Back to Trail Reports Main Page
Story by Marcus "Sami" Haught
Crazy in Clayton
What could be crazier than a hardcore Samurai run? A hardcore Samurai run in 12-degree weather! That's right, this event happened to fall on one of the coldest days of the year.
Erik Alton from Off-Road Exposure asked if we could get a group of Samurais together and make a video. Of course, we agreed and the challenge was on. Actually, it was not much of a challenge at all. All it took was a couple of event listings on the web and the rest is history! By the end of November I had over thirty responses and 15 definite attendees. I thought this could be something. I had responses from as far away as Wisconsin and Georgia. Many were stock vehicles that wanted to just watch. I figured they might as well have fun so easier trails were made available.
On Friday before the event a severe cold front pushed through the area! Temperatures below freezing and ice were expected. Man, why this weekend? The wind was blowing and it was starting to rain. I was thinking about not attending myself. We arrived late that evening and there was no ice or snow in sight.
As the sun rose to a beautiful bone-chillingly cold morning there were Samurais everywhere. It was beautiful! Unfortunately, many people didn't show up because of the weather. We officially had twelve Samurais and one Sidekick. It was about a fifty/fifty split of equipped and stock Suzukis.
Everyone gathered for a driver's meeting inside the warm accommodations of the Clayton Country Inn. A detail of the run was discussed and Erik explained what his camera wanted to catch. We split up the groups and were ready for action!
The well-equipped Samies headed out for the trails. The first trail was Upper Power Line, heading North. This trail has several off camber sections with some great hill climbs. The first obstacle was a turn-off with a hill that is only four-foot high but is nearly vertical. Hardly any trouble was had here except for me. I forgot to put it in 4x4. From there we headed down to probably one of the most intimidating spots of the event. It is so bad that only two of us accepted the challenge. That was James Hiers and me. You're going down hill at a thirty-degree angle and then it is a straight drop off of three feet. When your vehicle only has a wheelbase of six and a half feet things can get interesting!
Rock Creek Trail is always a fun trail with some tough obstacles but is even tougher with ice on the rocks. Close to the top of the trail we started seeing ice and things started getting just a little tougher. We all eventually made it to the top. What do you do when you climb a mountain? You go back down it! Imagine ice skating down a hill with rocks in it! Get the picture. After running the trail it was getting late and some of us were in need of repairs.
During the evening the folks at Clayton Country Inn allowed us to use their facilities again. These are really great people! Erik showed us video taken during the day and some of his most recent work. He does great work! After the video we sat and talked and shared stories.
Sunday came with beautiful skies and warmer temperatures. Instead of twelve degrees it was sixteen degrees! You would not believe the difference three degrees makes when the wind isn't blowing. It was almost like spring.
The game plan was for the little big dogs to climb 3 Stage Hill and the stockers to climb St. Valentines. The trails meet at the top of the mountain. The first hill of 3-Stage has a history of damaging vehicles and today was no exception! I was the very first Sami to try it and I snapped a rear axle. I didn't have a spare and my day was over before I got started. Fifteen seconds in four-wheel drive. Wrote a song about it. Want to hear it! The next vehicle made it with no problems and then Carl Webster broke a u-joint.
After that everyone chickened out except for one. Get ready for this 'cause you won't believe it! A Suzuki Sidekick (wait don't laugh) with 29" Swampers and a locker in the rear climbed up that first stage with hardly a spinning tire. Not just once but two times. It was one of those things you just have to see. I've seen Scramblers with 35's have more trouble than he had.
As far as the rest of the trails go it will be second hand information. I had to go back to camp. Rumor has it everyone made it to the top, even the Sidekick. Not a strap was used. They met up with the others and drove back down St. Valentines safely.
Our videographer's escort was a Jeep. Yes, we allowed two Jeeps to attend. I won't reveal his name but the escort trashed his jeep at the end of the run on flat ground nonetheless. There was only one vehicle he said was worthy of towing him back. It was Wayne Fling in his kick ass Sidekick!
There was plenty of talk of making this an annual event. The only exception was that it happens in warmer weather. Things look positive for that happening. We had offers of donations from some of the Samurai product companies. When we do it next time it will be bigger and better and a heck of a lot warmer!