Sunday, September 13, 2009

Moab, Labor Day Weekend 2009

Tel, Allie-Bird and I made a trek out to Moab, Utah over the Labor Day weekend for a little four wheeling adventure. We left Thursday evening when I got off work and headed out for a six hour trip to Moab. We arrived in the area where we wanted to camp about midnight and just decided to sleep in the Jeep for a few hours until it got light out. I wouldn't recommend trying to sleep in the drivers seat of a Jeep Wrangler. It is not comfortable at all! That being said the sun still arrived on schedule as it does every morning and we began our search for a place to set up the tent. We found a place right on the Colorado River, perfect. Now that camp was set up, it was time to go into Moab, fuel up the Jeep, crack open our Charles Well's Moab trail guidebook and head out to our first trail...

Trail One, Day One "Top of the World"

We decided to make this our first trail for two reasons. First, it was the one furthest from Moab and second, the payoff at the end of the trail with the amazing views was going to be worth it. The trail started out easy enough for the Lil' Blue BoX. I had her in 4-Low but in second gear most the way until we got to an area with some ledges, our book listed these "as difficult for a stock vehicle". At this point we caught up to a couple of guys in a rental Jeep trying to make it up the ledges. They were successful, so then it was my problems. Lil' Blue BoX performed flawlessly, it looked more ominous than it really was (a theme that would carry on throughout our Moab adventure). The rest of the climb up to the top of the trail was full of small ledges and loose rock but nothing very difficult to speak of. The guys in the rental had let us go by since we were making a little better time than they were. We arrived at the top and were the only ones there, so we got out and I scoped out the area that I could position Lil' Blue Box for her first poser shot of the day. Talk about scary, I pulled her out on to the ledge of a shear cliff for the picture and yes I could have gotten closer to the edge but my nerves couldn't take it anymore. I was satisfied with where she ended up and it made for a great picture anyway. We hung out here for a while and just took in the scenery, absolutely gorgeous and definitely worth it. We made our way back down the other side of the loop that the trail makes. This proved to be a little more difficult and technical than the trip up. I had to get out at one point to check out the line I wanted to take going down a steep hill full of loose rock and sizable drop-offs. We managed to make it down unscathed with no trouble. We headed out and made our way to our next trail of the day...

Trail Two, Day One "Onion Creek"

Onion Creek is rated by our guidebook as an easy trail so I didn't even bother to put Lil' Blue BoX in four wheel drive and as it turned out I didn't need to. The trail took us along Onion Creek and made 22 creek crossings on the way in and subsequently 22 crossings on the way out (yes I can do math too). The trail took us into beautiful, rugged, red rock canyons. We stopped in the shade of one of the narrow canyons and ate lunch, left our names on a rock and continued on. We made it to the top, turned around and headed back the other way. Tel had me stop at one of the creek crossings to rinse some of the sand off our hands and arms. The water was cool, refreshing and crystal clear, must be from all the sand filtration. We made it back out to the highway and into Moab for dinner, then back to camp to unwind and reflect on our first successful day in Moab. We fell fast asleep and it was a good thing because day two turned out to be quite a marathon of off-road adventure.

Trail Three, Day Two "Poison Spider Mesa"

