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Midwest Summer K5 Thing

Midwest Summer K5 Thing

Article/photo's courtesy of
Neil Pickett

Disney Oklahoma – August 3rd - 5th

Disney Oklahoma is home to some of the best wheeling in the Midwest. The Grand Lake of the Cherokees is held back by three Dam’s and below these huge hunks of concrete are natural rock Spillways. These spillways have solid rock waterfalls, chutes and hills which make for a challenging wheeling spot, even for most tricked out rigs. August in Oklahoma is particularly hot with temperatures hovering close to 100 degrees. There were many K5 owners who braved the heat in order to have some fun. This “Event” was semi-organized by Steve Frisbie and friends. Steve recently installed a new front suspension on his 85 K5 and needed a good place to test it. We posted information about the event on CK5 in order to get some people together. The turnout was great and fun was had by all.

Spillway #1


Spillway #2


Spillway #3

Friday August 3rd

I met Steve and some friends in Disney late Thursday evening, we stayed at Rogers Cabins. One note on Disney, if you are going wheeling, there is no better place to stay than Rogers Cabins. The cabins have a lot of character and are very reasonably priced. They have plenty of parking for trailers and are located less than a minute from the trails leading into the Spillways.

Rogers Cabins


View of the Shade


The Honeymoon Suite

We got started early Friday in order to beat the heat. We started out at the upper shelf of Spillway #2, we checked out the waterfall from the topside and decided to wait till Saturday to try it. We climbed some of the steps on the hill near the waterfall. This hill seems to be quite challenging. Locking Differentials are a minimum requirement if you plan to traverse these steps and crevasses. Heading up to the upper portion of Spillway #2, we noticed a trail leading into the woods to the East and decided to come back later to it later. Near the Dam at Spillway #2, there are many rock ledges and waterfalls to try. We played around here and climbed our way to the Dam.

Steve Frisbie climbing a ledge


Neil climbing the same ledge

At the top, we turned around and could not believe the view! Heading down the spillway, you can’t help but notice how the water has eroded away the rock and cut a deep path all the way to the lower shelf, or “Playground”. We headed back to the trail that we saw earlier. This trail led us to Spillway #3, which is named Little Blue. Before heading into the main portion of Little Blue, we took a small spur trail down the East side. We drove down this small water chute only to find a large drop-off waterfall at the bottom. We turned around and headed back up the chute. This is a fairly easy drive if you have a spotter. We drove onto the upper shelf of Little Blue, took a quick gander at the very narrow chute carved into the rock. This appeared to be too narrow for a full-size, more on that later. We wanted to find a trail leading to the Playground, which is actually Summerfield Creek.

This creek connects all three Spillways. The only ways to the Playground at either Spillway #2 or #3 is to drive down the waterfalls or take a trial just to the west of Spillway #2 at Highway 28, just about 500 feet East of Rogers Cabins on the South side of the Highway. This trail either leads you to the upper shelf at Spillway #2 or if you continue to the South, you will come out below Spillway #2 into Summerfield Creek. You can enter the Playground from Spillway #1 as well, so we decided enter this way. It is not recommended that you enter the Playground from the Campgrounds near Spillway #3.

To enter here, you would be required to cross Summerfield Creek, and this is not a designated crossing, meaning it is Illegal. After taking a break for lunch and meeting up with Adam and his friends, we headed to Spillway #1 below Pensacola Dam. We drove to the Rock Garden and checked it out. We continued past the Rock Garden and found a trail with a designated stream crossing. We crossed and headed for the Playground. The Playground is fairly flat with many crevasses and another rock garden. We drove around this area and found the trail leading back to Hwy 28. We passed this trail for a bit and crossed the rock garden.

Continuing Northeast, we followed Summerfield Creek to the lower portion of the Waterfall at Spillway #2 and from there we went on to the Waterfall at Spillway #3. We were basically on a pre-run of the area to find out which way to travel between the Spillways. We returned to the trail we saw earlier and showed Adam the upper portion of Spillway #2. Adam and Jared both tried some of the rock ledges without problems. At one point, Adam showed us how strong a Dana 60 and 14 bolt really are, by applying ample throttle to climb a rock ledge.

