When we left our merry band of off-roaders and Austin Powers impersonators, they had just left Mountain Mud Run Terrain Park in Warren, New Hampshire. They stopped for the night at the nearby Pine Haven Campground. By the end of Day 3 everyone was hitting their stride. While the mud dried, Ian Johnson shared some of his private whiskey stash with the group around the campfire.
The next day started by breaking down camp and traveling back roads through the White Mountains as we repeatedly weaved our way in and out of New Hampshire and Vermont. Along the way our group passed through Windsor, known as the birthplace of Vermont, where the constitution of Vermont was drafted in 1777 prior to the state joining the Union.
We brought you Part 1 of our event coverage last month (Nov. 2018; bit.ly/2nkZlex). Tune in to motortrendondemand.com to watch the videos!
|Day 1||Rocky Mountain Terrain Park; Carthage, Maine|
|Day 2||Wilton to Berlin via Bethel|
| ||Mount Washington, New Hampshire|
|Day 3||Jericho Mountain State Park|
| ||Mountain Mud Run|
Day 4: Crazy 8s
After crossing over the Connecticut River via covered bridges, passing numerous Revolution-era cemeteries, and sailing by sawmills that date back centuries, we met up with members of the Eastern 4Wheelers, the oldest 4x4 club in Connecticut. They have been the curators of a 62-acre parcel of land dubbed Crazy 8s for the past 20 years, developing trails over the rock outcrops and between the trees on the property. Unlike most of the trails we ran in New England, Crazy 8s consisted of large rock slabs instead of smaller, loose boulders. These slabs were still covered in slick mud though, requiring wheel speed to surmount the obstacles. And that was in nice weather!
After we left Crazy 8s the skies opened up and soaked the drivers of the buggies and open-top Jeeps to the bone. Fortunately we’d already planned to stay at a hotel in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, that night, so everyone was dry and comfortable.
Information is distributed on a need-to-know basis on the UA. Drivers meetings take place each morning and upon arrival at a new destination. This is when Christian Hazel and Trent McGee let the group know what the plan is for the immediate future.
Just over 100 authentic covered bridges remain in Vermont, giving the state the highest number of covered bridges per square mile in the United States. This bridge connects Windsor, Vermont, to Cornish, New Hampshire. The bridge was originally constructed in 1866, but has been rebuilt numerous times due to flood damage.
Being a UA crony is a bit of a crap shoot. Will you spend the week babysitting a reader? Will your own rig break? Keith Bailey didn’t have to worry about any of that this year. He got to enjoy more wheeling than normal. We certainly didn’t hear any complaints from him or the other cronies.
The large rock slabs at Crazy 8s were a departure from the smaller, loose rocks we’d encountered on the rest of the trip. Cooper Rasmussen has plenty of Cummins power on tap to launch up any ledge, but after breaking a front ring-and-pinion in the Offroad Power Products Ram on the first day, he was more reserved the rest of the week.
Crazy 8s was full of obstacles lined with dirt and trees that limited line choice, but none phased Stephen and James Watson of Offroad Design. The name of the area originates with the figure-eight shape of the trail system, which maximizes terrain opportunities on the 62-acre parcel. For over 20 years the Eastern 4Wheelers have created trails right out to the property line.
Dirt Heads Fred Williams and Dave Chappelle of our video program Dirt Every Day had an informal competition going on all week to see who could make it over obstacles with their ARB Air Lockers disengaged. Both were driving Jeeps powered by Cummins R2.8 crate engines, but Williams’ TJ has a manual transmission while the JK that Chappelle was driving has a ZF eight-speed automatic.
Day 5: Sawmill & Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
Thursday morning was a wet one, and everyone was soaked to the bone by the time we met up with Frank Fredsall at the Sawmill. The Fredsall family has owned this 240-acre piece of land since 1953, long before anyone thought about wheeling it.
After leaving the Sawmill we made a stop at the Beckley Furnace in Canaan, Connecticut. This pig iron furnace dates back to 1847 and continued in operation until 1919. The furnace site became a state park in 1946 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 to recognize and preserve its place in our nation’s history of industrialization and innovation. Trent McGee really knocked it out of the park this year finding hidden gems like this along the backroads of New England during his event prerun.
