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SKYJACKER ROCKS TENNESSEE

By Mike "TXJEEPER" Cohn

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Skyjacker Rocks Tennessee
Lining up for the G Trail
Labor Day weekend has historically been one of the busiest four wheeling weekends of the year. With events going on in just about every region of the US, there's never a shortage of choices when trying to plan for a 'wheeling trip. This year for us, we had just gotten the Project TJ out of a long stay in the shop. We weren't quite sure how it would do on the trails, let alone on the road, so we had made no plans for a formal run.

On the Thursday prior to the weekend, my phone rang and it was Skyjacker Suspensions inviting us to their Skyjacker Rocks Tennessee event up in Chattanooga. Chattanooga is less than a two and a half hour ride from home for us, which is very doable for a weekend run. We decided that if the Jeep was ready to go, so were we. Our good friends at The Off Road Connection in Birmingham, AL were good enough to put a few finishing touches on our Jeep and even loan us their trailer for the weekend. We just couldn't say no to the invitation. There were simply no good excuses left for us not to go to the event and have some fun!

We headed up Friday night and on Saturday morning met the Skyjacker gang early at our motel. They had brought several of their trucks and planned on running both their white with stripes TJ as well as their red TJ, which was fresh back home from the Ultimate Adventure.

The event was hosted by Sports in the Rough and all activities centered around the Raccoon Mountain Campground, which sits at the base of - you guessed it - Raccoon Mountain. The campground is at the Lookout Mountain exit of I-59 and Lookout Mountain is just a short way down the road. If you're ever in the area, make sure you set aside a few hours

Skyjacker Rocks Tennessee
Tony giving me spot on the rocks.
Skyjacker Rocks Tennessee
Just about all the way over.
to go check out Lookout Mountain. The view is breathtaking and the ride up the mountain is quite enoyable, as well.

Raccoon Mountain is a full-service campground and many event participants brought RV's, campers, or simple tents. The mess tent was set up in a field where all-you-can-eat meals were served throughout the weekend by the Sports in the Rough staff. Skyjacker also had a couple of their trucks on display and were on-hand before and after the trails to answer questions and chat with the curious.

The event was, of course, focused on trail rides, however, there was also plenty to do at the camp each night after dinner. Activities included a mud pit, DJ on Saturday night, and a raffle on Sunday. The mud pit was a great place to find some rowdy, muddy fun until 10pm on Saturday and Sunday nights.

With roughly 75 vehicles registered for the event, the Sports in the Rough staff, with the help of local four-wheelers organized the participants into trails ranging from easy to very difficult ratings. On both days, our group was the "G" group, which was the most difficult group. Large tires, dual lockers, and a lot of ambition were the main requirements. Our leader both days was Steve Roach in his Toyota 4 Runner. Steve is no stranger to this system of trails and was eager to show us all of his favorite spots.

The trails go through private land and then crisscross the power lines that cover the mountains in several directions. Similar to Tellico, the way in to the good stuff is over a long, windy, primitive road, which can mostly be done in two wheel drive. Using our two wheel drive low in the Atlas II was a great help here, allowing us to go at a comfortable pace without having to be in 4WD.

The ride in takes about a half an hour and is a beautiful, scenic route, despite being littered with an unusually large amount of trash. The area is used by both four-wheelers and ATV riders and it would do the local sportsmen well to host a massive clean up weekend in the area.

Skyjacker Rocks Tennessee
Skyjacker showing me where the line was.
Skyjacker Rocks Tennessee
JR picks his line.
As I mentioned earlier, the trails here crisscross cross the power lines and the obstacles are pretty much either offshoots from the main trails or are the power line cuts themselves. For the most part, the main trails can be traversed by most any 4x4 and the really tough stuff can be bypassed. Even many of the power line cuts have several routes up the hills.

Our first stop each day was one of the offshoots from the main trail. The main route was a series of hard rock shelves and enormous boulders. Steve took his Toyota up an interesting line and it was up to me to figure out whether a short wheelbase Jeep could take a similar route. This was pretty much the maiden voyage for our Project TJ, so we were eager to see how the new Skyjacker 6" Rock Ready suspension would flex going over these rocks.

As I approached the obstacle, Tony Berlingieri from Skyjacker spotted me. The TJ twisted like crazy as we tried to get up to the top. But even with the massive amounts of flex the suspension was allowing, we still could not get our 35" Goodyears over the top. We tried several lines, with the final one finding me just a degree or two away from rolling the Jeep over. I decided to back down and take the bypass, which was, itself, very off-camber and a long way down if you didn't make it. Once I got to the top, the Skyjacker gang made me look silly, taking their massive rigs right up and over the top, proving that sometimes all you need is just a few more inches of rubber.

From this spot, the trails ambled on and we wound around the area for a while. We headed down a very steep, wooded hill and came out at the bottom of a hill the locals call "Inner Tube." The hill had two trails going up side by side. As we looked at the hill Steve told us that he had never seen or heard of a Jeep making it to the top. That having been said, Lonnie McCurrie, Jr. from Skyjacker decided that he'd give it a go in the white TJ. Before we could even think about a good spot for photos, JR was on his way up with Technical Support & Customer Service Rep., Skip Tuminello, in the passenger seat.

JR climbed the hill with ease for the first 100 feet or so until he hit the first step about half-way up. Giving the Jeep some gas, he made it over and disappeared around a curve toward the top. Thinking he had made it, I began slowly making my way back down to the bottom. Suddenly, we heard the motor surge and then the unmistakeable sound of a Jeep slowly rolling over. Instinctually, we began running back up the hill. I couldn't see the Jeep but suddenly, I heard it begin rolling again...and again. Once the Jeep was rolling again, I was stunned for a moment until I realized that it was coming over through the trees and brush separating the two trails and was headed right for me. Hearing a 5,000 pound Jeep coming your way will get anyone running, and run I did...fast! I still couldn't see the Jeep but I could hear it as I ran full-speed down the hill.

Skyjacker Rocks Tennessee
JR gave it all h had heading up Inner Tube.
Skyjacker Rocks Tennessee
After crossing over, JR rolled several times down the hill.
Photo byKen Phillips

Once the Jeep stopped rolling several times, we all ran back up the hill as fast as we could to see if JR and Skip were ok. Amazingly, they were fine. Skip had bonked his head on the roll cage and had a goose egg starting, but other than that, both of them were in one piece, albeit quite shook up. It seemed like a miracle that they somehow rolled into the brush instead of back down the hill. The brush managed to slow them down and finally brought them to a stop.

Skyjacker Rocks Tennessee
Photo by Ken Phillips
Skyjacker Rocks Tennessee
Photo by Ken Phillips

Once we got the guys safely out of the Jeep, we all drove our rigs to the top and began extracting the Jeep. With two winch lines running down to the Jeep, we got it rolled back onto his wheels and secured. JR hopped in and got the Jeep started! Through billowing smoke, we pulled the Jeep to the top to assess the damage. After barrel-rolling down a power line, you'd expect a Jeep to be pretty contorted and mangled. However, other than the grill, hood, doors, and top, the Jeep didn't look too horrible. The Mountain Off Road Enterprises cage managed to keep the drivers safe and it looked as if the structure stayed in tact. After a quick check of the Jeep's vital organs, the Jeep fired right up again and JR drove it for the rest of the day without any major problems. Amazing!

Skyjacker Rocks Tennessee
Flipping JR's TJ back onto its feet.
Skyjacker Rocks Tennessee
The Jeep didn't look too bad having rolled so many times.

 

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