Adam's K5 Buggy


Jared in his "Heep"

We spent the day wheeling around, taking photos and testing our rigs out. Steve’s 3 link worked well. The end of the day was getting near so we headed back to Rogers Cabins and relaxed in the A/C. Later we met up with Steve and Deana Sharp and we all headed to Goldie’s for dinner. After dinner, Adam and crew headed out to find a hotel. We all anticipated the wheeling tomorrow was going to bring.

Saturday August 4th

Everyone showed up by 6:30 am and we had a quick meet and greet, then headed to the upper shelf at Spillway #2. Arriving at the waterfall, Steve Sharp decided to be the first one to try. He had an open seat so I jumped in. Steve was driving his 1972 K5 Blazer which has been Bobbed 18”, 6” lift, 2.5 ton Rockwells with 6.72 gears, lockers and 44” Super Swampers. This rig has literally a ton of other mods as well. We strapped in and drove to the edge of the waterfall. This fall has about an 8 foot elevation change and is near vertical. To add to the excitement, the water flows enough to wet the rocks so that Moss grows. Steve creeped down the waterfall and to my surprise the 2.5 ton Rockwell’s with inboard braking system stop this rig well. He turned around the rig and pretty much drove straight up without hesitation.

Steve Sharp on the Waterfall


Up the Waterfall

Next Tim decided to give it a try in his 86 Chevy K10 short bed with 1 ton running gear, ORD Doubler, NV4500 tranny, and 38” Super Swampers. Tim lined up the K10, put the Gen2 Doubler in low range and proceeded up the waterfall. He didn’t find the correct line the first time so he backed down and attacked it from a different angle. He started up the fall again and began to loose traction and forward momentum. To our surprise, Tim hammered the throttle and jumped to the top without a problem. That’s the advantage to having 1 ton running gear!

Tim going down the Waterfall


Going up

Next on the list – also sporting 1 ton ‘gear was Adam in his bobbed K5. Adam lined up same as Tim had before him. He also found the waterfall to be difficult and required a little re-adjustment along the way. After a second try, he also hammered the throttle and jumped to the top. Adam has gotten happy with the sawzall after a major rollover a while back in his K5. The only K5 body left is the front flooring, dash, firewall, rockers and partial bedsides. While I watched Adam’s rig on the waterfall, I realized he did not have rocker skids. The only sheetmetal left on Adam’s rig was now mangled, his rockers were both pushed upward about 6”! My rig and many of the other attendees are without rocker skids, so we opted not to try it.

Adam getting ready


Adam climbing the Waterfall

Layne was the next person to try the waterfall. We crept to the edge in Layne’s 88 K5 with ¾ ton axles, 700R4 “Awfulmatic”, NP205 case, 8” of total lift, and 35” SSR Radials. When the front-end drops over this ledge, you are pretty much committed (or should be committed). Layne’s 5-gallon jug of Lemonade started leaking out the top so we had to take a minute to re-adjust it. Actually, I reached back and pulled the lid off making even more of a mess!

We finally dropped off the ledge and the front bumper scraped from the intense angle. The K5 continued downward and the rear bumper caught the rock ledge with a loud, teeth chattering crash. It’s a good thing Layne’s bumpers are built strong; it would have made a pretzel out of a lesser bumper. Layne turned around and aimed the K5 skyward. We partially climbed the waterfall only to find out his front Track Lock was no longer working. After a couple of tries, Layne graciously backed down and we went around to the trail leading to the top of the waterfall.

Layne going down the Waterfall


Going up

When we arrived at the top, Steve Frisbie of Missouri Offroad Outfitters was already going down the waterfall in his 85 M1009 with 3 link front suspension, Gen1 Doubler, and numerous mods. This is the cover truck for the September issue of Fourwheeler magazine. When the front of Steve’s truck dropped off the ledge, his front suspension unloaded to full droop on the driver’s side. This made for some awesome flex pictures. Steve continued down and turned his rig around for the climb back up the waterfall. He lined up and started climbing. The truck was near vertical and the rear bumper decided to be a limiting factor. He could not get the rear tires close enough to the waterfall in order to make the climb. He was wise and didn’t want to back off the waterfall so Tim gladly strapped him up to where is rear tires would grab. The K5 climbed the rest of the way.

Steve going down


Climbing the Waterfall

With all that excitement over, we headed to the upper Spillway #2. Some of the trucks climbed the rock “steps” just Northeast of the waterfall. In the background of the photo below, you can see Layne in his 88, Brian in the 72, Black newer Blazer (didn't get your info-sorry) , and Ross Beach in his 88 K5 Jimmy.

