One of our favorite Colorado trails is Chinaman Gulch, and the weather there is almost always perfect so we usually run it early in the season. This year was no exception and we made our usual trek across South Park to the trail. Everyone was smiling and happy all day, and though we had a few issues here and there we were still smiling when the day ended.
We gabbed at the gas station meeting place for awhile, then headed out. It was raining in town, then just a bit chilly in Conifer with no rain. We headed up Kenosha Pass and found snow on the sides of the road. The trip across South Park was extremely windy, blowing snow across the highway many times and really limiting visibility. It took us awhile to get there.
We aired down, and Micheal discovered he needed power steering fluid so he ran to the store. We enjoyed the extra time to catch up, then we all headed out.
The Rock Garden was fun, as usual, and many of us tried a new line at the top of the Garden, catching a little bit of the big rock on the right hand side of the obstacle. Everyone slipped or bounced off of it, but it made for some great wheel stands.
It wasn't long before we were at the Rock Pile and our place for lunch. Some people got in line for the optional rocks while others went around it to park and have lunch first instead.
Monica went through first. She had done some work over the winter that had increased her clearance so she wanted to see if she would still hang up in the usual place. She didn't, and drove through the rest of it with a smile.
Bob came through next and took a fun line over the big rock at the end. He got some great flex, and the exit was really steep and fun.
Micheal came through then, ready to tackle the rocks with his new ARB lockers. He didn't get too far in before his rear locker started spewing a bit of oil out of his differential. He got them turned off and the Jeep out of the rocks before much oil came out, so the clean up was easy. Unfortunately, his new lockers were done for the day.
Jed got bigger tires over the winter so he was up for a new experience in the Rock Pile. He came through without any troubles, getting some great flex near the end.
Cheryl has a new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon that has been modified, so this was the Jeep's first run through these rocks. She made it look really easy, and the big rock in the middle wasn't so big after all. She went over a lot of the rock on the left on the way out, and suddenly had a really big wheel stand. She teetered a bit, but she wasn't going over. It looked great as it came down, and she had a nice, steep descent off of the rocks.
Kendall had been trying to cut in line to get on the rocks, but that didn't work out. It was finally his turn, so he worked to get the Samurai over the rocks. It was a drastic change from watching the big Jeep go through it. Still, with a bit of momentum the Sami got through it without any issues. Then he turned around and went through it in the other direction too without any issues.
Jason decided to run it in the opposite direction in his newly painted Jeep CJ-7 (it used to be black and now it's yellow). Everything was looking good until he got hung up in the usual place on the big rock. A few guys gave him a shove and he was easily off it, and then the rest of the rocks were easy for him.
Michael was next and he wanted that same wheel stand that Cheryl had earlier. His Jeep is a lot shorter than Cheryl's, so we weren't sure how it was going to work out. He came flying through the rocks and managed not to hit Jed, his spotter. He got up on the rocks fairly easily and got a fantastic wheel stand. He got out and took some posing shots, then took the steep line down the big rock.
Bob had to try that line too, but first he tried it in the opposite direction. The line was awesome and he got some good flex, but it wasn't nearly as impressive in that direction, so he went through the rocks to turn around and try it in the regular direction. His Jeep is pretty flexy and the wheel stand looked great!
Monica wanted to try for a wheel stand so she came through again, too. Her line was off when she got to the big rock, so she drove over it but didn't get in the right place for the wheel stand. She came off of the rocks and went around to try one more time. This time she got the wheel stand, and got to check out the flex in her rear suspension too now that the rear sway bar was off.
After all of that playing it was time to go. We had fun in the wash and everyone went through the optional rocks. It was Perry's first time through and his Explorer is a lot bigger than the Jeeps, getting him pretty high centered on the rocks. Jason was behind him and he tried to tug him off of the rocks with a tow strap, but the CJ-7 wasn't big or heavy enough to pull it off. Cheryl hooked up her winch instead, and even though it took some work she managed to pull Perry off of the rocks.
The two optional rocks just before Whale's Tail were passed by everyone but Bob. Even though we had all had troubles on those rocks in the past, Bob just drove right over them. Nice!
