THE TWO JEEPS HEAD DOWN TO BARTOW.
It’s 6:30am and we are ready to head out the door. Another day of Jeeping is just what you need to unwind after a week of work. Randy will be in the 2007 JK and I will take the 1995 YJ. We gassed up and got geared to go; today we will meet up with my Son and his Wife and all 4 grandkids. They took the van to keep all the kid related items and food and water and I made the slow haul down the road. 60mph is about the top speed in the 2.5L YJ with 33s and stock gears. She does fine in low range and off road, so I have just lived with it. That by the way is 60 when going downhill with a tail wind. Uphill and we are down to 4th or 3rd and 45mph. We made it in about an hour and a half.
The Clear Springs Ranch is home to the Jeepin with Judd event each year. This is a yearly fund raiser that benefits the Polk County sheriffs’ charities. It is held on private property but the club had permission to be there for the day. The Orlando Jeep Club leads the trails each year. They travel around exploring good routs though the 19,000 acres finding the track that provides a good amount of Jeeping fun.
Today we had the chance to see what it looks like in late summer. It was hot but a beautiful day to ride around in the tall lush green grass. In some places the grass was so high that it was hard to see where Randy was standing. The drivers meeting was a 9AM with the waivers signed and inspections done, we headed out to see Pine Run. So just what are we doing out here today? First off, it’s the club’s August trail ride. One of the things that drew us to the Orlando Jeep Club was that they were about trail rides. No supper shinny glitz, just Jeeps ready to explore the Orlando area in a family friendly group. This day when they asked who would lead I raised my hand to lead a somewhat stock friendly ride. No crazy stuff, just some small hills, shallow water, and a tad bit of mud.
Pine run was overrun with tall weeds and fallen trees. I opted to take the ride backwards and not use the GPS. We had 2 new Gladiators for the ride and took that opportunity to test the departure angles. A few recoveries on hill tops and mud holes, but they did well. Street tires with no lift and a 30day tag. We had some fun and before we knew it we were out of the run and heading to Gator Run. No gators insight but the lakes was up pretty high so some of the trail was bypassed. We made a turn to a new area that ran down the edge of the river till we found Abigail’s tree. (See story on Ghost Hill from last February.) After a quick recap of the story we drove right under the ghost tree and headed down to the side of one of the many small ponds. The ruts were deep and the mud was soft. “Stay to the top or you will get stuck.” Some tried to make it through and had to be pulled out. My son got to do a recovery and pulled one up and out. This is another good reason to ride with a club. Getting stuck way out in the sticks with no help can be a bummer. Time to head back to camp for lunch so we took a quick ride down though a creek that caused a issue with one of the Jeeps. His battery died right after the crossing and would not jump start. We ended up towing him back to camp and Clay took him to a local auto parts place. The battery was completely dead. End of life for that, but an easy fix. The new battery was installed and lunch was finished so off we went.
The afternoon ride took us down to the south part where we could make a cool water crossing with a hard gravel base about 18 or so inched under. A favorite spot to take some great shots of the caravan traveling across the edge an old wash out. Not today, gate after gate hampered our path. The last gate was roped, chained, Bail wired, and bob wired shut. You shall not pass… We then headed around to the Mud fish run to cross the creek and climb the ditch bank. No mud fish today but some flying tires. The place had been washed out causing some steep banks. Just the kind of fun Jeeps are looking for. From there we headed to the sand pit for some runs around the bowl, no recoveries needed. By now it was 3:30 so we headed back and prepped for the ride home. When we arrived I did find that at some point the rear drivers tire had gotten a good size groove carved through the lugs. We will have to change that out with the spare for now. With two muddy Jeeps in the driveway it was time for dinner. Over all it was a good day and we all had fun. Anyone see the Giraffe? What is next? … Richloam in September and them something we don’t know up in Citrus.
For more info on the Jeep Club feel free to visit. http://www.orlandojeepclub.com
The sun was on the rise and began to peak out from behind the trees. It’s an early August morning in Florida, we are driving up the turnpike heading to Altoona.