The furnace was just a warm-up for the next stop: Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Our group of gearheads went nuts over the planes and antique automobiles, ranging from reconstructions of canvas-skinned Wright Brothers planes to the Golden Age of Flight (between WWI and WWII). The museum has an airstrip across the street where airshows are performed on summer weekends. They even give rides in biplanes!
From the aerodrome we restocked on our way to Northeast Offroad Adventures in Ellenville, New York. There we camped for the night.
It wouldn’t be an adventure without a little rain. Johnny Wood and Amber Medrano were warm and dry inside their Ram truck. Others with open buggies and no windshield wipers had a much different experience.
Trees! If you are wheeling in New England, trees will be part of the experience. All of the trails run this year were under a thick canopy of trees and vegetation. This provided shade, made it difficult to take photos, and limited where we could go, particularly for the drivers of fullsize vehicles.
Chris Paul’s transfer case was starting to get pretty noisy by Day 4, but that didn’t stop him from flogging his H3. Paul knows his vehicle’s limits better than most, thanks to all the seat time he has in the Hummer. He told us that removing the front doors really aids in visibility on the trail, something H3s definitely need help with.
Have we mentioned that the terrain in New England was slick? The farther back you are in the group, the more mud has been tracked onto the rocks. As a crony, Sam Gillis is never up front, but with plenty of horsepower on tap from an LS1 engine he was able to spin the Falken Wildpeak M/Ts to get the lightweight buggy to virtually jump up obstacles.
Frank “The Dog” Fredsall’s property is beautiful, with stream crossings and miles of trails. We only scratched the surface during out visit, and didn’t even run the hardest trails and obstacles he has on his property.
There was no perfect wheelbase for the trails in New England. Longer vehicles had more stability for steep climbs and obstacles, but the shorter rigs proved to be more maneuverable through the trees that we often encountered. Ian Johnson’s shop truck is longer than the YJ is started as, but the body is still narrow, which helps on tight trails.
Rick Péwé drove this Jeep from Arizona, beat on it all week long, and drove it home afterwards. It is tough to beat the reliability of a JK with a 3.6L Pentastar engine and Ultimate Dana 60 axles. This Jeep was originally built for the 2012 Ultimate Adventure and, as the “official tailgunner vehicle of Ultimate Adventure,” just keeps going and going.
Ken Smith wanted to retain the factory wheels and dog dish hubcaps on his K20 truck, but this limited him to 35-inch-tall tires since that’s the largest size Falken makes for a 16-inch wheel. The combination of 315/75R16s and a Dana 80 rear axle made Smith wish he’d brought his CJ-10A back to the UA!
Verne Simons did an amazing job building this year’s official Ultimate Adventure vehicle, the Derange Rover. He was off to a great start with a Cummins R.28 engine, an Offroad Design Magnum Doubler, Ultimate Dana 60 crate axles, and Skyjacker suspension components, but he still had to put the vehicle together in triple-digit temperatures while writing stories for the magazine and taking care of his 2-year-old twins.
Todd Daines came on UA with his son-in-law, Todd Prater. Wheeling is a regular pastime back in Utah for the family, and it showed in how well the two communicated and worked together on the trail. After breaking an axle shaft on Day 1, the Willys Wagon never had another issue all week long.
The Beckley Furnace is a 40-foot-tall stone structure that was used to melt pig iron. Just 100 yards upriver is the dam, and farther downstream are the remnants of two more dams and furnaces. There are large piles of slag mounded on the south side of the river.
This was just one of four hangers at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome full of planes, antique cars, rotary engines, and more. It would be easy to spend an entire weekend here and not see everything. The schedule on UA didn’t afford us that much time though, so we only got to scratch the surface.
Day 6: Northeast Off-Road Adventures & Millersburg Ferry
On Friday we were spoiled. As the group rolled out of our sleeping bags we locked the hubs and aired down the tires and hit the trail without ever touching pavement. You have heard of the farm-to-table movement? Well, this is tent-to-trail!
