The three-day weekend started off innocently enough. Most of us had pulled into the Buena Vista KOA Kampground on Friday night, planning to wheel and camp for the Labor Day weekend. Saturday morning could not come quickly enough as Dave, Bill and Robert woke up at camp. Gary was there to ride shotgun with Bill while he waited for his own Jeep to be fixed.
We all gathered at 8AM on Saturday morning eager to hit the dirt. Of course our group meeting time wasn't until 11AM. We waited on the clock, and Jed showed up at 10AM. He was the last of the scheduled people for the day's run.
11AM came, and with everyone aired down and disconnected (done while we waited patiently of course) we headed off for the Chinaman Gulch trail with much anticipation. The trail had changed a lot since last year, for the worse and the better. Most of the dirt had disappeared, making for a bumpy ride. However, all that remained were rocks, making for more of a rock crawling trail.
At the very start of the trail is a left hand turn after a short hill climb. This did not use to be much of an obstacle. With everything torn up and rocks that have fallen into the trail, it's like the Rock Garden starts much earlier now. Everyone climbed through without too much trouble, though.
It wasn't long before we were at the true Rock Garden. It consists of a clump of rocks that need navigating. After the last of the group ahead of us finished, Dave went first and unseated Gary who had perched himself on a rock to watch the show. Jed followed without problems, and so did Bill and Robert.
Next up was the Rock Pile. Dave tried to climb the left side, hoping for a wheel stand. No such luck -- it seemed that his tires just wouldn't grip the rocks. He just slid off the rock and crawled through without much flair.
Next came Jed, and he went far right in the hopes of climbing the large rock sideways. After several attempts and a little pushing and rock stacking, Jed managed to work himself through.
Bill tried the same line Dave tried and out-flaired him big time. He achieved new heights (literally) in wheel stands. Some of us were already eating lunch when Bill was crawling his way through. He climbed the rock and kept going and going. He finally came to rest, after scaring the rest of us, on a large, pointy rock. His right, front tire was 7 or 8 feet in the air!
"Bill, are you okay?" the group asked, collectively. "Yeah, for now. Can you just get me down?" was his response. Naturally, we had to take a few pictures first.
After getting Bill down from his wheel stand, Robert went next. He made the Rock Pile seem like a pebble pile as he worked his way through easily and quickly. Watching all of this, Dave decided to try another pass while everyone finished lunch. He too went far right and tried to cross the rock sideways. A little too much throttle got Dave stuck. After some pushing and rock stacking he worked his way out like Jed had.
After getting in front of a group that had showed up behind us, we followed the group in front of us to Whale's Tail. There we watched a Toyota climb the left side. After watching that, we all decided to try to climb the left side as well. Well, all of us except for Bill as he had apparently had enough excitement for the day.
Dave helped a ranger in the group in front of us reinstall a left front spring, and then he attempted the left side. After several attempts it was obvious that he wasn't going to make it. Giving up, he tried to climb the center and ended up losing his own left rear spring. After reinstalling his spring with a little help from the group in front of us, he climbed on up.
Robert came next. He tried the left side a couple of times until his last trip's memory of flopping into the crack came flooding back to him (a non-TrailDamage run). Thinking better of trying again, Robert gave up and climbed the middle without throwing a spring. Bill came next and also climbed up the middle without any issues.
Jed came last and did not disappoint. Trying to climb the middle he got hung up on his rear differential. It took a gentle tug from Bill to pull him up.
On to the Stairs, except that on the way Dave got slightly stuck on the group of rocks in the wash. This was the start of many troubles for Dave. His rear locker decided not to work, and a loud bang was heard. His rear differential gave up and also decided it wasn't going to work, either, leaving him with front-wheel drive only. On to the Stairs, where Dave decided to take the bypass.
Robert tried the far left line and the big rocks. After a couple of attempts, he found the dirt torn up too much and went up the right side.
Bill went next and climbed the right side as well. He did have to work a little after the Stairs as his front bumper and differential found a few rocks. After a little spotting from the collective group Bill was through.
Jed brought up the rear and tried the right side. After giving the tree a little kiss and a couple of stabs, he worked his way through.
With Dave's rear end being a pain in the rear, Robert climbed up the Chutes first. Without any trouble, Robert waited at the top for Dave, in case he needed a tug. After a couple of tries, Dave managed to climb up the rocks without a tug from Robert.
Jed came next. After a couple of stabs he climbed up, and with a crowd watching to boot. The group behind us had caught up with us again to watch.
Bill came last but certainly not least as he did not need more than one attempt to climb the offset rocks.
With the last of the obstacles behind us, we could almost taste the brisket that had been cooking back at camp since breakfast. But Dave was still on the trail without 4-wheel drive. While climbing up a small hill with a large V-shaped crack in it, Dave's Jeep slipped into the crack, bending the trackbar. He no longer had the ability to turn left! Yet one more problem he had to deal with.
One more piece of good news -- Dave's right front tire was now flat. His bead was leaking. He apparently didn't care anymore, though, as he drove on it that way back to camp. Dinner seemed to be more important. What a day of trail damage!
Reports from Other Days: 24
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.