Me in my Land Rover IIA 88 fording the stream leading to the site (Photo by Ben)
Last summer fellow OVLR Member Ben Smith and I decided to visit the site of the old Nazi Bund Camp in Pompton Lakes (or Riverdale? I've also heard it called Federal Hill), NJ. I had heard about it growing up but hadn't been able to pinpoint the location until just recently. The camp was one of a number set up by the Germans sometime in the 30s as recuitment/intelligence gathering/pre-invasion force locations. Another Nazi Bund Camp site was located in Hackettstown on Scholey's mountain, but the land is now a private camp. They were rounded up in '38 or '39 from what I have been told. I don't know what their fate was after that. Kind of a scary thought.
After a short drive to the entrance to the area we pulled off the road next to a wide stream and engaged our hubs. Second low and into the stream. It was about 50 feet wide at that point and bumper deep - we were pushing nice bow waves. A short rocky climb up the opposite bank and we were out. We continued on to a clearing where a Jeep, a Land Cruiser, and several ATV's were parked. All were drinking and having a good time but were friendly enough. We looked up the main trail up the mountain. Suddenly I was beginning to feel that this wasn't such a good idea after all. It was really steep. The fellow in the Land Cruiser suggested an easier path to the left. Ben led the way without hesitation. I followed and stopped at the base as Ben began the climb. It had been over a year since I had heard another 2.25 litre under load with transmission and diffs whirring away as Ben climbed the slope. It sounded good. He seemed to have a little difficulty at the crest but was soon over.
I started up. I was a bit apprehensive as this was the steepest terrain I had ever attempted. All went smoothly until just before the crest, where the trail was very rocky and twisty. I had my right foot firmly wedged against the transmission bulge in the firewall as I was bouncing like crazy, and I found it difficult to judge my path with the tire on the hood. As I neared the top I saw a fairly sharp rock imbedded in the trail. There was no way around it. I was just about to reach the rock when I began to loose traction. Ben was carefully spotting me and I followed his hand signs, but I was sure I was going to lose a tire to that rock. Then suddenly the wheels caught, and I was up and over. Great fun!
We go out and surveyed the section then continued on up to the first cut off leading to the lower end of the Bund Camp. We stopped and got a good look at the well and some of the remaining plumbing then heard continuous horn blowing coming down the mountain. Some very drunken yahoos in a big Ford pickup along with 2 Land Cruisers and some more ATVs surrounded us. I had a really bad feeling about this as they were very rowdy and profane except for the Land Cruiser driver. But they turned out to be really friendly and just wanted to know more about our Rovers.
After we talked for awhile, the most drunken yahoo (the one who had been blowing his horn the whole time he was in his vehicle) tried to goad Ben into making a run into a rather deep looking mud pit about 30 feet long. But both Ben and I were too sensible to fall for it so I began to walk back to my Rover to try a different trail... SPLOOOOSHHH! I turned around and where is Ben???? Going nowhere fast in the bottom of the mud pit.
I back up to his rear to pull him out with my handy dandy $10 ABP tow rope, and one, two three tries and BANG!!! So much for that tow rope (I guess it must have been a non-genuine part). And his Rover didn't budge an inch. I was amazed that Ben's Rover was still running, as the exhaust was well under water producing that distinctive Camel Trophy burble. Ben says his Rover is sinking as I get back in my Rover to try to pull him from the front. I don't give his statement much thought. Ben produces this big mother rope and proceeds to tie it to his Warn 8000 pound winch. Hmmm... I could have sworn that winch was above the water just a few minutes ago? Suddenly Ben's Rover dies. We try WD-40 on the wires. No good. This is going to be more difficult than I thought. We hook up the rope to my 88 and try a pull at about a 30 degree angle (no room to pull direct). No good. I pull around to the back again to try with the rope. Once, twice, three times. Ben gets out and begins to push and rock his Rover. The loss of the 170 lb. or so plus Ben's pushing causes the Rover to begin to move. One more try and it's out. Ben wipes the water from the inside of his distributor cap and he's going again.
