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SEP/OCT 2010

Great Smoky Mountain Trail Ride 2010

by Scott Johnson

Maybe it should have been called the GSMTR 2008 - 2010, because the planning for this event really started when the news broke that the government had decided that public land no longer needed to be public and Tellico was closed indefinitely. GSMTR 2009 was an important event to show support to the people of Murphy. There’s no doubt they are suffering from the loss of the use of land at Tellico and the financial effects that go along with it. A rally was held and people traveled from all over to bring attention to the cause.

Despite the loss of Tellico, GSMTR is a trail ride and the search was on for a location to keep the tradition of GSMTR alive. Golden Mountain Park in Sparta, Tennessee, was chosen and the guys at Upstate Cruisers (especially Rick Carswell) took on the challenge and started getting the ball rolling. Everyone who attended will agree that all the planning and hard work paid off and the event lived up to the reputation of being one of the premier TLCA events on the east coast.

Golden Mountain Park is an awesome park. There are a wide variety of trails for all levels of driving styles and rig abilities—and the pavilion made a great hub from which to run all the activities. These ranged from nightly gatherings to live music and great food. This event is not only about trail riding but camaraderie and it was good to see all the familiar faces from GSMTR’s past.

Of course, no event is complete without the raffle. This year, the vendors pulled out all the stops and the raffle was huge. Special thanks to Golden Mountain Park, Jim Barkley Toyota, Ralph Hayes Toyota, ACC, Iron Pig Off Road, JustDifferentials.com, Longfield Super Axles, Metal-tech, Smoking Gun Custom Powder Coating, Extreme Outback Products, Hi-lift, Camel 4x4 and Cruiser Corps. Thanks to their generosity, the event committee was able put on an outstanding raffle, host some remarkable competitions and raise a little seed money so that GSMTR 2011 can celebrate its 20th anniversary in style next year—sure to be the biggest and best GSMTR ever.

GSMTR has always attracted Land Cruiser enthusiasts from a variety of states and this event was no different. It seemed like every time I turned around, I saw a different state license plate—some of the plates I saw were South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Connecticut. There were people from all over and those are just the states whose tag I was able to recognize. We also had great support from a multitude of clubs such as Bayou State Land Cruisers and Olde North State Cruisers, which really added to the event.

Unfortunately, a tight schedule and even tighter budget prevented me from spending the entire week at the event. I headed out of Charleston, South Carolina, at 6:00 am on Wednesday and made good time—considering I was pulling a very heavy FJ40 behind my nearly 20-year old F150 pickup. I made it to the park around 3:00 pm and was greeted by Rick at the bottom of the main access road, who took time out to brief me on the layout.
No wheeling trip is complete without a few snags but this time around, my issues started before I hit the trails. It seems that an FJ40 on a trailer, a steep wet hill, a 20-year-old truck and a set of street tires don’t mix. Halfway up, I lost traction and the F150 was done going uphill. No problem—OK, little problem!

Unloading the 40 shifted the load and the next thing I knew, my pickup wasn’t staying put and I had to unload the 40 into a ditch. In true Cruiser fashion, numerous people stopped to help. The decision was made to pull the 40 out with a strap so we didn’t tear up anything while spinning the BFG M/T’s (which I won in the raffle at GSMTR 2008). I hadn’t even made it to the trail yet and my “well-equipped” 40 (which rides on 35’s, locked front and rear with 4:88 gears) was being tugged out by Rick in his FJ Cruiser—thanks again, Rick!
With the opening drama over, I got checked in and found an awesome camping spot. Not hard to do at Golden Mountain—plenty of nice, shady spots a short walk from the main pavilion. A quick overview of the park and I was thoroughly impressed. The large pavilion, smaller outer pavilions and conveniently located restrooms were great. And then I was really surprised when I found that the drive from my campsite to the trailhead was a whopping 90 seconds...

Rick Carswell’s FJ Cruiser barely squeezing between the rocks. Photo by Kitty Carswell

Bill Cross crawls his FJ40 up the rock garden.
Photo by Daniel Pallazzolo

Bill Cross takes flight on the dirt track.
Photo by Jimmy Meckso

Josh Broussard’s 4Runner does a great job on the rock crawling course.
Photo by Larry Landry

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