We found ourselves in the mountains for the peak weekend for viewing the aspen leaves change from green to yellow. They were starting to fall from the trees, but most aspens were still yellow. It made for a beautiful but busy drive to Johnson Village where we all met at the gas station. We were early, so we headed off to the trail.
We aired up along the way and took a side trip to St. Elmo to see the sights. We didn't get out of our vehicles but we snapped lots of photos. There were lots of people there. We turned back around and headed up Grizzly Lake first, but it was not meant to be.
The wall of rocks was definitely bigger and more eroded, making it quite a challenge. Monica had to try more than a few different lines before powering her way through a diagonal line up and over it. It wasn't an easy few feet, because she kept bottoming out all over it.
Mike tried it next, and he tried every possible line without any luck. His longer wheelbase wasn't doing him any favors. His best line was going to be far on the left next to a tree, but he couldn't get enough traction. Monica tried to pull him up, but almost pulled him right into the tree. At that point, Mike decided the obstacle would win that day and backed out.
We decided to head over to Iron Chest, but not before Matt had to give it a try. He couldn't find a line that worked until he ran his passenger-side tires over the tallest section of rock. It was tippy and dramatic, but a very cool way to get up and over it.
Monica and Matt went up to the top of that hill and turned around to come back down. Monica had a fun moment as she balanced and twisted around with only one tire on the ground. It was good to have all of her tires back on the rock at the bottom again.
We'd been there a while, so we broke for lunch. We were almost done when a group of 4-door JKs came up to try the obstacle. We watched them work on it a bit and then headed out to Iron Chest to try our luck.
We found some luck, and Iron Chest was much easier. The rock garden area was still a blast, and we took it easy rather than powering our way through it. We had a blast!
The shelf roads had sun on them, with yellow aspen leaves all over the bumpy areas. There were some amazing views, and we really enjoyed the climb. It's a long climb, too, and we continued to be lucky and not find any oncoming traffic.
We hung out at the top for quite a while. The weather was perfect, with sunshine and no wind. We explored around above the main parking area, walking all over the place. We really didn't want to leave. It was perfect.
But we couldn't stay up there forever, so we headed down. We had a great time in the rocks on the descent, too, and it was good not to be facing into the sun. We could see the final curve that was just above the trailhead, and Monica realized she was turning her steering wheel but the Jeep was going straight. She got out to find her front tires turning in and in two different directions. Her tie rod broke at the tie rod end.
It looked like a manufacturing defect, and there was no screwing it back together. A couple ratchet straps and slow driving kept it together so she could slowly work her way off of the trail. Success!
Matt went to St. Elmo looking for someone with a welder but didn't have any luck. We didn't have cell phone service, so we slowly made our way down Hancock Pass until the "dip" area on the paved road near the Chalk Hills where we had service. Monica called a tow truck and got a ride back to her camper in Buena Vista.
A ride back to town the next day and two more trips up to Buena Vista to pick up the camper and the Jeep after it was fixed, and Monica was back home with all of her toys again. It was one of those trips, and we've all been there. She was lucky that the tie rod broke when it did, and lucky that it held together when she needed it. It was a lucky day all around.
Reports from Other Days: 6
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