This August morning was to be a wet ride in the Ocala National Forest. The Jeep Club had gathered and was ready to ride the trails. The Wednesday Wheelers meet on the first Wednesday of each month to different areas in the central Florida area. The day started like any other jeep ride day, get up before the sun, pack the jeep and head down the highway. The forecast was in the low 90s and it was going to rain sometime around 1 PM, so we thought...
Ocala National Forest is the world’s largest contiguous pine scrub Forest. The views are beautiful. When we Jeep, we often take the side and back windows off. This will help keep them from getting scratched up and opens us to the environment. The downside to this is that spiders and ticks have free access to the inside. I picked a tick off my belly the next night... YUCK! Always carry bug spray.
There are near endless trails winding through the forest providing a variety of Jeep opportunities. From sandy to muddy, tree scratching tight to wide open. Beware some puddles are deep enough to hydro lock the careless Jeeper. We were warned to stay out of any clay pits even if they are open or you might get a ticket for venturing in. There are a few springs in the forest that offer swimming and kayaking. Alexander Springs and Juniper springs provide a relaxing place to visit after a day on the trails.
After a stop at the Ranger station, we headed to a gas station in Altoona for a drivers meeting. We had a total of 14 Jeeps to start, a few more then we thought would show. This would be our first time leading a Jeep Club trail. We planned routes and planned alternate routes. The morning run was 16.71 miles. The National forest service has an online interactive map that will show you what roads are for highway registered vehicles and what roads are not. I use the term “roads” loosely. “Stay on names and numbered roads” were the instructions given by the Ranger at the station. The first alternative trail we turned down was so tight that we had to back out after 50 yards. Clearly a goat track. I was not willing to sacrifice the paint jobs of other Jeeps so we picked a little more clear trail... so we thought. We headed north towards the east side of the bombing range. We encountered a few fallen trees and took some time to clear the way. I drove over the tree and then hooked up the tow strap and pulled it out of the way. Thank you, Clay, for always getting out and helping. By late morning we had arrived at the bombing range and took a group shot at the sign. A quick stop at the bathrooms to the East and we headed south to Blue sink our lunch spot. Trail 14 has plenty of big puddles that don’t go too deep, most of the time. One puddle put the 33” tires almost under and the opposite side had a steep walk that stopped most in their tracks. Sean made it through pretty easy with his lockers and 35s.
We made it to Blue sink a little after 12. A brief walk down to the pond to have a nice setting for lunch. Some fished, some swam, and we all ate. I attempted to get the drone in the air but was restricted by the nearby bombing range. Most of the drone screen was blocked by a warning screen that would not let me hit the accept button to fly at my own risk.
After lunch, we headed south to get around the now-closed portion of road just north of the sink. As we pulled up to the power line road David’s Jeep made a wretched sound in the front drive train. Not wanting to take the chance Sean and David headed out to avoid a trail mishap. We headed back up the goat trail.. more trees blacked the path. Most were fairly easy to move. The last tree was pretty large and I was able to slide under it by less than an inch. We hooked up the tow strap and pulled... nope. This tree was green and must have fallen recently. We took out a hatchet and Jim had a cordless saw. After some work, we were able to take a chunk out and then pull it out of the way and down the trail to a side path.
Now the sound of thunder is approaching. The rain was on the way. We put our side windows back on and headed west towards 14 again. The rain came down and made the washout roads into creek beds. It was a cool sight to see small waves of a mini flash flood coming down the road you are driving on. The puddles were getting deeper, the lightning more frequent, and the ride more funner. It was a blast. We finished out the day with getting all tools and radios back in the right Jeeps. The rain continued all the way home. Unfortunately, the ride took over 2 1/2 hours to get home. The turnpike was gridlocked, 441 a mess, and power failure in north Kissimmee made for a long drive home. Would we do it all again? You bet!
Matt N Randy
Jeep Enthusiast, Pastor, Photographer, Artist, A husband and wife team that loves going out and seeing God's Creations.