We had only gone about a half a mile down the Rockcastle River Forestry Road before a member of our troupe had to bail on the trip. Henry had just had his front differential replaced, and his front suspension was making a knocking noise. Since he had a lot of driving ahead in order to get back home, he opted to find a local dealer to take a look at the noise rather than chance something severe on the trail. So, the four of us that remained set off down the Fallis City Road, where it got rough.
The first major obstacle on the road is ‘The Steps’. The Steps are a series of rock ledges that are all between 18 and 48 inches tall. We all took a moderate line over these ledges. Apparently, some track had been entrenched by highly modified vehicles, and some tracks were easy enough for a stock vehicle to traverse through with skid plates. We took our time and spotted each other through these obstacles, and this made for some happy Jeep owners.
The local sandstone flakes apart fairly easily, yet still provides great traction even when wet. Although everyone on this trip had all-terrain or mud-terrain tires, the previous trip had at least one set of stock tires. Those tires did fine on the sandstone, but were less impressive on the occasional mud. The other thing to note on these vehicles is that only one had a rear locker, one had ESP (an electronic LSD that uses the anti-lock break system with an open differential), and the other two had open differentials. Although we occasionally had to pile on a bumper to add traction, the open differentials did not prevent these KJs from getting through. In fact, several obstacles presented a balancing act on two alternate tires, rocking back and forth in our Jeeps.
Coming down off the ridge top, we knew we were getting close to ‘The Cave’, and lunch. The Cave is large enough to hold several Jeeps, and provides a nice rest and lunch spot prior to ‘The Chute.”
The mud at the base of The Cave was thick enough this time that we all had to walk up and carry our lunch gear; however, in dryer conditions, even stock tires can get you all the way up. After a lunch break which was a nice time chance to get to know one another better, it was time to hit the trail once again. The trail to the east from The Cave had not yet been explored by the L.O.S.T. group, although a trip on Presidents Day weekend will correct that oversight. To the west, The Chute loomed in our presence.