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Investigative Solutions

Part Two: Cromer's & Short Creek
By Bill E. Branscum   ©2004
Click on Pics to See Full Size

The kids were excited. Lisa Turpin is kin to us, and it was clear that she and Justin were seriously involved in off road recreation. We were all quite confident that if they said Cromer's Ridge was a spectacular place, we would not be disappointed and we were curious to see the world's shortest creek.

Before we could leave however, we had a few chores to do around the house. The collapsible tables we use for family Day needed to be cleaned up and stored so Megan hopped up on the nearest table with a broom while the boys began folding legs and carrying them into the garage. It never ceases to amaze me when I see how much work some seriously motivated children can do.

Once we were finished, Lisa and Justin arrived to take us to Cromer's.

It wasn't a long ride, but it took us down Hwy 461, a road I had driven countless times while attending college at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, and less frequently while attending the University of Kentucky in Lexington. They say, "Home is where the hearth is," but I think, "Home is where the heart is," makes a whole lot more sense.

As much as I enjoyed college, I was always in a hurry to get home and see my Aunt Ardith. I do believe that woman could have cooked dirt and made me love it -- on one occasion, I found a plate she'd put together for the dog in her refrigerator. The family has joked about that ever since.

Hwy 461 surprised me. The road I remembered had more bends in it than a barrel of fish hooks, but such is not the case today. The new road bears no resemblance to the curvy nightmare it used to be. Once we got to the area near Renfro Valley I slowed down out of long standing habit and sure enough, their notorious "Ohio Navy" speed trap was still in play.

I suppose that some things never change.

Once we got to Interstate 75, we headed south to Exit 49 and made our way to the area they call "Cromer's Ridge." I'm not going to give you specific directions . . . not because I it's a secret, but because there isn't anything else at Exit 49 but the gravel road to Cromer's and a.gas station.

It's a rough place with steep slopes, rocky terrain, washed out roads with a slick clay-like base and a huge pink rock that just begs passing Jeeps to climb it.

No, not that little pink mound of rock - that's not at all what I am talking about.

<-- THIS is the huge pink rock that just begs to be climbed! It may not be Moab, Mont Eagle or Tellico, but this is certainly an exciting hill to climb in a Jeep.

Once we got past the initial rocky part of the trail, we came to washed out roads. Jeremy's Sport has no lift kit so in spite of the fact that we put slightly taller Rubicon tires and wheels on it, ground clearance is a chronic problem and some of these rutted out roads were pretty challenging.
We finally got to a section of roadway where Jeremy had no choice; like the bumper sticker says, "There's a time to lead, a time to follow, and a time to get out of the way." When you see what the rest of that hill looked like, you can see why he gave it up.

The Jeep Sport is a capable off road vehicle, especially when equipped with 31" MTR tires from a Rubicon, but it does not have the posi-traction rear end, or the air lockers that the Rubicon is equipped with. When you factor in the 4 four inch lift and 35" MTR's, Jeremy could not realistically expect to go through what the Rubicon can.

If you click the photos below to see them full size, you can get an idea how ugly these ruts were.

Lockers and ground clearance make a great deal of difference, as does the snorkel - although both jeeps have them. "How," one might ask, "does a snorkel help in water not more than three feet deep?" To appreciate the value of the snorkel, you need to be driving a jeep in three feet of water and unexpectedly encounter a five foot hole!
Of course, there is more to this than mere mechanical advantage - when you factor in the knowledge, skill and experience of the driver . . . or should I say, "driver team," it was a piece of cake for Megs and Luz.

It's a hard thing for a young man to move over and let the women handle the tough stuff so, naturally, it would be unfair, insensitive and unkind to make fun of him.

Yep, that would be my Meggie with Dook and Lisa Turpin.

What I cannot figure out, is how can a big fat belly look so cute on my Meggie, and so miserably awful on a guy like me?! It just ain't fair.

I didn't expect Jeremy to respond to his baby sister - he's above and beyond all that. On the other hand, if the whole world can get excited because Arnie calls gutless politicos "girly men," I guess Jeremy was entitled to get wound up.

It was exciting, the pictures just don't do it justice, but when the slip-sliding show was over, Jeremy had made it through OK. Good thing -- imagine getting taunted into having to be rescued by the girls.

Once we got clear of the mud, we encountered some pretty steep grades with rocks, roots and deep ruts. Jeremy led the way, uphill and down, with very little tire slippage. By carefully picking his line, he was able to avoid becoming high centered.
Unfortunately, bad things happen on trails like these, and Jeremy finally reached the point where he could not go forward without bending his tie rod, and without posi-traction, he could not back up. Enlarged, the photo of the right rear tire would make a great advertisement for Good Year MTR's. That sharp rock did no damage to the sidewall whatsoever.

Painful though it no-doubt was, Jeremy announced over the CB that he was in trouble. Seeing an opportunity to participate in Jeremy's rescue, Megs came blasting down the hill so she could get in a position to guide Luz. She slipped on a loose rock and tumbled head-long into a small tree that bent down with her, and sprung her right back up again.

