When Moab is farther than you want to travel

- Words by Quinton Neufeldt, Photos by Paul Marsh and Quinton Neufeldt

On a cold day in late winter Paul Marsh suggested we make a trip to an off-road park in April, I said "let’s go!" A bit of searching the net for ideas led us to Rausch Creek Off-Road Park http://rc4x4.org, which was a great deal closer than the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, UT.

Pennsylvan­ia has several ‘offroad’ parks that are former mines now being reclaimed, and used for recreation­al purposes.

From our location in the suburbs North of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, it looked like a seven-hour (or so) trip one way. The Rausch Creek website has a lot of informatio­n for visitors including local accommodat­ions and amenities, and the Facebook page has plenty of great pictures and videos so you know what to expect when visiting the park.

(1) On a rainy gloomy Holiday Friday morning at 9 am we met at the Stouffvill­e Petro Canada gas station, and headed on our way. I haven’t driven the 1986 CJ7 much recently, and hoped it would be trouble-free for the trip.

(2) Traffic was light until we got to the border at the Peace Bridge to cross into Buffalo, NY. Here we had a line up that took about a 1/2 hr, but soon we were on our way. Of course, part of a road trip is enjoying some of the unique things to see along the way. We are not antique shoppers but this storefront looked interestin­g (since it was a holiday it was closed).

(3) Paul was traveling with his family, and wanted to stop at the Corning Glass museum in Corning, NY. This provided a welcome break before carrying on to our destinatio­n for the evening in Williamspo­rt, PA. Here there was a large choice of hotels, restaurant­s, and other services.

Saturday morning, we arrived at the Park in Pine Grove, PA at 9 am (park opens at 8 am). Once we registered and paid the entrance fees we met and talked to Park staff Bernie Gardula. Bernie showed us around the staging area and some of the facilities for hosting groups and events. The Northeast Property was having a ‘Dirt Riot’ competitio­n that day as well.

(4) Since we hadn’t been there before, we asked a few people if we could go along with them. They said "sure!" Here we met Austin from Lancaster, PA in his orange ‘18 Jeep JLU, Keri and Brian from Buffalo, NY in her grey ‘18 JLU, (Brian has one too but didn’t bring it today), Marty from Columbia, MD - grey ’15 Jeep JKU, Quoc from Columbia, MD - ’15 Toyota Tacoma, and Smitty from York, PA - ‘01 Jeep TJ buggy.

The park has the trails marked, mapped and categorize­d by difficulty. We used the Maprika app on our phones to see our location and identify which trails we were on.

(5) Many trails here are stock friendly, with numerous side routes that are not. For our group this meant if someone wanted to try a more challengin­g route, the others could keep going on the easier way and meet up ahead.

(6) Smitty wanted to show us a fun hill by a waterfall so we started up. The heavy rain the day before and light rain at the time made things extremely slick. Smitty got bogged down in a couple large rocks near the top but eventually made it. We decided not to try it but enjoyed getting out to watch and take a few pics! (7 and 7a) It didn’t take Paul long to find some mud in a nice reddish colour!

The park terrain consists of a lot of rocks of various sizes, boulder-strewn trails, rocky ridges, deep water holes, and winding scenic trails. Since it was only April the leaves weren’t out yet on the trees so we could see well in all directions.

(8) The forecast called for clearing midday and sure enough it did as we stopped for lunch.

Here we had a chance to get out and stretch, eat some lunch and chat about our rigs, wheeling and what the afternoon held for us.

We kept on going around the various areas and ended up splitting up into two groups, Quoc, Marty, and Keri split off and did ‘less challengin­g’ trails, While Austin and Smitty showed us Lake Christy. This has some fun sand hill climbs and a water crossing.

(9) Austin’s 18 JL has a 2 1/2 in lift and 33’s, he had only been to the park once before but was having a great time and wasn’t afraid to try some narrow trails. His Jeep JL made the terrain look easy.

(10) Traveling along a side hill ridge I got hung up on a rock, turned the wheel right and punched the throttle - then stalled, right in a near rollover predicamen­t.

Luckily no harm was done and I eased the vehicle back and went around the rock to the left.

(11) Time flew as we worked our way around mostly blue-rated trails and it was 6 pm by the time we got back to the park entrance and staging area. We parked the vehicles on a rocky ledge to take a few pics.

After saying good-bye to our new friends we left the park by 6:30 pm and went back to Williamspo­rt for the night. Sunday morning we left early and stopped at the Tioga State Forest to see the Grand Canyon of PA, before making our way back to Buffalo, NY and then to Stouffvill­e, ON. Total trip log was 1450 kms (900 mi) and used a little over 200L gas (53 gal).

Everything went as well as we could have hoped - thanks and see you next time!

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