The Green Trail at the Y2K ZookiMelt!With Bill Johnston
The trail levels were distinguished by three different colors. Green was meant to be the easiest, so the stockers would have some fun but nothing above their capabilities. The Pink (yes, pink) trail was the hardcore tough route. And the Orange was right in the middle... challenging, yet no winch or snorkel required. The Green shouldn't need a snorkel either, but...
On Friday I opted to take the easy road and tag along on the Green trail. I figured it would be an interesting trip with the likes of Tim Porter, Jeff Pollock and Jessika James in the group. The rigs ranged from very mild stockers to Bogger monsters. The trail started with some challenging 30-40 foot hills that were nearly vertical going up and dropped quickly enough to challenge even some of the braver drivers. This was an excellent time to learn how to listen to the spotters. Those that did were very appreciative when they saw the drop on the other side.
The Badlands ORV Park has a little of everything. They made me feel quite at home when we broke through the tree line and found tons and tons of sand. The sand dunes showed a few folks how airing down the tires allow the vehicle to widen its footprint to retain traction and not just sink into the soft sand. Here we actually got most of the vehicles together for a group picture.
The green zook with a 'bully' attitude and a tire up on Jeff Chesters orange rig was built by Tim Porter specifically for this event. As in everything that Tim builds, it was very well engineered and beefed well above most others standards... he didn't break anything until the next day.
"The Tunnels" were a real crowd-pleasing obstacle. There were two choices, deep or deeper! The corrugated tunnel to the left went no more than hub deep. But the tunnel on the right made even the big rig drivers hold their breath! In the photo to the right you see a large wall of water with a faint green hue to it. What you don't see is Tim Porter piloting the green zook and Jessika James holding on for dear life! Most made it through without drowning their rigs, but there were an unlucky few that stalled out after taking a gulp of water and had to be revived before we continued.
A few notable rescues included John Riggs in his family Sidekick. Evidently his rocker panels were just tall enough to get him halfway over a breakover berm - but no farther. A quick tug and the 'Kick was free. Another rescue centered around Rick Lance in his Boggered Hardtop Sammy. It seemed the right side of one of the mud holes was deeper than expected. It took two winches and a snatch strap to free him from the muddy depths. But the sticky goo wouldn't let go of his right front tire, so when he was pulled out (to the rear) his front drive shaft separated. Time to break out the tools... but after a short while we were on the trail again in search of other challenges. Being from an area where the only trees around are imported and planted for looks, I learned just how tight it was to maneuver through closely packed trees. I'm used to falling off of a rock, sliding down a dune or balancing on the spare tire while negotiating a waterfall... We were using a planned route, but the places they led to were a new experience for me. I can't wait to go back!