Once she was back on her feet, she began guiding Luz down the path. She first tried to guide her from the center of the path like she has seen in the TTC, but that gave me heart burn, so I had her give Luz directions from a position off to the side.
Under Meg's careful, expert guidance, Luz finally got into position to hook up the winch cable. Dook was anxious to get involved, so he used the winch to pull Jeremy back over the rock that held him. I should mention for those who may not know that this is no way to use a winch. Under load, that cable could snap, whip around and cut a child's head off. In this case, Jeremy needed very little help - we probably could have pushed the Jeep backwards by hand so there was no risk.
Once the girls saved Jeremy from the big, bad rock, we paused long enough to take this group photo. That's Justin and Lisa on top.
Once we got moving again, Jeremy slid into a particularly nasty rut. Looking at the pictures makes it clear that picking a good line is everything; this rut, nasty though it was, could have been straddled rather easily.

Unlike the prior case, this was bad enough that I felt it best to handle it myself so I have no photos of the winching operation. It is probably worthwhile to mention that a towel, t-shirt, or anything else of similar nature, can be draped over the winch cable as a safety precaution, but it is not nearly the safety precaution that many people seem to think it is.

The cloth makes it impossible for a snapped cable to whip through the air so it will not be so likely to cut off your head or a limb; nevertheless, a snapped tow hook, or flying chain will kill you just as dead.

Speaking of serious injury, could your child drive your vehicle if you were incapacitated? If you are seriously injured while driving your Saab, chances are that the injury will occur where help is close at hand. Such is not the case with off road vehicles.

Dook is nine years old, but he can drive the Jeep if he has to, and pretty much drive it back thru whatever we may have come thru. It isn't borrowing trouble to be prepared, and common sense tells me that I wouldn't be the first man my age to have a heart attack. My Meggie could give anyone a heart attack.

Don't get me wrong, I DO NOT suggest that you practice emergency action drills with your children - why make them paranoid for no reason?

Click the images to see them full size and you will note that Megs, who had just turned seven (7), is not crying and upset at the thought she might have to rescue Daddy - she's just playing, while becoming more capable and self confidant.
Even if you know you'll never need for the children to be able to drive, those of you with vehicles like this really should give it a try. With the vehicle in low gear and low range in the transfer case, top speed is limited to a crawl. There is very little that can happen at three MPH.
Although the speed of the Jeep is limited to a crawl, it will crawl nearly straight up, so I suppose it would be possible for a child to do something they shouldn't. Anything that could happen will happen slowly though - the adult passenger need only turn off the key.
Once the kids get started driving up hills and down, around obstacles and thru mud holes, it's hard to get them out of the driver's seat. Be sure and allow plenty of time for everyone to have the opportunity.
Of course, there's nothing says that the kids should spend all their time in a machine -- they shouldn't. With a little ingenuity, you can make contests calculated to challenge the children and burn of some of their pent up energy - like running up a rock face.

Of course, every contest has got to have a judge; be sure and pick someone popular as there's something else common to all contests - disputes!

"Ohhh Luuuuuuuuuuuuuz!"

Once everyone was suitably worn down and ready to travel, we made sure that Lisa and Justin knew how much we appreciated their time and trouble. The kids are pretty good about that sort of thing - it only takes one to remember, and the rest chime in on cue.

We left Cromer's and retraced our path back to 461, past the speed trap, and on to Hwy 80 in Somerset where we turned left (East) and drove for just a mile or two before turning right at the fire department sign on to Stab Road. It's a winding, gravel road that you follow for a very short distance before turning right at Short Creek.

Short Creek is on private property belonging to Elwood Taylor. It features a nicely graded, gravel parking lot and a friendly welcome sign. The area is pristine; hopefully, because people are appreciative of his hospitality and pick up after themselves. Hopefully.

From the parking lot, the creek appears to your left, flowing out of a cave in a sheer rock face and travels about 150 feet before disappearing into a cave in another rock face. It's the sort of place that would be cool year around - a truly beautiful place to see.

Considering the way things are, with litigation being the national pass-time, I was surprised to see that swimming, wading, and generally just climbing around, are all permitted by Elwood Taylor. I'm not sure how that is possible these days, but we were certainly grateful to find it that way.

It's a little hard to see in these photos, but a sharp eyed person might note that where Dook started out with two shoes in the first picture, he only has one in the second. Ryan yelled, and I tried to scamper down and grab it as the shoe rushed by, but my scamperer is broke - I wasn't even close.

Fortunately, I have a brand new little scamperer available - part Elf and part Troll, she's uncommonly quick and nimble.

Megan to the rescue! My Meggie loves nothing better than jumping in to save "her boys."

Yep, saved his very life - again!

Of course, nobody would expect to see such selfless heroism, courage, grace and alacrity without a certain amount of showboating . . . nobody who knows Megs anyway.

Like all of her boys, Dook is a patient guy . . . well, all of her boys except maybe Ryan who still gets a a bit tense when Meggie rags on him a little too hard.

I try to keep in mind that it's hard being the child in the middle.

We were with them all day, and I know Lisa and Justin must have had other things to do, but if they ever got tired of us, you'd have never known it. Everytime I looked around for them, I'd find them off in a corner somewhere watching the kids, laughing at their antics, and looking as if they were having a marvelous time.

Lisa Turpin
Justin Ruble

Thanks So Much For This Wonderful Day
God Bless



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