We woke up and headed into Moab to refuel Lil' Blue BoX and grab ourselves some breakfast and trail provisions (mostly ice for the cooler and Lunchables). We set out for the trail head and started our next adventure into the unknown. Niether of us had ever been on any of these trails. Our book rates this trail as difficult and suggests having a lift, larger tires and lockers in the differentials. We had none of these...Lil' Blue BoX is completely stock, but I had heard of people doing this trail in stock Jeeps before so we would be able to do it, as well, hopefully. The trail started off by taking us up a series of switchbacks with each one seemingly getting more difficult the more elevation we gained. The whole time all I could think about was that whatever we encountered on the way up we would have to tackle on the way down. It wasn't a great feeling to say the least. We kept going despite this feeling. We made our way over several ominous looking obstacles one after the other, but Lil' Blue BoX was making them seem easier than they appeared. At one point I could see a couple of rigs coming up behind us, but they were fairly far back. At least there was someone else out here just in case something did happen. We made our way to an obstacle called the Wedgie and had happened to catch up with a group of 10 rigs from Colorado just finishing up the Wedgie. I made my up the Wedgie as Tel got out and took pictures. The group of rigs asked if we wanted to go around and we said that we would just follow if that was okay with them. They didn't mind. We talked to Armando and he said that they were running a series of three trails that joined one another and said that we could join them if we wanted to. I knew of the three trails they were planning on running and so we ended up joining their group. These three trails according to our book would take 10 to 11 hours to complete, let the marathon begin. We had plenty of gas and water/food so we were good. The only thing I was dreading at this moment was an obstacle called the Golden Crack, because there is no way around it. So, with this little thought lingering in my head we followed Armando and his friends off of Poison Spider Mesa and onto Trail Four, Golden Spike. A little relief came when I realized we wouldn't have to traverse what we had just come up on Poison Spider Mesa. It was short lived because soon we were face to face with an incredibly daunting obstacle called the Launching Pad. This slick rock obstacle takes you down one side of a steep gully and straight up the facing steep side. The sensation while ascending the far side gives one the feeling of launching into outer space. It feels like it is straight up! This obstacle certainly offered the greatest pucker factor of the day and the entire trip for that matter! We made it down and back up and when we reached the top my fingers were tingling and I was sweating a little more than before. It was wild. The adrenaline slowly wore off as we made our way over difficult rocky sections and steep stair step ledges. This type of terrain continued on and on until we reached my predetermined nemesis the Golden Crack. I watched rig after rig attack the crack with great success and my pain eased slightly until it was my turn. The death factor is nil but the breakage factor is very real. I just followed the instruction from the guys spotting for me and with a little help I crawled Lil' Blue BoX through the crack. It was a great feeling for me personally as I defeated the demon in my mind about this obstacle. The rest of the trail seemed to just go on with a little more relaxed feel for me. We finished up the Golden Spike portion of the trail system and soon found ourselves on Gold Bar Rim part. Trail Five, Gold Bar Rim has a lot of stair step ledges and in the direction we were traveling they all seemed to be in a descending direction except for one simply called the Giant Ledge. This ledge struck a little fear in me when I saw it from a distance and when I was face to face with it the fear hadn't dispersed at all. I approached it with the aid of a spotter and when he told me to go, I went. I tamed it with little effort it was a cool feeling (remember my ominous theme from earlier). The rest of the trail wasn't too bad. There were a lot of optional tough obstacles to try and they were fun to take a break at and just be a spectator. We finally made it off the trail a mere 9 and a half hours after we began and had only traveled a little over 19 miles. It was like a marathon, my arms hurt, my legs hurt and yet, I had never felt so good in all my life. It was a great sense of accomplishment for me, Tel, Allie-Bird and Lil' Blue BoX. We headed in to Moab and got some dinner at the brewery and recalled the stories from the day. After dinner we returned back to camp and crashed. Tomorrow's adventure was going to be a little boring compared to day two's, but it was going to be a good way to unwind our trip to Moab.

Trail Six, Day Three "Picture Frame Arch"

You can't go to the Moab area and not go see an arch of some sort so we decided to go see one for ourselves. Not much to say about the trail itself after the previous day's trail. The two arches we came across were really cool. The first one was called Balcony Arch and was large and looked like a hole in the side of the rock face, pretty cool. The next one was the trail's namesake Picture Frame Arch. It was a very squared off arch that resembled a picture frame, go figure. The light shining through it made for some stunning color contrasts. It was quite beautiful. We returned to Moab after a trip to Area BFE (a place I had wheeled before in Tinkerbell a few years back, not much was going on out there). We had dinner, I finished up some homework and we headed back to camp for our last night on Moab.

The trip out to Moab was so much fun and I can't wait until I can make it out there again. The next time I hope to have built up Lil' Blue BoX a little bit more with bigger tires, a lift, a winch and a rear locker. Only time will tell but I will definitely be making it out there at some point in the future.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Middle St. Vrain and Coney Flats

Tel, Myself, Allie-Bird (our dog) and my friend Mike joined the Mountaineers 4-Wheel Drive Club out of Fort Collins for their monthly trail run. Tel, Allie-Bird and I were in my stock, blue 2004 Jeep TJ, now known as the "Lil' Blue BoX". My friend Mike was in his fairly stock, orange 2006 Jeep TJ Rubicon. We met up with about twenty other off-road rigs in Lyons, Colorado and convoyed to the trail head which is on the Peak to Peak Highway between Highway 7 and Nederland at the Camp Dick campground. The trail was great, a lot of water crossings and a few challenging rock sections, but mostly just a nice Sunday drive in the mountains. There was one mud/sinkhole that swallowed up a few rigs (not mine or Mike's because we went around it). Mike had to pull one guy out of it. It was a deep hole! The Middle St. Vrain (MSV) portion of the trail was pretty tame with the exception of the sinkhole. The real fun began on the Coney Flats portion of the trail. Coney Flats starts where MSV ends and heads up a rocky hill with a couple of challenging obstacles for a stock Jeep. The "Lil' Blue BoX" was up to the challenge and made it up with no issues. The hill looked a lot more ominous from the bottom than it actually was. The maneuverability of the "Lil' Blue BoX" is wonderful especially after getting so used to "Tinkerbell's" extreme lack of turning radius. Mike seemed to have little trouble with this section as well. We were on our way to the next obstacle called "The Lake" a water crossing that can be pretty deep. Before crossing here, we stopped with the group to eat lunch. It was also a good place to do some idiot watching, like the group of 17-18 year olds who had a stock Chevy longbed Z71 pick-up up there, probably their parents. The trail is not too bad, but it is no place for a long wheel base, stock pick-up. They splashed down into the water and, somehow, managed not to take water into the air cleaner. They made it and we never saw anymore of them, but I wonder what kind of damage the poor pick-up had to endure. After lunch the group headed out across the water. Here is a little video of Mike and I crossing...

It was a great trip, we all had a ton of fun. Next the "Lil' Blue BoX" will tackle the "slick rock" of Moab! Can't wait for Labor Day Weekend!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Zombie Summerfest 09 (Missing Tink Fiercely)

A Jeep overlooking the "Mud Pits"
I should preface this story by saying I am a little sad that my crawler "Tinkerbell" was unable to make this trip (due to her tranny woes), because this was going to be the last Zombiefest held at this particular location. That being said, I had recently purchased an '03 Jeep Wrangler, which has yet to be named, so we took her out instead to have a little fun. My little Jeep is a stocker, no suspension lift, no big tires, no everyday, just drove off the dealership, Jeep. Tel and I loaded her up on Saturday morning with our camping gear, food & drink and our dog Allie-Bird and headed for the south side of Denver to the compound of the Rock Zombie Outlaws.

By the time we arrived around 11:30 the place was already a sea of activity. Hundreds of people were moving about setting up camp, unloading rigs, heading out to run trails and was busy. I knew right then it was going to be a good time, yet I was missing "Tinkerbell" even more now. We stopped at the welcome tent to get our map of the area and say hi and thanks to the Zombie volunteers working there. We then proceeded to the camping area to set up camp and unload the Jeep.

Day One's Highlights...

