<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT"%> ROCKCRAWLER.com - Tellico Summer Sizzle 2001
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Tellico Summer Sizzle

Story By Nancy Barry

Tellico Summer Sizzle
Cal & Eileen Reynolds make the initial approach into Lower 2's Rock Garden. Their well-equipped TJ sports ARB's, Atlas II Transfer Case, MT Claws and had just gotten back from the Rubicon the week before.

Tellico Summer Sizzle
Jack & Cissy Lancaster bought this '82 CJ-7 brand new 19 years ago. The Jeep was once Cissy's everyday vehicle. This SOA "grocery getter" now sits on 4:88 dual Dana 60's, 38.5 inch bead-locked SX's, and changes gears via an NP435 tranny.

Tellico Summer Sizzle
Cathy Baucom leads the way across Fains Ford in her tricked-out hot pink TJ. This competition-ready Jeep sees duty in the Goodyear/Skyjacker Extreme Rock Crawling Nationals with Cathy at the wheel. With Tera 60 high pinion axles, ARB's, 6" RE lift and a custom JeepBox that houses the fuel cell.

Located in the southern reaches of the Great Smokey Mountains, on the North Carolina/Tennessee border, the Upper Tellico ORV area is famous for the best 4x4 trail riding east of the Rockies. Helicopter Pad, Guardrail, The Rock Garden, Slick Rock & School Bus all conjure up visions of vertical walls, huge boulders and steep hill climbs with just enough muddy rocks to really make things interesting.

Tellico4x4, JeepBox & The Off-Road Connection hosts three annual off-road events here each year. We joined them and about 40 other folks for a healthy dose of Southern hospitality at their recent Summer Sizzle Trail Ride this past August. Event headquarters were at Crawford's Camp, which is unlike any campground that we have ever seen. This place was built with the 4x4 crowd in mind! It's the only campground that we know of in the world that has a completely outfitted repair shop on-site. Features like wooded primitive and full-hookup campsites with picnic tables, hot private showers, coin laundry machines, ice, LP & unleaded gas, firewood and a bonfire pit are sure to spoil the folks that are use to camping on a muddy rock along side of the trails at Tellico.

Steve Crawford didn't stop with just these amenities. He built a 50-yard long "Rock Garden" right smack dab in the middle of the campground with boulders ranging from 2-4' tall. Now you can tear up your rig in front of everyone and never have to leave camp! Don't worry if this happens to you, though. When we arrived on Thursday afternoon, there were already a couple of rigs in Steve's shop getting a front axle shaft and a drive shaft u-joint replaced due to playing on the rocks. The shop would prove to be a popular place before the weekend was over as folks gathered around inside to escape the rain, down a few cold beverages and offer advice to the ones wrenching and welding their prized posessions back together.

Summer in the South is supposed to be hot, muggy and dry. Well, it was hot, muggy and wet, which added a notch or two to the already difficult trails. Out west, low gears, 36" tires and "crawling" is the way to go. Here, a heavy right foot, rubber in the 38.5 - 44" range and big motors launch vehicles up the sloppy Tellico rocks in a pinball-like fashion. Everywhere we looked we saw Dana 60's, 14 bolts and even an unknown big axle (Eaton we think) under these rigs!

Vehicle types ran the gamut from 2000 TJ's to the ever-present CJ's, cab trucks (locally called hybrids) to an Early Bronco with a Chevy 454 wedged under the hood. Some of the rigs looked like they just rolled out of the paint booth, while others were held together with "gorilla" welds (ugly, but strong) and bailing wire. None, however, were afraid to bounce them off the rocks and banks as they clawed their way up the obstacles.

We split up into two groups with Dan Moore (aka The Lunatic Trail Leader) in charge of the extreme bunch and Keith Bailey from Tellico4x4 leading the more sane riders. Dan took us straight to Trail 12, which is known as School Bus. There are two legends on how the hill got it's name. One is that a couple of crooks escaped from the local jail and the only vehicle that they could find was a school bus which they drove up the mountain as far as they could before abandoning it. The other story is that some hunters pulled an old bus up the mountain to use as a hunting camp. Whichever, if either were true, we'd give the price of a new set of Boggers to watch them do it now!

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