We try several more trails, some impassable, attempting to steer clear of the other folks. After another steep climb further up the mountain We begin to search for a path to an area with a sheer drop off to an adjacent quarry. I am beginning to feel more confident at this point. We park near where we think it is and walk. The drop off is very near and quite spectacular. Several hundred feet straight down and a view clear to the Manhattan skyline, with the Empire State and Twin Towers clearly visible. We take more photos and decide to head back, saving the rest of the mountain for another day.
On the way down, Ben toots his horn as he enters an adjacent trail then backs up quickly to avoid the now extremely drunken yahoo in the Ford Pickup barrelling up the mountain. We let them pass and Ben starts down first. He takes the path with the sharp rock that we came up. I've read how much axle articulation the coil sprung Rovers have, but I was amazed to see the tremendous amount of flexing the drivetrain of Ben's 88 demonstrated on the way down. It was clear the going down was far more difficult than going up and Ben waved me off to another trail to the left. First low, foot off the brakes. Woa! these rocks were a little too big to just idle over and I had to stab the brakes to keep the momentum down. It turned out to be the better choice as I reached the bottom well ahead of Ben. His section was really difficult, but he navigated it with no breaks or dings.
We headed back through the woods to the stream and took turns crossing back and forth and shooting photos of each other pushing bow waves. Great fun! Ben runs out of film so I head over to the far bank to shoot him coming back across and park out of the way. I stand on the edge as he enters the stream pushing a nice bow wave, which grows larger in the viewfinder until it breaks over my sneakers. I wonder when Ben will turn to make the well used crossing point then realize that he is continuing upstream! BEN, NOOOOOOO!!!
As Ben heads upstream to spawn (notice the waterline on his Rover) I run back to my Rover to get ahead of him. I find him a few feet from the seldom used exit point in the river stopped dead. We try the WD-40 and wiping out the distributor again but the Rover won't turn over (and you can't hand crank it with the winch in place). Great, another dead pull. So we try Ben's come-along. After pulling it a foot or so I just about collapse . Geez, you have to be a weight lifter or something to use one of these things (I guess Camel Trophy will have to wait another year for me). So finally Ben gives in and decide to use the his trusty winch. He spools it out and hands me the hook. I hook it to my towing pintle and hop in. First gear, low, Ben in his Rover steering - he's moving... right into a tree! I stop and back up. We push his Rover back so that he can steer around a rather large branch that was about to take out his roof rack that was out of his field of vision. Try again. Success! And the Rover is running, thanks to Ben's quick use of clutch and gear. I have to admit that winch sure came in handy. However, watching Ben spool the cable back using his fingers around the drum seemed like kind of a drag. I'll bet that with a working controller that winch could be downright useful.
It felt pretty good to have been able to tackle that route without breaking anything. It was pretty serious in spots. Now we unlocked the hubs and back into 2 wheel high. On the way back I notice that the brakes work... ineffectively. After a couple of stops they are back to normal but It was pretty unnerving the first time. Ben reminds me when we stop at my place of the need to dry out your brakes after fording. Next time I'll remember.
After we got cleaned up and dried out we went out for burgers at this 100+ yr. old barn bar in Wycoff that is not allowed to advertise as they are in a residential area. A great place and a great end to a great day. One thing about bad lighting in bars or restaurants, not only does it make the homliest of the opposite sex look rather attractive, but when your clothes are splattered with mud it isn't quite so obvious.
The one thing that Ben and I agreed that could have made it even a little bit better would have been if our friend Russel Dushin could have made it with his Land Rover Nigel. Unfortunately, Russ's wife works in Boston, Russ lives in NY state, and this happened to be a conjugal visit weekend for the Dushins in Boston. Next time we'll get Russ to tell her he's got some communicable ailment and will be unable to perform his manly duties for a week or so. Next time, Russ buddy.
Here are the rest of the photos from our little Land Rover offroading trip at the Nazi Bund Camp site .
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