It was obvious almost immediately that this was not your average gathering of everyday riders as 4x4 ATV owners descended on the small town of Jacksonville, Texas, for the record-breaking third annual High Lifter ATV Mud Nationals. The 6000-plus people doubled last year's attendance record. And with more entrants in each class, along with participants from as far away as Canada, Alaska and Florida, High Lifter has earned the right to call this event a National.
With large organized motocross, TT, flat track and even ice races, the High Lifter folks answered the need for 4x4 competitors to have an event of their own. Don't think for a moment that jumping on a 4x4 ATV and diving into a waist-deep pit of thick mud is an easy task. Riders practice for hours, methodically positioning themselves ever so precisely about their mounts to find the perfect balance and grip to get these tricked-out machines through the mud in the least amount of time.
With the large volume of response on the High Lifter web site chat room and the 17,000-active-member ATV forum (www.highlifter.com), it was apparent this year's event would require much more space to accommodate the expected increase in numbers. So Team High Lifter was off to find another facility, and the Mud Creek Off-Road Park was its choice. Located in the pine forests of east Texas, the park has 2500 acres of wet and dry trails nestled between rolling hills and densely wooded creek bottoms. Amenities include 70 RV camping spots with full hookups, an event barn, a high-pressure wash rack and restrooms complete with warm-water showers. For those who don't need full hookups, almost the entire park can be accessed with any size RV for your own secluded camping spot atop a hill or low in a valley.
Mud Creek was also home to an enormous vendor section filled with SuperTrapp, DynoJet, Maxxis Tires, JE Pistons and Dayco, to name a few. High Lifter even had a retail store with a large assortment of products and its latest casual wear. However, the crown jewel once again had to be Yamaha, with its big blue semi and every ATV in its 2005 line on display, all under a mammoth 2500-square-foot tent.
Getting things started was the DynoJet Bad 2 Da Bone competition, which saw some of the wildest and meanest-looking ATVs known to man. These quads were outfitted with just about every modification imaginable-all you noticed at first were components such as the snorkels, extended exhaust and lift kits. But upon further inspection, you discovered trolling motors mounted above the rear axle to help propel the quad through deep water and paddles attached to the rear axle to assist with forward movement in case of a high center. Kenny Gaines won this event aboard his chromed-out red Polaris.
For the JE Pistons Web Cam Poker Run, contestants were required to take a map and navigate their way around the Mud Creek park, through swamplike mud sections and up hillclimbs to four locations where they were presented with a standard playing card. After finding all four spots, they returned to the start-finish line to receive the last card. The highest and lowest five-card poker hands were the winners. Hunter Hankins and Colt Resh took the highest and lowest prizes, respectively.
The SuperTrapp Mud Bogs were the highlight of the competition on day two. Entrants were divided into four classes: SRA (Straight Rear Axle), IRS (Independent Rear Suspension), Maxxis Mud Mama Shootout and Open. The basic format was each heat winner advanced to the semifinals and then that winner earned his position in the main.
The SRA class dropped into the mud pit first, and Minnesotan Mike Walker aboard his Kawasaki 750 twin took home the first-place hardware, followed by Mike McAnesby and Tommy Pullis.