Monica decided to try the left line of the Whale's Tail this year. Jed spotted her up the steep section, but every time her rear tires got to the rock they would roll to the right. The flex and steep angle were making her axle move on its own and she couldn't keep a straight line up the rocks. She gave it a few tries, then her new ARB rear locker started blowing out oil, just like Micheal's did earlier. She was done with lockers for the day so she backed out and went up the middle instead. It wasn't a good day for lockers.
Jed went up the middle line easier than ever before. It was definitely easier with his new tires.
Bob wanted to do the left line of Whale's Tail, so he got up on it. He bounced a few times and it looked like he was going to make it, but his tires just couldn't get a good grip on the rock. He gave it a good try, then backed down and went up the middle line instead.
Jason was next, going up the middle line without any issues. Perry tried the middle line a few times but his tires just weren't cooperating so he went a bit further to the right and drove right up it.
Cheryl got up to the rocks and up on the left line. It took a few tries but soon she walked right up it. She did it nice and slowly and had control over it the whole way up. She made it look easy!
Michael wanted to try the left line too, so he went up to the rocks. His stock bumper proved to be too long, and he is a bit lower than the other Jeeps that tried earlier, so he managed to mangle it a bit in the process. He got up on it, though, and it looked good, but he needs a bit more lift. Next time.
Micheal was still running without lockers so he took the middle line, making it look easy.
Kendall tried the middle line for a bit, but the Sami wasn't cooperating. He tried a few lines, and in the process he managed to pull his exhaust down quite a bit. He got out some big zip ties and had it back in place in about two minutes. Then he found a good line and he was up the obstacle.
We were at The Stairs in no time at all, and Jed took the regular line up the high point in the rocks on the right side without any problems. Monica couldn't use her lockers now, so followed Jed's line. Dave followed right behind without issue.
Bob felt like taking on the left side so he got to work. It's really dug out at the bottom, with loose dirt, so it's hard to get started. He got very close, though. It probably could have worked with some rock stacking or a few people on a tow strap, but he wanted to do it without assistance. It wasn't going to happen after a few tries, so he took a different line just to the left of the usual line and walked right up it.
Jason drove right through it on the right, barely slowing down. Then Cheryl wanted to try a new line in the middle. She got pretty tilted, and gave it a really good try, but it wasn't going to happen. Her tail pipe was buried in the soft dirt and was blowing it out and she tried the line, but even her Jeep wasn't big enough. She went further to the right and through, instead.
Michael found the same problem that many other Jeeps before him have found -- if you don't have enough clearance there is really only one line through The Stairs. If you miss it by even a few inches you have to start over. His second try went much better and he didn't get high centered, driving through it without too much effort.
Micheal's big Cherokee XJ didn't need lockers, driving right through the obstacle. Kendall gave his Samurai some gas and though he high centered himself a bit he managed to work his way through it pretty quickly.
We headed off for The Chutes and wondered how much trouble it was going to cause this time. In past years, it either ends up being the most trouble out of all of the obstacles on the trail or it ends up being a piece of cake. This year wasn't too bad.
Monica drove right through it, and so did Dave and Jed right after her. Jason only had to try a couple of times before he came right through it, too. Perry barely had to work at it, and Cheryl didn't even need to slow down.
Michael had a good time getting tippy on the wall, making a nice line through the obstacle. Micheal didn't have it so lucky without lockers, and his rear drive shaft kept rubbing up against other parts of the vehicle, making a really startling noise. Even with all of the distraction he made it through fairly easily.
Kendall came through last, and had a good time giving it the necessary gas to get it powered through the rocky section.
The rest of the trail went by quickly, though only Kendall went down the tippy section by the tree. It gets more and more dug out every year, and now it's starting to get a little too dangerous for comfort. He said it wasn't too bad, but the rest of us were fine with skipping it this time.
The Rock Garden was good on the way out, and we soon found ourselves airing up and heading out. Almost everyone went to the Coyote Cantina for dinner, and we had a great time. The start of each season is always the best time!
Reports from Other Days: 23
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.