The Ritter

After spending yesterday wandering around the crowded park on foot, we decided to run today on wheels with an off-road adventure deep in the forest. Initially, we didn’t see too many interesting dirt roads in this part of the state, but there were two I found that seemed like maybe they could be promising, even if not particularly challenging: Muse Mountain Trail and the ominously mononymed Ritter.

We started on the Muse Mountain Trail and got a few neat photos of the new Ranger in action! And we even got to break out the drone a couple times. We learned a couple things: it’s difficult to do under dense tree cover because of the risk of collision (as well as the conservative on-board collision sensors); smooth sweeping cinematic motions take practice; it’s a whole new world of camera angle possibilities and that takes practice, too. Also it’s hard to divide one’s attention between drone cinematography and driving or spotting. But nonetheless, it is definitely cool. But might be more effective somewhere in the southwest.

Muse was fun, with a couple rutted sections, and a few lovely clearings to explore. Mercifully, it was cooler today than yesterday, and we spent a lot of it in shade thanks to the density of the forest. We took a short picnic in the middle at a backcountry campsite.

We survived Muse no worse for the wear. Evan did get him self properly stuck in a surprise mud pit while trying to avoid a big muddy puddle of unknown depth. That was amusing. But to the Rover’s credit, Evan managed to drive himself out of it without aid. It did leave the Rover smelling of baked mud for the a while though.

After the Muse trail, it was a short drive to the start of Ritter, and immediately I thought back to the last reviewer of the trail who said he did it with a trailer. Pretty, but easy. Oh well.

Until very suddenly, it was not.

(From George.) The shame. The embarrassment. The fear.

Looks like washout and flooding have hit Arkansas too. I was in the lead and everything was going okay until I got to some deep ruts. I ended up chocking a wheel on a rock and stalling as I tried to cross a ditch, which, turns out, was probably Xterra the Younger’s way of saving himself from some some serious passenger door damage.

It was a rutted downhill section without much in the way of a place to stop and re-assess along the way. And it was a good fifteen minute walking distance end-to-end. It just. Kept. Going.

(Forgive me; that was entirely too long. But I’m holed up with what is likely mild covid and I’m bored. So I’m calling it an exercise in archival for posterity.)

After we got the Xterra through it, we walked back up get the Ranger and the Rover, one at a time. It was quite the ordeal, but even in the moment, it was pretty fun. And the Ranger handled it admirably, leaving us all to wonder what the Renegade would have done. Even with generous wheel articulation on these three, we were seesawing on 2 and 3 wheels multiple times. The Renegade might have had to sprout wings and fly, which, admittedly, we’ve seen it do. Did I mention the Ranger is still on temp tags? Helluva shakedown.

That was the worst of it. From there, just a narrow track through increasingly dense forest until a beautiful creek crossing to rejoin the main forest road back to the highway.

This ended up being exactly the drive day we wanted. Victorious, the drive back to our mansion in the hills was short. We picked up burger fixins’ and had one last sunset on the porch. The (relatively) cooler weather held, and with a breeze and lower humidity, it was just about perfect.