Adam's 83 Wag Limited
James' 80 Cherokee - "Midnight"
Jason's 78 Wagoneer
Michael's 86 GW - "Troubled Child"
Adam on Chicken Scratch Hill
"Midnight" clears the top of Chicken Scratch
Rob's GW makes a go
"Midnight" flexing out
Jason is first to cross the Platte
Mark's "Mack" makes it across.
Mark wades in and guides us through
James gives it a whirl
Jeff gets mired, time for winching
Rob bravely tries with a stock rig
And promptly gets stuck. Time for a winch
This is getting
to be something of a cliche for me. The Saturday before my
long-awaited plans for a weekend of wheelin', campin', and fishin'
were violently thrown into jeopardy by Troubled Child, my '86 Grand
to sustain an idle, I was presented with something of a challenge
returning along a trail I was scouting for the following week's
Big Trail Run. Back in town I spent the next few days desparately
trying to diagnose and repair this odd problem, all the while facing
the very real possibility that I wouldn't make this trip I had been
looking forward to for so long...
A typical pre-wheelin'
week for me, in other words.
With the truck
finally repaired late in the week (it was the ignition module, of
course) all that was left was for all of us to agree on a meeting
place. Kind of like trying to design a programming language
by committee. Ok, harder. But at least our plans turned
out somewhat simpler than most Ada compilers...
By the time
I got there at 7:40am Saturday, I found two club rigs and Art in
the parking lot. We entered the Village Inn, chowed down,
jawboned up a storm, and met up with everyone else. Except Mark
who had been bitten by the broken belt gremlin.
Hari, Rob, Adam, Paul (with his nicely set up LandCruiser-- basically
a Japanese Wagoneer), Jeff, and I lined up our rigs at the store,
took photos, bought essentials (brats, for example), and called
Mark, planning to hook up later.
We had a slow
start, but with EIGHT trucks involved, if you get off early without
a hitch, you're probably doomed to some kind of karmic trouble later!
We topped off in Woodland Park and forced Hari to get an air cleaner
:) and headed up 67 to Westcreek. We hit FS 360 (a good number)
and after an air-down and "quick" disconnect stop and some more
driving we were finally at the Metberry trail head with still no
sign of Mark.
I can tell
you confidently that nothing is quite so beautiful as seeing an
entire squadron of FSJs line up down the trail. It really
was quite an impressive sight and I think we turned a head or two.
The drive through Metberry was ideal! The scenery was lush
and gorgeous from all the rain and the trail started out easy and
progressively grew more difficult--a perfect introduction for those
of us new to the off-road experience.
into the trail I noticed the sky was growing dark. Some nasty storm
clouds were glowering down on our convoy of Big Jeeps and when we
stopped for a pee break the thunder began. Us being at the top of
a hill in a thunderstorm, we rather quickly began the descent towards
the famous obstacle known as Chicken Scratch Hill just as the rain
started pelting us. Before we reached the Hill, we had endured
marble-sized hail and an epic traffic jam of 4x4s. Delayed
on the final descent I missed the show on the Hill; I set about
trying to warm up my MRE on rather unforgiving surfaces. Next
time I'll stick to the tortillas and sandwich meat.
got our chance at the Hill, a long, steep climb in loose, wet dirt,
with significant moguls top to bottom. Nevertheless only two
of our rigs didn't make the entire climb. The rest made it
look downright EASY! Hari and Charlie who had really pounded
the trails like pros so far that day had taken off by this point
so they really missed out in the fun. Anyway I took the alternate
route up which I guess was the easy way (sigh) and Rob in his stock
85 GW also took the bypass after getting stuck a couple times.
But not before lifting a tire for us. Hopefully his wife has
forgiven him for the unsuccessful attempt at a rollover. I
am sure he could've conquered that hill, but no matter--he certainly
vindicated himself by traversing some serious terrain later in the
Anyway, I noticed
both the guy in the Scout and his buddies who had been spectating
at the top of the Hill didn't have a whole lot to say when we had
all arrived at the top again...
the way back up Metberry we hooked up with Mark in his '71 Wagoneer
and Jason in his inspirational '78 Wag with a 4" spring and 2" body
lift and 35" tires. Wow. He and James proved to us that
trimming the rear fenders is a great solution for bigger tires.
