It's not really possible to have a bad day on Holy Cross, but this trip was one of the best ones we've had. The weather was sunny and beautiful, and the aspen trees were yellow, their leaves coating the trail in many places. We shared the trail with only a few more vehicles, and we got to see a couple of them playing on Cleveland Rock. Everyone on the trail was very nice and very happy, making it a great day.
It's rare we have a group this small, especially on Holy Cross. We left Downieville a little after 7AM and headed for the trail. We were considering doing Shrine Pass, but we decided to skip it this time.
The camp site was closed so we aired down on the side of the road near the camp site entrance. Jason had towed his Jeep so he left his truck there. There weren't too many people camping along the road -- the campers were primarily the other wheelers we would see later.
We all enjoyed the early rocks, with everyone going out of their way to find the biggest ones in the trail to drive over. We got through the Rock Garden without any issues.
The first chunk of rocks was a lot of fun the last time we were on the trail, but we couldn't find the fun line through them. We ended up making it too easy on the way through it, but it was still fun.
The Rock Slab had its usual bit of muddy water on the left, with the rock before it that threatens to box you in if you slide to the left. Monica gave it a halfhearted try, slid a bit to the left, then backed out and went around to the right. Don went next and slid in the mud, but he worked at it for a bit and made it through. Mark tried it too and slid around to the left in the mud, but he worked at it and made it through just fine.
Dane came through it next while Jason used the line on the right, and by this time the left side was pretty slick with mud from the tires before. He slid around quite a bit, ending up on his gas tank skid and bumper on the rock before the slab. With a little negotiation he came at it sideways and powered through.
Fred tried a different line, going far to the left. That got him up on the Rock Slab in a different place, but it wasn't much easier. He still made it through without too many troubles.
When we got to the first real obstacle, most of us tried the line on the left up the steep section. Monica went first, driving right up it without any issues. The worst of it seemed to be after you got up, where it was tippy.
Don followed the line and popped right up it like it was paved.
Jason came through next and decided to take a line between the line on the left and the line on the right, saving his clutch and carb issues for French Creek. He didn't have any troubles at all.
Mark was next, tackling the line on the left. He slid over a bit too far to the left, though, and got dangerously close to falling off the rocks. He perched there for a bit, tipping to the left with his tires barely hanging on. The rest of the group attached a strap to the other side and held on as Mark gently worked his way around, getting very tippy. It was dicey, but he made it through.
Dane had to follow that show, and he made sure that he started far enough over to the right. When he got his front tires up on the rocks, there was a lot of liquid pouring out the back. He had troubles with gas lines in the past, so he backed down right away to check it out. It turned out that his cooler was leaking like crazy, so it was only water, so he started up the obstacle again. He drove up it without any problems.
Fred finished up the group, driving up the line on the left like it wasn't an issue. He made it look easy.
The strange part was that we still hadn't seen anyone else on the trail. There were no tracks coming from wet parts on the trail, so we were pretty sure we were the first ones there for the day. For a Saturday that was pretty weird.
When we got to French Creek we had it all to ourselves. The rocks had really moved around over the winter, as we had heard from the TrailDamage group that was here earlier in the year. The big rock that stuck out on the left had fallen into the trail, making the "easy" line on the left much more difficult. There was also a big rock right in the middle that wasn't there before, and the loose rock with the old winch point was now down in the bottom part of the creek.
Monica went in first, and this was the first time she had run Holy Cross with lockers and new bumpers that wouldn't be in the way. She decided to try the middle line, but it wasn't looking very good, especially with the new rock in the middle. She backed up and went for the line on the left, instead.
The first part of that line is the same as it has always been, but now there is the large rock right in front of your driver-side tires. Monica kept getting to that point, then sliding off when she would try to get up it. After quite a few tries she used her winch to pull herself over it, and it didn't take much.
Don had been on the trail a month before with another Trail Damage group, and they had the same problems. He just couldn't quite remember the line, so he worked on it for a bit. It wasn't working very well, so he tried a few different variations on the same line, but then he remembered that the last time they had gone around the large rock on the left instead of over it. It looked like you might get high centered by going around it, but your tires ended up in just the right places. Once he found that line he just drove right through it.
Jason went next and he decided to try the line on the right through the creek. While he worked on it, Mark came through on the left line. Instead of driving over the rock, he negotiated his way by it, straddling a big rock next to the other rock. The line worked, and he drove right through it.
Jason worked at the line on the right for a bit but it proved to be too difficult, so he went around to do the leftmost line. He got pretty high-centered, then couldn't get down. Don attempted to winch him up, but instead pulled him into the crack where he got even more stuck.
Winching from the top alone wasn't working, so Dane used his winch and a snatchblock to pull Jason to the left as he was also winched from above by Don. It was a spider web of winch cables all over the creek, but it worked. Jason was pulled free, but not before denting both of his rocker panels in the process.
At this point, we finally saw some other wheelers on the trail. A few rigs ended up behind us, but everyone was very nice and patient, enjoying the day and the carnage.
Dane came through next, following Mark's line on the right. He barely had to stop moving at all, driving right through it.
Fred came through last, using the line on the left. He got a bit of his tire up on the big rock, but his Jeep didn't have any issues at all. He made this obstacle look easy, too.
We kept going, leaving the creek to the rest of the wheelers. A few of us dreaded the third obstacle -- the tree roots and rocks on a slick and tippy section of rock. When we got to it, it had its usual bit of muddy water at the bottom. More rocks had been stacked below the obstacle, though, almost building it out a bit more and making the trail just a bit wider. That should help take away a lot of the danger.
Monica had to work a little bit but she made it through. It turned out that everyone had to work at it a little, even though it always looks easier than it is. Don got tippy in it but drove right through it.
Jason started the obstacle a little to the right where it looks easier, but he also slid further around. Luckily the new rocks were there, giving him a place to back down to. It was still dangerous, but he stayed safely on the trail. Mark backed down a bit to give him a tow strap tug to get Jason through it.
We got to the city and the skies were a beautiful blue. There was one very built Jeep ahead of us, so many of us went up to Cleveland Rock to see if we could watch him in the obstacle. Unfortunately we were there too late, but we hung out for a bit to check out the obstacle. There were some rocks piled in the muddy water at the bottom, but otherwise it looked the same.
We went back down to the city, right about the time four more rigs got there. Many of us went back up to Cleveland Rock again so we could watch the show. One rig made it up the right side fairly easily, but then a second rig tried the right side many times before finally giving up. It was awesome to watch!
We headed back down then, enjoying actually coming down the trail in daylight. Monica went down the middle of French Creek, taking a line that included a drop of a few feet off a rock. She barely missed her rear corner panel and fender flare, but she got through it without any damage.
Monica also went down the big drop off in the first obstacle without any issues. A tow strap was attached to her roll cage just in case she rolled over, but it wasn't needed.
Don went down the same way, the way he came up, over the drop off. It was pretty easy, but it's a crazy angle. After Mark's adventures on the way up, no one else felt like taking that way down.
The rest of the trail was pretty mellow, and we made it to the end from the first obstacle in 30 minutes. A few of us ate at Chilly Willie's in Minturn, then we headed for home.
On the way home, Monica was feeling a lot of vibration and then fishtailing, but she and Don couldn't find the source. Later, her rear tire actually came off and rolled past her into a ditch next to I-70, with lug nuts completely gone. She borrowed lug nuts from the spare and other wheels and managed to get it back on the Jeep enough to hobble home safely. Thanks, Don!
Holy Cross always has something in store for everyone, and we had a great time!
Reports from Other Days: 10
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