A Snowball’s Chance in Wellsville

 

BY WILL WILLS

Pictures by Dave R, Citoriplus, VBigFord 20, Zman and n9emz

You always take a risk planning a four-wheeling event months in advance. You never know how many people are going to be there, what types of trucks you will have and you never know what the weather and trail conditions will be like. But the mystery is part of the fun. If you had the trail paved and manicured by the Highway Department the morning of the run, what fun would that be? So on a cold as Wellsville morning a bunch of us got together in Calcutta, Ohio for the Snowball ’04.

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I got in line behind Jim Oaks’ TRS-1, and twenty other trucks filed out of the parking lot heading for the trails. I could already see as we broke through ice holes and ran through hub-deep standing water along the river front that it was going to be an interesting run. As we stopped to lock in hubs, my parking brake froze for the first of many times that day.

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We came into the lower parking area and divided into groups. A few of us went this way, a few went that way, and a few more went the other way. Without getting into specifics, the twenty odd trucks ended up in two groups. One group, by far the largest, consisted primarily of stock and lightly modified trucks, with a couple of notable exceptions. The other group was comprised of trucks with lockers, mud terrains and even two winches. I refuse to say which group ended up having the most fun.

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Almost immediately after getting going the less modified group ended up heading down the switchback trail into the creek bed. Even where there was no ice, the ground was frozen so solid that tires could not bite into it and traction was extremely poor. It was a day that could take an easy trail and turn it into an extreme trail. To make a long story short it was about 9 hours of flat tires, failed brakes, kaput starters, fried transmission and a whole lotta character building experience.

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On the other hand, the more advanced group was climbing Twister, sliding down the Powerline Hill, rock crawling in another part of the creek bed and then doing their own ice climb back onto solid ground. Sure, there were a couple of problems, but all was quickly put right and they moved on.

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It was getting dark when the advanced guys got back to the assembly point and the other group was not in sight. Some radio traffic could be heard but not much useful information was being passed. So some scouts were dispatched and pretty soon the stockers were found.

After a few hours of winching and dragging, all of the trucks were recovered. Everyone sort of limped away, most back to the parking area in Calcutta. Though we had wrecked our dinner reservations and left Mrs. Oaks sitting in a restaurant somewhere, a few of us did get together at an all night greasy spoon in Pennsylvania. One thing I noticed about Pennsylvania is that you run over a lot less Amish buggies at 2am than say, 6pm.

I did say at the beginning that some mystery was a good thing. But you need to be prepared as well. An off-road event isn’t something to be taken casually. There is a potential that you may get your vehicle stuck, or may break parts. If you aren’t equipped to deal with those situations, you become a liability to yourself and the people you are out there with.

With an eye toward everyone having a good time next event, the TRS Event Staff have been working hard on a system of rating vehicles and matching them to the trails. For example, the creek bed trail is normally about 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. Almost any 4×4 could make that run with a decent driver. However, with the ground frozen, that trail is suddenly a 9. That means two lockers, mud terrain tires and self-recovery equipment. How many people in that group would have gone down there knowing that the trail required all of that? Probably no one.

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So bear with us as we work through this transition and we hope to see you all back at Wellsville in April (when the ground is thawed but nice and muddy) for what should be a much more pleasant event—meaning a lot more wheeling and a lot less sitting around stuck. ~TRS