We headed out from our campsite to explore the area and become more familiar with where things are located. We traversed the creek several times and had to make a couple sketchy hill climbs, one of which we needed to take a second try at with much more wheel speed (would have been easy in "Tink", yup still missin her). We made our way over to "Todd's Logs" and watched a few rigs take on that obstacle. A little carnage took place while we were there when a Chevy Blazer lost the front driveshaft. He got yanked off the logs by his buddy and headed back to their camp for repairs. We then headed for the most popular area called "The Graveyard". This area is where the rockcrawling takes place and thus has more oppurtunity for carnage and flops. We saw some close calls but no real destruction took place. A lot of people got stuck and needed help getting out, we saw a lot of winches and tow straps being used. Saw a couple winch lines snap, fortunately they were the nylon ones and not the steel cable ones. We witnessed a little three wheel action and some killer articulation with serious tire stuffing. The action was pretty intense and entertaining all day long. We saw a lot of really impressive rigs and some real beaters too. I didn't attempt any of these lines/obstacles in the little TJ. *sigh* I saw a guy I have wheeled with before in "Tink" he had his rock racing buggy out there and put on quite a show going full throttle up the rocks. It was sweet! The crowd loved the display of agggression and the use of the skinny pedal as the Hazardous Concepts buggy screamed up the rock obstacle.

We headed from the "Graveyard" over to the mud pits to see some down and dirty action. Saw a lot of rigs get stuck including a Ford f-250 powerstroke diesel that took quite a wh
ile to extract. It took so long that Tel and I didn't stick around long enough to see it get yanked out. We did see some other guys get pulled from the mud, however. The mud is not something I like to take "Tink" through so i wasn't missing her too much here. It is still a ton of fun to watch the rigs dive into the mud with reckless abandon...good times!

Later in the day while Tel and I were driving around the trails we decided to try a creek crossing called "License Plate Alley". It is a sandy creek crossing with a double hill climb on the other side. It looked easy enough, I had decent speed through the water but when I reached the first sandy hill climb all momentum came to an abrupt stop and I was stuck. I had completely buried the front axle and essentially became a "sand plow". Reverse was a no go either, so I was done for...time to call the Jeep extraction team. A lifted '70's style Blazer stumbled across my predicament and was willing to try and pull me out but couldn't do it solo. When a v8 powered Toyota happened along and hooked up to the Blazer we finally found success in pulling my sorry ass out. It took two v8 powered, built rigs to pull me out...I guess I was stuck pretty good. I am pretty sure the guys who pulled me out thought I was some rookie wheeler without a clue which really made me miss my "Tinkerbell" all the more. Tel got pics of my stuck/extraction.

The day came to a close with a massive bonfire in the rain. The fire wasn't easy to get started with several failed, yet hilarious, attempts with a flare gun to ignite the gasoline soaked burning man. The man finally started up with a team of zombies throwing 12oz cups of fuel on the wood to keep it going...quite a sight! Man the rain was coming down!

We headed for the somewhat moisture free comfort of our tent (it had a small leak) to settle down for the night in hopes of catching a few z's. However, due to the campers next to us with a seemingly endless supply of Keystone Light and a jukebox on wheels with the world longest lasting battery, sleep didn't come easy if at all for that matter.

Day Two's Highlights

Day two started out with a very peaceful, calm, crisp morning. Tel and I took a walk and decided to get our marshmallows and head for the burning embers of the bonfire to roast them. We roasted some of the most beautiful golden brown mallows ever. They were delish! We heard other campers rustling about and a few snoring from the back of their trucks still slleping off the beer from the night before.
We grabbed our folding chairs and headed for the "Graveyard" to watch the first brave souls tackle the rocks. Allie-Bird had a good time scanning the area and watching a couple of dogs play in the creek. Allie is a great camping/off-roading dog. She loves it.

We hung around the "Graveyard" most the day just watching and taking pictures. We had a great time and are a little sad that this was the last time this event would be held here. The Zombies are looking for other places to do this type of thing but I feel they will be hard pressed to find one as good as this. They estimated that over 1100 people showed up for the two day event, that is quite a turn out! Thanks to the Zombies for all there hard work they definitely deserve props for a great time!

Jay, Tel and Allie-Bird