Jon Mapes led us around the 68 acres at Northeast Off-Road Adventures. The trails are well marked, as Mapes and the rest of the staff at NORA regularly teach classes at the facility on driving techniques, vehicle recovery, and more. We probably could benefit from some of those classes ourselves, as we racked up a rollover, a broken axleshaft, and a damaged radiator at Northeast Off-Road Adventures. Scaling the rock ledges at the park required just the right amount of momentum.
A bet may or may not have been made around the campfire, and adult beverages may or may not have been involved. All we know is that on Friday morning Rick Péwé agreed to let Ian Johnson give him his signature hairdo. Péwé wore it well, if we do say so ourselves.
From NORA we worked our way east through New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, through the Pocono Mountains and along the Delaware Water Gap. The group crossed from New Jersey into Pennsylvania on Dingman’s Toll Bridge before finding ourselves at the shore of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. Longtime readers of the magazine will recall that Rick Péwé always tried to incorporate ferry rides into the UA. In 2010, he actually wanted to take the Millersburg Ferry from Millersburg to Liverpool, but the water was too low for safe passage. Fortunately that was not the case this year, and we can say without reservation that the ferry ride was worth the wait. The only downside is that we knew our weeklong adventure was closer to an end as the sun dipped below the horizon.
The ferns at Northeast Off-Road Adventures made us feel like we were in Jurassic Park. Should a T-Rex have jumped out at us, we are confident that Gerald Lee could have outrun it. His loaner JK is equipped with coilovers and bypass shocks atop the Ultimate Dana 60 axles.
Everything was going great—until it wasn’t. Corby Phillips wasn’t lined up for this ledge, and when the front end came around it just kept going. He was actually broadcasting on Facebook Live when this happened!
Our group crossed from New Jersey to Pennsylvania over Dingman’s Toll Bridge. Originally a ferry crossing dating back to 1735, the toll bridge was first built at this location in 1834. This was just one of many examples of the history we were exposed to during the UA.
The Susquehanna River is actually only a few feet deep in several spots, but the river spans more than a mile wide. At 464 miles long, it is the longest river in the U.S. that drains into the Atlantic Ocean. The paddleboats used to cross the river can carry up to four vehicles but draw very little water.
The Millersburg Ferry is the oldest transportation system in Pennsylvania, dating back to 1817. The double Stern-wheeled paddleboats use all wood construction and are the last of their kind in the United States, having become obsolete after the establishment of railroads in the area.
Day 7: Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area
The last day of the Ultimate Adventure is often bittersweet. No one wanted the trip to end, but it was difficult to be sullen during our time at Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Park. AOAA consists of 6,500 acres and miles of trails ranging from mild to wild, making it by far the largest park we visited on our trip. What really makes this park unique though is that it is leased by the Northumberland County AOAA Authority using grant money to repurpose former coal land. This unique arrangement is the result of seven years of hard work and coordination between the local wheeling community and county government and serves as a shining example for other groups to follow in their own communities.
The trails at AOAA ain’t too shabby either! Steve Risk gave us a guided tour of Barney Rubble, Thunder Alley, Screaming Jimmy’s Hill, and more. Despite this being the last day on the trail, no one went for broke at AOAA, and we were pleased to end the weeklong event this year with all of the vehicles and participants we’d started with.
We weren’t even back to Selinsgrove for the wrap-up celebration before we started scheming over plans and ideas for Ultimate Adventure 2019. Where will we go? What should we build? Even though this trip is only one week long, the UA finds its way into your soul once you’re exposed to it, and there’s no known cure. Not that we have tried to find one.
We love that Lonnie McCurry built a Bronco for the SEMA Show and wasn’t afraid to scratch it on the Ultimate Adventure. This rig had the most horsepower on the trip, coilover and bypass shocks, and 1-ton axles, meaning that it put a smile on McCurry’s face whether we were in the rocks, the mud, or on the pavement.
Adams Clarke and John Bailey had made a long drive to Maine to start the Ultimate Adventure, but by the time we got to Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) in Pennsylvania they were most of the way home. And unlike the West Coast residents, these lucky guys will be able to go back to AOAA soon to explore more of the trails.
We were amazed that Dana’s JL looked the same at the end of the trip as it did at the beginning. Randall Speir’s skillful driving and expert spotting by his wife, Rachel, kept the new Wrangler in one piece. The couple even removed the rear seats and slept inside the Jeep!