I kinda sighed one night while scrolling through Facebook and my wife inquired what was wrong. Not even trying to insinuate anything, I just stated that I had wanted to try to hit up Pine Barrens this summer, but didn't get the chance. Essentially the timing of other offerings meant I had to make some hard choices, and ultimately I decided to forego organizing a trip there in favor of one of the other rides that actually materialized. Well, there was talks about a trip in October and I was going to have to miss out; so, I was a bit bummed.
And that's when this angel of a woman says to me, "Well, if you really have to take your truck off road, I'd prefer you go now while I'm still on maternity leave."
It was a done deal after that.
One of the young ladies in GPAX had posted the inquiry and I immediately pounced. It probably was a bit disconcerting, but we tend to be a passionate crowd.
Well, without further adieu, here are some pictures and comments:
I spent some time admiring the shock hoops.
Ben had warned me there was a large jagged rock on driver side immediately beyond the crest. So I didn't want to take it at full throttle and cascade the full weight of the truck down on a single point. I, of course, did the tactical opposite which is to pussy-foot the obstacle instead and then teeter totter up top.
Ben swung back around and snatched me backwards. Then I took it again with the appropriate level of get-sum, and was able to get by. He was just returning the favor as I had moments ago pulled him from a bubbly quagmire when he had gone to the right side of a deep pool. Figuring I couldn't fare any worse, I plowed ahead along the left side and was able to scoot past and drop a tow strap back and extract his X. We determined from there on out that the motto for this place should be "Pine Barrens: Always go left". We legit tested 6-7 more crossings and each time, the leftmost side was the passable side. There was only one noted exception for which I have video where the bypass was to the right, and the main path, a deeply rutted, yellow clay bath could only be traversed by a vehicle of the likes of the GRRRILLA.
First we tried a tow strap pulled by one Xterra. No go. Then we tried a snatch strap, hoping to employ the stored potential energy of the elastic band to energetically snatch the truck. First attempt only served to snatch the guy's bumper forward by about an inch. Then anchored to the rear and nothing.
Then we decided to use the rear winch. Pulled out the snatch block and anchored it back to my bumper. I dragged the guy's truck to me instead of pulling myself free.
Finally we took one of my tow straps, connected two Xterras in series, with the rear winch, and Cruzer's MaxxTracks. And that got me out. Almost finished this post without mentioning the in-cab winch controls. Man it worked like a charm. I was at first bummed about the momentary switches I used, because they actually lock in the two extreme positions. Initial electrical contact can be made with a slight throw in either direction; however, full articulation of the switch locks it into 'On'. I thought this could be a safety risk, but it actually was a benefit for the rear winch which no longer free spools. I engaged the 'on' safety switch and then threw the line switch into the 'out' position. From outside of the cab, I could help set up the snatch block, and monitor the length of line deployed. By the time we had sufficient slack fed, I was able to calmly re-enter the vehicle, shift into reverse, and then command the line back onto the spool. Loved it.
It probably took more time to write that then it did to employ those various attempts, but it was the most involved extraction I've been associated with to date.
There are numerous roads traversing through the Pine Barrens. There are sections where we would come out onto pavement, maybe drive 300 yards or so, and then reenter a sandy section. The longest section on pavement was maybe 5-7 miles, but there are miles upon miles of paths to be traversed. Many of the roads showed up on my GPS; some did not and after a while it powered off as I was using the outlet primarily for the phone to remote control my Go Pro.
Your best bet is to go with folks who have frequented the area. Our leader for the day was actually 14 when he first started frequenting the area with his mom in a used CJ. They buried it so deep one day that they took the tags, and their belongings and hiked back to civilization. You want to go with a guy like that can tell you where to avoid the remnants of his long lost CJ.
It was a great time with good folks. Quite a few newbies, but despite some of the perils I identified, the trails we took were largely stock friendly. No large rocks or particularly challenging technical sections. The 'toughest' part was a bypass that was littered with roots and a few high cut stumps. Other than that, sandy fire roads interspersed with some water crossings. If your vehicle did not come equipment with axle breather tubes, an inexpensive modification to the port with some tubing to vent to a higher elevation on the vehicle would be sufficient. Some guys ran it stock without this mod and appear to have been fine.
That's it for now. I need to get some video up to the YouTube page, but I think I've exhausted my computer allowance for one night.
'Til next time.