toyota owners. Many of the attendees camped together in the large group campground, while others came in for a day run or stayed in other local accommodations.
On Sunday we lined up to hit the trails again. Olde North State Cruisers provides trail runs for drivers and vehicles of all skill levels, and there’s an emphasis on family-oriented wheeling.
Here’s something you don’t see every day. It’s a ’90 Double Cab Hilux truck owned by Brian Koerner who’s from Virginia. This truck spent its early life in South America before making its way stateside for recreational trail duty.
Sunday morning we followed portions of the Rocky Mount Loop to access other, more challenging trails in the Badin Lake OHV Trail Complex.
Marshall Shepherd from Trollhole’s Cruisers in Simpsonville, South Carolina, was in attendance in his FJ40. While it seems the FJ80 models were possibly the most popular Toyota on the trail, there was a little bit of everything Cruiser.
One of the difficult trails on Saturday was Dickie Bell. It’s rated as difficult and leads to a long, loose uphill climb that weaves between the trees.
Chris Conners had the lone Nissan at the event, and it easily climbed the Dickie Bell hills. His ’01 Frontier started life as a 2WD truck. Chris has massaged it over the years, and it’s now 4WD sitting on 1-ton portal axles and 37-inch Maxxis Trepador tires on Stazworks double-beadlock wheels.
The group crawled rocks and boulders up Dickie Bell, and then dropped back down the hill through some deeply rutted routes. If you venture to Uwharrie yourself, you’ll need to get a daily or season trail pass to go wheeling. OHV trail riding is seasonally permitted from April 1 through December 15.

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