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Chinaman Gulch, July, 2006

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A few folks from the club met up on July 2, 2006 to run Chinaman. Scott had just lifted his 1974 Wagoneer and shod it with 34" Super Swampers so he was eager to do a shake down run on a fairly tough trail. Ray in his early 80's WT Cherokee joined up with Scott and so did myself (Michael, 86 GW).

The first time through, Chinaman was kind of a bear and I didn't have any water and there were a couple people unprepared for it. One thing to remember, the trail gets really, really hot during summer. Knowing this, I packed along 5 gallons of water and drank every time we came to a stop (which was often). Staying hydrated helpeda lot and so did the clouds and sprinkles that came through after lunch. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We met at a McDonald's near Scott's and caravanned down to Johnson Corner, gassed up and headed back to the turnoff, aired down at the trailhead, got lost a little, and then found our way. The trail climbs up through some dry country on relatively smooth ground but in no time you are in the Rock Garden where the main thing is to maneuver between large boulders, a feat that is made difficult by the length of our vehicles. Just as you are about to slam the front bumper into a rock on the right, you are wedged against a rock behind and to the left. It is doable with careful spotting and we made it through just fine.

Not long after my rig was heating up a lot probably from the climbing at low speeds. It did this last time, too. We stopped for a bit and let me cool down. Everyone else was running nice and cool.

The next couple hours consists of a lot of fun rock obstacles along the trail that take a good line and some flex. A locker doesn't hurt either, but that didn't stop Scott from getting through the tough spots with a little finesse, wheel spin, and/or momentum. It's pretty cool to say you've done this trail open. The nice thing about the trail is the challenges have some short breaks in between. Then there's a fun sandy wash section that you can pretty much haul on if so inclined.

After awhile we arrived at Whale Rock which has the three paths. To the left is a sheer climb that wants to force your rig left as you get up, the middle requires just the right line straddling a crack, and the right is a flexy but easier way up. We were able to get myself and Ray up the middle (we are both locked) and Scott easily walked up the right showing us how sticky those Swampers are.

We ate lunch at the top (had the whole trail nearly to ourselves with the 4th of July weekend and all) and then finally some guys with gnarly rigs came through and we had some entertainment but not before the cloudcover and a tiny sprinkling.

The trail proceeds with some tough obstacles and eventually winds up at Double Whammy which is a tough series of ledges and rocks. Scott took the bypass, Ray showed us how it's done, and I was able to follow in his footsteps (tire tracks?) and banged my way through the rocks at the top (ow). And that was pretty much that.

Squeezing through the rock garden on the way down was just as hard as going up and Scott's Wag got a few character marks in the process due to my bad advice.

Once back at the trailhead I put my OBA to work airing up mine and Scott's tires. Then Scott noticed his turn signals weren't working. We spent a lot of time troubleshooting only to find it was the hazard lights. They were on but the fuse was blown so it made the stop lights and turn signals behave funny. Oops! Oh well, it was a really fun day on the trail and we all got through without any stucks or breaks.