I know Toby's done the same thing and I can't wait to see his truck.
I want to be next.
Well, we all
headed down Longwater Gulch, trail that leads to the famous "Teller
County Carwash" otherwise known as the South Platte River. Some
hardcore terrain, all downhill luckily, showed us just what our
rigs could (and couldn't) do. Steep descents, major frame-twisters,
and various climbs and rocks were the order of the day on this truck
at one tricky spot with a huge boulder on the right side and a twisty
spot with a tree on the left. The only option I could see
was to go thru the twisty spot and hope that a wheel didn't pitch
up and tip you into the tree! But Mark with Larry spotting
showed us the correct path. UP this enormous boulder, over
the top, tilting to the point of looking precarious, and back down
the other side. ALL our jaws were dragging in the dirt watching
this team show us the way. We all got past it with some great
spotting and not a little bit of thrill and kept going.
Time flew and
we were sitting at the banks of the Platte with a family who seemed
maybe a little in shock at the sight of so manymean looking FSJs.
There it was.
The Platte River. Running high from all the rain we'd been
having. Didn't look too deep. But that's why they always
told us Arizonans never to cross washes with water in them--you
can't judge depth until you wade out in it as Mark and Larry bravely
did. It was clear we couldn't take the straight path across.
Across? Yes, we actually were considering crossing this thing!
I mean, heck, getting back UP the trail would prove one heck of
a challenge. Probably impossible for trucks without winches
or lockers. We'll never know though. Heh.
out a good spot to cross, about 10-20 feet downriver. The problem
was, who was crazy enough to cross this thing first? We did
a lot of looking at each other, shrugging, looking at our trucks,
and looking back at the river, expressions of uncertainty painted
on our faces...
taping up the doors on his Land Cruiser and the rest of us 'wimps'
began moving our trucks out of his way so we could see if he could
cross the gently moving river. It took awhile but he eventually
got enough room to get his truck up to the bank. With all
of us (including the family) cheering him on he set sail.
Right out of the chute he pointed the bow of his 'Cruiser downstream,
water almost immediately up to the top of his 33" tires.
He turned and
headed straight across under the expert navigational guidance of
Mississippi Mark and Lighthouse Larry, both freezing their butts
(and other things) off in the river. He was doing real good,
making a decent bow wake, keeping a steady 5-7mph, and then >blorp<
--truck nosedived and water came up to the hood! In an a second
that seemed to pass slower than the Jurassic, we thought he was
I have to admit
that if he'd gotten stuck maybe the rest of us could've gotten off
the hook! But no, he was still moving at a terrifying, glacially
slow pace of maybe 3-4mph. You can only imagine how very slow
3mph feels when you're pushing water up to your hood in a lifted
truck in the middle of a river crossing...
he passed by our two river guides and up came the Toy's nose, something
like a breeching whale, and he resumed a speedier pace and found
himself on the opposite bank, his mere presence a gauntlet tossed
at our FSJ feet.
who I guess don't know me as well as they think they do consider
me pretty cautious, level-headed, reserved and maybe a little stiff.
Well, that's all true. But I've discovered this maniacal streak
that surfaces whenever I'm behind the wheel of TC on the trail.
Here I am, this quiet, reserved type of guy that turns into some
kind of freak thrill-seeker on the trail, tackling obstacles at
the slightest hint of a dare...
if I was going to be the second person to cross this river!!
What, do I
look like I'm completely NUTS?!
