|Date:||Jul 19th, 2011|
|Trip Leader:||Fred Haskell|
|Members Present:||Mike Borum, Sue Fisher, Keith Vest, Matt Thomas|
|Guests Present:||Alison Haskell|
|Picture Link:||Mike's Pics|
It had been 5 years since the first (and last) time I ran this trail, and ever since I've wanted to go back. For me it's got the right combination of scenery, challenge, and reward. This time we were treated to some entertainment as well, so for those that couldn't make it I'll do my best to spell it out in reasonable detail.
The trip was attended by me and my daughter Alison in my JK, Mike Borum with his usual radical ride, Sue with her sweet TJ, Keith Vest in his now highly respected Tacoma, and Matt Thomas and his brother in the slo-geared Sami. The drive up was uneventful and we all arrived at the public parking lot in Idaho Springs in good time. We decided to pre-position Mike's tow rig there so we'd have less to do when the day was done. From there we saddled up for the 5 mile run up I-70 to Downieville to air down, gas up, and head for the trail. Seemed we did well enough on gas that it was not an issue - yet - so we made our way to the trail and me the first obstacle.
The first obstacle on this trail definitely contributes to its rating, but it looks worse than it is. I crawled up and found a decent line, then Matt followed in his Sami. After some par-for-the-course Samurai wheel stands, Matt coaxed her up with little difficulty. Sue, of course, made it look easy. Keith was next, and we were all very interested in watching a long wheelbase vehicle with 31" tires, IFS, and open front diff on this trail. He did have to struggle a little to get it lined up, but once pointed in the right direction it seemed that Taco was unstoppable. Mike, of course, made it look easy.
There is a good stretch between obstacles on this trail, but the views are spectacular. Today was not a disappointment as the rain had everything green and the flowers were in full bloom. Good thing there were nice views and good weather, because we got a chance to relax and take it all in when the Sami decided that about 3/8 of a tank is not enough and promptly quit near the top of a small hill. This was the scene of our only strap deployment to get the little machine to level ground for proper diagnosis. The lack of whining (from the fuel pump) was a fair indication that the Sami was going to need some gas to keep going. Guess what's not on our list of required items for a run? Yup - gas. So Matt, you were in compliance with club policy. I hereby nominate you for the esteemed positon of club fuel monitor!
As we pondered what to do next, Mr Borum was plowing through his tool bags to locate a Jeep fuel line quick-release tool. Keith was rummaging in his Taco for an empty gas can. Armed with only those two items, McGyver Borum devised a plan that saved lots of time and embarrassing Sami dragging. By disconnecting the pressure line from the tank in his jeep we were able to pump about 3 gallons out for the Sami, probably enough for the rest of the season. I think I'll just add a syphon hose to the kit now...but great work Mike!
It was the third obstacle on this trail that brought back memories of punctured tires, sideways winching, and agitated spotting. There was just no way to get over without a combination of careful tire placement and a little skinny pedal. Here's where my new wheels were adorned with Colorado pinstripes and my new diff covers were certified. Here's where the Sami really shined...Matt was able to squeeze right through and I don't think a single tire even left the ground. This is where Keith really got tested with the Taco. Rocks were reaching for his lower radiator tank and rocker panels, so it took some time and planning. Once again we got him lined up for the hole-shot and off he went right up to the top. Great work Keith! did I mention Mike and Sue made it look easy?
A short time later we reached our normal lunch stop at the top of the mogul hill and relaxed as the Sami blew off some steam. Seemed everything to this point was hot to the touch, so the change in the weather that we felt coming was welcome. After we downed chow, the raindrops started to sprinkle and lightning started to pop. At this point it was light and distant, but we buttoned up as a precaution. Good thing! A 0 (zero) percent chance of rain in Downieville does not mean no rain on Spring Creek, and it hit right about when we got to the rock garden. Early on it was only sprinkling, so we played around with different lines and found a nice spot for Mike to stretch his long arms. Disclaimer up front...we all know Mike likes a challenge. Well, he got one. He tried a line to the far left that looked really hard to push up on because it's tall and undercut. That part proved to be fairly easy as his front end just walked right up. He just couldn't get the bite he needed to keep going. Once isn't enough, so he kept at it trying to find that magic line. On the third or fourth try he got high centered...really high centered. Turns out there was a piece of this huge rock that fit just right behind his t-case skid virtually locking him to the earth in that spot. Out came the high-lift and after a rear lift and stack followed by a front jack and push he was freed. We did meet a nice couple in a really nice rock buggy. They put their ride to the test there and yes - 39" BFG krawlers on a buggy were enough to get through.
Promptly after we extracted Mike the rain came in buckets, so the pictures got thin and the rocks got slippery. We made our way upstream through the rock garden river to the end of the trail with little incident, though I do think Keith's Taco received some minor reshaping toward the driver side rear. The fact that he got through that rock garden in the rain with no spotter...quite impressive.
Soon we topped the trail and started the long, winding drive to Idaho Springs. We got there without incident, thanks to my co-pilot Mike we turned the right way every time. You could drive a hundred miles and go in circles out there all day if you made the wrong turn. After we got Mike hooked up for the tow home we headed over to Tommyknockers for some dinner and conversation. After grabbing some coffee and catching crap from Mike over my white mocha, we loaded up for an uneventful drive back home. It was a great trip, with some opportunities to learn from the mistakes and creativity of others, and to end forever any worry of scratching my new wheels. One trip...well, they are still round and hold air. Life's good!
PS - A thousand apolgies to anyone left out, overlooked, insulted, or otherwise not entertained. Loved the trip and the company...looking forward to next time!