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The Tellico Hummer Meet
September 27-29, 1996

The Upper Tellico Off Road Vehicle area consists of approximately 8000 acres located roughly (literally!) 12 miles northwest of Murphy NC....at the very western-most tip of the state where it borders Tennessee and Georgia, and lies deep within the lush Nantahala National Forest. It is a high-elevation basin formed by the surrounding Unicoi Mountains, with elevations ranging from 2500' up to 4980'. Having been heavily but selectively logged from about 1950 untill 1969, most of the well worn trails are the remnants of logging and skidder trails. After the logging operations ceased the area became increasingly known for it's rugged off-road vehicle challenges.

The U.S. Forest Service obtained the land in 1980, and recognized the fact that off-roaders, lacking a specific place to go, are likely to find or make other trails at random. Thus, a planned ORV area was developed, complete with marked and graded trails and a very well done trail map. Several of the older redundant trails are closed off for reforestation and preservation, but none of the trails are dead end, and many loop back into one another.

A very dense and magically lush forest canopy covers the entire area to the point of seeming quite dark in some areas. We got the rain forest effect at no extra charge as it rained Friday and Saturday....sometimes at the rate of one inch per hour. Alhough the heavy rain and associated mini flash floods did make the trails we traveled much more interesting, and the creek fording areas much deeper, it also limited us to the "intermediate" trails. The "advanced" trails required a winch, mandatory underbody protection, trail tools and plenty of hair on your ..er..uh..back. With 40+ Hummers divided somewhat evenly into four groups of variously equipped trucks and variously experienced drivers the four trail leaders wisely decided on Saturday not to tackle the advanced trails. Even the brochure warned one to expect a certain amount of body damage, as the advanced trails contained Rubicon-sized boulder passes.

I got a late start out....alone....on Friday and ventured off onto Trail Four in search of one of the groups. Though I did have distant radio contact with one of the groups it was a creepy two hours before I met them at the connector at Trails Four and Five. Ahh....the warm sight of other humans and Hummers. I tagged along with them on through Trail Five to complete the day. There were a couple of occasions on Trail Five in which I would have surrendered my Master Card for an airlift out. I now know the real reason for the airlift hooks. And I really know first-hand the reason for the underbody protection.

Friday evening, back at the motel parking lot in Murphy and while watching the service team from Boomershine Hummer repair some of the trail wounds I managed to wheedle George Knight of Thompson Hummer into letting me ride with him the next day. With a former news photography background I really wanted the chance to photograph the event....difficult to do and also participate without holding up the group. George brought his '95 Turbo Diesel Wagon, silver, and with roof rack to the expedition. Though a little bulkier than the soft tops and also running the GSA tires, George breezed the trails without any major damage to the truck. There were a few moments of anal retention when I smugly pictured my Hummer sitting safely in the motel parking lot.

For me, Tellico was my first participation in a planned off road event.....actually much more like a four-wheel-drive 'Boot Camp'. It was cold, it was wet, stressful at times, and physically challenging....but I learned a lot about what I can do and a lot about the amazing capabilites of a Hummer.

And, after hitting the local Wal-Mart on Friday and Saturday evening for clean and dry clothes, boots, raincoat, umbrella, silcone waterproofing spray, etc,...I'll know what to pack next trip.

Hope you enjoy the photos.

Rick Crider


Several streams leading to the Tellico River provided ample fording opportunities as seen here at a somewhat swollen and rushing Trail 5 crossing. The higher water level and muddiness also hid the rocky bottom.....navigation by sound and feel.


This Trail 5 teeter-totter provided a wheel raising experience for everyone....and a prime oppurtunity to leave a paint sample or a fiberglass fragment from the left front corner...but excellent trail spotters got everyone through.


The infamous George Knight of Thomspon Hummer in his trademark felt fedora helps spot this new red soft top up a rock 'stairstep'. Notice the position of the white Hummer in the background to get a feel for the height of the climb. This particular Hummer, unfortunately didn't have underbody protection and his rocker panels and floor pans suffered for it.


More Tellico Photos