Tim climbing a crevasse

We made our way to a deep washout in the slick rock where several hillclimbs were. Some people opted to pass these by while others tried them. The hillclimbs are marked by rubber from tires where others have tried before. One particular climb was very steep. Chad tried the climb in his 95 Z71 Equipped with 14-bolt semi-floater, Dana 44 front axle conversion and 38” Swampers. This truck looks like a factory done job. Chad also found some rock ledges around the base of Spillway #2.

Chad climbing a steep hill


Flexing it up

I made my way up the hillclimbs and saw the rest of the group. We all took turns trying some of the rock ledges around the area. Steve Sharp was our trail leader for the weekend and he showed us how to climb just about every obstacle there. Ken was on hand with his 72 K5 Blazer sporting half ton running gear equipped with Warn shafts up front and Warn Full Floater kit in the rear, Lockers, 3.73 gears, TPI 400, NV4500, ORD Doubler and 35” Geolanders. Ken tested out his 4.0:1 gearing on most of the rock ledges and climbed right up. This rig is one of the easiest vehicles to drive on the rocks. Put it in super low range and relax, it will go just about anywhere. Ken’s wife Katia also took over the wheel and tried some of the rock ledges, without a problem.

Ken at Spillway #2


Climbing a rock ledge

Chad tested his Z71 out on a lot of the rock ledges and climbed without a problem. Brian Forrester was there in his pristine Orange 1972 K5 Blazer equipped with 4” lift, rollcage, 33” tires and Weld Super Single II rims. This rig looks very nice and is very functional. Brian crawled to the upper shelf and played around on the rock shelves and hill climbs.

Brian Forrester's 72 K5

Ross, in his stock 88 K5 Jimmy climbed to the upper area of Spillway #2. He opted to watch all the crazies try to break parts.

Neil had “Mudzer” ready for the rocks. I climbed some of the hill climbs near the upper Spillway #2. I made my way up to the rock steps on the right hand side of the spillway and climbed them – to my surprise. I later tried a very tough rock wall and only made it half way up before my skid plate made contact and ceased progress. I graciously backed down and spent the rest of the morning successfully climbing rock shelves and ledges, which are abundant in Spillway #2.

Neil trying a rock ledge


Another rock ledge

Brett Cox was along with his White 91 K5 equipped with 33” tires and stock suspension. He cruised around on the slick rock and provided a fine example of a slightly modified K5.

Deana cruised around in her Burban with ¾ ton running gear and lockers. This truck is no slouch, as I found out later during the night run. More on that later.

Deana's Burban on the Rocks

The rest of the group spent the morning trying every challenge the upper portion of Spillway #2 could offer. Some of us took a break for Breakfast at Crossroads Café in Langly, OK. After breakfast Brett decided to hit the water in his Ski-Boat, Tim and Jeff followed. Ken jumped in with me for a quick run to the parts store.

We later met up with Steve in his 72 K5 and Deana in her Burban. We were trying to meet up with the group at Spillway #1. Steve and Deana both know this area well. We took a shortcut near the golf course, which led us directly south of the rock garden in Spillway #1. We all spent the afternoon crawling around on the rocks. I sustained my first trail damage of the weekend as my passenger bedside made contact with a large rock. It bent my rear bumper in a 90-degree angle and caved in the ¼ panel. Frisbie tried to copy my damage on his K5, until Layne picked the correct line and spotted him out of danger. Steve returned the favor to Layne by picking the correct line; but the Detroit Locker decided it would take a different course and put the K5 into a boulder. Layne worked the K5 away from the boulder only to find minimal damage.

Layne getting crunched!

Brian climbed a rock ledge in his 72, smoking the tires all the way up! Ken’s wife Katia had been out, driving the 72 K5 around looking for us. She showed up and drove around in the K5. Ken took over and crawled around in the rock garden.

Ken in the rock garden

We decided to head to the Playground, which is on the lower shelf of #2 and #3 Spillways. We followed the Sharp’s and took in the scenery. Several of the “stockers” had a blast flexing and testing their driving skills in the rock gardens. Later in the day, the group split up and we returned to Rogers Cabins for a late lunch. We loaded up and headed to the natural spring fed creek near Spillway #3. On the way, Jared pretzeled his front draglink in the rocks. Layne stayed back to help. Frisbie, Ken and I climbed our K5’s onto a shelf of rock and took pictures. We all eventually took a dip in the spring fed creek. The weather was terribly hot so the cool water felt great! Brian and Ross were already there. Layne made it finally after working on Jared’s Jeep. We walked back to the rock ledge at Spillway #3 and Adam said he was ready to try the narrow chute named “Lil Blue”. He crawled into the chute and it was very apparent a fullsize would have some difficulty.

