East Coast 4Runner Jamboree 2003
By: Jay Kopycinski - September 2003
|Lining up at Paragon Adventure Park|
I left the hot summer heat of Phoenix and flew into Pittsburgh where Joe Micciche picked me up in his '94 Toyota Xtra Cab. We hit the road east across Pennsylvania headed for the 3rd Annual East Coast 4Runner Jamboree (EC4RJ). This year's event was scheduled to take place at Paragon Adventure Park near Hazleton, PA.
Arriving at the campground just after dark, we found a fair number of Toyotas already parked in the campground. There was a wide variety of rigs ranging from first generation trucks setup for hard core crawling to rigs that hadn't been off the showroom floor for long. We spent the night getting to know some of the attendees and just enjoying a reasonably dry evening...it wouldn't last.
Friday dawned a pleasant day and wheelers scrambled around camp getting ready for the short drive to Paragon for the day's wheeling. Meeting in the parking lot at the park, we were all instructed to register at the park office and then lineup the rigs to hit the trail.
|Muddy hills added to the challenge|
There were trails for vehicles and drivers of all skill levels and we split up according to the challenge each driver chose. I caught a ride this day in Allen Dickenson's 1995 4Runner. His rig is lifted, locked and setup for the harder trails. Our Paragon guide led us through Whompum, Squirrel and the Turtle Trail.
The ground was wet from previous rain and this made all the rocks and obstacles slippery and more challenging than they would be if dry. We climbed the first big muddy hill with some difficulty, and the Interco tires on some rigs proved that gnarly tread was the ticket. After struggling over some of the first rock piles, the group warmed up and started doing some smooth crawling and making good time.
Towards the end of Turtle, John Smith's Cruiser suddenly went from 4wd to 2wd and we discovered that the passenger side hub studs were sheared or missing, causing the locking hub to leave the axle. The hub was retrieved but could not be fixed on site. With a few strap tugs as needed, we were able to limp John's rig back to the easier trails so he could make it back to camp under his own power.
|Crawlin' in the rocks|
While some of our group headed back towards camp, a few of the rigs continued on to run another trail or two. It was during this time that the afternoon rain started. We kept wheeling anyway just sliding across some of the tougher rocks as it became somewhat harder to hold your desired line. With the clock ticking towards 5:00, we headed back to the main parking lot and down the highway toward camp. Those with fully enclosed cabs stayed dry...those without, got wet.
From this point on, much of the weekend seemed like one long sprinkle-fest as the rain played its incessant role of disrupting the event. Participants did what they could to hang out under tarps and cover, and enjoy the company of others, despite the wetness. From the stories around camp, it seemed everyone was having a good time on the trails and finding new challenges for their rigs.
Saturday again turned out wet, but overnight more Toyota fans arrived in camp and the group that converged at Paragon was considerably larger. Total vehicles registered for the weekend exceeded 50 Toyotas of all vintages and build levels.
|Paragon was green and wet the entire weekend|
We met once again at Paragon and groups split up for the day's runs. The hard core group was ready to raise the bar a notch and tackle some tougher trails. I jumped in John Baker's 1985 4Runner and we were back on the trail. Rattler was first on the menu. This snaky trail follows a number of rock ledges and boulder piles and covers some elevation change as well. Each rig crawled its way across the wet rock. One Tacoma sacrificed its steering linkage to the trail and the group was stalled for a short time while repairs were made. We were soon on our way again. After this, much of the group quickly completed Drumstick as well.
Saturday afternoon we stopped by a portion of the NeuROC competition course on a rocky hillside. The incline angle was steep with nasty ledges or other obstacles towards the top. A few of the more adventurous souls tried some of the hill obstacles but it was simply too slick and rutted to be conquered that day.
As a final challenge for the day we followed Alan Woodson over to another long competition obstacle and watched as he worked his way through the challenging course in his well-built 4Runner. It wasn't a fast run but he completed the entire rocky course going up the hill over huge boulders and ledges and then back down to the bottom.
We headed back to camp once again where we gobbled up a welcome dinner after a long day on the trail. Joe conducted a prize raffle, which included a good variety of Toy parts from vendor donations. Some of the goodies included a Budbuilt cross-member and skidplate, starter contact kit from 4Crawler/Roger Brown, a Hi-Lift, Taco lift and assorted suspension parts from Daystar, TLCA shirts, and a generous gift certificate from ARB.
Later that evening, we all had a good time recounting the trails and challenges of the weekend and laughing (or moaning) about the rain, mud, and wetness of the weekend. Some headed back home that night and some spent the night and left in the morning.
Despite the water theme for the weekend, I think everyone agreed that the trails and wheelers were definitely worth the trip to Paragon and the event will certainly be remembered. I donned my last set of dry clothes, rode back to Pittsburgh with Joe, and caught a plane back to Phoenix.
Thanks for reading!
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