North American XJ Association's Winterfest 2000

by John (JnJ) Anderjeski

February 12, 2000, it is cold; the weatherman is calling for a mixture of rain and snow throughout the day. It is 9:00 am and a crowd is gathering. There are 5 or 6 XJs, a ZJ, a MJ, and an XCJ-6 (A CJ -6 body and frame with XJ drivetrain and running gear). Everyone is heading into the Bad Lands building to register for a weekend of cold weather wheeling and camping. Welcome to the Inaugural North American XJ Association (NAXJA) Mid-West Winterfest 2000.

The Badlands is an offroad park located in Attica Indiana. The park is growing in popularity as one of the very few true 4x4 Mecca's in the Mid-West. The North American XJ Association (NAXJA) is, as the name implies, an international association dedicated to providing the XJ and MJ owner with events across the country. Also, NAXJA provides a location on the World Wide Web where the XJ/MJ owner can go to share information and learn more about these great 4x4s we drive.

Winterfest, billed as the first NAXJA event of the new millennium, took place February 12th and 13th. Members traveled from places as far flung as Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Wisconsin, Michigan, Chicago, and at least one local. Participants had the option to camp in the park (brrrrr), or find local lodging.

Saturday morning started with the group signing in at the park office, airing down, and disconnecting swaybars. Some members took this time to test there flex on the ramp provided by the Badlands.

By around 10:00 am, the group was lined up and heading toward the Green Trail. This trail is relatively mild, but with the recent snowmelt off and rain over the past week, the level was upped a notch. The terrain consisted of many hill climbs, rocks, mud, water, and mud. By the way, did I mention the mud? Green trail was enjoyable and offered little trouble until the group came to an optional obstacle called the Sniper Hole. I was second inline and as the trail guide pointed it out, I decided to take a shot at it. After several attempts, I decided to step aside and let the others take a shot. So I backed out and our guide Scott (If you can do it, I can) Mac, took a shot. He got close, but we all know, close does not count in our sport. Unable to move forward or back, I was happy to provide him the strap he needed to get out of the hole. Next came Nate in his MJ with a 4 banger and open diffs. He hit the hole, stopped once, hit the gas again and drove right up and out. Hmm, he got lucky (as the day progressed, Nate showed it was not luck, he could flat drive that MJ), several others tried and failed.

In the end, Nate was the only one to conquer the Sniper Hole. The rest of the trail included more hills, streams,

and rocks. Around mid-day we completed Green and went to the area we dubbed the "Playground". This area is part of an old mining operation that offered up tons of rocks, hills, water holes, pea gravel, and ledges to play on.

After a run to camp for lunch and a quick fix of a leaking oil sending unit, we were off and heading towards Orange Trail.

Orange Trail is a little more difficult and promised to offer us all a challenge with the muddy conditions. At the start of Orange, there is a quick drop off into a stream. Seeing this, one member, new to wheeling, decided to park his stock XJ and grab a seat in another XJ. The trail runs like a maze in and out of the stream, dodging trees every few yards. Soon the CB came to life with talk of a nasty section that the drivers should see. The obstacle looked like a bobsled sleuth, with a tree in the middle. When entering it, the idea is to ride as high as you can on the bank on the right to avoid hitting the tree on the left. Rusty (from Rusty's Offroad) demonstrated this by lifting a rear tire high enough in the air to cause a few scared expressions on the faces of the bystanders. There was as much uncontrolled sliding as there was driver steering. Fortunately, with a little skill and maybe a dose of luck, the group made it through without hitting the tree. Further down the trail our trail guide Scott (If I ain't stuck, I ain't trying) Mac, found a section that offered his copilot a chance to get a good close look at the muddy ground. Nate and his trusty MJ came to the rescued and extracted Scott. At that time Scott had determined the normal trail section was not passable and it was time to scout for another way out. It was then that Dora (Owner and operator of "Let's Go Jeepin' ") caught up with us and showed Scott the trail to take to get around the impassible section. A little further down the trail we caught up to another group with a disabled vehicle in yet another nasty section of the trail. It was getting late and our trail guide decided to take us out another way. Dora and Beezil (owner of the XCJ6) stayed behind to assist in the recovery of the disabled vehicle.

With a few more hours before dark, we headed for Pink trail. Here we found another optional section that beat everyone in the group that tried it. It was a large hole with rocks the size of Suzukis scattered around. Day one ended with the group sitting around the campfire telling tall Jeepin' stories.

Day two started with the group heading to the Playground to find more rocks and hills to conquer.

After a few hours of the playground, the group headed to the Green trail again. This time we by-pasted the Sniper hole since another group was playing there. After running green with no problems, we headed to the snackbar to grab a bite and discuss the remainder of the day. This is where I said my good byes and prepared for my 11.5-hour drive home.

This is the second NAXJA event I've attended and they were both great. There is nothing better than getting together with a bunch of Jeep nuts and going out and doing what we enjoy the most, Jeepin'. NAXJA's next major event is XJFest 2000 this July in Tellico. So, if you want to meet some great people and do some awesome wheeling, check it out.