I mean, the
obvious choice was the tallest rig in our troupe. Jason battened
down the hatches and took a firm grasp of the helm and brought his
amphibious vehicle to the bank. He made it across a-ok and
made it look easier still. In other words, merely bordering
on impossible. It's not like we could say "hey, if he can
do it I can do it" -- his truck stands a good 4" taller than mine,
After a full
five seconds of deliberation I say to James, "I'll do it if you
do it if you do it," he replies. I don't think he had any
idea what he was getting himself into...
I boarded the
S.S. Troubled Child, cut loose the hausers and set sail, all the
while ignoring that little voice that was screaming "ARE YOU COMPLETELY
Larry was frantically
motioning to me to SLOW DOWN. Forget 3mph -- 7mph feels like
sitting STILL when you're in the middle of the water 50 feet from
the nearest shore! Well, I got it slowed down and TC was chugging
along, exhaust blurping its way to the surface. Then I hit
the nosedive which put me into water up to the hood and the truck
came to a near stop--so it seemed. I inched my way all the
while wide-eyed and white-knuckled. Before I knew what was
happening the hood popped out of the water and people were telling
me to put down the power. I was ACROSS! I MADE IT! Good
truck. Nice truck. >pat< >pat< You're getting
all new fluids this week as a reward!
I parked and
let some of the water drip out of the driver's side of the truck
(the passenger side was bone dry being downstream...) and watched
and photographed the others coming across.
I think Mark
was next, then Adam, then Jeff who got stuck only a couple dozen
feet from us. Mark, Larry and I rushed to get the winch set
up to pull him out and in the process I proved once and for all
my GoreTex boots aren't waterproof anymore. In no time we had Jeff
out and along came Rob in his stock rig. He got stuck in the
same spot and we had just got the winch put away so we were yelling
frantically to get it out before Rob or his truck were sunk, drowned,
or otherwise subjected to an undignified experience. We were
able to get him out but not before he got plenty of water inside.
That classic cartoon scene of opening the door and a waterfall cascading
out with fish and whatnot was recaptured thrice that day.
Last to come
across was James in his Cherokee and I guess we had dug up a big
hole in that one spot because in spite of his newly installed 4"
lift and 33" tires, he was stuck and his truck cut out. Once
again we were fumbling to get the winch out in time, and James yelled
"Hurry up, it's getting cold in here" ... up to his tranny hump
in water before we could get him out I can only imagine it was a
tad uncomfy! Well, we got him out too and all of us spent some time
checking fluids and making sure our rigs weren't going to die untimely
deaths on the ride home! Meanwhile, Mark and Larry tried to
came out ok and every one of us including those who got stuck started
up right off the bat. Somehow I didn't even get my distributor
wet! Normally you want to check to be sure you didn't suck
water, but since none of our air cleaners were wet we figured we
were probably safe.
I think we all better swap fluids and check axle seals this week.
Rob his wife and I set out to find a camping spot and the others
took off home. We found a superb campsite with plenty of space
and greenery right near the river, and set up camp, Rob got a killer
fire going and we shot the breeze and ate until after dark, turned
in and woke up early (well, most of us did--I won't mention that
Mark was still sacked out while Rob was hooking up his CB) had some
breakfast, goofed around and then finally got headed home.
Rob and his wife headed home to the kids.
and I did a little plinking and then watched a fellow in a Chevy
pickup try to get unstuck (he was at the opposite bank from us maybe
15' from the trail entrance into the water, pointed downstream for
some reason). After he and his pal made several unsuccessful
attempts to extricate the HMS Bow Tie we decided to get moving.
On the way out we got several great long distance views of Chicken
Scratch Hill. It looks even worse from a distance!
we were on the highway searching for a gas station with air and
then we were zipping down the freeway back home.
So our replacement
for the Medano Pass trip --which I must remind you all was cancelled
because of excessively high water crossings-- was quite a success
and a source of tremendous enjoyment for me and hopefully everyone
else who went!
forward to our next outing!