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Group shot of the XJ's after airing down
Big Shiny getting ready to try out the mud hole
Dropping in
Heading across...not too deep
Coming out and up the bank
John Ruiz heads into the mud
This hole was about 2 feet deep in the middle
Frank Raines
Off-Highway Vehicle Park

(Near Patterson, California)

Frank Raines OHV Park is located about 90 miles from where I live. I made the trip down to Freemont from Berkeley to meet up with a group of about 8 other XJ's who were going to FR for the afternoon. The plan originally was to go to Hollister Hills but for some reason it was closed over the weekend.

When I got down to Freemont I met Alan Chung, John Ruiz, Pat Waite, and another half dozen people with nice Cherokees (who I can only remember by first names...Tim, Chris, etc.).

After introductions we all got on the highway for the hour-long drive to the park. I took up the rear and was amazed how fast everybody was driving!!! Big Shiny rarely sees speeds over 75mph, so it was all I could do to keep up with the pack of speeding XJ's.

The park is located about 17 miles West of Patterson, a small town just off the 580. You can also reach it by traversing a VERY narrow and winding road from San Jose. This is the route we took going home, up over a 4000 foot summit where you can see a big observatory and nice views of "silicon valley." We arrived, paid our two bucks, disconnected the sway bars, and aired down. After a quick group photo we hit the trails.

The park is a maze of trails: many start out as Jeep roads but quickly turn into ATV tracks or motorcycle trails, so we hit a few dead-ends at first. Pretty soon we found a nice mud hole to play around in.

The big hole awits...
The wave starts...
About halfway across
Turning toward the bank
Getting pretty deep here!
Climbing back out...with the windows down
Those 33x12.50's are great at flinging mud
The view inside...wishing I had a tan interior
I think Pat was the first "volunteer" to seee how deep the hole was. Even with 33's, I was a little hesitant until I saw Pat cruise through with no problem. Alan was tearing it up too, so nobody really had to twist my arm to get me to try it.

I dropped into the hole on the right and popped right back out the other side. This hole was probably no more than two feet deep and the mud was fairly thin and watery...sort of had the consistency of the stuff you rinse out of a wheelbarrow after you mixed a batch of portland cement. I drove on up the hill and came back down the other side to try the bigger hole to the left.

This hole was deeper than the I dropped down into the middle of it I was pushing a pretty good wave and sunk down to where the tires were completely submerged. It was easy enough to get across, but the exit point on the opposite bank was very steep and eroded.

As I hit the bank and started losing traction, I gave it a little gas and started turning the steering wheel back and forth a bit. I was flipping mud all over the place, but managed to pop up onto the bank without much trouble. Just as I was pulling the rear tires up a small wave of mud came flying right through my open window, covering the inside of the Jeep with gunk. (See the "duh" picture)

After wiping up some of the mess with a towel and doing my best to clear the windows so I could see, we left the mud hole and did some steep hill climbs before heading back down to play in the creek bed.

Duh! This is what my wife wrote on the rear window while I was busy cleaning up the front seat
The creek bed was about the most challenging part of the day. The water wasn't deep, except for a few holes, but the creek was narrow and the bottom littered with loose rocks. Most were small enough to roll out from under one of your tires, but big enough to mess up your driveshaft or crunch your diff cover if you picked the wrong line. Fortunately we had good spotting (thanks Pat!) and nobody did any damage.

Pat walked right over a big pile of rocks in his well-built Sport that hung up both Alan and I. Alan got strapped off, while I got pushed off. At one point I managed to get Big Shiny sitting squarely atop the rock in the middle. I was hung up on my front skid plate (which worked great, by the way), and even with both lockers engaged I couldn't get off the rock. My back tire dug a deep hole in the loose stream bed while my front tire slipped uselessly against the front of the rock I was high-centered on. Amazing how little traction is available when the tires and rocks are wet.

Heading up the creek bed
Coming up on the rockpile
Over the rock pile
Snagging the rear pumpkin on a rock
Disaster narrowly averted
Coming back the other way
About to get stuck
High-centered and quickly digging a hole
Front tire wet, going nowhere on slippery rock
A friendly push from John and Pat gets me down
I managed to get some good pic's of Big Shiny with the driver side front wheel high on top of a rock...I was pretty amazed how much flex this thing has, and that my preliminary fender trim worked as well as it did. I still need to remove more fender in the rear of the rear wheel wells. I'll post the flexed-up pictures in the Jeeps section as soon as I get them developed. The RE rear springs work really well with the Terra shackles...lots of droop for springs with that much arch!

We turned around after going only a short way up the stream, but the short bit we did was a challenge to me and a lot of fun. Several of the group had to head back to civilization at that point, while John, Alan, Chris and I (and one other guy driving a white XJ, name I forget) drove on up to the top of another hill to have a little lunch and talk Jeeps. John has done some great stuff to his 2-door, including reinforcing the unibody and adding a beefy roll cage in the rear cargo area. After lunch we headed back to the parking lot to reconnect the sway bars (thanks JKS!!!) and air up before driving back to Berkeley.

The drive back took us up over Mt. Hamilton, a 4000 foot peak and home to the Lick Observatory. The road from there down to San Jose is treacherously narrow and curvy, and generally a real pain in the ass when you're driving a Cherokee with 6" of lift! But very scenic.

From San Francisco, take the 580 East past Livermore, then South to Patterson. (580 turns into the 5--go figure!) From Patterson head West up the canyon 17 miles to the park. The drive from Berkeley is aprox. 90 miles and should take a sane driver 1.5-2 hours. Add another half hour if you plan to come in over Mt. Hamilton from San Jose. Day use fee is $2 per vehicle. Facilities include camp and picnic sites, water, restrooms, electric hookups, and even a covered area where you can work on your Jeep if necessary.

Click here for a map of the area. "X" marks the spot.

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