Adam’s K5 has been chopped and readied for this type of terrain so he continued to make his way up the chute. He was battling the ever-popular GM steering problems. His truck just could not turn in such tight quarters. On several occasions, Adam’s K5 was near vertical. Adam trusted our spotting abilities and kept trying. After several very intense tries, we decided to give him a little boost with the winch cable. We connected it up front on the roll cage and gave him a slight tug. This straightened his truck, and he was able to continue the climb up the waterfall. You have to give this guy credit, this was definitely not child’s play. This climb is gnarly; even for a smaller 4x4. With the day coming to an end, we traveled back to Rogers Cabins and rested for the night run. Some of the group said their good-byes and headed out.

Night Run

After Dark, we met up with Russ Hogan of Russ Hogan’s Off-Road RV Park and Campground. Russ is a Disney native and knows the trails well. Russ readied his 1970 Mercedes Uni-Mog and we headed to the Playground. Steve Sharp was trail leader for the evening and Russ would help out with providing assistance as needed. Russ cruised to the end of the trail and waited. We started out by crossing Summerfield Creek. We followed the bluff edge to the south and entered the wooded area. We followed a creek bed to our first hill climb. The hill was very loose powder dirt and rocks. The group headed up the hill one at a time. Tim had trouble with his D60 front hubs. Both hubs blew at the same time, leaving him in 2wd. The hill was very steep, so Tim grabbed the cable and winched his truck to the top. He drove the remaining trail in 2wd. This trail was very narrow with trees scraping the sides of trucks. I received some damage while trying to squeeze between two trees on a major downhill.

Frisbie had similar results on his K5. Deana managed to keep the Suburban clear of trees – this simply amazed me! We came to a very steep hill climb with an off camber turn near the top. Ken was in front of me and I watched as he crawled up the hill. Each person would call out on the CB after successfully climbing each hill. Ken called out and I headed up the hill. After reaching the top, we could see tail lights slowly disappearing down the other side. I climbed out of my K5 for a quick peek as Ken crawled down the hill. I was shocked to see I was nearly looking straight down!

The trees were pretty close to the trail, plus halfway down revealed some slick rock. On my turn, I crawled down the hill only to find out granny low was just too fast for crawling down this hill. I opted to clutch it and let the brakes do their job. That worked well for a few seconds, but getting near to the slick rock, the brakes locked up and started skidding. I released the clutch to slow skidding, and down the hill we went – sliding and dodging trees! I am not sure if others experienced the same phenomenon, but it sure gave me the pucker factor! My passenger Lara cheered loudly as we made it down the hill. We continued with the group on another creek bed. This led us back to the Playground. We all headed back to Rogers Cabins and talked about the day’s events. Tim made it back and showed his damage from the trails. He peeled up the inner fender well, cracked the frame at the famous GM frame breaking spot, and destroyed his hubs. He still had fun, regardless.

On another note

I talked to Steve Sharp who lives in Tulsa. Steve and his wife Deana wheel this area pretty frequently. They both were keen on telling us about the latest happenings in the Disney area. There have been some talks about closing Disney. Some locals would agree with this proposal, while others strongly disagree. "Fourwheeling in Disney helps the community" is among many quotes from locals. Here is some information Steve Sharp provided me with.

In Disney Oklahoma we have a unique place to four wheel like non other in the Midwest. But like most places that are open for four wheeling we have come under fire by a small group of local people that would rather the four wheelers not be there. They have filled a petition with GRDA (Grand River Dam Authority), the power company who owns the property that we use - to close our access to this property. We have filled an opposing petition with GRDA to keep the area open.

Some of the complaints that are being used are noise, dangerous traffic, trash and disrupted wild life. Some of these complaints can be reduced in merit by the four wheelers doing their part and tread lightly. That is probably the single most important thing for us to do to preserve our sport not only in Disney but every where else in the country. By not doing our part we give the opposition ammunition against our sport.

That about sums it up... See ya on the trails!​
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