As this may have very well been the last trip of the year, we wanted to make it a good one! VDutchDub from suggested I join him on Sunday to hit Spring Creek instead of Twin Cone on Sunday. I was supposed to hit Twin Cone with some co-workers that were itching to get out and do some REAL wheelin’. Well, the plans for Saturday fell apart so it was game on for Sunday.
We met up at what is becoming the usual spot, Starbucks in Downieville. I was surprised that it was only going to be 4 of us, but also relieved. Those kind of trails can get lengthy if you have 10 or 12 rig to get up a really hard spot. By the way things turned out, it may have been dark by the time we got off the trial if we DID have that many rigs. Already aired down and disconnected, we headed out right on time at 9:30.
Just as we started up the narrow trial, we hit some traffic that would turn out to haunt us the rest of the day. There was a TJ coming back down the trail because he wasn’t able make it up the first obstacle, and was planning on meeting up with the other 3 TJs in his group by taking the bypass. This guy more/less refused to back up a little, forcing us to back all 4 rigs down the trail to the next turn out. Rich let him know that it wasn’t going to get any easier: “Hey man, I don’t want to ruin your day, but they call that obstacle ‘The Gatekeeper’ for a reason. If you can’t make it up that you may not make the rest of the trail.” Little did we know we’d see this guy again, and extend our day out a couple hours.
As we approached the first obstacle rightly named ‘The Gatekeeper’, there was a HUGE CJ sitting there pointed up the switchback we had to go around to start up the obstacle. I was already not sure about what I was going to expect around the corner. As we turned the corner I was more than surprised to see a massive rock, slanted to the right with 2 hug boulders at the bottom. “Whoa” was all I could think.
Rich started up and after a little sliding and tire spinning he seemed to get up without too much difficulty. The big Jeep that was there when we got there decided to go before me, picked the hardest line, and walked up with it like nothing. I’m not sure if he even noticed there are an obstacle there! Now my turn. I followed Rich’s line between the large boulders at the bottom that we just narrower than a jeep, this made you have to go over one of them. This turned out to be something I couldn’t make happen. I was sure close, but just couldn’t get enough traction in the loose dirt with both of my open differentials to pop me over that rock. I ended up having to getting winched (drug) over and along the rocks about 5-10 feet. In the process of trying to get over this obstacle, I managed to put a HUGE ding in my rock sliders and tear up one of my AEV wheels. Well, at least it’s on the passenger side…won’t have to see it much!
Jim was able to follow me up taking a different route. Took him a bit, but he made it on his own. He even made for some good shots with one of his wheels going airborne. Rick, of course, seemed to make it way too easy.
The route up to the second major obstacle was lengthy and offered some spectacular views of the canyon.
As we reached the second obstacle, we find that we have caught up to the group of TJs from the beginning of the trail. The first one of the group seemed to be pretty well equipped, include ARBs and a decent lift. the second and 3rd didn’t have too much of a problem getting over, the 3rd looking to be not much more than a stock Rubicon.
The 4th guy was apparently trying to prove something to someone. He spouted out the line he was going to take, which seemed to be an impossible feat for any of us in the vicinity. This guy’s TJ was barely built underneath, maybe a 2-3 inch lift, and 33s’. He did however have some fancy rock sliders and a rear bumper (which wasn’t gong to fair very well), and some bright green stickers that read ‘Ghost Riders’. As to no surprise, this guy went strait up a rock and completely wedged himself in a hole. He was a very heavy footed driver, that decided to try and back himself off the rock against everyone’s disagreement and caught his exhaust on another rock, bending it down toward the ground. This locked him into a few choices: 1. Go forward and try the rock again (we know that wasn’t going to happen), 2. Throw it in reverse and gun it again and destroy the exhaust and probably do some undercarriage and/or mechanical damage, or 3. Break out the Sawzall and hack the bent part of the exhaust off so he could safely back off the rocks. This guy chose option #1 and gave it a good goose…queue music:
There he was stuck even worse on the rocks. After farting around for 10-15 minutes, they finally conceded to using Rich’s winch to pull up up the rocks. We tried to help these guys and guide him up the rocks to minimize any further damage, but they made it clear they didn’t care about damage. Rich continued to drag this guy up the rocks (very patiently I might add), and nearly tore this guys rear bumper off. These guys were also nice enough to remove all the rock in the holes on this obstacle making it more difficult for us, even against our suggestion to use other ones nearby. *SIGH*…I’m still shaking my head at these guys as I write this. I guess I wouldn’t have been surprised if 50 funny dressed performers with big shoes and red noses was going to jump out of one of their rigs next.
Once these guys were free and clear, we made our way up the obstacle. It wasn’t easy took all of us at lease a few tries. Certainly doable, we all made it, and didn’t take too much time. This might have been where I dinged my cross member too.
Clearing this obstacle made way for the Rock Garden. This is a 10 yard section of the trail littered with 2-4 foot boulders and the holes between them. Rich was up first, and was first to show us which lines weren’t going to work. We had a tough time getting him through this section. You really had to be on the perfect rocks on the perfect line to get through each section. Seemed like there were 3 small sections all together at the beginning that were tough and it gradually got easier all the way through ‘The Garden’. After quite the battle getting Rich through, it helped figure out what may help me. I had a battle, but certainly less time to get through this. Rich had convinced me that using the ‘full throttle’ technique was going to be best for me, and it seemed to prove so. Jim had a little better luck than I did, bouncing around all over he employed the same method I used to get through. Now Rick…well Rick was Rick, and just kind of tip-toed over everything, making it look easy.
On we went though some continued lightly rock section to the top of the mountain. A quick right got us on the Saxon Mountain Trail for our descent into Georgetown. As we came around a bend we popped out of the trees and a windy shelf road lay ahead of us with view of the canyon and Georgetown 3000’+ below us. What a spectacular view!!!
Winding down the road seemed to take forever, but seemed to get better and better as we descended, and got more and more inundated with the brilliantly yellow-gold leaves on the aspen trees as the evening sun lighting them up like they were powered by electricity.
What a great trail to be the official close out of the year. Yeah we might still be able to hit a trial or two more this fall, but I’m going to call that THE trail of 2009 for me.
Thanks Rich, Jim, and Rick for making it an even more enjoyable time, and of course my wife Karen for deciding to come along.
Slideshow of the trip: