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"XJ list Fall Crawl - Harlan, Ky Jeep Cherokee's Off Road."

October 16, 2009 by Mike Strawbridge
I left Cleveland Friday afternoon.  I skipped the beautiful day Friday so I could  bring my son Scott and my friend Robert.
Robert and Tom met me just north of Cleveland.   This was the first time they had seen scuffy II on 35's.  They were not too impressed with my free tires or my farm style patch on the split one.
About ten miles up the interstate, Tom called me on the radio to tell me that one of my trailer tires looked funny.  I was doing about 75 passing a truck at the time.  As I moved back in front of the truck, I adjusted my mirror so I could see the tire and about two seconds later it starts blowing blue smoke rings.  I radioed back to Tom "And asked what he meant by funny?"  I got safely of the side of the road and we swapped the spare on the trailer and headed out to Oak Ridge to meet Scott.
Even with our minor delay on the interstate we beat Scott to the meeting point.  He had gotten directions to the girl's apartment where he was leaving his truck from the girl and trusted them.  Life lesson #101 for Scott: "Never trust directions from girls."
Well after dark we were on our way to KY.  Most of the route took us through the mountains and mining country of extreme eastern TN.  Our GPS routing indicated that we would pass through VA, but there has been a big, I mean really big, tunnel added since the map was drawn that took us under VA and straight in to KY.  This was one of the coolest sights of the trip.  It has to qualify for a modern marvels episode.
We made it to the campground about 9 pm.  I over shot the turn and had to make a U turn.  That was fun in the dark with a trailer in tow and a huge drop off on one side of the highway.
The camp office manager at first seemed not to know who we were looking for but then remembered that there was a bunch of guys with Cherokee's that had asked to use the welder.  I told him that was probably them.  We found the group easily enough but the climb to the camp site did require putting the Suburban in low range to drag the trailer up the hill in the dark.
I got to hear stories about all the great weather I missed and about Neal's air bag exploding in his face and Derek's tie rod snapping gin the creek.  Robert started to wonder if he should go back home.

After a good nights sleep,  we awoke to a misty fog.  Wayne spotted a snake in front of Derek and Julie's tent and thought someone had placed a fake snake there to scare them.  When no one would own up to the joke Wayne gave it a little tap with his toe and it moved.  That is when he realized it was not F A K E !  It was a live but very subdued by the cold mountain copper head.  Matt did a great Steve Irwin impression as he grabbed it by the neck and held it up to observe.  He was being really macho carrying the snake over to the edge of the hill to release it when it suddenly wrapped around his arm.  He squealed like a girl and flung it all of two feet away form him.  The copper head wisely decided to venture off to another spot to warm in the sun.

Jeep Cherokee snake handling

While Neal and Derek went to fix the tie rod, Several of us made a quick run up the mountain and down one of the spur trails.  It had a couple of muddy spots that gave Roberts Tocama a little trouble then we came to a hill that Adam couldn't go up so we turned around.  We made it back to the appropriately named Middle fork area where we met Neal and the rest of the gang.

At this point we decided to make a quick run down an easy trail and back up a slightly harder trail as a warm up before heading to the rock gardens.

Also, somewhat unnoticed at the time we picked up a couple of Air force newlyweds in a HEMI ram 1500.  We drove out to the Helicopter pad and found an interesting shelter that came in handy later.
At this point we finally started "wheeling."    I was really enjoying the benefits of fuel injection as opposed to my old carbed ScuffyI.
More on how we spent 2.5 hours with winch lines attached to the RAM in part 2.

Mike Strawbridge October 16, 2009

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