Mr. Boh's Softroading Adventures

mr. boh

CJ-8 Member
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City
Annapolis
State
MD
#1
Thought I would start a thread on my softroading adventures in my XJ and CJ. I typically go with two other friends, one with a bone stock Willys JKU and the other with a bone stock Nissan Xterra PRO-4X. I purchased the XJ last summer with 68,000 on the odo as my daily driver to replace my lightly modified WK which my brother bought for my niece for her first vehicle (just turned 16). The XJ is stock with the exception of the tires and suspension. Specs and pic of the XJ:

IMG_0652.jpg

1999 XJ Limited w/ leather
Rear axle: 8.25
Trans: AW4
T-case: 242, dropped 1"
Front suspension: 2" OME springs/shocks, 0.75" spacer, JKS adjustable track bar, RE lower control arms
Rear suspension: 2" OME springs/shocks, 0.75" shackle
Tires: 31x10.50 BFG A/T
Wheels: stock 15x7 Limited snowflakes
Recovery: factory front and rear tow hooks
Skids: factory t-case

Specs and pics of the CJ:

IMG_5367.jpg

1986 CJ-7 triple Garnet
Rear axle: D44
Trans: T5
T-case: 300
Front suspension: 1" Superlift springs, Rancho 9000 shocks
Rear suspension: 1" Superlift springs, Rancho 9000 shocks
Tires: 31x10.50 BFG A/T
Wheels: stock 15x8 chrome

We typically hit trails in the the Mid-Atlantic if you are ever looking to join us for a softroad adventure. Our first trip was to test out the XJ last October, which will be documented in the next post.
 

mr. boh

CJ-8 Member
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City
Annapolis
State
MD
#3
Thanks for the reminder BW!

Trip #1: George Washington National Forest (Edinburg, VA)
October 2016

Took the XJ for a shakedown test on Peters Mill Run in George Washington National Forest since it is the closest trail system for us in the Delmarva area. Since this was a short overnight stay, I failed to take pictures or video but plenty can be found via Google and a complete trail run is posted on YouTube.

Trail
Peters Mill is a 12-mile VERY rocky trail that is mostly used by ATVs. A daily $5 permit (or $30 annual) is required which can purchased at a number of local gas stations and convenience stores. 4LO is highly recommended and airing down is optional. We didn't air down but I think the ride would have been more comfortable had we. We did the trail south to north but can just as easily be complete north to south. From the south entrance you are immediately faced with a steep, rocky incline. Its probably the most challenging portion of the trail (for a motor vehicle anyway) and the XJ made it up effortlessly. The 31s provided enough ground clearance over most portions of the trail, however, with some inattentive driving you could easily knock the front diff...a cover is in my future for the XJ. 20 minutes or so into the trail is a nice clearing where most of the ATVs gather. Its a good place to give your neck and back a rest from the constant rocking back and forth. Further down are some rock steps and shallow mud pit to get your tires dirty. Plan for 45 minutes to do the trail start to finish.

Lodging
Our accommodations were the Elizabeth Furnace campground, about 15 minutes from the trail. An excellent review can be found here: http://www.beyondthecapital.com/2014/06/elizabeth-furnace-family-campground.html We went in October when the campground bathrooms are locked (vault toilets only), staff is nonexistent, and its first come, first serve. We pulled in around 12:00 on a Saturday morning and got the last spot available. There is enough parking for three vehicles and the loose stone tent pad barely fit our 6-person tent. Cost was $10 per night on the honor system. Fishing was quite good; 10 minutes after dropping line we had our first bite.

All and all the XJ performed great, even though it ran slightly overheated on warm (75 degree) October day. Would definitely go back and repeat Peters Mill at future time as well as explore Taskers Gap which is a separate trail part of the same trail system. Trip #2 is this coming weekend to Monongahela National Forest which I will be sure to document better.
 

mr. boh

CJ-8 Member
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City
Annapolis
State
MD
#4
Trip #2: Monongahela National Forest/Blackwater Falls (Davis, WV)
March 2017

The usual trio of the XJ, JKU, and Xterra trekked out to Davis, WV to check out the Canaan Valley Loop (FS13). On the way out to Davis, we hit the most bizarre weather, periods of sun and periods of heavy snow showers, depending on where we were on the mountain. Temperature range for the weekend was 12-20F, which meant icy conditions on the trail on top of 3 inches of fresh snow. Arrival in Davis:

IMG_0740.jpg

Trail
The loop is a 23-mile fire road that is mostly unimproved road until you get to the interior portion where things deteriorate fast and some sections are quite hairy. We started the loop from Blackwater Falls State Park where our cabin for the weekend was about 500 yards from the trail head. This starts in the interior portion of the trail, which consists of several creek crossings, hidden/frozen mud pits, and some rocky stairs. The first technical portion of the trail consists of a sharp 90 degree turn on a downslope right into the shallow portion of a creek. The exit of the creek is much deeper (just below bumper height) with a high bank and straight up a rocky incline.

IMG_0750.jpg

The Xterra made it through fine. I was next and took a similar line but stuffed the left rear tire on the incline after exiting the creek and got stuck halfway up on the ice covered rocks. Backing two or three times up to take a different line resulted in making it up. The JKU had no problems either.

View attachment 58246

The XJ after taking a better line and waiting for the JKU to cross the creek:

IMG_0757.jpg

A few more frozen creek crossings, unavoidable mud pits, and another challenging section and then you are into the unimproved road portion of the trail. This was a welcomed change. However, in some sections they trail is only about 8 feet wide with a shear drop off right into the valley. We had to stop and clear a fallen tree blocking a 1/3 of the width of the trail. Previous rigs had simply mounted the tree but we were less confident in our stockers and decided not to chance a failed attempt. A typical sections of the unimproved road portion of the trail:

IMG_0759.jpg

Lodging:
Instead of sleeping on the ground, we rented a 4-person cabin in Blackwater Falls State Park. As previously stated, temps were in the teens all weekend so this turned out to be an outstanding decision. Cabins were what you would expect for a state park. No phones, TVs, or AC but plenty of wildlife.

IMG_0741.jpg

IMG_0745.jpg

The park itself is expansive with a sled run, petting zoo, several hiking trails, lodge, and store. Two highlights were the views of Canaan Valley and the Blackwater Falls themselves, which apparently is one of the most photographed things in all of West Virginia.

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Side Trip:
Made the journey to Parsons to check out and climb the Olson Observation tower, a fire tower in the Mon forest accessible by fire road 717. The road up was similar to the unimproved portion of the Canaan Valley Loop. Views from the top were spectacular, 360 degrees of Backbone Mountain and the surrounding area. If you are in the Blackwater Falls area, I recommend the climb to the top.

IMG_0774.jpg

Next trip is slated for early October to Assateague National Seashore to run the CJ in the sand.
 
Last edited:

hdttm

Scrambler Enthusiast
LIFETIME
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SOA Member
City
Ashfield
State
MA
#5
Very nice trip - no pictures from the top of the observation tower?
 

Belizeit

CJ-8 Member
CJ-8.com Member
City
River Ridge
State
La
#8
Reminds me of the fire towers out west in Oregon. Now some have been abandoned from original use and you can rent them for camping. You better pack lite is what I think. Sounds like you are having fun
 

mr. boh

CJ-8 Member
CJ-8.com Member
City
Annapolis
State
MD
#9
Beginning to realize WV is very wheel friendly. We already have plans to go again next spring to explore additional fire roads in the area.
 

bigwalton

Picture cravin' AK Postal nut
Staff member
SOA Member
City
Dexter
State
MI
#11
Next trip is slated for early October to Assateague National Seashore to run the CJ in the sand.
Why so long??? This is great stuff! :bow:

FWIW, I was born in WV, I didn't live there long but still have family there and have been visiting all my life. It is one of the most under appreciated states in terms of outdoor recreation and beauty. Everyone should experience driving the WV turnpike between Beckley and Charleston in the fall during peak colors and check out some of the the incredible parks and forests. You can do it on the cheap too because nothing is "touristy" and camping is everywhere.
 

mr. boh

CJ-8 Member
CJ-8.com Member
City
Annapolis
State
MD
#12
Because of the same things that always get in the way of Jeep ownership...wife, kids, money going to other things. Also, the two others that I go with also have a wife and kids so coordinating schedules is difficult.
 
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