|2016 Windrock Spring Jamboree
By Seth Fargher
Living on the east coast can make attending off-road events somewhat of a challenge. Since most of the major events are out west, attendance usually involves a plane ticket and significantly more expense than if I could just hop in the car and drive a few hours.
A few times a year however I get lucky and the UTV industry comes to me. This past weekend was one of those opportunities and I headed about 4 hours up the road to Oliver Springs Tennessee for the Windrock Park Spring Jamboree. Windrock holds a similar event twice a year and attracts riders from all over the Midwest and east coast. This years event drew upwards of 6,000 people.
Located about 45 minutes north of Knoxville, Windrock Park is an amazing network of over 300 miles of trails spanning 72,000 acres of private land, making it the largest private offroad park in the nation. The park itself is an off-roaders paradise and caters to mountain bikers, motorcycles, Jeeps and ATVs in addition to UTVs. Windrock Ventures has spared no expense developing the park into a destination location for offroad enthusiasts. The campground features hundreds of primitive and full hookup spaces, bath houses and for those who prefer to camp in style, there are a number of cabins on the property available for rent.
Im a firm believer in teaming up with the right folks to help make a trip more memorable and for this trip, I hit a home run. Anthony Umphrey of Tonys Toys is a Windrock regular who leases a small tract of land right next to the park. Youll know when you pass Toyland; just look for the giant TT engulfed in flames!
Anthony graciously put me up for the weekend and gave me access to his fleet of machines, including his new Yamaha YXZ1000. Ive spent some time in the new YXZ at Glamis but I was very curious to see how this machine would do in the woods.
The layout of the Windrock Park in relation to the campground and event area is a little confusing. Youll arrive at the campground first which is connected by a trail (although machines can also ride on the asphalt within the park area) and all roads lead to the Windrock Park General Store and day use area at the base of the mountain. Windrock Hollow is the designated event area located about a half mile from the general store which features a drag strip, mud bog and an intense obstacle course called the Windrock Challenge. This is also where the vendor area was set up.
After taking a stroll through the vendor area and saying hi to a few friends Anthony and I jumped in the YXZ to go check out the trails. With over 300 miles of trials, you need more than a weekend to really get a feel for the area. We headed up trail 2, one of the more popular trails because its the closest trailhead to the event area, and made our way up the mountain to a spot known as the overlook.
The view from up top was spectacular. Miles of rolling hills as far as you can see with the Smokey Mountain range off in the distance. A lot of the trees are just now getting their leaves back but I can only image how vibrant the colors are in the fall.
Just a short drive from the overlook is a wind farm featuring twenty some massive windmills used for generating energy. Im no stranger to windmills but Ive usually only seen them from a plane or passing vehicle. The trail actually lets you get pretty close to them; so close in fact you can hear the blades of the windmills cutting through the air as they rotate. I knew these things were big but I never knew just how big. The windmills are definitely worth checking out if you make a trip to Windrock Park.
After coming back down off the mountain, the evenings group ride was concluding with a bonfire and cookout back at the Windrock Hollow. The meal was free to all participants and included in the price of admission. $15 gets you access to the vendor area and all of the events throughout the weekend though an additional land use permit must be purchased if you intend on riding the trails. Passes can be purchased for one, two, three or four days or an annual pass is $88 for the year.
Since Saturday looked to be a busy day I got up early and made my way back down to the Yamaha booth in vendor row in hopes of taking a YXZ out on the trail. Yamaha and Polaris were the only vendors on display but only Yamaha was offering demo rides. Being with the media has its perks and although Yamaha wasnt demoing the YXZ at Windrock, District Manager Curtis Blanton and I took one out for a spin on the Yamaha test course. The YXZ isnt an ideal machine for this type of terrain and for comparison sake, we took a Wolverine around the same course. Stay tuned for a woods review on the YXZ1000R very soon.
Organizers had a full schedule of activities planned for Saturday which included a poker run, the Windrock Wide Open race as well as an obstacle course, drag race and mud bog. Since the events were pretty well back to back starting at 1 oclock, our last opportunity to get any trail time was Saturday morning. Anthonys son Chris planned to race the YXZ in the Wide Open race later that day so he was eager to get some more seat time. I climbed into a highly modified RZR S 800 and we headed back up trail 2.
With several thousand enthusiasts in attendance, the trails can get pretty congested, especially those nearest to the campground. Getting out early is your best bet and picking trails that will take you north, deeper into the trail system is your best bet for avoiding the crowd and the dust. We did our best with the limited time we had and snaked back up the hill. For being cut right out of a mountain, it doesnt have that complete mountainside feel where there is a hill on one side and a cliff on the other. The trails are plenty wide allowing for room to pass if one is kind enough to pull over and allow you by.
The Wide Open races provide anyone with a competitive spirit an opportunity to line it up and there were classes for just about everyone. The race consisted of 3 laps on a course that was a little over a mile long however with the dust as bad as it was, whoever got the holeshot was pretty much guaranteed the win.
While most of the competitors are locals we were surprised to to see Magnum Offroad’s John Deere Gator RSX850i of Danny Rosenzweig line up then we realized one of the competitors had purchased the machine from Danny and brought it out to play.
The obstacle course was my favorite event of the day as it had some challenging obstacles, particularly for UTVs. Ive seen endurocross-like sections at WORCS races but typically the UTVs bypass this area. The Windrock Challenge course was open to all competitors and three brave souls attempted it on side by sides. Impressively, their times were faster than a number of the ATV competitors.
By the time the drag race event took place quite a crowd had gathered in Windrock Hollow. When organizers say they encourage participation they mean it. People were racing everything from mini bikes to utility quads and even one full on drag banshee with a wheelie bar and paddle tires. For being a hardpack, dirt drag strip in the middle of the Tennessee mountains, some of these folks take it very seriously.
Hoping to improve upon his less than stellar finish in the wide open race, Chris entered a customers RZR XP Turbo that they recently completed at their shop. Pushing 200 horsepower, he new traction would be an issue and it was, causing an elimination in his 2nd heat race. Chris bounced back in the Unlimited class however making it to the final race and taking second place behind a Can-Am Renegade running nitrous. When they say Unlimited they mean it! Straight up, head to head, single elimination regardless of who or what type of vehicle you end up next to.
The mud bog and awards ceremony rounded out the festivities for the night with Brandon Capps being the lucky winner of a new Yamaha Wolverine. While I wasnt sure what to expect, I was pleasantly surprise by the turnout and blown away by the riding area. Although this event may not pull in as many attendees as some of the larger events out west, the folks here are every bit as passionate about UTVs and absolutely come to have a good time.
More information about Windrock Park can be found on their website at:www.windrockpark.com
Photos by Seth Fargher and Rob Welton
Windrock Spring Jamboree Photos: