The weekend of June 4th marked our second annual Jeepin.com Hot Springs Run to the Superlift ORV Park in Hot Springs, AR. I don’t think we’ll do it again the middle of the summer though — wow was it hot and humid! But despite the heat and humidity, I think everyone had a great time, I know I did.
We had a pretty good turn out again this year with about 11 rigs and close to 30 people in attendance. We had some folks fly and drive in from the east cost (NC, VA, and MA), some local Arkansas folks, and a couple of rigs made it down from Missouri. And of course we had a crew from here in Texas as well. We had taken our XJ last year so we thought we would take our TJ this year, but we weren’t able to get some new modifcations done in time (4.88′s and a rear ARB) and there were going to be lots of folks needing seats, so we took the XJ back out again.
Billy Mountjoy (aka: “redtj” on our forum) from the Little Rock Crawlers volunteered to lead trails for us all weekend since no one else in our group was really that familiar with the park. Billy did a great job and took us on some awesome trails. Thanks Billy!
We ran a lot trails that we hadn’t run before (this was only our second time to the park though) and we finally found the trails with rocks that I’d seen pictures of. We ran Sardine Ravine (which is adopted by Billy), Buckhorn North, the Gorge, Canopener, and some other trails I can’t think of right now that were 2-diamond. A couple of folks also split off at one point to run Slammer and the Ultimate Adventure trail.
Most everyone arrived in Hot Springs on thursday, so we all headed out to the ORV Park late friday morning to start wheeling some trails. Friday turned out to be a short day for our rig though, because we “broke” about two hours into the morning. I was crossing a log on a relatively tame section of Buckhorn North (I think that was the trail) when my front end went “pop” after going over the log and stopped spinning. My friend behind me said he thought I’d broken a hub because my front right tire wasn’t spinning, but my ARB was locked and I was looking out my window at the front left tire which also wasn’t spinning… we could see the front driveshaft spinning, but the axle shafts weren’t which was definitely not a good sign. Nothing was grinding though, which was an odd sign… Thinking that I’d either snapped the pinion or grenaded the ARB, we took the nearest out, unlocked my hubs (I’ve got a Warn hub kit on my D30), and headed back to the KOA to access the carnage while the rest of our group went on to enjoy some off-camber action on Sardine Ravine.
Back at the KOA we loaded up on the trailer and pulled the front diff cover. We were greeted by 10 ring gear bolts in a neat little pile below the ring gear! I’d bought the axle used with the gears (4.56) and ARB already installed, and somehow 8 ring gear bolts had managed to back out and 2 sheared off! How I didn’t manage to suck any of the bolts up into the gears and destroy everything is beyond me, but I sure got lucky on this one! After a few hours of calling around for parts we finally found a set of ring gear bolts at Scot King’s place just down the road from the park. Scot is a great guy and works closely with the ORV Park leading trail runs and helping with events. Thanks for the bolts Scot! With our ring gear securely back in place, we were ready to hit the trails again on saturday.
Saturday morning We explored some of the more scenic trails and overlooks over in the northwest section of the park, then headed back into the main part of the park to run some harder trails. First up was Don’s 101 which had a little bit of everything thing, living up to it’s “101″ name. After that a few of us were calling for rocks and more challenging trails, so Billy took us over to run the Gorge and Can-opener. The Gorge is rated a 3-diamond (the park uses a scale of 1-5 to rate the trails, one being the easiest, 5 being the hardest) and offered up a lot of fun uphill boulder and ledge crawling.
Our group got split up a bit after running the Gorge, and some of the more built rigs went on to run Can-opener. Can-opener is rated a 4-diamond and was very similar to the Gorge, only everything was bigger and there was more of it. We were almost to the top of the trail when Frank (aka: “Frank99XJ”) came down on his factory gas tank on the point of a big rock. Almost immediately his engine started sputtering and cut out — Frank’s gas tank skid had gotten pushed up into gas tank, closing off the fuel pump pickup.
The trail was too loose to strap him the remaining 100′ to the top of the trail, so out came the winches. Billy headed up the recovery effort, and after about 3 hours and 3 different winches (mine just up and quit for no apparent reason) Frank’s dead XJ was finally up the rest of the trail and towed out to the front of the park. After it was all said and done I think Billy’s face was about as red as his TJ from all the work!
Now it was Frank’s XJ’s turn on our trailer as we carted him back to the KOA. The remaining crew that stayed at the park after we left with Frank’s rig went on to run the Ultimate Adventure trail, Slammer, and a few others I think before calling it a day. After examining the damage to Frank’s gas tank skid plate, we decided to pull it off in the hopes that the tank would pop back into shape and let the fuel pump work again. 30 minutes and 6 stubborn bolts later the skid was off and the engine was running smoothly. Had we only known it was going to be such an easy “fix” we’d have just pulled the skid on the trail and saved everyone a couple of hours of work in the heat!
That pretty much concluded our Hot Springs trip. Sunday morning everyone packed up for the treks home.
The group’s carnage list includes:
- 10 ring gear bolts in my D30 (8 had backed out, 2 sheared off)
- Frank’s gas tank skid
- One valve stem got ripped out
- I think a CJ broke a hub
- Couple of aux lights got broken out
- My winch just up and quit working while I was trying to winch Frank up the top of Can-opener. It started working again later on that day, but it’s got a short somewhere I think. It was pulling so many amps that it partially melted one of my battery terminals though, DOH!
- Someone broke a motor mount, or LCA mount, or something, and had to have it welded back up.
- And probably some other carnage I’m not aware of…
We got off really lucky because most all the carnage turned out to be minor, and easily repaired (especially my ring gear bolt snafu and Frank’s “dead” fuel pump)
The park has come a long way since we were there in spring of ’04 for our first annual run. The wooded camp ground area is HUGE now, they’ve got water and electrical RV hook ups, and the bath house is very nice and I think it’s got heat and AC now too.
Man, I can’t wait to go back!
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