We walked the Penrose trail system a few weeks beforehand, then we came back to run Liberty Trail for the first time from the north end. We figured we would decide when we got to the end if we were going to tackle Independence Trail or turn around and do Liberty Trail in the other direction. It ended up being the breakages on the trail that would decide it for us, as our trip of a few hours ended up taking 36 hours instead.
We should have started earlier, but we really underestimated how long the trail would take. We should have started by 10AM or so, but we started at about 2PM. The rocks started right up from the beginning, and we were having a blast. We didn't really need our lockers because most of the obstacles and rocky sections are downhill.
The Gap was cool, and we both decided to put our driver's side tires in the hole in the middle on our way down. We had a good time going over big rocks instead of going around them. It looked like it might rain, but it only sprinkled. The weather couldn't have been more perfect -- the last time we were there it was very sunny and hot.
Bob got a lot of the trail on video, even setting up a tripod most of the time. It was only two of us so we took our time and had fun. When we got to the Waterfall we both decided to go down it instead of taking the slab bypass to the right of it. It was very steep! There was a brief moment when we would feel ourselves falling off of it, front tires making no contact with the rocks. You had to drive out of it, and you could sit there with your back tires on the ledge above you. It was a blast!
The V was the obstacle we were most impressed with when we were walking the trail a few weeks before, but it ended up being not too difficult though it was fun. The way the slabs are placed on the hill made our suspensions really articulate and we got some great pictures.
The Wall was next and we dropped off the side fairly easily. It was shorter than the Waterfall but there was no way around it. We figured it would be challenging on the way back up, but there was a winch point nearby.
We continued having fun on the rocks and the trail mellowed out soon after that. It was still rocky and there were challenges to be found, but it was nothing like the trail had been earlier. We were in sight of the intersection with Patriot Trail when Monica heard a snap. She was pointed slightly downhill and her front tires were turned, and she managed to break a u-joint and stub shaft on her front axle. She knew the Dana 30 was weak so she had spare axle shafts, and the switch to the new shaft was fairly quick and painless.
While we were stopped, we noticed there was a fresh drop of oil behind Bob's Jeep but not in front of it. Then Bob found out he had hit his oil pan enough to start a leak. He used RTV gasket maker and it actually sealed it up, and he didn't have any other problems with it on the trail or on the way home. We cleaned up the mess -- luckily it wasn't too big.
We started back up again but then Monica heard the familiar sound of teeth breaking in her front ring and pinion gears. We talked about what to do -- it had to be cleaned out and she was going to finish the day in rear wheel drive. We decided the easiest way out would be to turn around and do Liberty Trail again in the other direction instead of doing part of Independence Trail and Freedom Trail, even though that exit would mean only a few hundred feet until we were out. That way was just too difficult without front wheel drive because it was all uphill and all very steep, especially Bunker Hill (the first obstacle we would do on Independence Trail). Patriot Trail was way too difficult and out of the question.
Monica turned the Jeep around and they cleaned the metal out of the differential. After refilling the diff with oil, cleaning up, and disconnecting the front drive shaft we were off again. At this point the sun had been down awhile and it was going to be an extremely long night.
With only rear wheel drive and a rear locker the going was slow and difficult, winching about half of the time. We came to a larger rock and when Monica winched herself over it her front passenger's side tire blew right off of the bead. She should have put more air in the front tires because they no longer had power to them, but it was too late for that. We worked on it for a bit but it was 3AM and we decided to get a little sleep instead.
We woke up a couple of hours later, freezing cold and still unsure of how to get the tire changed. The whole Jeep was leaning to the corner of the bad tire, and rocks were in the way that really prevented using the hi-lift jack. We managed to get a system of hi-lift and bottle jacks to work enough to get the tire off and the spare on. Bob had attached Monica's front sway bar while trying to jack up the Jeep to change the tire and in the process the bolts on her sway bar disconnect broke, too. Monica aired up her tires to 20psi in the front and we were off again, starting our second day on the trail.
Winching was slow going, and the rocks were getting bigger. We had to stack a lot of rocks at times, too. Bob wasn't having any troubles, though he was trying very hard to make sure there were no rocks anywhere near his oil pan. He worked hard on the Wall but ended up having to winch himself over it. He flexed all over the V on his way up, having a great time doing it.
Monica tried and tried but couldn't get up the Wall, even with the winch hooked up and working hard. At this point her rear locker stopped working and she was down to one-wheel drive. The tires kept trying to turn when they needed to stay straight. Wrestling with the tires, her power steering box broke and leaked on the rocks. They dried it as much as they could, then tried to put more fluid in. It wouldn't hold the fluid, and the tires were impossible to turn. She also couldn't back up, with a rock right behind her. She was stuck.
At that point it was 3PM and we had to get a new power steering box. Bob drove out of the trail in 15 minutes, then went to Canon City for a new part. He also called some friends and they were headed down with more tools and a trailer to get Monica home.
It was just getting dark as the work was getting finished, and after a lot of rock stacking and help from our friends we managed to work Monica to the top of the Wall. It definitely wasn't easy!
The rest of the trail still involved a lot of winching but it was much faster with extra people helping. Monica got in a bit more damage at the end by ripping her brand new soft top on a tree. We worked our way off of the trail and thanked our friends, then headed for home at 3AM on Tuesday. It was a long day, but it was a great trail -- and we can't wait to do it again!
Reports from Other Days: 4
Use the arrows or dots to flip through the previews of the other reports for Liberty Trail. Click one of them to read more and see all of the photos from that day.