Since it was still relatively early in the season and we received a lot of heavy snow over the winter, options for trails were still limited. Chinaman Gulch, as usual, was clear and ready for travel so we decided to make a quick Friday run to the trail to enjoy the great weather and get some post-Moab exercise.
After meeting at our usual spot, we headed across the flat expanse surrounding South Park and got to the trailhead during the mid-morning. We went straight to the trailhead, forgoing the usual stop for gas in Johnson's Corners, as we all still had three-quarters of a tank of gas. After airing down and removing windows and tops, we started down the trail.
The Rock Garden near the beginning was fun, and a little more challenging than usual for some. Bob started first, and since he had damaged his ARB lockers in Moab the previous week he was running with open differentials front and rear. He had to use a bit of momentum to pop his front tires up over the obstacle. Ladd followed, and made the obstacle look like a speed bump, crawling over it with ease, including the taller portion of the lip at the top of the garden. Gary came up last, and again simply crawled over the garden, making it look easy, as usual.
While watching the action in the Garden, Ladd got in a fight with a tree limb, and decided it would be prudent to use a head-first attack. This backfired, and he received some personal trail damage, and left his mark on the tree. After a moment to render first aid, we were on our way again.
We reached the Rock Pile very soon, and it was almost time for lunch. We decided to play first, and eat after. Bob went first, and again found the obstacle a bit more challenging without the use of any lockers. He enjoyed the challenge, though, and after some work he made it through the obstacle. He wasn't able to do the signature wheelstand at the exit, though.
Ladd attacked the Rock Pile next, and was negotiating the rocks with ease, but then mentioned he wanted to get the crazy wheelstand shot we had all gotten at the end of last year. He tried for a few minutes to try to get the right line for the wheelstand, but his belly kept catching on the rocks and preventing him from getting on the correct line. After a few attempts, he had to give up and drive the rest of the way through the obstacle. It just wasn't his day for the wheelstand.
Gary hit the Rock Pile last, and attacked it with style. He went without any spotting, and found his way over to the wheelstand without too much difficulty. However, once in the wheelstand, he quickly backed off of it as it felt a bit too tippy for his tastes. He then drove out of the obstacle normally, with a smile on his face.
After a quick lunch, we continued down the trail through the wash. Bob and Ladd quickly banged their way through the optional obstacle on the left side of the wash while Gary took the quieter way around that obstacle, opting to avoid the big bang on his rear bumper that Ladd and Bob both experienced. We all avoided the two optional rocks before Whale's Tail, as they were more washed out than before.
When we arrived at the Whale's Tail, we noticed a lot of mud and water at the base of the obstacle, and knew this might be more challenging than normal. Bob decided to let his sister, Val, try driving on this obstacle. She gave a good try at the middle, but the Jeep wasn't cooperating and the lack of lockers was making it more difficult. She then went to the easier right line of the obstacle to try there. She got her front tires up on the obstacle with little trouble, and tried a few times to get the rear to crawl up, but the tires were slipping too much with the wet ground. After a couple tries at bumping the rear up, Val was done. Bob hopped into the Jeep in her place and bounced the rear up the obstacle, getting a little air under the rear tires, and was through.
Ladd then tried the normal middle line on the Whale's Tail, and had similar issues with the wet rocks and his Jeep not cooperating. At one point he ended up angled to the right, his rear end having walked to the left while he tried his first line. He then lined up coming more from the right, and that was the ticket. He walked right up the middle of the obstacle.
Gary brought up the rear once again, and this time he decided to try an ambitious line just to the right of the middle line over a steeper part of the rocks. He gave it a few good attempts, but his tires were simply too wet and spinning in the sandy dirt at the base of the rocks. He then turned back more to the middle and drove right up, making it look easy once again.
In no time, we had all reached the Stairs obstacle. Once again, there was a lot of water in the obstacle, coating our tires and making it more difficult. Each step was a miniature pond filled with water. Bob went first, and after a failed first attempt, gave it a bit more of a bump and made his way up the obstacle.
Ladd came up next, and had some trouble with the water as well -- crawling the obstacle at low speed wasn't an option this time. After a couple tries, he used a little more momentum and drove up and over the obstacle as well.
Gary tried a line further to the right and straight on, but it proved to be problematic as his belly pan caught the rocks, denying him passage. He realigned to angle a small amount to the left, and after a few more tries he gave it just enough gas to pop up and over the base of the Stairs. On the second step, though, he managed to high center on the rocks and danced his Jeep around a bit before finally breaking free and driving the rest of the way out of the obstacle with style.
When we arrived at the Chutes, we noticed the "bypass" on the left of the big rock that usually threatens the driver's side of our vehicles. It wasn't much of a bypass, as it was rather rocky and probably just as difficult as the regular line, but it was unfortunate to see the unauthorized expansion of the trail in this location.
Bob tried the Chutes first, and found it more difficult than in the past, both because it was much more dug out than usual, and because of how unfamiliar he has become with driving without any lockers. After a couple unsuccessful attempts, Gary threw a couple rocks in the hole catching one of Bob's tires, and he was through. Ladd came up next, and walked up the right side wall like he'd done it a million times before, making it look easy. Gary did the same as Ladd, but a little more to the left of Ladd's line. He bounced the rear on a couple rocks, but also made it through without issue.
The rest of the trail back to the trailhead was uneventful as we just drove along, enjoying the beautiful scenery.
We had a great day with just a small group of three vehicles, no breakages, and an early finish.
Reports from Other Days: 23
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