By Rick Sosebee
As the spring flowers begin to spread their leaves and expose the beauty within, the piney woods region of Jacksonville Texas has its own spring explosion of sorts. The fine folks of High Lifter Products come to town and for one week out of the year Jacksonville is home to the largest mud-riding event of its kind. Typically known for its crop in Tomatoes, Jacksonville is also home to the Mud Creek Off road park. This mudder’s paradise is, at last count, about 4000 plus acres of rolling hills and some of the nastiest as well as deepest mud in the area. This is where thousands would gather for the annual High Lifter Mud Nationals.
This coming together has been ruled the one “mudding must do” by many who have experienced it. You will see the most outrageous machines and some of the best engineering that proves artistry combined with necessity can create incredible vehicles. If you have ever wondered just what you could do to your ATV or SXS to get through the deep stuff, chances are you’ll find the exact answer to your questions here as well as the products to make it happen.
The vendors at the High Lifter Mud Nationals are from many different backgrounds and areas of expertise in the off road industry. You have axle suppliers for when those big meaty mud tires get the best of your drive train and wader companies to keep you semi clean when you get in the deep mire. If you just need a new exhausdt then stroll on over the the HMF tent where you will find Hans welding or fabricating on many broken machines during the event as well as installing many of his HMF exhausts. Companies like WARN winch are also regulars here at the HLMN. The thought of even venturing off into the woods at Mud Creek without a winch is scary and could leave you camping out right where you got stuck. High Lifter Racer and High Lifter Mud Nationals attendee Brian Haughton never leaves his WARN winch at home. “I absolutely love my WARN Vantage 4000 on the RZR. When the going gets tough and it seems there is no way out my WARN winch makes a way of escape.” Says Haughton. You definitely need an ace in the hole and its guys like WARN who know that they are a welcome sight to everyone at this event.
High Lifter products also kept a massive tent on the main midway stocked full of parts for almost any machine that crawls through the gate. You will also find major manufacturers of ATV and SXS parked along the same vendor area as well as up along the hills in the area affectionately known as the Oasis.
The flooding received by Texas over the few weeks leading up to the event had made the park and its big mud holes serious contention for those who dare dive in. The small rivers and flowing streams were raging and some would succomb to the flow without realizing what they had dropped into. The regular schedule of events would keep the over 11,000 visitors happy and others would find themselves digging deep in the trails around the property.
A regular schedule of contests would give the fame seeker in the group a chance to either show off his or her stereo as well as their independent building skills. Many fine ATVs and SXS’s lined the vendor road at the front of the park on Wednesday to show and shine and then take part in the Audio Formz Mud Jam. These competitors show up each year with machines ranging from $5000 to over $50G’s and its simply amazing to see where people can stuff another one hundred dollars into the fenders.
If you had rather test your mud riding skills in contest then you have a chance to do this several times during the week. The S3 Powersports sponsored Endurance challenge was held down on the highline. This stretch of water separated by a main high bank road tests riders each year on surviving the long trip down and back with at least one machine and two riders. This is always a sight but this year it was made especially tough with water levels rivaling any year we’ve seen to date. The first step choked many out right off the bat and the driest yet slowest ride was in a six-wheel vehicle by Argo.
On Saturday the promoters of the HLMN had a special surprise and one that may very well become a regular event at the mud nationals. An ATV MX exhibition brought people from all over the park to a small four-acre section right in the center of the action. Riders from all over Texas and top pro racers as well as the 2014 champion Chad Weinan would show off the sport they love. It wasn’t just for the ATV’s though as a couple of side by sides got in a little action as well.
It never ceases to amaze that so many people would come to one part of the USA to ride in the mud for one week out of the year. The huge crowd converges and the acreage gets filled up quickly. I’d say if you like the challenge of a muddy trail then the 2016 High Lifter Mud Nationals should be on your bucket list.