With only six vehicles on the trail we figured we'd be finished pretty early, and we were right. Still, we took longer than expected and had a good time doing it. We had a bit of trail damage here and there, but we had our first two members make it up the hard line on Whale's Tail -- and they both were named "Don."
It was a little chilly in Conifer when we left, but it wasn't too bad. The skies were pretty clear, so we were hoping for our usual good weather on Chinaman Gulch. It's one of the many things we like about this trail.
The closer we got to Kenosha Pass the cloudier it got, and we were in snow at the pass and for a little while in South Park. It was wet snow and it wasn't sticking, and soon we were out of it. We were lucky, it didn't snow or rain on the trail, though it was snowing in the same spots on our trip home.
We were on the trail in not too much time, then it wasn't long before Eric heard a lot of air coming out of one tire. He had some bad tire luck in Moab on Pritchett Canyon a few weeks before, and it looked like he might still be having some bad luck. He put his spare on (with much more tread than the other tires) and we kept going.
Soon we were in the Rock Garden. Everyone took the fun line over the big rock on the right, and no one had any issues. The ledges just above the hill from the big rock usually give a few people some troubles, but this time everyone drove right through it.
We passed our usual lunch spot at the crossroads where the loop ends meet, but it was too early for lunch so we kept going. It turned out that we'd have lunch at the Rock Pile watching people play, and we ended up having plenty of time and plenty of entertainment.
Eric went first and drove right through it, making it look easy. He took the line far on the left and didn't get stuck anywhere. Don S. followed him in his Cherokee and got some great flex as he drove through it like it was paved. He didn't come close to hitting anything.
It was Don's turn in his Wrangler next, and it was looking like he was going to follow the other two and just cruise right through it, but he had a little bad luck. He was turning pretty hard into a rock and his stock tie rod gave out, bending in the middle quite a bit. He was stuck in the middle of the Rock Pile.
The guys got to work, and had a few troubles getting it off of Don's Jeep. When they got it off, they tried to figure out how to bend it back, close to straight again. They ended up securing it on the back of Eric's Jeep and pulling it straight. Then they put the handle from a hi-lift jack over it and it was almost as good as new once it was back on Don's Jeep. It was probably better than new, and he didn't even have any vibrations on the way home.
Don finished the obstacle, driving to the other side, only to get pretty high centered on the last bit of rock. Then he got hung up enough on his gas tank that he couldn't back up anymore, either. He managed to work his way off of it once a tire gripped the rock. Everyone enjoyed their lunch with the great entertainment.
There were no other takers for the Rock Pile, so we headed off to The Wash. Everyone drove through the chunky section of optional rocks on the left, and though a few people hit their rear bumpers it wasn't bad at all.
Eric got up on the two big rocks on the left side just past the other optional rocks, but soon got too light to get much of a grip in the dirt. He was also too close to the rock on the left to back out of it without possibly damaging another tire. He attached his winch to Jed's Jeep and pulled himself forward through it instead.
We went around the corner to Whale's Tail and Eric drove right up it, straddling the crack in the middle.
Jed was following the same line but slipped sideways into the crack just a bit. Then he couldn't back up, so he was pretty stuck. Eric gave him a tug with a strap, which promptly broke. They got out another strap and it only took a little tug to get Jed going again and up.
Dave was next and was driving right through it and got some great flex from his rear axle. Then his driver side rear spring fell out. He tried to find a place on the obstacle where he was flexed enough to put it back in, but it wasn't going to work that easily. He drove through it to try to find another place where he could flex enough.
There is a big rock just at the top of Whale's Tail where he could drive nearly to the top and get some fantastic flex. It was enough to get the spring back in, and he was good to go again.
Mike was next and make it look incredibly easy. That was the right line!
We had been hoping that Don S. would take his Cherokee up the left line of Whale's Tail, and he had decided to do it. He'd done it before, just not with us, and we were hoping to see it. No one in our group had successfully made it up that line, though a few had given it a pretty good try.
He eased up to it and didn't give it a lot of gas, crawling all the way up to it and over the top. We were thinking that it might be better to have a longer wheelbase to do that line, but then the other Don was ready to try it in his Jeep with a shorter wheelbase.
They hooked a strap to the front of Don's Jeep, thinking that the shorter wheelbase might make it a little light in front. He didn't want to flop over, which is pretty easy to do on the left side of Whale's Tail. Don followed the line that Don S. used and did it exactly the same way.
They were holding the strap just in case he needed it, but the only time he got a little light was getting his front tires up to the top. The rest of it looked easy, but it was really steep. He crawled right up and over it (see the video).
We now had two members who had gone up the hard line on Whale's Tail -- nice job, Dons!
We got to The Stairs, and everyone took the usual line. No one had any issues, which was nice. Don S. took a line through the middle which gave us all ideas for next time, because he also made that one look easy.
We saw the first vehicle of the day that wasn't with us, and the single Jeep followed us out.
Though we expected the usual amount of trouble in The Chutes we didn't really get any. A few vehicles spun a tire or two, but otherwise everyone just drove right through it. Mike didn't even bother getting up on the wall on the right -- he just drove right up the middle without a problem at all.
The rest of the trail was mellow, with everyone enjoying the rocks. Though there were bumpers and skid plates hit on the way down, we didn't even have any issues on the way back through the Rock Garden.
We were off the trail in record time, and a few of us headed back for a great dinner at Sweet Fanny Adams in Bailey. It was a fantastic day, as always!
Reports from Other Days: 22
Use the arrows or dots to flip through the previews of the other reports for Chinaman Gulch. Click one of them to read more and see all of the photos from that day.