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Georgia Pass, 2001

I'd been looking forward to the Georgia Pass trip since reading about Michael and Toby's outing in the first issue of FSJ Magazine. Also, I've only been on two CFSJA runs (Boreas Pass and Rampart Range Road) both of which were quite easy, so I figured it was finally time to try something a little more challenging.

I badly underestimated how long it would take me to get to the meeting place at Jefferson, so I was running late. I thought I'd miss everybody and even thought about turning back, but I ended up only being twenty minutes late. Fortunately, I was not the last person to arrive, so that made me feel alot better. Participating were Michael Shimniok and Amy in "Backhoe", Amy's coworker, John, and his wife Denise in a late 70's Ford F150, Charlie Thompson and son Sean in "Hi Ho Silver", Hari Ragigopal and son Alex in "Molly", and myself in 83 Cherokee. Sean and Alex are great kids; makes me wish I had some myself. We were also joined by three big dogs: one belonging to John and Denise and the other two belonging to Hari.

At the summit

After catching up on news and looking over the rigs, we started up Georgia Pass. The south side of the pass is pretty easy and we made it to the summit, where we stopped to eat, shortly after noon. At the summit of the pass, there are a couple of side trails that can be explored. We had hoped to go over Glacier Ridge before going down the north side of the pass. However, while we were eating, a guy on a motorcycle told us about a Jeep that gone off one of these side trails and slid down the mountain about 300 feet. We decided to see if we could help and headed off down a fairly rocky trail that was quite narrow in a few spots. We got to the site of the mishap just as they were driving the Jeep back up onto the trail. I'm not sure what kind of Jeep it was; I'd guess an older CJ model. They had been on another trail higher up the hill and decided to come down (as in straight down) to the trail we were on. The driver couldn't get it to downshift, the brakes overheated, and the Jeep went sailing right on down the mountain. If I'd been a passenger in that Jeep, I would have bailed out, soiled my underwear, or both. Fortunately, this happened just above timberline so there were no trees for them to hit. The four people in that Jeep were mighty lucky; hopefully they said a few prayers of thanksgiving last night. We were all surprised that the Jeep and passengers escaped unscathed. I'm also surprised they were able to get it back up to the trail. The adventure with the CJ was not over, however. After getting back on the trail, they all piled in, but since we were now blocking the trail, the driver decided to go off the trail to get around us. Fortunately for them, Michael and Hari yelled at him to stop before they tipped over sideways and rolled back down the hill. Michael and Hari hooked up a tow strap to John's F150 and got the CJ pulled back up on the trail. Then the CJ wouldn't start due to a weak battery, so I gave them a jump start. Finally, the CJ got underway and we decided to head further up the trail to find a good place to turn around. The scenery and weather were perfect, so our little rescue operation was worth the effort.

After getting turned around, Charlie and John decided to head down the north side of Georgia Pass to stake out a camping spot for the night while Michael, Hari, and I decided to find the Glacier Ridge trail. The next side trail we took offered more spectacular views, but dead-ended after a short distance. These side trails were not marked, and the trail guide was not too clear. We then decided to go back and try the first side trail we had taken (for the CJ rescue). This time we went further down the trail which became increasingly difficult. Unfortunately, this trail turned out not to be Glacier Ridge, and as time was beginning to run out, we decided to give up and turn back. On the return, I pulled over to the right side of the trail at one point to let a motorcycle by. Unfortunately, I got too far over into some soft dirt. I wasn't in danger of going over, but I was definitely stuck. Michael, who was following me, told me on the CB to stop before I got myself dug in really deep. Michael and Hari were prepared as usual, and hooked up a tow strap so that Hari's Cherokee could pull me free. After reaching the summit again, we headed down on the north side of the pass to find where Charlie and John had set up camp.

The north side of the pass is definitely harder than the south side, but became easier the further we went. We found the campsite in a clearing next to a small creek. As I needed to get home, I couldn't stop at the campsite, but Hari was kind enough to follow me a couple miles further down the pass to make sure I didn't get stuck again or lost. On the way home, I stopped at the Burger King in Dillon just as a big thunderstorm unloaded a downpour. I could see other thunderstorms building to the west. Hopefully, the campers escaped the rough weather.

All in all, it was a great day as I experienced my first "real" off-road adventure. I made a few rookie mistakes. At one point Hari asked me why I using my brakes so much. Oh well, now I know what 4-lo is for. I learned what my capabilities are, and I think I'll stick to moderate trails for now. My sincere thanks go to everyone who participated, especially Michael and Hari for their patience and understanding.

John Clark

As for the campers...

We arrived back at camp, said our goodbyes to John, then proceeded to set up our tents. As we looked around, there was Charlie's set up then over there by the Ford... what th' ... what IS that thing?? It's HUGE! We walked over to John and Denise and expected to see a huge neon sign over their tent with the words "VACANCY" ... the porch on this tent was big enuf to fit our entire tent... when I looked inside the thing (it looked like it could sleep about 30) and said "hello" I am certain I heard an echo...

Well, we all quickly had camp up and the cooking equipment out. While Amy and I warmed up the Chili we'd put together Fri nite (we should call it the allnighter Chili), Hari was warming beans and polish sausage, John and Denise were fixing up brats and sauerkraut. I have felt that camping is all about food (actually I believe a lot of things are all about food).

John's delicious brownies followed this eclectic multi-course meal and of course I have to mention the miracle of Jiffy Pop popcorn. I had a sheltered childhood so actually this was my very first experience witnessing a flat tin of popcorn turn into a bulging aluminum bubble of buttery fluffiness. A must for every camping experience! We shot the breeze, talked trucks, watched the sunset reflect off the clouds, swatted skeeters, told scary stories after dark, and finally turned in.

The downhill slope and bumpy ground and rain and leaky tent didn't exactly make for a Serta night, but I'd rather be sleeping in the woods in a huge campground next to a rushing stream than just about anywhere. The next morning Hari left early and missed out on breakfast burritos that Amy and I and Charlie made for everyone (thanx to Charlie for the grille-cooked bacon--yumm!). After a heart-killing start to the morning we broke camp and headed back. The rest of the trail was mostly just bumpy with a few very minor water crossings and pretty soon we were on dirt road, in 4hi and heading back home.

Michael Shimniok