We’ve had a pretty good autumn really. There’s been plenty of rain and the Scenic Rim is greener than usual for this time of year. That has extended over the range and throughout the Southern Downs. That is, except for The Springs, just south of Warwick. It’s dry here and the tracks are splitting in layers as you drive over them. So what was normally easy is now eventful. What was hard is now extreme and un-drivable.

We’re not strangers to The Springs. As a club, we do more trips here than any other 4WD Park. It’s even better when Mountain Man Jones leads the trips here. He know the place so well and has accumulated more “I got up Beer O’clock Hill” stickers than what the Park has left to hand out. Only he can tell you about how that track looked 15 years ago on a cold and windy dusty day in June. Or how “we can all drive this track because some lunatic did it in a stock standard vehicle with road tyres and factory suspension”.

One thing we all love about The Springs is that for every challenging track, there is an alternate easy track to take in its place.  That is, if you lose your nerve on the main tracks.

So it was, yet again at The Springs. Only this time there had been no rain and the shale was cracked and very very slippery. Stuff that was easy only a few months ago was leaving vehicles stopped in silly places. Not fair really.

Collecting firewood at The Springs is always fun and we went out and chopped up a behemoth of fallen timber to give us enough for our weekend and for those that followed us.  We filled up a Ute and as we were about to leave, a couple of kids rocked up and asked if they could borrow the chainsaw as their father had got his vehicle stuck against a tree. Whilst handing over chain saws to children is not our normal daily behavior we did send off a team to help the luckless driver who had slid down a slope and wedged himself against a tree. Fuel was pouring out of the fuel filler against the tree and it was not a difficult decision to make about saving the life of the tree. The chaps were doing everything possible to get into the Guinness Book of records for the most ridiculous things to do in a 4WD. The six cylinder engine was running on 3. They were travelling alone.  They had no recovery gear. The list is endless. Had they used the chainsaw, the whole thing would have gone up in a puff of smoke. We eventually towed them out and let them trot off on their merry way.

We were very nearly late for the Beer O’clock Challenge. True to form Jeremy launched the Jeep off the starting blocks and newly empowered with a supersized FA18 Hornet Supercharger the Jeep launched itself up the hill. It is fair to say that unlike any other time, Jeremy did not make it look easy. The Jeep was at the outer edge of its performance to successfully climb the hill. But climb it it did.

Next it was Scott who stepped up to have a go.

And have a go he did. Full revs and total commitment he steadfastly approached the step and although the sounds of agony shrieked out from the engine, it just appeared that the groundspeed was lacking.  He slammed into the first step and bounced back a bit and kept the revs high. Only to stop dead in his tracks at the exact point where he will either go over backwards or teeter on a balancing knife-edge. Chilling stuff! But as those of us with more brains and more wisdom and much much less courage offered advice from the safety of flat ground, Scott gingerly reversed back down the hill.

Knowing where he went wrong, a second attempt was made with better success, but alas, not complete success, as yet again the hill put up its barriers one more time to devastating effect.

We all have the greatest respect for Scott, and for anyone who attempts Beer O’clock Hill. Particularly if you don’t succeed. Even though we have that respect and knowing full well that we will never attempt it, we still stuck it to him in the tradition of Qld 4X4 Club, with all the wisdom and advice that can only be offered by those who are far too chicken to have a crack themselves. Scott maintained a stoic level of decorum but Jeremy sent him a photo of his “I got up Beer O’clock Hill” sticker, while he was standing next to him.

Scott will get us back. He always does.

On our Saturday drive we did the usual lap of the park and headed toward Lovers Hill. On our way up we passed what I now call Ollie’s Crevice. This, because last time we were there he dropped his tail end into a huge rut and it was a mere technicality that it wasn’t a rollover. But as Ollie looked at the dirt, we easily winched him out and I think it only fitting that he gets naming rights to it. As there were a couple of new drivers we did have one steep downhill where the gap was a little close and barring any slippages we were lucky not to have had a nose to tail on the way down. Such was the grip at The Springs this weekend.

Our newest members Dean and Rachel rocked up on the Saturday morning just as we were about to leave for the first drive of the day. He quickly set up camp and we were off on our morning drive. It was great to have Dean and Rachel on the trip. At the campfire that night Dean showed us all his campfire cooking prowess and as he developed his meal from a roast, to a casserole to a curry with rice, we all watched in awe as he spent 5 hours developing a meal that we never saw in its final state as we ended up going to bed.  To be honest, we were a bit lacking in the drinking department on the Saturday night as we tested the theory that the beer tastes better on a Friday. The wise scholarly academic who spoke those words was proven correct and as a result we were a little second hand all weekend. We did however; recommend to Dean that he should start on tonight’s dinner at breakfast time if he wanted any chance of it being eaten on that day. But a campfire oven King he is and a welcome addition to the club.

So there goes another Mountain Man Jones weekend at The Springs. Beer O’clock Hill was conquered but still left us disappointed. The tracks were deceptively tricky, the campfire socializing was epic and as usual we can only end with “we will return” as QLD 4X4 Club always does.

Trip Leader: Jeremy Jones
Report: Don Bambry