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Crystal Mountain

Well, that's where we tried to go.

I know, you all thought we were gonna go up Crystal Mountain trail! Well, so did I.


Pam and Alan Bennett in their M-715 from Nebraska

First things first. I left the house at 8:30, plenty of time to get gas and get to Loveland meeting spot by 9am. About 1/2 mile from the house- OOPS! I forgot my wallet. Turn around, get wallet, leave again. Get gas, back on my way. Now I'm late. I take 287 down to Rt 34 instead of the interstate, so in case they leave, I'll pass em on the way. Get there at 9:20am. Oops. Well, Michael wasn't gonna be going, so SOMEBODY had to be late. I pull up to Jeff C's truck and am quite happy that I wasn't gonna win the ugly truck award for the day. (I'll get an even BETTER award later...)

I see Jason, who is stranded home fixing his Jeep. I meet Steve, his wife (Roseanne?) and two kids (riding in Scrap Iron), as well as Mr. Mark Welle, Sr. and Mark himself, riding in Sr's nice new lifted Wrangler. Alan & Pam and daughter are there in their way too cool M715. Jeff C has his modified Cherokee with him and Ray is there with his two kids in a nice WT Chero, too. And me, with me Project Jeep, with freshly cut fenders for the 33's that I stole from MudPuppy.

Then Jason says to me that he's glad I showed up, because he didn't want to have to lead the trail run in his family sedan. This is when I find out I'm the trail leader for the day!

No one else had been up here, B4. D'oh! Uh, I "hope" I remember the way....


The Welle's bring the TJ out for a ride.

So, at 9:40 or so, we head off. First stop, the 7-11 to top off gas tanks. That done, we head for the hills. After about 30-45 minutes of driving, we reach the turnoff for the Buckhorn Canyon. We're getting closer! Next, we stop to air down a little. We startle some overnight roadside campers, but I reassure them that we'll only be a few minutes. I decide to only air down to 30 psi, not too much. I'll air more once we get to the base of Crystal Mtn trail. Everyone set, I head off to lead the assault on Moody Hill. Dropping into 4 low, up I go.

Instantly, something is wrong. The accelerator doesn't want to go very far. Weird. It didn't do that on the farm... But I'm still having trouble, as the engine keeps dying. I think I barely made it up to the mine turnoff before I had to stop and check the motor. The temp was OK, and I had an electric fuel pump on there, anyway. Jeff C comes up to look and laments that I have a Holley (4160) on there, and that it's prone to flooding without the off-road kit installed. Evidently, the off road kit isn't there. I start it up and try again. I eventually coax it to a semi flat spot where we can work on it. Jeff C and Steve S dive into my hot engine compartment and starts adjusting the carb. We get it a little better, but it still sputters and dies. Plus, I still have the linkage problem that prevents full throttle in 1st gear. Releasing the kickdown linkage fixes that. But it still was hesitating. :-(

So, after wasting what I think was a whole hour, I decide to cut my losses and proceed onward as a passenger. I jump into Steve's rig since it's the closest. Steve gets to be the lead truck, now. Off we go.

A short time later, on the big long stretch of Moody Hill (my favorite part), I get out to video tape the trucks passing. I also get to tape Alan and Pam's M715 stalling out on the obstacle. More adjustments, the the Vietnam era military vehicle passes on through. I was going to stay and tape the last trucks through, but am reminded that no one else knows which way to go. But, like, I DO???? Heck, I haven't been up here more than twice, and the last time was in the beginning of the year...

So, onward we go. A few spots I recognize, but not completely. Now, it's one thing to get lost on your own. I don't really mind it, as I turn around and go back. But, with 5 other groups of people with you, it's important that you know where you're going... ;-)

Fortunately, Jeff C brought his trail book (Charlie Wells, Colorado Book II) with him and that helped clear things up. It even told up the right way to go when everyone else (other trail users) told us to go the WRONG way.

We plod along, and every so often, a short message comes over the CB, "We died." It was Pam, relaying the status of the M715. After removing something from the fuel delivery system, the "We died"'s became less frequent and then nonexistent. At least their problems were easily fixable.

We finally reach Crystal Mtn Road. We wait for the tail end to arrive. While doing so, some quads and a dirt bike pass us, and inform us that the route to the left is not the way to go. "Doesn't really go anywhere" says one guy.

We consult the Charile Wells book and sure enough, the book says to GO LEFT. So, LEFT we go. Turns out, the book was right. I wonder where all those other guys ended up, as we never saw em again...


Steve and family test Scrap-iron's clearance.

We reach the first entrance to the trail, a gnarly rock obstacle that I got stuck in the last time I was there. We go on to the meadow and have lunch. Finally! It's around 1:30pm or so and folks are hungry.

After lunch, the Welle's head home, as they're in Castle rock, and have a doggie waiting at home.

We stand around, eat a bit, watch the kids play in the creek, and kibitz about Jeeps. I lose track of my cell phone, but Steve finds it in the truck, right where I left it. ;-)

It's much too late to try Crystal Mtn (it's around 3pm or so) so we decide to go play on the rock obstacle at the base of the trail. Steve wants to go first, so I jump out and hike up to the top (not far, and I walk on the easy route) to videotape the impending FSJ carnage.

'Ole Scrap Iron does valiantly, spinning and bouncing around, but the deep ruts and high rocks are no place for a stock height FSJ, and Steve smartly decides to get strapped out. But not before providing some good action, especially with Jeff stacking rocks and bouncing on the front end, trying to give the front wheels traction.

Pam comes along with the M715. Slow and steady, she makes it look like a walk in the park. A bit of frame flex makes the fan hit something inside, but that is all. The smile on her face says "OK, what's next??"

Ray comes up with his WT Chero. His son wants him to take the harder route, but experienced wisdom prevails over youthful excitement, and he expertly crawls his Chero over an easier, but still challenging part. A bit of tire spin proves that he didn't make it too easy, and the lack of body damage showed he picked a good line.

Jeff runs down to his truck and brings it up, rather uneventfully, but makes a good show of it anyway.

Jeff C. goes for the MUCH harder route

THEN, he decides that he has to tackle a MUCH harder rock formation. This has a hard approach angle and would end up with his truck almost at a 45 degree angle, pointed up to the sky. He approaches cautiously, then the tires grab and claw away madly at the rock, climbing the front end up and onto the rocks. His rear tires reach the incline and try in vain to propel the Jeep skyward. Another burst of tire activity, accompanied by sounds of tires gnawing on rock, and metal hitting the rocks. Then someone yells "Uh oh!". Someone else clarifies the situation, "Driveshaft!"

Evidently, the front driveshaft had had enough, and just let go. OOPS Well, at least Jeff had a sense of humor about it, smiling in the driver's seat, as if sitting in the winner's circle. He backs it down a little, and he and Steve go about removing the broken parts. Fortunately, the shaft didn't take anything else out with it.

With the driveshaft removed, and stowed away in his truck (he wanted to show his buddies @ work on Monday!), we headed home, taking the easier and more direct route back.

Jeff and I make a brief detour up the short section of Moody Hill that the Project Jeep got through. I jumped in, fired it up, and rescued it from its lonely spot among the trees. Going down, there was no problem. ;-)

We met the rest of the crew at the trailhead. Alan's gas tank strap broke, and they were putting a racket strap on it, instead. We Bs'd some more before heading home. Another day's 4 wheeling successfully completed. No catastrophic failures and everyone was safe.

What a great way to spend a Saturday!

Ethan B.