Just to avoid any possible confusion, the following post details events that occurred during the 2nd Annual FJ Northeast Run, in April of 2009. Event details for the 3rd Annual FJ Northeast Run can be found here.
Despite my mad-dash efforts to complete all mods prior to our first trip to Rausch Creek, I was not able to complete everything I had planned. With some advanced planning, however, I did make remarkable progress towards the end goal, acquiring and installing a host of different options that would make the FJ a bit more capable and the passengers a bit safer. In preparation for a winch and other accessories, I upgraded the electrical system using the Dirty Parts Dual Battery Kit. Having the new Icon suspension now in place, meant ride quality was dramatically improved. The new Nitto Terra grapplers would not only give me additional ground clearance beyond that of the Icon lift, but better traction in the mud and rocky areas too. To increase traction further, I planned to air down the tires prior to hitting the trails. Pressure restoration would be completed with my newly installed Powertank setup. Interior cargo items were now more easily secured using the Springtail Solutions MPAC rack systems and the Gobi ladder and roof rack were also available for any additional cargo that wouldn’t easily fit into the rear of the FJ. And last, but most certainly not least, the BudBuilt skids were now affixed in rock-solid position, awaiting the inevitable clashing of rocks, stumps and whatever else happened to obstruct our path.
With the exterior prepared, I then focused my efforts on the interior and its collection of items centered around recovery and safety. With the help of my wife, I compiled a very nice first-aid kit as well as a fire extinguisher and a few other odds and ends related to safety. I picked up a few items from TRDParts4U, including an ARB 3″x30′ snatch strap, an ARB 10′ tree-saver strap, two 3/4 ton shackles and a large ARB-branded bag to store it all. I also ordered a 48″ Hi-Lift X-treme Jack directly from the Hi-Lift Jack Company. You can usually pick one up at your local farm supply store but it was easier for me to order direct from the source because I needed to purchase an off-road base extender, a handle keeper and a lift-mate as well.
Since this was my first trip I planned to stick with primarily green- and blue-rated trails, preferring to get a bit more experience under my belt prior to breaking something major. While Rausch Creek is closer for us than for others, it’s still a good 2-3 hour trip. I couldn’t really afford to be breaking any major components since I needed the FJ for the return trip. Some folks trailer their rigs to events but in our case, the FJ is our primary mode of transport to and from events. So some caution and common sense would be required while out on the trails. This particular event was expected to last for two days in April, spanning a Friday and a Saturday weekend. I could not have been more excited!
We had made hotel reservations ahead of time so accommodations were a breeze. For anyone planning an overnight stay in the Tremont, Pennsylvania area, I highly recommend the services of the Hampton Inn in the nearby town of Pine Grove. We’ve stayed there during every Rausch Creek event so far and the service has always been quite nice. They also offer significantly-reduced rates to those attending officially-sponsored Rausch Creek activities. I actually managed to get my wife to attend more than one event based purely on the fact that she’d get to stay at a nice hotel with a pool. If you’re feeling the need to rough it a bit more, there are plenty of campgrounds in the local area that participate in these type of events as well. I recommend visiting the official Rausch Creek web site for more details on lodging.
We arrived the day before the events began to ensure we had enough time to get unpacked and prepared. Things were a bit chaotic the next morning though since many of those attending had never been to the park before. After a few mishaps and some bad directions, we finally arrived at Rausch Creek. This particular event was focused on the FJ Cruiser platform specifically and although there were a few outsiders attending, the bulk of the attendees were driving, or riding within, FJ Cruisers. Seeing that many FJ Cruisers all gathered in one spot was truly a site to behold. Modifications ranged from extreme setups designed more for buggy crawling to completely stock or very close to it. Shortly after we arrived and registered, the organizers began to split folks up into groups, based on preferred trail ratings. Not surprisingly, the more highly-modified rigs segregated into black- and red-rated trails while the others split between green- and blue-rated trails. As planned, we moved into line behind one of the green-blue groups and waiting patiently for our trail guide to give the signal.
It’s nearly impossible to describe these type of events in enough detail to provide you with anything even close to what we experienced over the course of those two days. Suffice it to say we had a fantastic trail guide who not only led us out on some really great trails, but even stopped to give participants some insight on standard recovery operations and some must-have tools to carry while off-roading. Because many of the trails at Rausch are intersecting, the more adventurous folks (myself included) even managed to push the boundaries a bit by exploring some blue-rated trails. Not too impressive to the long-term off-roaders perhaps, but for us newbies it was quite a bit of fun. The best part about it for me was seeing just how capable the FJ Cruiser was in a slightly-modified condition. I never once got stuck or hit an obstacle that was insurmountable. Granted, the trails were not terribly difficult, but they were most certainly well beyond anything most vehicles see on a daily basis. The two-day event left me with some new friends, some new skills, and overall elated and inspired to see what else the FJ could tackle.
Before I close, I feel the need to mention those responsible for hosting such an awesome event. This particular event was sponsored by the FJ Northeasters group and they did a fantastic job of gathering everyone together, organizing the necessary funding, sponsors, prizes, and even a large banquet to celebrate the end of the weekend’s events. It’s through the efforts of groups like this, that the off-roading community continues to grow and newly-initiated members such as myself have an opportunity to grow with it.