The day started off with everyone meeting at Starbucks. It was kind of a drizzly, overcast, moody day -- the kind of day that makes you wonder whether or not you should be wheeling. We weren't about to reconsider, though, so we headed up toward Eisenhower Tunnel. Upon exiting the tunnel we were greeted with clear blue sky and warm weather. A smile soon appeared on everybody faces at our good fortune. It was going to be a good day after all!
We found a good spot along the dirt trail and aired down. The road is inundated with washboards, and is a real test of your suspension and your kidneys. We arrived at the trailhead to find some 4x4 vehicles blocking the trail itself. After this initial delay they soon left and we were on our way. Right off the bat we were presented with some minor rock obstacles. It was a great start to the trail.
The first real obstacle was a long slab of rock at a 25 degree incline. It's not too tough except for the 18-inch climb onto the slab if you take the line on the left. It helps to have the tires aired down to a good pressure, as Cheryl found out. I think she has learned her lesson as we were told not to speak of it again. In the middle of our fun, a Yellow Jeep Wrangler wanted to go ahead of us to catch up with his buddies. We obliged, and then returned to our fun.
After a brief stop for more airing down and a little mischief and we were back on the road. The next stop was the boulder climb at the first obstacle. Dave was the first to try the climb. His tires wouldn't cut it, so he was off around the obstacle to take the line on the right, which was still tough. Cheryl came next and with some good spotting from Robert she climbed with ease. Robert tried the same line he had just helped Cheryl climb. With some minor tweaking and a large amount of skinny pedal, Robert was up. Gary was the last to try. He took a couple of shots at it before he drove around to take the easier line. It was surprising to see Gary taking the bypass.
We arrived at French Creek to find a group just getting their last rig through. Dave went first. There used to be a large rock that lodged in the side of the trail causing some real trouble trying to climb the rocks on the far left (it was there in 2004). That boulder has since fallen into the trail. Dave worked his way around it and had a few troubles, then backed into that big boulder that had fallen into the trail. With the help of someone with a winch in the group ahead of us he was through the creek.
Cheryl came up next. She tried a line that Gary and Robert thought they could get through. Unfortunately, Cheryl's bumper prevented her from climbing the rock. She then headed around the left side were Dave came through. She and her Rubicon climbed it with ease. She was quite happy about this as a crowd had gathered to watch the fun. Most of them boys, as she put it.
Robert waded up the creek to attempt the boulder that wanted to claim Cheryl's front bumper. After several attempts at it, he got frustrated because he thought he was holding up the next group in line. He winched himself up instead.
Gary was not to be discouraged because of Robert's unsuccessful attempt, and came at it the same way Robert did. While almost making it, he too found himself pushing the button to turn on his lockers to climb the rocks. After parking out of the way, we had lunch at the creek and watched the following group tackle the boulders.
Quite a few of then found some success at the far right of the creek. It helps to have 37" tires and larger, though. A big Chevy truck on 44s made the field of 5-foot boulders look like a mall parking lot. During lunch we chatted with a few in the following group and learned that they were headed up to Cleveland Rock. We hopped in our Jeeps and followed them up. The Chevy climbed the shear rock face of Cleveland Rock after only a couple attempts. It was like watching a DVD of professional rock crawling. A couple of others tried, and most failed. Rain began to fall and we decided to head back down, ahead of everyone else.
The trip down the creek proved to be much easier than it was going up. We kind of got a feeling of what it's like to be a salmon and why they do what they do. The rest of the trail down the hill was problem free, until we got to the end and Robert tried to shift his transfer case out of low range. It came out of low range right into neutral, and nothing else. We tried to beat, pry, twist, and sweet talk the transfer case. With no luck, we decided to pull Robert to town at least. Cheryl volunteered to pull Robert.
After a mile, Robert waves us over because his brakes got too hot. We rested awhile and then Gary asked how much of the rest of the trail was downhill. Gary had an idea. He would pull in behind Robert and give him a push with his Jeep. Robert would then roll downhill, and in the flat stretches Gary would pull in behind him and give him a push to the next hill. This process continued for five or six miles.
When we finally hit pavement, Cheryl re-attached to Robert and pulled him into town. Once there, Robert made some calls to see if anybody had a trailer to lend. Eight minutes later a call came through and Robert got his trailer.
We had dinner at Chili Willie's in Minturn. We had great food and great company, and it was a great end for a great day. Holy Cross is a must at least once a year every year.
Reports from Other Days: 11
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