Most people know “Black Friday” as the biggest shopping day of the year… That day after Thanksgiving, where half the population is sleeping off a tryptophan hangover and the other half is engaged in an assault on the local mall with the surgical precession of Eisenhower’s invasion of the Normandy beaches.
Holiday music, snowy decorations, half prices sales, unimaginable crowds… dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria! And although this could be the next big spectator sport, we prefer adventures that don’t create an occupy dressing rooms movement or watching sales clerks referee winner take all, customer cage match battles for the last 80 percent off, flat screen in stock.
The Northwest FJ Cruiser Club (NWFJCC) holds their annual alternative to a shopping hula palooza. Their Black Friday run, held in the Tillamook State Forest (TSF), is full of dirt, off-road adventure, good friends and fun times.
Back in the day… not that long ago… when I started out in 4×4 adventures, I knew very little about driving off-road. But I did know that a good local club can help anyone learn how to enjoy wheeling safely, improve skills and get unstuck without loosing an appendage.
The Northwest FJ Cruiser Club is one of those organizations where all skill levels and rigs are welcome. They have events that include trail runs, beach dunes, overnight camping and even a starlight run or two. And most importantly they help members improve their skills without ever making them feel bad or forcing them to try something beyond their comfort level.
The meetup was just off highway 26 and from there we all convoyed west to Brown’s Camp in the heart of Tillamook State Forest.
There is a little seldom told secret about 4wheeling… there is a lot of waiting around. We waited at the meetup… We waited for permit purchases at the mini-mart along the way… And at the trail head as we all air down and made last minute checks of our rigs.
Done right, this time in the waiting place is when you get a chance to meet new folks and catch up with old friends. This is the time to see who has worked on their rig since the last event and how they’re doing in the real world. We took advantage of this time to hand out LGRT stickers to anyone who wanted one.
The turn out on this run was eight rigs and a dozen or so folks. The count made for a good convoy size to cover lots of trails and still have time to enjoy the beautiful NW scenery and snap a photo or two along the way.
A week earlier, snow covered the hill. Since then, rains and winds pounded the area like a cow peeing on a flat rock, knocking down trees and washing away anything not nailed down. Today, sunshine, blue skies, 50 degree temperatures and trails that were in great shape. Most of the trials were dry(ish) with just a few muddy spots and we even managed to find a little left over snow before the day was done.
After pulling out of the staging area we wound through the wood and up along Power Line. Worked our way up to Hog’s Back. Made sure to run down Hood Raiser (NWFJCC maintained trail) and drove through Ceder Tree. The group cleared a blown down tree, got one of the rigs unstuck, fixed a flat and tested skills over a few obstacles.
Around 4:00 pm we found ourselves back at the trail head airing up for the drive home. Everyone shared their thoughts on the run and swore to get together soon.. at least before next years run. We said good buy to our old and new friends and caught a glimpse of a few rigs showing off their LGRT stickers as they pull away. The sight of our stickers on a rig always brings a smile to my face.
Have you ever wondered how club trail runs come together? Someone puts in a lot of time pre-running the trails and checking conditions. Someone spends time watch the weather reports, working the forums and sending out invitations. Someone puts together the list of attendants and ensures a balance across the group’s skill level. Someone sets up the meeting place, puts together directions and maps. Someone basically works their ass off. And that’s before the run.
During the run someone takes the trail boss role, deciding what trails are acceptable for the whole group, makes the call on position in the convoy and keeps everything moving along. Someone spots folks over obstacles and keeps the group safe. Someone works very hard to ensure everyone has fun.
On this Black Friday run that someone was Paul M (aka the other Paul). Paul is an outstanding trail boss and generally a great guy who we’ve gone out wheeling with a number of times. We never say it enough so let me say it here… Thank You Paul! Thank you for making this run another successful Black Friday where no sales clerks were hurt in the making of this off-road adventure.
Bonus feature: video captured of our run up Hog’s Back