You can “web wheel”, read the rags and watch all the shows or videos you want. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting out there. Nothing beats actual seat time. So, after far too long since my last trip, I wheeled twice in August, once in the Jeep, and once in the Bronco. By design, they were two distinctly different trips. Each awesome in its own way.
With a few hours to spare on an otherwise packed family vacation, my cousin, his 9 year old nephew, my 7 year old son and I took our basically stock 2012 Jeep JK Unlimited Rubicons deep into the NJ Pine Barrens. Yes, home of the Jersey Devil, and an annual Jeep Jamboree.
Our goals were simple:
- Spend some time off pavement.
- Familiar ourselves with a few of the trails in the vast network of options.
- Exercise our Jeep’s four-wheel drive system (a good idea for any 4×4).
- Flex the suspension a bit, and
- Reacquaint ourselves with the Rubicon’s awesome push button off-road amenities, like the front and rear lockers, the electronically controlled sway bar, and the amazing 4:1 low range gearing.
As expected, we found mostly mild terrain with spots of very deep, soft sugary sand, some water crossings, and a few harder, more technical challenges. Staying along the Mullica River, we found beautiful scenery, and spotted some wildlife.
Also as expected, the Jeeps performed phenomenally. Honestly, it was a walk in the park. No contest for these vehicles. However, even on such easy trails, one quickly sees how the locked and low geared Rubicon is like a sure footed mountain goat. Lockers send equal power to all four wheels, all the time. The auto disconnecting / reconnecting sway bar is a real time, and mess saver. The ultra low transfer case gearing provides precise throttle control, which enables you to finesse your way over obstacles with much less lurching and rocking, yet with no negative impacts on highway or street driving. All of these features become significantly more appreciated as the trails get harder, and such features cost thousands to add later.
The Pine Barrens is a great destination for new wheelers, or for a quick, relaxed trip off-pavement. Wide, mostly sandy bottomed trails, soft pine roots and a lack of big rocks or boulders make for generally easy driving, and minimize the potential for vehicle damage. (Note I said “minimize“…) Just watch those water crossings and mud holes, especially the deep ones! Never go alone, and bring at least the minimum in terms of recovery gear, including tow straps and shovels!!
About the Pine Barrens:
The Pine Barrens is part of the 1.1 million acre Pinelands National Reserve, which occupies 22% of New Jersey’s land area. It is the largest body of open space on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard between Richmond and Boston, covering vast areas in Ocean, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Atlantic Counties. About 45% (493,000 acres) of the region is publicly owned, and there are numerous State parks and forests in the Pine Barrens, including Brendan T. Byrne, (formerly Lebanon), Wharton, Bass River, Belleplain, Island Beach and Colliers Mills. Aside from off-roading, hiking, fishing, camping, canoeing / kayaking and hunting are common activities. Just know the locals take great pride in the region, so be respectful. Pack out what you pack in. Stay on marked trails, and respect private property. (Learn more from PineyPower, and from the Batsto Village site.)
NOVA Trailfest 2013, & the Annual MEB August Trail Ride
When it rains, it pours. It was great to wheel the Jeep, but I hadn’t wheeled the Bronco in a while and I was itching for much more challenging terrain. So two weeks after my Pine Barrens run, I had two events on the same weekend. The Mid Atlantic Early Bronco Club was having it’s annual Summer Ride at Rausch Creek Off Road Park on Saturday, August 17. The Northeast Offroad Vehicle Alliance (NOVA) was having its annual Trailfest event Friday through Sunday of that same weekend, also at Rausch Creek.
The weekend was an awesome adventure by all accounts. See my next post for full coverage.